It’s week two of Roseanne without Roseanne, and I think there’s going to remain, for however long The Conners runs, a palpable sadness about how this new incarnation came to be. But, as in the series premiere, the latest episode continues to be a faithful depiction of the Conner family we’ve known for 30 years now, and is therefore filled with the influence of the late materfamilias as her brood deals with life without her.
Darlene, in particular, has always been the character most like Roseanne (a running joke since Roseanne debuted) and that strength and bottomless supply of sarcastic wit has never served her better than at this time in her life. Change — good, bad, weird — keeps coming at Darlene, and how she’s handling it is the best thing about The Conners so far.
After Darlene and David decided during last spring’s Roseanne reboot that their marriage is not meant to continue, David moved back to Lanford with hippy dippy girlfriend Blue (Juliette Lewis) and began working at Trader Joe’s. So that’s not news to Darlene, but she is surprised when David brings Blue to Mark’s school for a parent-teacher conference, because she felt it would make her a more “profound part of Mark’s life journey.” It’s the first meeting between Darlene and Blue, who introduces herself to the teacher by bowing to her and calling her “a member of the noblest profession.” Blue turns her attention to Darlene, telling her it’s nice to finally meet her.
“Yes, it’s nice to meet you, too, and what a delightful surprise that it’s happening here,” Darlene replies.
Darlene’s even more taken aback when Blue feels free to share her opinions on Mark, because, after all, she has met him twice. And the hits keep on coming when David tells Darlene he and Blue have planned a weekend sleepover for Mark and Harris at their apartment.
Darlene objects, but when David points out that he’s trying to step up his parental game after missing several years of the kids’ childhoods, she relents. And is rewarded by this reassurance from Blue: “You do not have to worry … I lived on a weed commune, and we all shared in the raising of the children.”
“Oh, well, sure, it’s easier that way when you’re too stoned to know whose kid is whose,” Darlene tells the smiling Blue, who thus far is ignoring Darlene’s quips.
But soon enough, no one’s smiling in this little triangle, after David has to tell Darlene that while Harris was left in Blue’s care when he was at work, Harris invited a friend over. A male friend. And they had sex.
Worse, as Darlene finds out when she goes to pick up her kids and confront Blue, Harris talked to Blue about the situation, before she had sex, in David and Blue’s home.
“You crystal-licking, patchouli-smelling hippy bitch!” Darlene shouts at Blue, demanding to know why she didn’t call Darlene immediately after finding out what Harris was planning.
Blue says she couldn’t. She doesn’t have a cell phone. “They kill bees!” she explains.
Niceties are a thing of the past between Darlene and Blue, then. But the situation does spark some bonding between Darlene and her daughter. In a scene that’s reminiscent of the Roseanne storyline in which Roseanne talked to Becky about birth control and even took her to the doctor for a prescription (the classic “A Bitter Pill to Swallow”), Darlene promises Harris she can talk to her about her personal issues, without fear of judgment. Harris takes that to heart; she wants to stop at the pharmacy on the way home to get a morning after pill, because she’s not sure she and her friend used a condom correctly. Times have changed, but then, they haven’t. Darlene agrees to accompany Harris to the store, and then, when she sees Harris is upset that the boy hasn’t texted her since they slept together, she tells Harris he’ll call. Or he won’t, and Harris will be okay in either case.
Then there’s Darlene’s lingering feelings for David. After meeting Blue, she asks him if he told Blue they’d slept together just a few months ago. He did not. She reminds him that he was ready to leave Blue and reunite with her following a night of great sex, but David tells her he thinks he’s found in soulmate in Blue, and asks Darlene not to tell her about their night together.
Later, Darlene tells David that she met someone and is dating, too — a seemingly nice, awkward guy (played by Justin Long) she met while hanging out with Jackie and Becky at La Casita Bonita. Then, in a scene that’s as emotional as anything from last week’s Roseanne-is-dead storyline, teary-eyed Darlene tells David it’s time for them to turn their long separation into a divorce. But they’re always going to be that couple you want to see together, even though you totally understand why they’re not.
As for the other Conners, Dan’s continuing to step up his parenting game, too, after so many years of Roseanne ruling the roost. He offers DJ part-time work on his drywall crew, but DJ’s too busy at his job to take him up on it. Becky wonders why Dan isn’t offering her the same side hustle.
“I’m not comfortable having you around the rough language and dirty jokes … and I don’t think I can cut back,” he jokes, before agreeing to hire her.
But Becky shows up at the jobsite with a water bottle filled with vodka. At 6:30 a.m. As her boss, Dan is unamused, and tosses the bottle in the trash.
“Sober Becky it is. We’ll all get to know her together,” Becky says, but later tells Dan she doesn’t think she is capable of getting through an entire day without drinking.
“What’s the plan?” he immediately asks, on the heels of the consequences the family is already suffering thanks to Roseanne’s addiction. Becky says she can make it, maybe, half a day without alcohol, which makes her realize she has a problem she needs to address.
Dan gives her six weeks to make that happen, before he has to pull the job. The fist bump, but Becky has never been as strong as her mother and sister, so it feels like this isn’t the end of Becky’s drinking woes.
• Jackie mentions she’s dating someone new, and it’s been announced that the fella will be played by Matthew Broderick. Jackie will introduce him to the fam during the Conners’s Halloween celebration. Hooray for the prospect of Jackie finally getting a substantial storyline in 2018 Lanford.
• Roseanne was one of the first series to take Halloween episodes seriously, and have a lot of fun with them, so perhaps next week’s holiday installment is another effort by the writers to make sure Roseanne without Roseanne’s presence still includes the spirit of Roseanne Conner.
• The credits and series theme song are now opening the show, as the family gathers around the table for breakfast (the closing scene from the series premiere).
• The job that’s keeping DJ too busy to work for Dan? He’s servicing vending machines, and finding out that the toughest part of the job is buffing out the curse words people scratch into the glass. “And they say firemen are heroes,” Becky teases him.
• Jackie, to Darlene, while they’re scoping out men at La Casita Bonita: “You’re a catch. You’re an educated, diabetes-free woman in Lanford.”
• Jackie, spotting another rarity in Lanford, an employed man: “That guy’s stitches are even … them they’re doctor stitches. Healthcare … job!”
• DJ, after listening to the Mamma Mia! soundtrack Becky gives him: “Pierce Brosnan is a much better singer than he gets credit for.”
• Darlene, after David tells her she has to accept that Blue is going to be around for major family events like graduations and college drop-offs: “Great, if any of our kids graduate high school or get into college, you can bring Blue and all the primary colors.”
• Dan, while discussing the challenges of raising sexually active teens, with David, after David reminds him of how he and Darlene used to have sex in the Connor household: “If you disappeared, everyone would just assume you ran off again.”
David: “I pushed too hard. I felt it.”