Discover more from Gilmore Women
ASP Doesn’t Believe in Happy Endings
Maggie watches Episode 121: "Just Like Gwen and Gavin"
Welcome to Gilmore Women: Two journalists discuss everything that’s wrong with every episode of Gilmore Girls & why we still love it
What’s Wrong With Episode 121: “Just Like Gwen and Gavin”? Luke and Lorelai Deserve the Jim & Pam Treatment, Not The Gwen & Gavin Story :(
As this show devolves, so does Luke and Lorelai’s relationship. Or perhaps it’s vice versa. An astute viewer knows from the moment Luke first fills Lorelai’s mug with coffee and a side of surliness that these two are going to keep us coming back for more. We also have guessed that one of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s many filmmaking influences may be Nora Ephron, but ASP doesn’t get the ending right. I get it. Television shows are different than movies, and relationships are complicated. We never do see the ups and downs of a marriage, after Harry and Sally finally kiss at midnight on New Years. But that’s the whole thing isn’t it? The reason we watch love stories is to feel some satisfaction at the end, to relish in moments of happiness and kismet and beauty. And the beautiful thing about television shows is that yes, they can inject some more reality and drama into the romantic genre, but when done successfully they can also deliver on that happy ending, at least now and again.
To take a contemporary example: consider Jim and Pam from The Office. Like Luke pouring coffee for Lorelai, Jim knowing Pam’s favorite flavor of yogurt in the pilot episode sets up the viewer for years of will they or won’t they, while knowing all the while that, eventually, they will. It won’t be perfect, and there will be roadblocks and moments of sadness and despair, but the spark keeps us coming back. And while some might say that the show loses a spark when Jim and Pam finally finally finally get together, some of my favorite Jim and Pam moments are when they get engaged at a gas station in the pouring rain because they just can’t wait any longer. Or how they sneak off and elope by themselves at Niagara Falls the morning of their actual wedding because they want a moment that’s just for them. And once they become more boring but still cute and lovable in their married years, there are plenty of other characters to take on the drama (and yes, even some drama that happens within the marriage!!!).
But Just Like Gwen and Gavin is proof we will never get the happy ending we deserve in Luke and Lorelai. In fact, part of me doesn’t even want Lorelai and Luke to end up together anymore because Luke is no longer even the character he used to be! One and a half seasons ago Luke was “all in” with Lorelai, but in the past 12 episodes, he’s become a misogynistic, selfish, dishonest person who loses it when Christopher calls Lorelai but then hides the fact that he has a child because he thinks that’s a good idea for their relationship? They go so far with the retconning that in this episode they even try to imply that LUKE DANES is not a morning person!!
I buy that finding out you have a mystery daughter is probably very life altering, however, Luke’s immediate reaction being: hide this from the person I love and am building a life with? It’s pretty much a dealbreaker for me. And that really makes me want to skip the rest of the show, because when a narrative is premised on the idea that two people are made for each other, and then suddenly you don’t even want them in the same room — I think the storytelling engine has failed.
I sometimes think (speculation ahead!) the crashing and burning we’re currently experiencing in the show’s plot is due to the fact that ASP was gunning for award recognition. The show won one Emmy in its entire history — which may either be due to the fact that it was difficult to categorize, too serious to be a real comedy, too funny and absurd to be a serious drama, or perhaps because the WB/CW audience was niche. But despite the lack of acclaim, clearly this style hit a nerve with viewers. And IMO the show is working the best when expertly straddling that drama/comedy line — when the pathos is there, but so are the jokes. My only guess is that ASP threw another wrench into the Luke and Lorelai story here because she was trying to subvert expectation. Happy endings are for suckers, she seems to say, relishing the opportunity to reveal the reality of love and all of its heartbreak in a show so many critics wrote off as too girly, too chatty, too poppy, too unserious. Or perhaps, ASP was also just throwing more drama in there to force the network to give them another two seasons, instead of just one — as they were still in contract disputes at this point.
But here’s the thing: people want the love story to work out! No relationship is perfect, of course, but that doesn’t mean that no one actually falls in love and gets married and has happy moments we can celebrate!! And in this particular show, in which Lorelai has been supported by Luke over the years as she made her own way in the world as a single mom, the viewer (OK, me, I mean me) wants her to eventually find someone who loves her and wants to build a life together as the one she and Rory have had for so long is ending (because yes, sorry ASP, Rory is becoming an adult and no, they will not have the same relationship anymore). And I think, actually, the reason I want to see it is because Luke and Lorelai are both so independent and have full lives already and it’s really exciting to see people like that get together and find happiness. (Hello, When Harry Met Sally callback!)
Alas, instead of one happy love story moment, we get this drama that no one wants. I’m not saying no one has a secret child they don’t know about — as all of those new DNA tests are revealing — but setting up April’s existence as a reason that Luke and Lorelai will not work out is absurd and gross. Luke indirectly pushes Lorelai to tell him they can postpone the wedding, completely ignoring the fact that he has lied to her in a very big way for months. This sets up a gross, sexist dichotomy, as though Luke cannot parent a daughter, and co-parent with another woman, and be in a relationship with Lorelai, which will get exacerbated as this season continues. Rory even points out that Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale made it work after it was revealed that he had a secret daughter from a previous relationship. However, it’s not really a great example, because Gwen and Gavin had already been married for two years when the paternity test showed Gavin was Daisy Lowe’s father. Also (not that ASP could have known because it hadn’t happened yet) but Gwen and Gavin would eventually divorce in 2015 because Gavin was sleeping with the nanny — because that’s the kind of thing that breaks up a marriage, not the existence of a child conceived before you were even together that you didn’t even know about.
I just don’t understand why from a storytelling standpoint, you wouldn’t give Gilmore Girls viewers a happy, beautiful, wedding moment between the two characters everyone has been following for five and a half seasons and then move onto whatever drama is next. If they really wanted all this Luke as a parent drama, April could have even shown up after the wedding, when Lorelai and Luke’s relationship is set and helping parent another kid would be something they get to deal with, together! Of course, Luke’s life would be upended when he found out about April, but all he has ever wanted is to be with Lorelai. He goes to her for advice about everything. I just don’t see how he would first keep this from her for so long, and then use it as an excuse to postpone the wedding. Would one happy ending be so terrible?
13 Other Things Wrong With This Episode
The episode begins with a town meeting being called at 3 AM by church bells and a town crier. Then Taylor shows up on a computer screen to tell everyone he won’t be home for the Winter Carnival this year. Did Taylor invent Zoom?
Luke and Lorelai are in the diner later and Luke is mixing up everyone’s orders and can’t keep his eyes open because he got up at 3:12, and Lorelai is somehow the bright eyed bushy tailed one? Sorry but this retconning that the man who usually gets up at 4:00 is zombified by getting up one hour earlier and the woman who needs 100 alarm clocks to get up by 8 has gone TOO FAR.
I cannot deal with the classism and racism around the “scary New Haven apartment” anymore.
April says something to Luke like “I have year-round school so I get weird times off.” But it’s December? So, like, isn’t having time off in December pretty normal???
Between Lorelai going on and on about Matt Lauer and Katie Couric and April and Luke discussing Aaron Brown’s show on CNN, I’m thinking the news shows were paying for product placement!
Paris’s magnet board system at the Yale Daily News isn’t only fascist, it isn’t set up logically. There are columns for all of the places you could be and a color system? You only need one or the other.
When Rory stumbles upon the senior staffers of the Yale Daily News discussing Paris’s reign of terror, one of the women says Paris is “giving me crow’s feet,” and like, sorry, but I think this hardworking Yale undergrad is probably more worried about what Paris’s rewriting everything is doing to her chances of getting a fellowship at the New York Times than her face wrinkling in a perfectly natural place!! (Also you get crow’s feet from SMILING!!! Daniel Palladino obviously wrote this nonsensical line.)
I’m feeling like there are legal issues with the whole April situation that are getting very glossed over. Anna gives Luke this whole dialogue about how he can’t “choose to be a parent, you just are one.” And sorry, but she did choose that Luke would not be April’s parent, by not informing him she had a child ten years earlier. And now she’s trying to dictate exactly what he needs to do to keep this relationship and I just think that’s probably not entirely her call. Culturally there’s this perception that moms have all the legal rights no matter what, but that’s not true at all! (Often to the detriment of the women, but I digress!!!)
Really really really don’t like when a parent who has been absent all of a sudden tries to lecture their child? And when Luke tells April she shouldn’t talk to the mail carrier because he could be a strangler this has the added bonus of feeling a lot like sexist “little girls must be protected from stranger danger!” b.s.
Sookie and Lorelai are supremely grossed out by the Maple Syrup Council having a maple syrup tasting? And I’m sorry but … that does not sound gross to me, like at all???? And Lorelai is a person who eats candy charcuterie boards???????
Lorelai knows the extent to which Logan messed up with Rory. She knows he is manipulative and MOST IMPORTANTLY she knows that Rory DOES NOT WANT TO TALK TO HIM. Why would she help him AT ALL? This is so not OK.
The dialogue in this episode is appallingly bad at points. Rory tells Lorelai that Luke is “a guy. Sometimes guys are dumb.” When Luke and Lorelai are fighting about him not telling her about April, she says: “Two months? That’s a helluva long time to go without telling me!” and he says: “I should have told you.” It’s just so blah!!!! Daniel Palladino has officially stopped trying.
Zach says some really racist and misogynistic shit about Lane’s uncle when he thinks he is trying to date Lane. Also, more proof that ASP only thinks terrible couples should stay together! This is the guy that ruined their band’s big break because he was jealous that Brian wrote a song about Lane while he only wrote about other girls and now he’s more jealous when they’re broken up? Zach is terrible. Why do I keep having to watch people in relationships with terrible men in this show????
Gilmore Women is a weekly newsletter from journalists Maggie Mertens and Megan Burbank examining everything that’s wrong with Gilmore Girls. All of our weekly episode issues are free, but paid subscribers get special BONUS newsletters, on everything from the politics of Stars Hollow, how Dawson’s Creek and GG compared, and the show’s strange relationship to Judaism.
Questions? Comments? We love to hear your thoughts. You can also reach us at email@example.com, tweet at us @gilmore_women, or follow us on Instagram @gilmore_women for all of your early-oughts pop culture needs.
Like this newsletter? Share it with the person you’d share your own personal coffee cart with.
Our banner art is by Sarah Mirk.