Warning: The following contains spoilers from the series premiere of The Conners. If you haven’t watched yet, you may want to bookmark this page and return once you have. Proceed with caution.
Well, the cat’s finally out of the bag.
The Conners has premiered on ABC, bringing with it resolution to one of the most-asked questions over the summer: How will they explain Roseanne Barr‘s absence? After all, it’s not every day that a show goes about writing out its title character and the woman who created her, basing her on her own life. But Barr’s toxic Twitter behavior left ABC and the producers with no choice, so in the interest of keeping hundreds of people employed, Roseanne became The Conners.
And the answer? It’s pretty much exactly as the boisterous Barr said it would be. Granny Rose died of an opioid overdose after all. Although, it took a minute for us and the rest of the Conner clan to learn the truth.
It had been three weeks since Roseanne’s funeral, with the family still eating out of casserole dishes supplied by friends and family and still believing that Rosie’s sudden death was merely a heart attack. The entire family still seemed to be in various states of shock: Dan’s (John Goodman) not sleeping in his bed because that’s where Roseanne died, Jackie’s (Laurie Metcalf) overwhelmingly obsessed with reorganizing the kitchen, Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Becky (Lecy Goranson) are trying to get the family finances in order.
But a call from one of Jackie’s friends in the coroner’s office—she may be a life coach now, but remember, she was a cop for a good chunk of Roseanne‘s original run—revealed that the official cause of death was actually an overdose. It turned out that Roseanne hadn’t gotten her pain pill addiction under control after all. And as Becky revealed she’d found a bottle of pills prescribed to a Marcy Bellinger in Roseanne’s closet—”Damn, that’s the only thing from mom’s closet I wanted,” she said—Dan had someone new to blame for his wife’s tragic demise.
He soon began driving around town with a sign attached to his truck, thanking Marcy for the pills that killed his “loving wife Roseanne.” But as Marcy (played by surprise guest star Mary Steenburgen!) showed up at the Conners’ doorstep, teary-eyed and drunk, begging Dan to take down the sign that had made her a pariah around town, Jackie revealed to Darlene that she’d found another stash of pills in the ice pack in the freezer. It was enough to make Dan realize that this wasn’t Marcy’s fault, not really. His wife took the pills of her own free will, after all.
In a particularly meta moment, as Darlene was tearfully telling Dan she wished she’d known and could’ve helped her mom, Goodman delivers a line that felt like a cathartic writing-off of Barr as well. “She was gonna do what she was gonna do,” he said. “She never listened to a damn person in her life.” Get it?
As for the second mystery—the case of the new credits sequence—they unfurled in the final moments of the episode as the family sat down for a traditional American breakfast. And at the end, when the camera would traditionally make its way back to Barr and her bellowing laugh, it centered, instead, on Goodman and Gilbert.
Despite not being all that surprising, thanks to the limited options in believably writing Barr out and her own loose lips, the premiere is actually a solid episode. Goodman, Metcalf, and Gilbert all got the chance to prove what pros they, with Metcalf’s breakdown over corn cob holders in the kitchen being one of the most emotionally affecting moments in the episode. What’s more, it’s startling how quickly the show was able to prove that it didn’t need Barr to still be a good show. In fact, one could make the argument that, without her, it’s an even better one. After all, when one person’s off-screen antics aren’t sucking all the oxygen out of the room, everyone has the opportunity to breathe easier.
But enough about what we think, it’s time to hear from you!
The Conners airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.