A sudden loss rocked Darlene’s world on The Conners.
Early into the second of the series’ back-to-back episodes on Wednesday, Darlene discovered that next-door neighbor Molly Tilden (played by Roseanne vet Danielle Harris) died of brain cancer. The shocking death was revealed soon after Darlene reconnected with her teenage rival, who encouraged her to live life to its fullest — something Molly had done ever since she found out she was dying. To wit, she went ahead and purchased two first-class tickets to Hawaii for herself and Darlene.
Asked about the decision to bring Molly back for one episode, just to kill her off, showrunner Bruce Helford tells TVLine, “We were really thinking about what would change Darlene’s life. What would have a major effect on Darlene that would have some true effect on the relationship with Ben heading towards the end of the season?
“Molly back in the day tried to get Darlene to come out of her shell, and took her to her first concert. So we thought that’d be interesting, if they kind of lived the same life, they both got married too young and they just never had their twenties and thirties,” Helford explains. “Molly comes back into her life and they become friends, which is a real twist on what was going on between them [before]. And that something major could happen that would bring Darlene to reevaluate how she’s living her [own] life [was] kind of the genesis of all of it.”
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In the end, Darlene and Ben agreed to get a refund for the plane tickets and put the money towards an apartment — but Darlene seemed ever so reluctant when she called the airline to inquire about reimbursement.
Helford confirms that Molly’s death catapults Darlene into a “midlife crisis” as Season 3 draws to a conclusion. “It’s all of a sudden being really aware of [her] mortality, combined with the fact that she actually went out and had a great time and realized she could let herself do that,” Helford says. “She carries the burdens of the world on her [back]. Her personality doesn’t allow for much different than that… It will definitely have an effect on her relationship with Ben.”
Asked to elaborate, Helford would only say that tensions between Darlene and Ben “definitely will come to a head, one way or another,” before season’s end.