SPOILER ALERT: The following story reveals details of Wednesday’s episode of ABC’s The Conners.
The family and their neighbors in Lanford were forced to deal with tragedy in Wednesday night’s episode of ABC’s The Conners in a storyline that echoes the experiences of too many communities across the US
In the episode, titled “Triggered,” when a shooting goes down at the local mall, the neighborhood is put on lockdown. Becky (Lecy Goranson) quickly realizes Emilio (Rene Rosado) and their daughter Beverly Rose (Charlotte Sanchez) were shopping there and unable to reach them.
Each member of the Conner family reacts differently to the shooting. Aunt Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) goes into law enforcement mode, pulling from her experience as a police officer to keep everyone informed of how the tragedy is being handled.
During the panic, young Mary (Jayden Rey) took charge. She helped the family prepare for the emergency thanks to her training at school – a heartbreaking reality for students across the US following multiple real-life shooting tragedies.
Dan (John Goodman) reacts by getting his gun, something that doesn’t sit well with his brood. His granddaughter Harris (Emma Kenney) eventually steals the gun and sells it to the police. Dan isn’t happy but he understands.
A frazzled Becky eventually hears from Emilio, who confirms he and Beverly Rose are safe, though that does little to calm the worried mom. When Becky and Beverly Rose finally reconnect, mom doesn’t want to let her little girl out of her sight.
When the Conners learn the shooter is someone they all know, they are astonished how close to home this all hits.
Goranson and series executive producers Dave Caplan and Bruce Helford spoke with Deadline about the episode and why it was natural for fit for the series.
DEADLINE: Lecy, as the person who pitched the idea, tell me why you wanted to tackle gun violence on the show.
LECY GORANSON: I’m from Evanston, north of Chicago, and I was out with my dad at Northwestern seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat when this woman sits next to me with her daughter. She told me she knew who I was and had been watching the show forever and that she’s a high school teacher in Elgin. She suggested we write about gun violence, something they were experiencing locally. Since then, the gun and violence issue has grown worse and is an epidemic all over the country.
And the problem has worsened since the Covid pandemic with gun sales going up exponentially. There’s a lot of data available on this. So, I’m hoping that by us airing this episode, which is an unconventional one for us as a comedy, people will watch it and discuss some of the issues we have in our country right now. I hope people won’t feel alone. We have a great need for mental health care, especially for poor communities. We need more gun education that goes beyond it being the symbol of someone’s bravado.
DEADLINE: Bruce and Dave: was this episode a no-brainer when Lecy pitched it?
BRUCE HELFORD: Yes. I remember back when I worked on the fifth season of Roseanne back in the day, and we did an episode about Dan wanting Roseanne to have a gun at The Lunchbox. This was after a diner — played by Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols — made Roseanne feel threatened. It was a very natural part of life for a working-class family. It wasn’t a big shock. So it seemed very natural for us to tackle this and define the aspects of it we wanted to focus on. Mainly, the trauma of a family— because whether you’re in their neighborhood or it’s on your block or in your community, there’s no family in America that hasn’t thought about how safe they are when they leave their home. We wanted to also reflect on what the effects are and the availability of mental health help.
DAVE CAPLAN: This is a lot of school districts: Sometimes there are 1,500 students per psychologist. So the kids that really need to talk to somebody and who need help, it’s just not available, especially in underserved communities. This is one of the joys of writing the show, tackling some of these topics, and saying something unique.
DEADLINE: Why was Dan having a gun important to the episode?
Helford: We established Dan isn’t a gun nut but he’s a guy who has a gun in the house for protection. And we felt it was just an honest part of the story. We wanted to represent all sides and all views because when we do that, we open it up for discussions. If we try to preach or have an agenda, people get polarized real quickly and they walk away from the conversation.
Dan feels very strongly about having the gun, but Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Becky didn’t feel comfortable with it. Harris did something about it, right or wrong. Dan at least acknowledged that he understood why she did it which is a pretty big moment in the show. It’s one thing to be opposed and it’s another thing to understand the opponent — that’s what doesn’t happen enough in this country.
DEADLINE: It was smart to show the various ways people might react in this situation via the various characters. Will they move on from this episode fully or will any be affected in bigger ways moving forward?
HELFORD: I related to Mary the most. As a child, I was at home sick when President Kennedy was assassinated and I witnessed the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald on TV live. I had nightmares for days beyond that. I knew that [Oswald] may have killed the president but I felt bad that someone got hurt. It’s disturbing on so many levels, especially as a kid.
We will be dealing with pieces of the things from the episode a little bit and there are things they have to go through. The family heals by the end of the episode with the help of the resources they have which is each other — but this doesn’t go away in a day.
DEADLINE: Will the events of “Triggered” keep Becky and Darlene from moving?
GORANSON: But I don’t think it’s going to affect those plans.
CAPLAN: No, they’re both in a place in their lives where they’re trying to evolve and change. They’re becoming the people they’re meant to be. There’s still on the path to doing that.
GORANSON: Plus, Becky just wants a window.
Regarding what’s ahead for Becky, I do hope we do explore more with her about her reaction to what happens in the episode. What’s powerful is that notion of letting go of your child in this world no matter what age they are and having the trust to let them go in a very difficult society is a fascinating concept. I thought it was really moving and also funny that Becky was projecting onto Beverly Rose when it’s Becky who is traumatized. Emilio even tells her, “I think it’s you and me [that are traumatized]”And I think that’s true. It’s something so many people can relate to.
DEADLINE: With the season almost over, you can tease what’s ahead for The Conners?
HELFORD: There’s a lot coming. There are weddings coming, romance is in the air — and I didn’t say it as a singular.
CAPLAN: There’s relationship stuff with Becky.
GORANSON: Oh, there is?
CAPLAN: Yeah! There’s also an interesting story about the house, about them being able to move out and move on with their lives. There are a lot of interesting twists and turns on that front.
DEADLINE: Will the move change the dynamic?
HELFORD: Yeah. One of the things I’ve always loved about the characters on Roseanne and The Conners is that the characters do evolve. They grow, they have setbacks as we all do. There’s still a lot of evolution going on.