The Conners Shooting Episode Brought Back The Show’s Secret Strength

Warning: This article contains discussion surrounding active shooters and spoilers for The Conners season 4 episode 14.

It is not easy for any sitcom to take on a subject as serious as an active shooter, but The Conners proved that the series can still rely on its secret strength with its very special season 4 episode. The Conners has never shied away from serious issues. Although the show always finds time for plenty of punchlines, its plot lines have addressed social issues ranging from deportation to prescription pill abuse, to unemployment, to the opioid crisis.

While many sitcoms such as How I Met Your Mother ignore issues of money and class, The Conners has always made a point of focusing on the realities of working-class life. Far from being a grim or self-serious series, The Conners mines humor out of, and finds levity in, everything from Dan’s struggling business to Darlene’s hard times as a single mom. As such, it should come as no surprise that The Conners season 4 was uniquely able to use this secret strength when addressing an American social issue.

Related: The Conners Might Have Just Mocked A Former Guest Star

In The Conners “Triggered” (season 4, episode 14), an active shooter in the local mall leaves Becky terrified as her daughter is there with her father Emilio. Although the titular family is not physically harmed in the incident, they are all believably traumatized by the event, and this is where the unique perspective of The Conners helped evaluate the episode from being just another sitcom’s attempt to touch on topical issues. Ben and Darlene’s season 4 drama was put on pause for the episode, and even Harris’s feud with her mother faded into the background as The Conners highlighted how struggling communities that lack access to resources are hit doubly hard by tragedies like the mall shooting.

In recent years, plenty of American TV shows has built Very Special Episodes around shootings, one of the country’s biggest public safety issues. However, The Conners handled the problem by having Dan say that he needed to joke about the shooting since it occurred a day earlier and, less than twenty-four hours later, he was already forced to return to work, put on a brave face, and help customers find their drill bit of choice. Meanwhile, as Darlene bemoaned the fact that public schools barely offered their students any access to psychological support, her sister Becky lost hours of a workday waiting for a free appointment with a public therapist, only to be unable to access any mental health support because of queues.

Collectively, the characters of The Conners reacted to the tragedy in a realistic manner that was shaped by their working-class living situation. This is something that most US sitcom characters either don’t have or don’t focus on outside of rare exceptions like The Conners predecessor Roseanne and Malcolm in the Middle. While many shows have tried to take on the issue of gun violence, few have shown how brutally it can impact under-resourced communities in the way The Conners could. The Conners season 4 may have retconned Roseanne when it came to Jackie’s employment history, but the spinoff kept the tone of the original series alive where it was important. As proven by this outing, The Conners can offer a fresh perspective on topical issues because of the show decided to center on a working-class family and their realistic problems.

More: The Conners: Harris’s Aldo Move Worked Out (Despite Darlene)

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