Spoilers below for the latest two episodes of The Conners, so be warned!
Just when you thought it was safe to celebrate The Conners bringing horror scream queen Danielle Harris back into the franchise fold as Roseanne's Molly Tilden, the ABC sitcom said "Hold up now." A week after the guest-casting news broke, Harris appeared in Episode 315 – "An Old Dog, New Tricks and a Ticket to Ride" – and lit an inspirational spark in Darlene that reminded her to try and enjoy life when possible. And then Molly went and got killed off.
Indeed, when The Conners opened up the very next episode, Molly's mom informed Darlene that Molly died after suffering from brain cancer, an ailment she had not disclosed with her old friend. (Danielle Harris has an amusing story behind her performance, too.) When CinemaBlend spoke with The Conners' showrunner Bruce Helford and executive producer Dave Caplan, I asked what the idea was behind bringing back an old school character like Molly specifically to seal her fate in such a way, and here's how Caplan explained it:
Even though Molly and Darlene's rekindled friendship was short-lived (quite literally), it was precisely the kind of game-changing Conners situation that Sara Gilbert's character needed at this stage in her life. Not a whole lot of things have been going so great, from sacrificing funds to help Dan pay the mortgage to having Ben harping on and on about moving in together. Throw in "constant bickering with Becky" and "Harris' growing independence" and it's almost surprising that Darlene hasn't been responsible for anyone else's death.
As a stubborn woman within an extremely stubborn family, Darlene isn't a character known for being self-serving or for making huge lifestyle changes, which is why The Conners' writers couldn't just make a magazine article be the inspiring catalyst to flip Darlene's status quo around. I asked the EPs if it was difficult to convince themselves that having Molly die was a better inciting incident than something that didn't involve killing characters off, and here's how Bruce Helford put it:
In the same way that Becky's sporadic problems with alcoholism are an important and ongoing part of the character's psyche, it sounds like Molly's death will continue to serve as a motivational beacon of sorts for Darlene as this season (and possibly others) goes on. That definitely adds more meaningful justification behind offing Molly, as opposed to having her death projected through a "Very Special Episode" prism. Plus, it was nice that the character died on good terms with Darlene, as opposed to there being a renewed quarrel over David or Ben or some other dude.
Dave Caplan continued, pointing out that the unexpected death of someone close can often be an alarm bell.
The Conners fans got to see a small sign of how Molly's death affected Darlene, perhaps most notably in the way she fought for her right to keep the tickets to Hawaii that Molly gifted her, as opposed to taking Ben's advice and getting them refunded. Plus, if Molly used a credit card, the refund would just go back into Molly's account anyway, so Ben's idea wasn't necessarily all that great. Here's hoping she held strong and hung up the phone with her tickets still intact. Maybe Sara Gilbert could get her dream by hanging out with Lisa Kudrow in a Hawaii-set episode.
With or without showing Darlene soaking up the Hawaiian sun, The Conners airs Wednesday nights on ABC at 9:00 p.m. ET.
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.
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