The latest episode of The Conners has left Darlene (Sara Gilbert) in a bad place. The second episode of the show's back-to-back episodes on Wednesday night revealed a wild death that's shaken up the main character. Darlene found out that next-door neighbor Molly Tilden (played by Roseanne vet Danielle Harris) shockingly died of brain cancer, just after she reconnected with her childhood rival, who encouraged her to grab life by the horns — which was something she learned from Molly since she found out she was dying.
Series showrunner Bruce Helford admitted to TV Line that he decided to bring Molly back for one episode to see how it would shake up the main character's life. “We were really thinking about what would change Darlene’s life," Helford said. "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?"
He continued: “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.”
“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," Helford explained. The move was meant to put Darlene in a mid-life crisis as fans near the end of Season 3.
“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.”