Spoilers below for anyone who isn't caught up on The Conners through its penultimate Season 3 episode.
Throughout Season 3, The Conners partially eschewed its sitcom expectations and reflected the real world with heaping doses of dramatic character development, particularly with Lecy Goranson's Becky and her alcohol dependencies. Beyond Becky's boozing, The Conners has also taken this season to further explore the relationship struggles between Sara Gilbert's Darlene and Jay R. Ferguson's Ben, and I think viewers are aware by now that this couple needs to split up before Season 4 kicks off (assuming ABC orders that renewal).
Ahead of the Season 3 finale, which is set to deliver two different proposals and the return of a long-gone cast member, Darlene and Ben are technically on good terms after the vacation ticket snafu, with Candice Bergen's Barb also being welcomed into the family poker game. But let's go through a few of the reasons why The Conners needs to bury Darlene and Ben's relationship deeper than the body of the family matriarch.
Ben Is Not As Good For Darlene As We Thought
Under a specific light, Ben is a fairly ideal suitor for Darlene, as he's attentive and loving in the ways that Johnny Galecki's David was not. However, with Ben's affection comes a fairly demanding sense of entitlement, where he seems to think Darlene should do things a certain way simply because she's with him. I can't deny that Ben's logic about selling those Hawaii tickets was practical and sound, at least financially, but he remained completely oblivious to how much that trip would have seriously impacted Darlene's emotional issues, and that's a huge problem. Not to mention the fact that after Darlene was completely honest about her hesitance to sell them (considering they were a gift from a now-dead friend), Ben responded in the worst way, saying:
Well, thank you for those very private thoughts in front of your entire family. I'm happy to hear that you can't wait to move in with me for the fourth or fifth time. And thank you, once again, for saying that you won't lie to me, right after you do. It's been a long journey back to where I thought we were, but by God, we're there!
You can fuck right off with those passive-aggressive jabs at Darlene's attempts to make this unbalanced relationship work, Ben. Perhaps when you're not telling Darlene how to feel happy, you can come up with another podcast idea that does absolutely nothing to help pay the bills and isn't worth anyone's time. That should really convince Darlene to move in with you posthaste. Dummy.
Too Much Barb Is Not A Good Thing
So much of the "just like my family" charm of Roseanne and The Conners has relied on sarcastic quips, in-family insults and general insolence, but I think the somewhat limited use of Estelle Parsons as Beverly Harris has proven that at this point in time, watching a rude and shitty mother be rude and shitty just isn't all that fun anymore. And while it'll technically never get old watching a pro like Candice Bergan rule the roost with iron-thumb efficiency, it's not very enjoyable to see her bitchily Barb-splaining Ben's selfish actions and defending them as being selfless.
If The Conners wants to keep Candice Bergen around on a weekly basis to shoot the shit with Katey Sagal's Louise about anything other than that lump of a son, I am here to appreciate two TV legends making it happen. But if the show is just going to make Barb a shit-dealing obstacle between Darlene and a good day, then it's worth sacrificing the former to have the latter kick Ben to the curb.
Darlene Could Easily Be Happier With Jeff (Or David?!?)
When The Conners introduced Brian Austin Green's Jeff into the Wellman Plastics work circle, it wasn't entirely clear how heavily the story might lean into the character starting a potential romance with Darlene. But he quickly established himself as one of the most easygoing characters in this franchise's history, and perhaps unwittingly also proved how solid a match he would have been for Danielle Harris' Molly had she not died. In any case, if there's anyone who could use a relationship with a shroom-loving neo-hippie, it's Darlene.
But let's also not fool ourselves here. If Darlene would choose to make the definitive choice to split up with Ben, that would give her the opportunity to take one more shot at making things work with David. Granted, Johnny Galecki is a busy guy these days, even without The Big Bang Theory taking up most of his time. So bringing David back at all is almost necessarily just setting up a disaster for Darlene, but it's a familiar and much-beloved disaster, so it's worth it in my book.
To be fair, I don't have any issues with actor Jay R. Ferguson or his work as Ben. In fact, I think his performances prove his worthiness within the role, since Ben almost definitely wouldn't get under my skin so much if Ferguson didn't nail it. But there's something about a character swooping into a show with unearned pompousness and attempting to treat an O.G. character like he knows her better than audiences do, and perhaps better than she knows herself. Nobody has time for that, so let's put our collective thoughts into ushering in a Season 4 with Darlene reembracing single life.
The Conners airs Wednesday nights on ABC at 9:00 p.m., with just one episode left to go in Season 3, so be sure to check that out, knowing there's a lot more awesomeness to come in the 2021 Summer TV season. Let us know in the poll below if you agree with me about Darlene and Ben, or if you think I'm a little off-base here.