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The Conners Showrunner And EP On How Season 4’s Finale Handled Ben And Darlene’s Relationship, As Well As Harris And Aldo’s

Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Conners Season 4 finale, so be warned!

Closing out a TV season can be far trickier than filling out the middle, with a need to wrap up storylines in pleasing ways that are meant to pay it forward in a future season (not so much the case for the crop of recently cancelled shows). A sitcom like ABC’s The Conners ostensibly has it easier than twist-driven dramas in that respect, with something of a status quo to return to for the characters. But with its Season 4 capper, The Conners introduced some potentially permanent changes to many of its characters’ lives going into the fifth season premiering later this year (in a different time slot).

With its penultimate episode setting up a trio of family weddings for two generations of Conners and a Harris, The Conners didn’t get to fully deliver on that front, thanks to men being presumptuous, with Darlene and Ben tying the knot alongside Jackie and Neville, while Harris and Aldo put a halt to their nuptials. CinemaBlend talked with showrunner Bruce Helford and executive producer Dave Caplan about the different ways things played out for Darlene and her daughter’s relationships, as seen above, and they shared a fun detail for what fans can expect to see in Season 5. 

ben and darlene in the living room on The Conners

(Image credit: ABC)

 Darlene And Ben Successfully Got Married

Wedding episodes have long been a television staple, and The Conners previously delivered a rain-soaked ceremony earlier in Season 4 when Dan and Louise got married. When I asked Bruce Helford and Dave Caplan about landing on the idea to circle back around to weddings for the finale, here’s how Helford replied:

Well, if you start the season with one wedding, you got to end with like three of them, right? I mean, it's gotta be bigger. We had lots of things we wanted to accomplish, and things to set in... Really, a lot of it is about setting next season in motion. And it was to change things up a little bit, yet let them remain the same enough so everybody has what they love in the show. But we wanted to show some growth in the characters.

Which is to say, viewers can get used to Laurie Metcalf’s Jackie feeling more self-assured in her relationship with Neville now that they’re married, but I don’t think anyone should expect her to suddenly not be neurotic in every other way still. Never say never, I guess, even when it’s tattooed around your finger. (Seriously, how did Jackie not murder Aldo for that?)

According to Dave Caplan, the finale was the natural conclusion for where this season was already going with the characters. In his words:

Sometimes the story arcs tell you where they want to go. And there were a couple of relationships that felt like they needed to go here, so we let them go.

Considering Darlene and Ben spent much of the fourth season being confrontationally pissy with one another (in largely amusing ways), fans might not have suspected their storyline would be telling the writers to bring them back together, but that’s indeed what happened after Darlene took her roof-breaking tumble a few episodes prior. When I asked the showrunner and EP if that speedy choice was partly set up to avoid spending another mini-arc on rekindling things, here’s how Bruce Helford answered:

Well, we tried to do the rekindling. I mean, it's there in subtle ways. Obviously, the opposite of love is indifference, and so Ben and Darlene were hardly indifferent toward each other the whole season longs. They found a comfortable relationship in battling each other, and all that. And I think that in her proving her independence, which he wanted to see, because it was her lack of willingness to be independent that got her into all the mess with her and David and all that stuff. So we tried to extricate them without making it obvious, and then bring them together in some credible way. Falling through a roof was required to get them to go, 'Holy shit, tomorrow could be nothing.'

Had Darlene and Ben spent the season flat-out ignoring each other following their doom-laden split, it wouldn’t have been as fun or as natural to see them eventually reach a point where they were married in front of an opera-singing clown. (Big props to the always magnificent Puddles as a guest star.) Dave Caplan also pointed out ways that their deeper emotional bonds remained intact even as their surface personalities clashed, saying: 

There were definitely clues along the way that they still love each other, as much as they sort of hated what happened in the relationship, and had resentments. You know, he offered to help her get a house, and to sign a loan. He clearly, clearly loved her. They just couldn't figure out sort of how to be together.

I guess they now have the rest of their lives to figure that one out, which should be slightly easier once they move into their own house. That will no doubt come with its own line of obstacles, but I digress. For now, we can still celebrate...at least for this couple.

Harris and Aldo having serious conversation on The Conners

(Image credit: ABC)

Harris And Aldo Weren't So Successful With The Marriage Thing

Minus some lapses in good judgment every so often, Emma Kenney's Harris Conner has proven herself to be a dedicated significant other for Aldo and his kids, despite how often it put her out to do so. (She's definitely more like her father David and her brother Mark in that respect.) But even Harris has her limits, and Aldo found out the hard way what happens when someone attempts to breach one of those boundaries, a relationship sin he committed by blindly assuming a woman half his age would be perfectly fine with bearing his children simply because he himself is getting older. And so no marital bliss for these two, at least not yet.

Well, you know, when that relationship started, it was a pretty spontaneous thing on Harris' part, born out of a kind of immature desire to get out on our own and get away from the Conners. Get away from her mom, much like a lot of 18-year-olds' decision-making process. And it's not that she didn't love Aldo. She did, and she does. But when he wanted to have a kid, and she had to decide whether to go along with what he wanted, or forge her own path for what she wants in her life, she had to take a big step forward, and become the master of her own fate. And we thought it was a big maturity moment for her to take what started as kind of a expedient thing, and start to really own her future. So we thought that was kind of a big moment for the Harris character to start to figure out who she wants to be in this life.

It's probably best that she went through a relationship as uniquely tumultuous as this one so early in life, so that she has that as a litmus test to base other prospective mates against. But that's even assuming that Harris and Aldo are 100% split up for good, which may not be the case. 

Showrunner Bruce Helford revealed that Aldo will return in Season 5, and had nothing but good things to say about actor Tony Cavalero. Helford also revealed that Dan won't be going through complete empty nest syndrome when Darlene and Becky move out. In his words:

But Aldo's not done. He's still in love. And it's not really a spoiler, but Harris is going to move in with Dan and Louise, and not move into Darlene's house.

That presents its own interesting array of scenarios that could play out in the new season. Will Harris take over Darlene's old room and find herself becoming more and more like her mom? Will Aldo and his father Jesse, brilliantly portrayed by Joe Walsh, be hanging out at the house more with Dan, without others around as much? How long before Louise drops ultimatums on Dan and Harris? Somebody needs to start keeping Louise content.

For now, The Conners is over and done with on ABC (though episodes are available to stream for those with Hulu subscriptions), but fans can look forward to Season 5 starting up at some point in late September. Until then, there are lots of other options in the 2022 TV schedule to get hooked on.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.