Darlene Conner, played by Sara Gilbert, is the second eldest child to Dan and Roseanne Conner, sister to Becky Conner, D.J. Conner, and Jerry Garcia Conner, wife of David Healy, and mother of Harris Conner Healy.
Darlene was born in 1977 in the town of Lanford. She initially took after her father, enjoying sports and manual labor, and was remarked to be Dan Conner's son despite sharing her mother's quick wit and smart mouth; also like her father, she was a bit lazy and looked for opportunities to dodge major efforts. In the earlier seasons, Darlene was an underachiever at school, often letting her participation in sporting activities take priority over her homework and upsetting teachers by barking in class. Her performance in both basketball and baseball (pitching) was considerable (at least for the first three seasons) but she had to back out of one game mid-round in Season 1 due to needing her ruptured appendix removed; however, thanks to her contributions her team still won in a landslide.
Following her scribbling of a poem that was acclaimed by her school's fine arts department- as well as moving her mother and aunt Jackie to tears- Darlene took an interest in creative writing and expanded on that in later years. Later in high school, her poor grades were more a result of disrespect and skipping classes than lack of work quality; however, she was nonetheless accepted early into a Fine Arts college in Chicago, and subsequently studied there for three years- with Roseanne proudly pointing out that she did so without a scholarship or excess financial support. Darlene also grew increasingly socially isolated in high school, sinking into a depression that her parents did not know how to deal with- although this partially abated after she started working with and dating David. After Becky eloped- setting herself up for a challenging few years away from her family- Roseanne and Dan looked to Darlene to exploit her potential as her sister had failed to. Her pregnancy forced her to take summer school to finish her last year on-time, but Darlene had been prepared for this last hurdle for some time; she received at least one excellent job offer while she was at college, and ultimately started a part-time writing job when she took time off during her last year.
Her relationship with her father was especially close; the two would often spend Saturdays working on the boat in the garage, which was to be for Dan and Roseanne's retirement. They both followed the Chicago Bulls in basketball and the Chicago Cubs in baseball. He was more protective of Darlene when she began dating boys than he was of Becky, and Darlene would often be less sarcastic towards her father than towards her mother- although he reacted (initially) much more negatively than Roseanne when Darlene announced she was pregnant, since he always expected more out of her potential than he did of Becky's. Her status as Dan's favorite was confirmed at her wedding when he revealed a secret bank account which he'd been keeping for Darlene as a gift.
Roseanne and Darlene's relationship was more adversarial in nature but the two also shared a wicked sense of humor and enjoyed baiting and dominating their nearest and dearest. Darlene was definitely "Roseanne Junior"; her personaity and appearance were definitely closer to her mother's, and as she approached adulthood so did her hobbies. The similarity of their sarcastic, dominating demeanors was a constant source of conflict between the two, but as their adult relationships settled down, they developed a mutual respect for each other. Roseanne would often push Darlene hard at school, as she recognized that Darlene was capable of excellent, creative work but would slack off without constant supervision, which Darlene resented. Darlene would also come back with a witty comment or two, observing that her mother solved problems the same way, and also picked up her abilities to control weaker family members. There were boundaries, and Darlene would never, ever do anything genuinely malicious to any of her family, but she would often stand her ground when pushed and her air of indifference could sometimes be mistaken for callousness.
Although Becky was usually considered Roseanne's favorite daughter, it was Darlene whom she looked to for stability more often. Despite pushing her much harder than she did Becky, Roseanne was also more supportive when Darlene truly needed it but would not admit it- especially on the few occasions when Dan became hostile over her relationship with David. Although she often remarked on how she and Dan did not know how to deal with Darlene, Roseanne recognized herself in Darlene on many occasions; the difference being that Darlene grew up in poverty, while Roseanne grew up with a distant mother and an abusive father. Roseanne was visibly upset when she learned Darlene and David were planning to leave the Conner house just after Harris was brought home from the hospital, and felt reassured when she learned that Darlene did want to stay longer; she just thought she was in her mother's way.
Darlene had a relationship fraught with conflict and affection with her older sister Becky, who (initially) made much greater academic and social progress than she did. The pair shared a bedroom as teenagers and frequently bickered -- for example, Darlene would call Becky "Barbie Doll", while Becky would often call Darlene "Butch". They could also be mutually supportive, particularly giving each other advice or protecting one another from snooping parents. For example, Becky frequently gave Darlene advice on boys when she first showed an interest; Darlene in turn made every effort to cover for Becky when she and a friend got drunk at age 14, and also gave Becky advice at one point when she became worried about her marriage (though she and Darlene had been drinking schnapps and Becky was a bit tipsy). In adulthood, the two sisters saw one another less frequently, but they each had much greater respect and affection for one another; Becky consoled Darlene when her daughter Harris was born premature, and Darlene was the first one to learn Becky and Mark were expecting and congratulate them.
Whereas Becky eloped and made questionable personal decisions, Darlene, defying all earlier expectations, went to college and so began heaping scorn on her sister's academic prowess, often calling her stupid. Regardless of whether or not Becky was in the right in their arguments, Darlene was easily able to best her in their verbal repartees, and they usually ended either in a stalemate or Darlene victorious (though in either case, she usually would get bored and leave).
Darlene had a slightly closer relationship with D.J. than Becky did -- Becky would see D.J. as an annoyance and someone who prevented her getting whatever she wanted. Darlene and D.J. would often spar verbally and physically (off-screen) during which Darlene would torment him incessantly (although it was often warranted) but in more private moments, she would always look out for her little brother, giving him advice when he couldn't come to their parents.
Her relationship with her Aunt Jackie was fairly close also, although she copied her mother in criticizing certain aspects of her life, specifically her inability to commit to men. Jackie often provided a sympathetic ear when Darlene and Roseanne locked antlers, and sometimes duked it out with her sister to help Darlene. Despite being the less socially pleasant one to be around in almost any circumstances, Darlene is generally closer to her family than Becky is-though part of this stems from the fact that her parents adore David (her boyfriend and later husband), while Roseanne has voiced her dislike of David's brother (and Becky's husband) Mark many times.
Relationship with David:
Darlene dated several boys in high school before she met David Healy (whose name she changed from Kevin because she preferred it) halfway through Season 4. They began as friends who wrote and produced an underground comic book; however, David found himself increasingly attracted to Darlene, who didn't return the feelings at first. She eventually became mutually attracted to David, but was unsure if it would blot out their friendship, and so hesitated to return his affections until she had taken advice from her father and sister. When David confirmed that he was okay with just being friends if she wasn't ready, Darlene kissed him; they subsequently started dating.
Darlene controlled the relationship from the start, taking after her mother in subtly and frequently criticizing him, while David, who came from an abusive household, was frequently passive. However, he would sometimes stand up for himself and tell Darlene what he really thought; and after Darlene witnessed his suffering at the hands of his drunken mother, she became more protective of him. The two of them attended the prom together and lost their virginity near the end of Season 5. David was the younger brother of Mark Healy, whom Roseanne deeply disliked; however, David was a much more pleasant, intelligent personality and Darlene's parents quickly warmed up to him, even letting him live with them during Season 5 after witnessing the abuse he was suffering from his mother.
Darlene and David had a tumultuous relationship, breaking up on three separate occasions and taking longer to reconcile each time. However, they always reunited. The first time was due to David having not been accepted into an art college in Chicago, while Darlene was and at first kept it from him; however, he soon discovered her lie. While Darlene was initially willing to stay for him, finish high school and apply again later, Roseanne recognized that she should go and Darlene finally had the courage to tell David as much-to which he reacted with uncharacteristic selfishness. They split at the start of Season 6 as Darlene headed off for college. Although they were initially hostile the first time Darlene visited home, Roseanne manipulated them into reconciling; later, David pretended to return to his abusive mother so that he could secretly move into Darlene's college apartment. However, as they were forced to conceal their relationship from most people, the strain soon deteriorated their relationship, and they began fighting with each other constantly. By the time Roseanne caught them and marched them back to Lanford to be punished, they were glad to separate again. When Dan learned that David and Darlene had been sleeping together for almost three months, he was so furious he manhandled David and threw him out of the house However, the two soon missed one another and got back together again (having realized that they moved in together too soon). Dan responded with more physical violence against David when he caught them together again, but after talking with both Roseanne and Darlene he relented and allowed David to move back into the Conner house. David and Darlene were together again, although following the restrictions Roseanne and Dan set upon them-which included no sex for at least 6 months.
The third split occured entirely because of Darlene's behavior at the start of season 7. Believing she and David needed experience with other people or they would end up 'like her parents', she began spending time with a boy from her college named Jimmy, although not officially breaking up with David. David remained fully aware of her relationship with Jimmy, but never protested because he did not want to lose her. However, Roseanne encouraged him to stand up to Darlene for her callous behavior; he then gave Darlene an ultimatum, telling her to chose the one she planned to sleep with. When Darlene chose Jimmy, David called her a coldhearted bitch and stormed out in tears. They remained hostile for a long time, both of them stooping low to seek revenge on the other; however, their relationship eventually mellowed back to tentative friendship, especially after Darlene cut all her ties with Jimmy after discovering his drug habits. Near the end of Season 7 Darlene, after talking with her mother, realized that she still had strong feelings for him and had reacted awkwardly when the Conners discovered David was attempting to start a relationship with another girl, claiming that he was over Darlene. In an unexpected display of humble emotion, Darlene confessed to him that she loved him and wanted him back if that was still a possibility, but that she did not expect him to take her back at all given how she had treated him; she simply wanted to know his feelings without being hurt. David paused, then replied that he would never hurt her and embraced her, reaffirming their romance.
Roseanne had long since forgiven them, while Dan was sufficiently mollified by their third split to call of the restrictions he had placed on them. Subsequently, Darlene would resume dominating and criticizing David as before, but in a gentler, teasing manner; she never showed any further inclination to end their relationship. David, in turn, had no further real complaints and took her verbal jabs with no real reaction. Darlene does not often openly admit she loves David, but when she does she says so from her heart.
In Season 8, Darlene helped David look for jobs on several occasions, as they were hoping to move in together in Chicago during her final year of college; she ultimately found him work as a graphic artist, fulfilling part of his career dream. However, when Darlene discovered that David had gotten her pregnant after a family vacation at Disney World, she proposed to him. Though stunned, he accepted, which temporarily caused a rift between the two of them and Dan (who felt Darlene was squandering her potential as he, Roseanne and Becky had). Despite the massive responsibilities she had chosen to face and her normally un-motherly personality (Roseanne remarking that Darlene had once wanted a vasectomy at age 8), Darlene remained unfazed; she planned accordingly on how to finish her education and start her career before she even informed David and her family about the baby. When Roseanne talked with her alone after they broke the news, Darlene again gave an unexpected display of emotion when she stated how much she wanted to keep the baby and that she wanted to marry David not just for the logical financial reasons, but because she loved him and needed his emotional support to go through with it. Roseanne was impressed, but advised her to repeat her feelings to David, as he had not found her proposal entirely convincing.
Near the end of Series 8, Darlene and David were married at an outdoor ceremony; David's only regret was that his parents did not come, although Mark (his best man) assured him that the Conners were their true family. Dan, who had not been talking with Darlene for almost a month and a half, reconciled with her just before he walked her to the altar. The new couple were forced to hold an impromptu 'reception' at the hospital after Dan suffered his heart attack; Dan then apologized to David for the time when he threw him against a wall. They continued to visit the Conner house frequently during season 9, although they had then moved into their Chicago apartment; indeed, considering Becky and Mark lived only a block away, Darlene and David were seen visiting at least as often as they were. Though Darlene's parents remained supportive during Season 9, Roseanne frequently teased Darlene about her pregnancy symptoms and David about his excess empathy.
During her seventh month of pregnancy, Darlene went into unexpected early labour, giving birth to her dangerously premature daughter. She was in shock after the birth and blamed herself for her child's fate, but David managed to calm her down and comfort her. Several specialists were convinced that their baby would not be able to survive outside the incubator; after a moment of thought, Darlene and David tearfully chose to remove her from the machinery and give her a chance to survive on her own. Against the odds, she did survive; Darlene named her Harris Conner Healy, in honor of the many strong women on her mother's side of the family. She and David were last seen deciding to spend some time with Harris at the Conner house before they returned to their home in Chicago, since her mother wanted her there and could give them parenting tips.
Darlene struggles in school, trying to keep her grades up so she can keep with her after school sporting activities. She and her brother would fool around like all young children did whereas Becky looked on, never quite being part of the group and preferring the company of adults. Darlene also gets her first period this year and feels as if she has to give up her old life and start wearing make-up and dating boys but some timely words from Roseanne convince her that she can still play sports but becoming a woman would actually be more of a benefit than a hindrance. She also gets a paper route to earn some extra money but is fired because of her poor time-keeping.
Darlene continues to struggle in school but her teacher spots an amazingly insightful poem and makes her read it out loud at a school "culture evening" where Jackie and Roseanne learn some interesting things. As the family struggles with money problems, Darlene and her mother begin to fight for the role of "alpha female".
Maturity is the theme for Darlene this season as she begins to date boys, groping a guy on the couch just to get one up on Becky who is on her second serious boyfriend by this point. Her sporting activities seem to take something of a backseat this year as her romantic life blooms. There's always room for watching sports on TV with her dad who challenges Roseanne that her relationship with Darlene isn't perhaps what it ought to be.
Whereas Becky's adolescence runs somewhat smoothly, Darlene literally fades to black becoming withdrawn, isolated and struggling personally in high school. She rejects her friends and family although they won't let her retreat completely into her shell and are instrumental in bringing her out of it. Darlene begins to date David who the family like a lot better than her as he is polite, well spoken and seemingly the antithesis of the prodigal daughter. She sneaks off to Chicago to attend a comic book convention where the two try and promote their underground comic book but get caught and severely punished. Darlene also adopts a vegetarian lifestyle, begins to wear all black clothes, and takes meals more often than not in her room wanting to read and be alone.
Becky has eloped with her boyfriend Mark which means that Darlene has a lot more to do around the house. She also spends the night with David but is under increasing pressure to take their relationship to the physical level which sees her getting occasionally hostile. David's family life is disintegrating with his parents splitting up and eventually moves in with the Connors after Roseanne witnesses how abusive his mother is to him. Darlene and David apply to an art school in Chicago -- she in creative writing and he in graphic design. She is accepted whilst David is not and goes, breaking up with David in the process shortly after they have sex for the first time.
Darlene spends most of this year at school in Chicago but returns frequently to Lanford. She soon reconciles with David who sneaks away to live with her whilst telling the family that he is moving back with his mother; however, the strain of keeping him secret from everyone soon shows on both of them. The two are caught and Roseanne drags David back to Lanford.
Darlene and David break up because she begins to date a boy called Jimmy who is somewhat like David but tougher and much less respectful; Darlene claimed it was because they needed to test other relationships in order to avoid being like her parents. David was initially willing to let her spend time with him because he would sacrifice his dignity to hold on to Darlene; however, after Roseanne talked with him, he gave her an ultimatum, telling her that she had to choose the one she would sleep with. When Darlene chose Jimmy, David initially offered to be there for her if she decided she didn't like Jimmy afterwards; when she coldly rebuffed this suggestion, David called her a coldhearted bitch and broke with her entirely- thus sparking their longest split.
During initial episodes, it looked overwhelmingly as though David was the more devastated by the break-up; he stooped low to get revenge on Darlene when he told Roseanne about her drug usage (which initially caused Roseanne to pull her out of college) as well as trying to split her up from Jimmy. Darlene reacted with disdain towards all these attempts; however, she split with Jimmy less than halfway through the season (although she was apparently still dating other people) and during one of her later visits home she was visibly jealous by David's closeness to her sister. When David quite calmly claimed that, in retrospect, their relationship had never been significantly close for him, Darlene was extremely hurt, as it had clearly meant more to her than anything else she had experienced; David tried to apologize, but she fled.
However, the two might have continued to remain split if Roseanne had not intervened. She had been fond of David for a long time and saw him as a good influence on her daughter. Although Darlene and David were friends once again, Darlene's feelings for David were actually still strong and she was unhappy to learn that David was planning a date with someone new. Roseanne (apparently perceiving that David's feelings for Darlene were not completely extinguished either) pushed her daughter into confronting David. Darlene explained that she still loved David and wanted to get back together with him, but she didn't expect him to given how she had treated him; she simply needed to know his feelings, if reconciling was an option. Stunned, David replied that he would never hurt her and embraced her; after this, they remained together.
Darlene continues to do well at college and even receives a surprising job offer from a firm as a copywriter which she contemplates before rejecting. She also goes with the family to Disney World when they cash in Dan's final paycheck from the garage and gushes over Winnie the Pooh; when she returns, she helps David finally find work as a graphic artist. It is at Disney World that David gets Darlene pregnant, and the two get married six weeks later; Dan initially does not react well to this news, and his reconciliation with Darlene at the wedding is overshadowed by his heart attack immediately after. Although they frequently visit the Conner house during Season 9, by now Darlene and David have moved into a new apartment near her school in Chicago.
Darlene's pregnancy is a tough one and results in the premature birth of her baby who defies all the expectations and pulls through after several hellish days. They stay at the hospital for a while before they return back to Lanford so Darlene can learn parenting from Roseanne. Darlene doesn't want to overstay her welcome but Roseanne says she'd be happy for them all to live together for as long as they want to -- providing Darlene returns to college to finish off her degree. She also has a part-time writing job, which she has arranged to do from home so that she can take care of her baby girl, Harris.
It is on the very last episode of Roseanne that the whole series was actually the story from Roseanne's book after grieving the loss of Dan, and in her story she switched Mark and David because she thought Mark suited Becky and David suited Darlene. Becky married David and Darlene married Mark--although she maintains that Darlene's baby was still born prematurely and survived.