There’s no easy resolution, as Mark and the rest of the family acknowledge that he might be bullied just for being himself while vociferously defending him. But the fact that Dan is able to channel his own discomfort into support of his grandson is a sign of growth for the character and the show. Roseanne has a history of progressivism, and while this shift doesn’t quite compare with, say, Roseanne scolding D.J. in season seven for balking at kissing his black classmate Geena*, the episode does share the layered storytelling of “White Men Can’t Kiss.” In that season seven episode, Roseanne doubted her lack of prejudice after being frightened by Geena’s father, despite him having done nothing to scare her. In “Dress To Impress,” it’s Dan who’s left to question his stance on gender.


As for Darlene, Sara Gilbert continues to shine in her new role of protector. She shows her own stubbornness by refusing to acknowledge that Mark could have trouble in school for being gender-nonconforming. And she’s right that any issues are the responsibility of the narrow-minded jerks who have them, but her behavior is also yet another nod to her similarities to her mother. Gilbert is a more nuanced actor, though, so the beat she takes before summoning words of encouragement is devastating. She then deftly lightens the mood with her straightforward advice: “Find the weird kids for protection.” It’s really starting to look like Darlene is going to provide the emotional through-line for season 10, just as Gilbert is establishing herself as the new head of Roseanne’s household.

Stray observations