Warning: Spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of The Conners. Be sure to check back when you've caught up!
Those of us who are fans of The Conners will know that the show is no stranger to having multiple storylines going at once for several of the characters. This week, though, really had a lot going on even for The Conners. Darlene was feeling the repercussions of how she mistreated Ben (and managed to make the situation worse), Jackie and Becky were trying to re-open The Lunch Box and Bev had a big secret revealed.
But! The truly major news this week was that DJ (You remember the youngest Conner child, right?) actually got the seeds of a very real storyline, along with his daughter, Mary. Let's dig into it!
Now, if you don't remember this detail, because it certainly hasn't been discussed much on the show, DJ and his wife Geena are both in the Army. While we saw a bit of the character in Season 1 of The Conners, it was revealed that she had been redeployed to Afghanistan before the current season, so DJ is currently doing a sorta-single dad thing right now and taking care of Mary by himself.
This week saw The Conners celebrate Halloween, so when we first see Mary, she's dressed as a queen to go to the Lanford parade and then trick-or-treat. DJ has taken her to La Casita Bonita to hang out with Becky beforehand, who runs off to get them some ice cream from the kitchen. Mary quickly notices that a woman is staring at her and tells DJ, but before he has a chance to suss out the situation, the woman makes a bold move and comes over to their table.
So, why was this woman staring at Mary and why did she feel the need to come over? Well, it turns out that she just wanted to tell Mary how lovely she looked, oh, and mention to DJ how wonderful it is that he adopted and how she believes the world would be a much better place if more people did the same thing. No, no, no, no!
As you might imagine, Mary was not going to stand for this, and DJ didn't even get a chance to respond before Mary tells her, "I'm not adopted. He's my dad!" But, the woman doesn't believe her and just answers with, "Sure he is, sweetie," meaning that DJ is her dad because he adopted her. The woman then walks away, but has ruined the mood for poor Mary, who tells DJ she wants to go and doesn't even want to stay for the ice cream Becky is bringing.
When DJ and Mary get home after the parade, Darlene and Mark (who's dressed as a very colorful David Bowie) are watching TV. Mary is clearly still bummed, and DJ asks Mark to take her to his room so that he and Darlene can talk. After he relays the story to her, right after Dan walks in, Darlene tells him the situation sucks "but you are pretty white. Like Casper the Stupid Ghost." When DJ corrects her and mentions that Casper was the Friendly Ghost, she just replies with a quick "I know what I said."
Luckily, Dan has solid advice for his son, and tells DJ he just has to let Mary know that other people's opinions, outside of the family, don't matter. Meanwhile, up in Mark's bedroom, Mary is pouring her heart out to her cousin. She tells him that it sucks that no one thinks she's a part of the family and they stare at her, especially since no one stares when her mom is around.
Mark notes that when he first started wearing dresses, he got a lot of stares, too. His advice to Mary? Stare back with a big, scary smile. And when he demonstrates, Mary is clearly impressed. The next time someone stares at Mary, doubtful of her relationship to DJ or any of her other, much lighter, relatives, I really need to see her bust out that Pennywise-worthy gaze and freak some folks out!
So, the situation was basically taken care of this time around, with DJ and Mary both getting words of advice from family, but I think we can all see that this opens up some interesting avenues for DJ and Mary to have some pretty heavy storylines moving forward., should The Conners fully go there like they've been known to do with so many other political and social issues in the past.
Race, and people's perception of it, are clearly on the table now, not to mention whether or not having people not recognize Mary as a Conner by birth will lead to her questioning what it would be like to grow up in a family with people who look more like her. The show could also use this to talk about how Mary, and DJ for that matter, are dealing with having Geena back overseas, and how she's dealing with being away from her family again.
DJ has never gotten much attention from The Conners or the show that spawned it, and Geena and Mary have suffered the same fate so far because of it. Now, though, it looks like some more of those social issues that actor Michael Fishman spoke to us about the show handling so well can be touched upon through this new lens. There's no reason that these things can't be added to the discussions about immigration, fertility, alcoholism, the opioid crisis, divorce, and learning to love again after being widowed.
DJ has rarely gotten a chance to shine, and these topics would certainly open up ample opportunities for Michael Fishman, Jayden Rey (Mary) and even Maya Anne Robinson (Geena), if the show can get her back for a guest appearance or two, to show what they can really do with some deeper material. And, I have to tell you...I. Am. Here. For. IT!
We can see how The Conners continues to deal with everything that's happening with DJ and Mary when the show airs, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.