Tuesday, November 13, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Conners' - The Family Tries to Get Dan to Express His Feelings in 'The Separation of Church and Dan'

ABC's The Conners - Episode 1.04 "The Separation of Church and Dan"

When Geena learns that D.J. hasn't been taking Mary to church while she's been away, she insists they go as a family to uphold her traditional values. To make matters worse, Mary refuses to attend without her cousins Harris and Mark, leaving D.J. in the last situation he wants to be in - at the mercy of Darlene. Mark's attempt to conduct an unbiased survey on the upcoming election for his school project goes south when Jackie volunteers to help.

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.

"The Separation of Church and Dan" was written by Sid Youngers and directed by Andy Ackerman

There are a number of different plot threads throughout this episode. They don't always compliment each other though. The show is trying to spread the wealth amongst its cast. It is intrigued by pairing up characters in the hopes of finding a really compelling dynamic. But there really isn't a hook that connects everything together here. Geena wants to take the entire family to church because religion is very important to her. Mark is conducting a poll about the election. And Dan is still very much grieving Roseanne's death with the rest of the family growing increasingly worried about him. There is the sense that all of these stories connect together. Jackie can comment that they are all subjects that people don't like to talk about very much even though they are necessary in society. But that's just a broad explanation and one that she doesn't even make as a lasting point. Instead, they all remain very separated. Sure, there are some stories that bring in the same characters. Darlene has to deal with her father and brother's latest concerns. She is still very much caring for her entire extended family even though that has been a stop to any of her personal ambitions in life. That's a tragedy. But right now, it's more important to spend time on Dan's grief. And yes, it is compelling because of John Goodman's performance. Dan has a fraught relationship with God now because he sees Roseanne's death as unfair. He views the big guy upstairs as owing him for what has happened. That may not be how any of this works though. And so, he can't bring himself to go to church with the rest of the family. However, that's not even a big deal whatsoever. Because the show has so much else going on here, it's not all that noticeable. As such, it doesn't land in the way that makes it feel worthy of continuing to explore his feelings on the subject. At times, he wants to be away from his family. He wants to be with Roseanne but she is no longer with him. He does look to Becky and Darlene for advice. They have personal experiences that can help him cope with what has happened. They understand that he needs to open up and express his emotions. But he also has to do so according to his own timeline. He can't be forced into doing so. He needs to find the healthy way to deal with these feelings. It seems like he gets that at the end of the episode with him being able to jam out to a good song with his friends even though Jackie inserts herself once more. However, it doesn't entirely feel earned either. It may just be a solution to the immediate problem without addressing the ongoing issues. This is going to remain a consistent part of his life for the foreseeable future. He may not want to go to the grief group with sad people who don't get over what happened to their lives. But that still showcases how these events shape us for a long time. Geena can argue that that's what faith is for. Of course, the show mostly just treats that entire religion story as a punchline to shame the Conners for not knowing anything about the church Geena loves so much. That's broad humor that really doesn't work well here. And so, it's still abundantly clear that The Conners is a major work in progress.