Lest you forget this is the Roseanne revival, “Dress to Impress” proves the Conners are going to keep being topical up in here!
Dan, for example, is not going to be shushed when he wants to voice his concerns about the way nine-year-old grandson Mark is dressing for school. Glittery skirts, fringed boots, and bold colors are the fashion statements that Mark likes to make. “He’s gonna get beat up, sure as hell,” is the statement Dan makes, while trying to convince Darlene she shouldn’t let the boy wear those clothes outside the house. Darlene gently tells her father (as gently as any Conner is capable of addressing any other Conner) that she has the situation under control. She’s read many books on the subject, and they all advise allowing Mark to express himself without the pressure of labeling his choices or freaking him out about other kids’ reactions.
But that’s partly Darlene trying to play it cool, and partly Darlene’s inherent instinct to rebel against her parents, because no matter what her age, being back in her childhood home will do that. When she has a private conversation with Mark’s older sister, Harris — a Darlene lookalike who possesses the sarcastic wit of Roseanne, Darlene, and Becky combined — she reveals she also has concerns about Mark’s safety, especially now that he and Harris will be going to different schools and there’s no one to keep an eye on him.
Roseanne — for those who assumed her Trump support meant she checked her humanity at the voting booth — decides to address the situation more directly. Before driving Mark to his first day of school in Lanford, she asks him if he feels like he’s a boy or a girl. He answers quickly and matter-of-factly: “A boy.” Then why, she asks, does he want to wear traditionally feminine clothing? “This just feels like me. I like colors that pop,” he says. “It’s more creative.” Granny Rose tells him he needs to know that he’ll have to pick your battles. But if this is important to him — and Mark confirms it is — she and the rest of the family are behind him.
For Roseanne, that means addressing Mark’s class when she drops him off, telling them how cool and creative he is (and warning that she’s a witch, in case they fail to respect his individuality). For Dan, it means sending Mark off with a hug the next day, after Darlene forgives her dad for his ill-conceived decision to give the boy a pocket knife to carry with him to school. And for Darlene, it means she has to have an uncomfortable talk with Mark, one in which she acknowledges his fashion choices will make his life at school more difficult, a thought she can barely express without crying. (Have I mentioned that Sara Gilbert is stealing the season so far?)
Meanwhile, in a storyline introduced in the season premiere, Mark’s Aunt Becky has also made a choice that proves controversial with Dan and Roseanne: She wants to be a surrogate mother. But now, her client — is that the correct term for the person who will pay someone $50,000 to have a child for her? — wants to meet the Conners before officially closing the deal. Dan was against the idea from the very beginning, and now that Roseanne has learned Becky will be using her own eggs to provide Andrea and her husband with a child, she’s also against the plan. As she warns Becky, that means the baby will be a biological Conner, so Becky should be prepared that one day Roseanne will kidnap her grandbaby and then end up in jail.
Come to think of it, Roseanne would fit in nicely with the Orange Is the New Black crew.
• Two big thumbs up to the casting of Ames McNamara as Mark. He’s a complicated character for any actor to play, but McNamara pulls it off with subtlety, the comic chops to shine in deep scenes with Roseanne, and an endless amount of charm.
• It’s only the second episode, but here’s hoping there’s a better storyline (or any storyline) for Jackie in the near future. She and Roseanne made up after their political feud in the premiere, and in this episode, she’s got little to do aside from reminding everyone that she’s “Lanford’s leading life coach.” It’s 2018, and we are all finally fully aware that Laurie Metcalf is a national treasure. Let’s see that reflected with a meaty Jackie storyline!
• Dan, after skirt-wearing Mark climbs up on pile of furniture to reach the hoop during a game of backyard basketball: “Okay, he doesn’t have to wear pants, but he’s gotta wear underwear.”