Roseanne Season 1 Episode 13 Review: “Bridge Over Troubled Sonny”

11

Oh my word.  This episode.  It’s just… I have so many feelings about Crystal, and this episode is so ridiculous, and she is so ridiculous, I can’t even take it.  Here we go.

So Crystal is all in a tizzy in her weird robotic way when she arrives at work in the morning, and it’s because Jackie drove them over the Monument Street Bridge to get there. Why, what’s the problem with that, you ask?  Well, luckily Booker is our surrogate here, who asks the obvious question.  As it happens, Jackie informs him, reminding everyone that it’s serious and sad, Crystal’s first husband, Sonny, was a construction worker.  One day as he was pouring cement into the bridge, he slipped and fell into one of the piling molds… where he’s still buried today.  12 years later.

I simply can’t handle the ridiculousness of this.  Of course that’s Crystal’s backstory.  Of course it is!

This immediately reminded me of Gremlins.  That movie gives Phoebe Cates the most laughable backstory on her father’s death, and makes her give this big dramatic monologue about it… and frankly, it plays to laughter every time.  Who read this part of the script and thought, “Yeah, this’ll be our big dramatic climax for her character, this is going to be so emotional and so powerful?”

There’s a crucial difference here– though both are completely ridiculous deaths (albeit… ones that could happen in real life, though Snopes tells me there haven’t been any dead Santas yet), Gremlins played this straight.  They wanted to sell you on Phoebe Cates being a damaged young girl because of this dumb story (and they really bring it home with Gizmo’s grotesque grimace in the reaction shots, only making it funnier).  But Roseanne acknowledged the hilarity of it.  Of course it’s sad that this man died.  But oh my god, did you hear how he died?

Having the characters in on how funny it is makes all the difference, and keeps with the dark humor of this show.  Throughout the episode, whenever the bridge is mentioned, the characters chuckle.  So I can’t criticize the show for having this plot– I can only criticize Crystal for being so ridiculously awful in every way.

When Roseanne fills Dan in on Crystal’s relapse over Sonny, he admits to her that Sonny used to cheat on Crystal.  There’s a fantastic visual joke here involving Roseanne, a knife, and a carrot as she interrogates him on why he never told her…

Roseanne's phallic joke

But Dan’s manhood is safe for now.  Lonnie and Crystal come over so Dan can help Lonnie build a bird house, and Crystal gets all worked up again (naturally) because if Sonny hadn’t died she “could have been happy the rest of [her] life.”  She stiffly dashes out as Roseanne, considering this, brings Dan into a very sweet hug.

2

“What’s that for?” “I was just thinking how different my life would have turned out if you’d have lived.”

That joke becomes all the more poignant at the end of the series, of course, because that’s exactly what season 9 is.

Roseanne and Dan never shy away from physicality.

Roseanne and Dan never shy away from physicality.

Now, this is also the episode where Darlene smokes.  Darlene is 11 at this point.  Is this really an age where kids start experimenting with drugs?  Was I just a naive and innocent kid?  Because I don’t remember anyone getting into that stuff until we were at least in high school.  This seems like a more appropriate conflict for Becky’s age, but I guess since Darlene has been established as the rebel and Becky as the goody two shoes, this was how the writers felt it had to go.  (Their roles will reverse later, when Becky gets drunk and Darlene has to take care of her and cover for her.)

Darlene smoking

Crystal, meanwhile, has sworn off all men.  No one will ever be as good as Sonny, so why bother!

The ring will "keep men at bay, and keep Sonny close to my heart."

The ring will “keep men at bay, and keep Sonny close to my heart.”

Roseanne and Dan act like this is a problem and they need to help Crystal, but oh my god who cares.  She’s no more miserable than usual, it’s a lost cause, why are we friends with her anyway?

Mom, will you do me a favor?” “Besides being your mom??”

Upon finding Darlene’s cigarettes, Roseanne and Dan tell her to go ahead and light up.  You live here too, they say, it’s fine for you to smoke.

6

This is, of course, the classic sitcom way to handle smoking when one of the kids (inevitably) starts.  But where usually the trope is to have them smoke the whole carton right then and there, this time the Conners gab happily about how fun it will be for Darlene to get yellow teeth and emphysema and an iron lung. She vows never to smoke again, and… that’s that, I guess.  Parenting is easy peasy.  I’m just glad this doesn’t turn into one of those A Very Special Episode deals, as topics like this often do– I mean, imagine the way Seventh Heaven would have handled this plotline.  Oh wait, they totally did.

7

Crystal comes over again, and reveals that she had an affair while she was married to Sonny.  She’s never told anyone, and she feels guilty.  The solution is that she should go talk to Sonny, which leads to the most amazing scene ever.

"So, uh... which one's he in?"

“So, uh… which one’s he in?”

Sorry, uh, I mean, this is serious.  Very serious business here.

Crystal literally talks to a cement piling.  She tells the piling that she misses him and still loves him.  The piling listens intently.  What else is it going to do?

10

Crystal reveals that the reason she cheated is because she was so mad at Sonny for running around on her.  Roseanne and Dan are shocked– after trying to tell her all this time, she knew all along, and loved him anyway.

She's even more pathetic than we thought!

She’s even more pathetic than we thought!

It really hurt her, she says, because Sonny’s the only man she ever loved, and she still does.  The serious, sad music plays here, and the group embraces.  It’s supposed to be a serious and emotional moment, and they really do the best they can to convey that, but I can’t get over how Crystal is screwed in literally every way for her entire life.  No wonder I find her insufferable, her life is a total freak show and it’s shaped her into a mess of a woman.  Her narrative would be a lot more powerful if she became a strong, confident woman on her own, but instead her character’s arc depends on the love and support of another man (specifically, Dan’s father, who we meet in the next episode).  It’s kind of a shame that she and Jackie, two potentially strong, well-developed single women, spend most of the series as frail, wobbling messes falling apart over men when they could have been so much more, but I guess that doesn’t get as many laughs.

Loose Meat:

– Thank goodness this episode is behind us.  It’s one of a very few that really focus on Crystal who, as I’ve said before, is completely extraneous.  The role of Roseanne’s best friend is already filled by Jackie.

– I think DJ had literally three lines in this whole episode.

– Hey, Booker’s still around.  What’s up with him, huh?  Can we get a little less spotlight on Crystal and a little more on folks like Booker and Sylvia?  Every time there’s a scene at Wellman it just reminds me of how much more awesome she is than Crystal.

One response

  1. During the original airing of the show I just took Crystal as the surface wacky sit-comy friend but once I did my rewatch a few months back, the character was grating. I’m not sure if for me that wasn’t just the actor’s portrayal though, because THAT VOICE.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *