Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Conners season 5, episode 15.
While a classic Roseanne outing showed Dan making one argument, The Conners season 5 reversed the character’s viewpoint in the spinoff. It can be tricky to keep sitcom characters consistent over the years. Characters who were always intended to be comedic can become parodies of themselves with each subsequent season. In Roseanne’s original run, the title character was a loving mother who tearfully broke down after hitting her son, promising never to hurt him again before disclosing that her own father was physically abusive. In Roseanne season 10, that same character gleefully plunged her granddaughter’s head into a sink full of dirty dishes to the delight of a hollering audience.
As such, Roseanne has a complicated legacy in The Conners, a spinoff that attempts to remain true to both the original Roseanne and its broader, less subtle revival. This internal discord was evident in The Conners season 5, episode 15, “Possums, Pregnancy and Patriarchy.” When Harris informed her family about her pregnancy, Dan’s reaction stood in stark contrast with his earlier opinions on abortion in Roseanne.
Dan’s Stance on Abortion Has Flipped Since Roseanne
When Harris announced she was pregnant, Dan was the first person to offer unsolicited advice, telling her to keep the baby no matter what. That is not what he said in the two-part episode of Roseanne season 7, episodes 10 and 11, “Thanksgiving ’94/Maybe Baby,” when he and Roseanne were facing the possibility of raising a child with special needs. Unlike in The Conners season 5, Roseanne saw Dan argue that keeping a pregnancy the couple could not handle would be the height of selfishness. In the show’s spinoff, however, he claimed that Harris should not terminate her pregnancy under any circumstances.
Characters changing, even in a family sitcom like The Conners, is not necessarily a bad thing. In “Possums, Pregnancy and Patriarchy,” Jackie got angry at Dan when he claimed that he helped Roseanne raise their children and showed her late sister a surprising degree of respect in the process. This, along with her learning about Beverly secretly protecting her and Roseanne from their violent father during their childhood, proved that the character was beginning to warm to her once-hated family members. However, unlike the tragic Jackie story in The Conners season 5, Dan’s change of heart was not rooted in any tangible growth.
Why Dan’s Change of Heart Is Disappointing
Dan was able to see the difficulties of raising a child a lot better when it was his potential child, then seemingly lost his compassion for the trials of parenthood when his granddaughter fell pregnant in “Possums, Pregnancy and Patriarchy.” This was disappointing since, in both Roseanne and The Conners, a pivotal element of Dan’s appeal is his understanding nature and his deep empathy toward his family members. Dan’s speech to Harris, however, seemed forced into the episode to voice a viewpoint that was not organic to the character at all. This made the Roseanne hero’s change of heart a particularly weak twist for The Conners season 5.
More: The Conners Season 5 Brought Back A Story Most Sitcoms Never Address