Spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched The Conners’ second episode in Season 4.
Ever since The Conners set up the narrative that its late matriarch Roseanne died of an accidental overdose, the ABC sitcom has understandably put some distance between references to Roseanne Barr’s character and the flagship series. (Understandable given the controversial way the comedian exited the rebooted comedy.) But showrunner Bruce Helford and his creative team managed to bring the character’s memory back in an unexpected way in Season 4, with the episode “Education, Corruption and Damnation” revealing Roseanne Conner’s secret connection with God and the Good Book.
The Conners directly set up its semi-religious arc in the Season 4 premiere when Sara Gilbert’s Darlene knelt down for a prayer in seeking guidance regarding her crumbled relationship with Ben. It was something of a bizarre move, as Darlene has been opening atheist since her teen years on Roseanne proper, and when she compared her own skepticism to that of her mother, John Goodman’s Dan pointed out that Roseanne actually did look to God on occasion. To the point where she kept a Bible in the kitchen, suitably kept in “the drawer with the Bible,” which neither Darlene nor Lecy Goranson’s Becky were aware of. (Points to the writers for facing the ridiculousness of their ignorance head-on through Dan’s incredulousness.)
When Darlene asked for more insight into Roseanne’s connection to the Bible, here’s how Dan explained it:
With her new/old Bible as a guiding light, Darlene went to mass headed up by guest star Jason Alexander as the cool, calm, and collected Pastor Phil. But it didn’t take long before she suddenly and emotionally ran out of the church. As she later explained, Darlene came across one of Roseanne’s more personal messages to the Almighty, and it was too much for her to handle in the moment.
The message, which was presumably penned in the months before her overdose and death, said this (as dictated by Darlene, Becky and Laurie Metcalf’s Jackie):
I guess Roseanne did end up putting a stop to the clothes stealing one way or another, even if Dan wasn’t miraculously granted a perfect bowling game from the Lord. In any case, Darlene’s immediate instinct was to once again turn her back to God, calling him responsible for letting Roseanne overdose, though Becky pointed out the foibles in that train of thought. And without any other answers to turn to by the end, Darlene joked about following in her mother’s footsteps by hitting up the donation bin.
This was quite the heavy episode for The Conners to dive into right after the largely fluff-filled Season 4 premiere, which was filmed live. As if Becky needed this kind of stress for her first episode of the season, after everything that went on in Season 3 regarding her resurrected alcoholism and motherhood concerns. But the Bible concept in general is a pretty solid idea for the writers to lean into from a creative angle, as Darlene and Becky may find other astoundingly specific messages from Roseanne to God that add insight to future story arcs. Or maybe it’ll go back in the drawer, never to be heard from again. I do think it’d be amusing if D.J. also knew about it all this time, with only the sisters being completely out of the loop.
The Conners airs Wednesday nights on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET, and it’s just one of many popular shows populating the 2021 Fall TV season.