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Darlene's Concern About Mary's Depression On The Conners Season 5 Episode 4 Harkens Back To Her Own Complicated History

Warning: This article contains spoilers for "The Conners" Season 5 Episode 4: Parent Traps and Heart Attacks

Darlene Conner (Sara Gilbert) really has gone through a lot when one thinks about it. She went from a fiery athlete who was a whiz on the basketball court to a moody teenage artist and writer to a confident wife and mother to a frazzled single mom juggling a floundering journalism career with caring for her aging parents. Along the way, she's suffered from a burst appendix and an emergency delivery with Harris. Importantly, depression was among the many ailments she's suffered through.

During "Parent Traps and Heart Attacks," Darlene starts worrying about the mental health of her niece, Mary Conner (Jayden Rey). The teen seems to be withdrawing from her family and wants to spend more and more time alone in her room. It causes Darlene to look back at the depression she suffered during her own teenage years,  harkening back to a memorable "Roseanne" storyline.

Darlene's depression helped shape her adult years

Darlene's journey with depression began during Season 4 of "Roseanne." In "Darlene Fades to Black," we learn that the teen has slipped into a depressive episode after her time on the basketball court has been ended by an injury. She spends much of her time in black clothes, lying on the couch, and staring into space. When Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr) asks Darlene how she can help her, Darlene, much like Mary, simply says that she wants to be left alone. The episode does not put a neat little bow on Darlene's depression — instead, Darlene emerges bit by bit from her rut and becomes her old, sarcastic self over the course of the rest of "Roseanne." 

Much of this is because Darlene meets David Healy (Johnny Galecki), her brother-in-law, who further helps bring her out of her shell. But for every step forward she makes, she takes a parent-displeasing step backward; running away with him, secretly moving him into her off-campus apartment while at college, and other incidents. But the relationship, in which she behaves in a domineering manner toward the more passive David, definitely begins to rid her of her depressive affect.

Back in the 1990s, the word "depression" was not often uttered by the characters, but during this episode of "The Conners," Darlene and Becky Conner-Healy (Lecy Goranson) directly describe Darlene's past emotional state as depressive. Things end differently for Mary; by the end of the episode, we discover that she is, in fact, not suffering from depression at all but is actually in a relationship with her first boyfriend. In an amusing twist, she treats the boy like Darlene used to treat David, causing Becky and Darlene to express sympathy for him.