[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “Roseanne” Season 10, Episode 8, “Netflix & Pill.”]
“Roseanne” takes a dark turn at the end of “Netflix & Pill” — an aptly punny title for an episode that hides its weightiest issue behind a relaxed demeanor. Though it initially feels like any other episode from the new season, the final few minutes set up a season finale that could take the show in a challenging new direction.
…maybe. As much as this penultimate episode sets up the option, it’s hard to believe “Roseanne” will pull a fast one and switch to a serious, serialized format. But before tackling that skepticism, let’s dig into what happens in Episode 8.
For the first three-fourths of the new entry, everything is business as usual for Roseanne (Roseanne Barr), Dan (John Goodman), and the rest of the Conner family. Dan and Roseanne try to cash in the credit card points (they didn’t know they had) on a night at a Chicago hotel. When they’re turned away because their card (to cover the “incidentals”) is declined, the couple of 45 years makes a night of it at the house. They drink pink champagne, snack on Dan’s coveted Honeybaked Ham, and laugh together as if they were on a first date.
But, as Dan soon realizes, that’s suspicious behavior. Roseanne shouldn’t be laughing that hard at simple jokes or be acting that loopy off a few drinks. It turns out she had more; Rose has been hiding emergency pills all over the house and seems to have formed a prescription drug addiction as a result. At episode’s end, Dan promises to get her the knee surgery she needs to erase her reliance on drugs, but then Roseanne pulls more pills out of her ice pack — implying her problem might not be so easy to solve.
The storyline is likely to drive a lot of chatter leading up to the final episode, “Knee Deep” (a title which indicates Roseanne’s knee problem will be addressed), but it’s equally likely to end there. “Roseanne” is an episodic series by nature; its viewers need to be able to skip around, miss a week, or watch episodes in whatever order they please without being bothered to remember specific details from the week before. Moreover, the Season 10 episodes (or Season 1 of the revival, depending on how you feel about network erasure) have yet to dig in to the weighty topics they introduce. Why should the finale?
The new episodes have been full of non-resolution resolutions, including Roseanne and Jackie’s (Laurie Metcalf) inexplicable reunion in the premiere and the have-it-both-ways attitude toward the Conners’ Muslim neighbors in Episode 7 (ending on a joke about bombs that at least partially erased the tolerant message preceding it). Audiences can accept that (apparently) because of the series’ structure, which mandates closure every 22 minutes.
But really, whatever joy that can be found in watching “Roseanne” stems from the characters. They make the series work as well as it does (take that as you will), and though the individual performances are spotty, one in particular stands out in “Netflix & Pill.” While Barr is uncontrollably leaning into Roseanne’s high (and still missing punchlines due to delayed timing even when it’s not drug-induced), Goodman is an absolute rock. Always present in the scene (even when it’s not his line) and inventive within his character, Goodman turns Dan into an authentic individual even in an increasingly contrived series.
Just look at the way Dan claps by slapping his elbows in the opening scene: It’s a sarcastic move, playfully poking at D.J. (Michael Fishman) for his dour anniversary speech, but it doubles as goofy, dad-like behavior. The same goes for his fun voices. In Episode 8 alone, he throws in a French accent while flirting with Rose, plays an old cowpoke while laughing along with Crystal’s outfit, and lays into a snobby voice for a crass joke about faxing a photo of his ass to Singapore.
In addition to boosting small moments, Goodman makes some of the worst jokes work in his favor. When he’s on the phone with the Honeybaked Ham reps, he hangs up after saying, “You have a Honeybaked day, too.” It gets a laugh, but it’s a terrible joke: Dan already hit the punchline when he revealed to Jackie he was talking to the “ham people” instead of a hotel concierge. That makes his sign off redundant and pretty on-the-nose from a product placement point of view. But Goodman leans so hard into the line he actually bends over, and it’s his excited delivery that makes the ham gag infectious instead of irritating.
No matter what happens in the finale, fans can rest assured knowing these simple pleasures aren’t going anywhere. Perhaps “Roseanne” will change things up for Season 11. Maybe those changes will prove to be a marked improvement on an iffy first season back. But that hardly seems like the most important thing to the show or its top priority; the best it seems reasonable to hope for is that more of the actors learn from Goodman’s talents, thus making enough little moments bright enough to shine through any darkness.
The “Roseanne” Season 10 finale airs Tuesday, May 22 at 8 p.m. ET.