Warning: Spoilers for the January 15 episode of Modern Family Season 11 are discussed below.
Modern Family is hurtling towards the finish line, but it will cross that threshold without a beloved character. Now Sarah Hyland is speaking out after seeing the January 15 episode and realizing she was not at a major character’s funeral, which was a service Hyland’s Haley should have been there for. Time to back up for a second.
The January 15 episode seemed to go on as usual with the exception that it had welcomed back guest star Fred Willard. Willard reprised his role as Frank Dunphy, a.k.a. Phil’s dad and Haley’s grandpa. In the episode, Frank and Phil enjoyed the day together, and then it happened. In a surprising twist, Modern Family revealed that Frank had died.
After a moving scene with Frank, Phil said that he did not realize that one of the best days with his dad was going to be his last. Yes, I am getting choked up thinking about it. After Phil’s pronouncement, Modern Family moved to him speaking at his father’s memorial. Many family members were shown in attendance, with the seeming exception of Sarah Hyland’s Haley.
The Modern Family star took to her Instagram story to share her thoughts. It turned out that she was confused as to why her character was not at the funeral too. In fact, Sarah Hyland was no more prepared for Frank’s death ahead of the series finale than Modern Family’s viewers. Why? Hyland explained saying via ET:
So I don't read scripts of the episodes of Modern Family that I'm not in, so I just found out that my grandpa's dead along with all of you. I still feel special.
Haley Dunphy was not in the January 15 episode, and because of that, Sarah Hyland was not aware that Haley’s grandpa had been killed off. Hyland revealed she only reads the Modern Family scripts that her character is in. Hence, her surprise at learning she and accordingly, Haley, had apparently been left out of a pivotal development.
It seems more than a bit strange that Haley would not be at a service for her grandfather, in my opinion. The weird move comes as Modern Family is wrapping up its long run on ABC. Maybe she was there, off-screen? Haley is the mother of young twins, but this is her grandpa, and the eulogy happened in the Dunphys’ living room. That is tough to explain away.
Modern Family has apparently not explained the reason for Haley's seeming absence from her Grandpa Frank’s funeral to Sarah Hyland. Mindful of what has happened when she shared spoilers in the past and already criticized, Sarah Hyland said:
Oh yeah, I guess I should have put a spoiler alert for Grandpa Frank dying, but I was just caught off-guard. As his granddaughter, you'd think I'd be invited to the funeral.
Why was Haley left out of her grandpa’s funeral? Or was she there off-screen? Modern Family has opened a massive can of questions heading into the series finale. Clearly, there was some reason that the show opted not to show her. I just cannot understand why that would be, and Sarah Hyland does not seem to get it either.
Will the show explain it? Or will Haley’s absence just be one of those TV plot threads left dangling? Maybe the show can put a line in to rectify things. That being said, the most straightforward answer may rest in Haley being there and not being shown.
New episodes of Modern Family air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. The series’ eleventh and final season is one of this winter’s premieres.