Character Deep Dive: Luke Danes

Scott Patterson as Luke Danes in Gilmore Girls.
©Warner Brothers

Portrayed by: Scott Patterson
Show: The CW’s Gilmore Girls

I’m a firm believer that every good coffee shop needs a grumpy, plaid-wearing owner with a huge heart. Who agrees? Luke Danes was often the voice of reason in everything and the most honest resident in Stars Hollow—making it so that anyone who stepped into Luke’s Diner felt like they were at home even though he disagreed with how they lived their lives.

And that’s easily what makes Luke Danes always stand out—his nature to forgive and open up no matter what went on. His ability to love and to showcase how proud he is of people even if he didn’t have the most traditional way of going about it. Ultimately, if seven seasons of Gilmore Girls taught us anything, it’s that behind the grumpy diner owner is actually an openly giving man with outstanding wit.

Luke Danes’ is and will always be a mood—no time for anyone’s nonsense but begrudgingly going along with it because what else can you do?

Luke Danes, The Best Kind of Grump

The thing about Luke is that although almost everything made him roll his eyes, he wasn’t mean about it, which speaks highly of his character. It allows us to see that his bluntness isn’t out of spite but rather the desire to live a simpler life than the one Stars Hollow residents preferred.

It’s always been interesting that even when he’s at his angriest, Luke’s never the bad guy—it doesn’t come from a place of malice or unfair hatred, but rather the person in front of him has messed up and 90% of the time, he’s protecting someone else. (That someone else is probably Rory, who isn’t actually his daughter but is definitely his daughter. Or Jess…) The point is, even when he screws up, even when he takes it far, he learns from the mistakes and rises above them.

Luke’s desire for simplicity, especially the choice to ban cell phones from his diner, deserves some kind of an award. I don’t know what that award is or what it should be titled, but he needs it because enforcing that kind of detachment even temporarily is how it should be. And if I didn’t agree with it when I first watched Gilmore Girls now, I agree hard today.

The Steadfast Loyalty

Luke Danes is a team player even while he grumbles through it. And even in the midst of ridiculous, childlike pettiness, at the end of the day, he always delivers on the promises he makes, and he shows up where needed. He’s been the very anchor in Lorelai Gilmore’s life when things fell apart. He has given her everything he knew she wanted, not because she asked, but because he knew she deserved it. He understood her, even when she didn’t understand herself, because his loyalty has always gone hand-in-hand with his ability to listen carefully.

Although reluctant, when it came to the town and what they needed, Luke Danes always showed up. And my personal favorite moment? The goodbye party he put together in the rain for Rory in the finale. Sure, it’s Rory, and he’d do everything for her, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about the fact that no one could have done what he could, and in the end, he understood just how much they’d all want that moment too.

Luke’s admiration and love for Rory always floored me. The absolute joy in her endeavors is the very exhibition of how much compassion lies within him. It doesn’t matter how much he and Christopher disliked one another, and it doesn’t matter what happened with Jess; he’d do anything he could for Rory because he appreciated everything she stood for. If you asked him, no one was worthy of her, not even Jess. He loved her just as a father should, and if that doesn’t showcase the vast capacity of love in his heart, then I don’t know what will.

Luke didn’t have to agree with everything that went on in Stars Hollow and celebratory manners for certain occasions. Still, because he knew that his assistance would benefit people, he always came through with offerings.

The Man, The Partner

Only a man as incredibly kind and witty (and grumpy) could be deserving of Lorelai Gilmore. Someone had to be her equal, right? Someone had to be able to challenge her perspectives in ways that’d make her laugh and simultaneously help her grow. Someone had to be able to keep up with her perfectly fast-paced everything. And because he loved her so fervently, he loved the town, too. He loved everything as much as he did because of how much he loved Lorelai.

And Luke Danes’ wisdom transcends every other person’s in Stars Hollow masterfully. He is the kind of special breed that every town needs to remain anchored. He is the kind of person to bluntly remind people of what they may be forgetting in the hasty moment of harvest festival planning or the ridiculous bitterness because something somewhere is going wrong, and every little thing is presumably everyone’s problem.

Those town meetings would exhaust me too. But interestingly, Luke also made it clear that sheer, perpetual happiness is impossible. No person in the world will ever have it together, and sometimes, bad days are inevitable. Sometimes you wake up to a world that isn’t sunshine and rainbows but instead exhaustion and stress, but the show must go on despite all those things. And Luke’s choice to get up every day to open the diner showcased a distinctive form of bravery that allows viewers to understand that human beings are capable of persevering in everything.

Luke Danes is one of the good ones—the one whose sole happiness is the happiness of those he cares for. When you think about it, Luke rarely asked for anything—he only ever wanted Rory to have the best education, Jess to grow up and rise to his potential, and for Lorelai to be at her absolute happiest every moment of the day. The people he loves, they’re his world.

Luke didn’t sugarcoat anything because he knew that life, in a sense, could lead to disappointment, but he also didn’t shut the world or his heart off to the potential of happiness, and as a result, he received the best kind in the end. He persevered.

Where his beliefs were concerned, they never wavered, but that never meant that he wasn’t open to learning or growing. And with great wisdom and unceasing love to give, Luke Danes always stood out. Plus, if a man’s cup of coffee is that great, there is no need for any further explanation.

The best part of a grumpy character done right is the detail that they’re secretly a form of sunshine. They’re the kind of character who’s so essential the entire show would be different without them. Lorelai Gilmore is my favorite character on this show, but if Luke Danes weren’t part of it, I don’t know if I’d love it as much. And that’s a testament to every aspect of him—the good, bad, and the ugly.

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