Warning: Spoilers for The Conners premiere.
Killing Roseanne in new ABC sitcom spinoff The Conners was never going to be easy, but in the end, it was done in the best possible way. Few things are harder for a popular TV show to overcome than the loss of the main star, or one of the main stars if it's an ensemble piece. For example, look at all the people online saying that they won't continue watching The Walking Dead after Rick Grimes exits during season 9, or remember how many viewers fled from The X-Files when Mulder stopped being a regular.
With that said, there was arguably no bigger question going into the fall 2018 TV season than how The Conners would deal with writing out Roseanne, the titular character of the show that spawned it. While many fans no doubt still wish that Roseanne season 11 was about to premiere instead of The Conners, it was Roseanne Barr herself that prevented that from happening when she was fired and the show canceled following a racist tirade on Twitter. Had she never done that, Roseanne Conner would still be alive.
Last month, Barr confirmed that her character would die as a result of an opioid overdose, after being revealed to have an addiction to prescription pain medication in the Roseanne revival. While Barr expressed her displeasure with The Conners going that route, now that the spinoff's premiere episode has aired, it's clear they did the right thing, and that this was the best possible way they could have proceeded without Barr in tow.
One of the best decisions made by The Conners' writing staff - albeit one somewhat necessitated by Barr not being involved with the spinoff - was to pick up the titular family's story several weeks after Roseanne's death. Therefore, fans are spared the emotional rollercoaster the Conners undoubtedly went on in the immediate aftermath of their matriarch's demise, and during what was definitely a highly emotional funeral service. While there's nothing wrong with dealing with grief on TV - and the Conners are certainly still grieving when the spinoff opens - this is supposed to be a sitcom, not a tearjerker like This Is Us.
Additionally, Roseanne's death itself is not mined for joke material, and the character's passing is treated very respectfully. Whatever Roseanne Barr did off-screen, Roseanne Conner was a beloved TV icon, and deserves to be treated as such. Thankfully, the main cast is full of veteran actors like John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, and Sara Gilbert, performers fully capable of balancing the seriousness of portraying loss and grief with the sharp wit Roseanne (the show) came to be known for. Basically, any fans worried that Roseanne Conner would become the butt of the spinoff's joke due to the real-life actions of Roseanne Barr needn't be.
In another deft narrative turn, The Conners premiere also managed to use Roseanne's death to interject a political issue into the show, without turning into the partisan shouting match that some complained about with the revival's Trump-based material. The Conner family initially believes Roseanne to have died of a heart attack, but later learns her real cause of death, the aforementioned opioid overdose. Dan (Goodman) then confronts Marcy (guest star Mary Steenburgen), who provided Roseanne with the hidden bottle of pills that ended her life. It turns out that Marcy and Roseanne were part of a group of neighbors that shared prescriptions, as an attempt to combat the US' notoriously high prices for such medications, even with insurance. High medical costs and the ongoing opioid epidemic are two issues that effect millions of Americans, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or chosen political party. The Conners tackled both well, and looks to be on stable footing going forward into its Roseanne-less future.