Tuesday, October 30, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Conners' - Mark's Halloween Costume Stirs Up a Complicated Debate in 'There Won't Be Blood'

ABC's The Conners - Episode 1.03 "There Won't Be Blood"

It's Halloween, the favorite time of year for the Conners, but an email from the school banning certain costumes, including Mark's, sets off an argument between Dan and Darlene. Jackie introduces someone new to the family at the Halloween party and insists that Dan vet him, only to immediately wish that she hadn't.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of ABC's The Conners.

"There Won't Be Blood" was written by Jana Hunter & Mitch Hunter and directed by Bob Koherr

Roseanne was known for producing memorable Halloween episodes. It was the holiday that the entire family supported completely. They put so much work into their costumes. That quality is still apparent with The Conners. However, the show fails to have an entertaining and meaningful discussion about the way the holiday has changed over the years. People have to be very mindful of the costumes that they put on. So many issues have rightfully been raised about how dressing up as someone can be very offensive and minimize their humanity. It's fundamentally an issue of how other people perceiving the costume if they have no understanding of who the person wearing it genuinely is. It's not a good enough excuse to say that one's intentions were pure and wanted to empower that particular voice. That's why Mark still has a problematic costume here. It's easy to understand why the school doesn't want to welcome him into the carnival. It is cultural appropriation even though he worked tirelessly in a few days to put together this Frida Kahlo costume. Darlene is willing to fight for him because she knows how well-informed he is about her life story and the appreciation that he has for her contributions to the world of art. But that shouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things. It shouldn't take a costume being defended in an argument for it to be seen as okay. It either is or it isn't. That's the perspective that needs to be clear throughout this entire conversation. The Conners mostly employs it as a plot device in order to laugh at the absurdity of it all. It wants to have an engaging debate about political correctness and the idea that everything has to be sanded down to ensure that no one is ever offended by anything. That's the position that Dan takes throughout all of this. He wants Darlene to start a fight with the school because she should be proud of what Mark has created for himself. And yes, his artistry and ability to put this costume together is very impressive. But that's not the point of this conversation either. He doesn't see the way in which this could be perceived as wrong or offensive. That thought never occurred to him throughout this entire process. Sure, some of the blame also has to be on Darlene. But she has a busy and hectic life right now. She can't be on top of everything her children are doing all of the time. She is still a champion for them when the time calls for it. But the show is treating all of this as a major victory for the Conners. It's mostly just the easy way out of this conversation. It's the show introducing the topic without really have a solid understanding of how to talk about it. That's lame and uninspired. All of the subplots aren't all that great either. Again, a costume doesn't really work if the person wearing it has to explain it over and over again. Sure, it's cute to see the play on words that define so many costumes for the Conners. But that doesn't make them effective for the holiday. Moreover, the episode is setting up some ideas for how the lives of these characters continue to develop. So, Harris gets her driver's license while Jackie gets a new boyfriend. Those are some pretty introductory plot beats here that really don't go anywhere in an amusing way.