Laurie Metcalf, Lecy Goranson, and Sarah Chalke star in Roseanne
Photo: Adam Rose (ABC)

“Holy crap, we’re different.”

Darlene and Becky’s contentious relationship has always gone beyond mere sibling rivalry on Roseanne. Even when they were sharing a room, the sisters’ frequent sparring was sparked by more than parental affection and the family’s limited resources. They had fundamentally different personalities: Becky was (once) a conformist and eager to please, and Darlene railed at just about every convention or rule she came up against.

Birth order played a factor, obviously, as Becky grew up looking after her younger siblings while middle-child Darlene looked for ways to stand out. But as they got older, they occasionally found common ground, including falling in love with a pair of brothers. When we catch up with them in the revival, they’re both middle-aged and single (Becky’s a widow and Darlene’s recently divorced). They’re both also clearly disillusioned and questioning whether or not they can start over. True to their nature, they give each other a hard time, despite their similar circumstances. But there’s a comforting familiarity to their bickering, which is now driven as much by their own dire straits as it is Becky’s “fun girl” ways and Darlene’s caustic humor.

Reexamining the sisters’ dynamic could fill half the revival, or at the very least, an entire episode. Instead, the exploration is folded into what passes for the A story in “Eggs Over, Not Easy.” Written by Morgan Murphy and directed by John Pasquin (who helmed several season 10 entries), this fourth chapter of the revival centers—occasionally—on Becky’s quest to be a surrogate mother for Andrea (Sarah Chalke). That is, when the series isn’t checking in to see how Roseanne feels about her daughter “giving away” one of her (as in, Roseanne’s) grandkids, something I thought was made clear when Becky first announced her plan.

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Photo: Adam Rose (ABC)

It’s not that I’m surprised that Roseanne would continue to share her unwelcome opinion with Becky, who eventually learns she might not ever be able to conceive. But the segues to Roseanne, who spends the other half of her screen time knocking Jackie’s social life (or lack thereof) while plotting a dognapping, increasingly come across as interruptions. Regardless of what your tolerance is for Roseanne Barr—and I wouldn’t blame you if you’d long since given up—her character often feels wedged into the action of “Eggs Over, Not Easy,” even when she’s comforting her crestfallen daughter.

Roseanne’s possibly meta-admission that “sometimes [she’s] a selfish old woman” who’s “stubborn about what [she] wants” aside, the sitdown with Becky near the episode’s conclusion simply doesn’t click—neither does the dog subplot, which is mostly just an excuse to make fun of Jackie. Here, I have to renew my objection to how that character’s been treated so far this season. At one point, even Darlene offers a few cracks about her sad-spinster aunt. Her compulsion to mock others might be ingrained, but Darlene shows a surprising lack of self-awareness in ribbing Jackie about loneliness, given her current situation. And yet, this thread runs through the episode, making me wonder why the EPs bothered asking Laurie Metcalf back if this was all they had planned for Jackie.

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“Eggs Over, Not Easy” gets so much more emotional mileage out of Becky and Darlene letting their defenses down and owning up to their faults—and their perceptions of each other’s faults. Becky’s been in denial about a lot of things, including her infertility; she admits she and Mark tried for years to get pregnant. Darlene’s setback isn’t as much of a gut punch, but continually failing to find work when you’ve got two kids to support is still a blow. Murphy’s script tries to find the humor in their predicament with an uncomfortable proposal. After Becky sighs, “The Conner sisters are failing! How did we get here?,” Darlene proposes they take turns pointing out each other’s shortcomings, possibly because she’s already downed one tequila shot.

Photo: Adam Rose (ABC)

Though she warms a little too quickly to tallying up her sister’s failings, Darlene comes through for Becky in the end. When she observes Becky’s life has been been stagnant or “frozen” ever since Mark died, it’s not a tough-love statement. Darlene hasn’t been back long but she can tell Becky’s flailing, so she speaks up to help her, not deride her. And when she tells her big sister that she won’t be betraying Mark if she moves on, it’s as heartfelt a moment as the tribute to the late Glenn Quinn that comes up after the impromptu daddy-daughter dance. Their exchange makes up less than one-fifth of the episode’s runtime, but it’s really the only moment that helps make the case for the revival. Sara Gilbert and Lecy Goranson turn in solid performances, displaying the sisters’ disappointment and almost grudging optimism.

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ABC’s touted the 10th season as a chance to reconnect with this irascible yet lovable family decades later. Everyone’s changed—for better and worse—including Becky, no matter what Darlene said about being frozen. But four episodes in, it’s hard to see how the show can possibly track everyone’s progress in a satisfying manner. Last week, the revival made a half-assed attempt at demonstrating how much Darlene’s grown up by having her fight with her parents over how to raise her kids. This week, it’s Becky’s turn. But rather than set up a new stage for the oldest (and probably most directionless) Conner kid, “Eggs Over, Not Easy” rushes to end her arc, presumably to make room for more of Roseanne’s opinions or, hopefully, a solo outing for Jackie or D.J., the latter of whom only shows up for a minute to rehash some of his parents’ trickery.

The opening credits now feature multiple family members’ laughter, not just Roseanne’s, seemingly promising a medley of viewpoints. And yet, nearly halfway through the 10th season, those voices remain muffled. The ratings suggest the audience likes what it hears so far, but whether or not it realizes it, ABC’s still banking on the curiosity of right-wingers and the tenuous restraint of one of its stars. If the show wants to be more than just a flashpoint, it needs to give the other Conners (and Harrises, and Conner-Healys) their due attention.


Stray observations

  • No screener for episode four, hence the late publishing time.
  • Dan’s wide-eyed expression at Roseanne going along with him after he put his foot down did make me chuckle, even as I braced myself for her to show up on Andrea’s doorstep.
  • Signs of the (modern) times: In addition to another set of Uber jokes, Becky uses Snapchat without ever referring to the app by name, and Dan sports a 2016 World Champion Cubs sweatshirt. See? Uh, progress.
  • I wouldn’t mind if Rhea Seehorn showed up everywhere.
  • Despite that doctor’s visit, this probably isn’t the last we’ve seen of Andrea and Sarah Chalke.
  • Based on my cursory research, Barr’s kept to live-tweeting the show and asking people not to pass along negative articles about her. Maybe her kids got a hold of her Twitter password again.
  • In case it wasn’t clear just how ridiculous Jackie is these days, she refers to dog training as “behavior sculpting.”

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