Now that the first season of the Roseanne revival is coming to an end, the Conners are taking on yet another topic that American families have had to deal with both in the ’90s when the show aired for the first time and also since Donald Trump was elected And this time, it’s something that affects their family personally. On Tuesday night’s Roseanne finale, Dan feels the pressure of trying to support his family to a point that it causes him to underbid for drywall jobs, and this seems to be a meltdown that has been coming even since the original series.
In the episode, Dan is trying to come up with the money so that Roseanne can have her knee surgery, thus keeping her from abusing opioids to cope with the pain, which she revealed last week that she’s been doing. The only way he thinks he can accomplish that is by bidding low on drywall jobs and hiring "illegals" who are less expensive labor — although it’s not clear if he’s talking about undocumented workers or legal citizens who simply work for less — instead of the guys he’s worked with for years, including his best friend, Chuck. But while Chuck and Dan’s plight gets a fair deal of consideration, no sympathy is expressed or empathy encouraged for Dan’s new workers — the people who are probably forced to work for lower wages for a multitude of reasons. And the show’s use the term "illegals" is unnecessarily incendiary.
For Dan, meanwhile, this seems to be his rock bottom. And as usual in the Conner household, when it rains, it pours. Just as Dan had secured a job, he comes home to find that the basement is flooded, causing a lot of expensive damage to their house. Just as quickly as he’d gotten ahead (through means he wasn’t happy with), he’s behind again.
The flood causes Chuck and Dan to finally confront the fact that Dan hadn’t hired Chuck, and Dan becomes emotional, trying to express his own feelings and to grapple with the guilt of letting his friend down, all at once. It’s so easy to see where Dan is coming from here, and everything he says in his rant is absolutely right — through the entirety of the original show, Dan was the backbone of his family, making things happen even when it seemed impossible. Together, he and Roseanne made sure the bills were paid (even if they were late) and that there was food on the table. Dan was always ready to take on any challenge that came their way, whether it was coping with Darlene giving birth to Harris prematurely or agreeing to open up his home to a teenage David, even when he had a difficult enough time supporting his own children. Eventually, something had to give, and it’s easy to identify with Dan in his moment of weakness.
And from this perspective, it does seem to make sense that the Conners were moved to vote for Donald Trump. Like many other lower middle class families, they’d hoped that Trump’s promises to help workers would be fulfilled, but his policies so far aren’t exactly accomplishing that, especially when it comes to his tax plan, which, as Forbes points out, could actually end up raising tax on the middle class as time goes on. Even so, Dan is willing to provide for his family by whatever means necessary, and when he becomes able to hire his friend again, he does.
Even though the episode as a whole is pretty bleak, it does have a happy ending — if you can call it that. A state of emergency is declared for Illinois, which means the Conners will receive FEMA funding (which currently isn’t working out too well in Puerto Rico) and Dan will be able to fix the basement and pay for Roseanne’s surgery. The resolution is a little too neat and tidy, but it’s about time the Conners got a break. It seems inevitable though that fans will see them struggle again next season when the next incident comes up.
Then again, it’s because of the Conners’ struggle that so many people have loved Roseanne, both in its original incarnation and in the reboot. Underneath the politics and the controversial jokes this season, the heart of Roseanne still seems to be in the same place — with a family who sticks together, even when times are tough.
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