Over the course of Mom‘s first two and a half seasons, Christy Plunkett (Anna Faris) has experienced ample heartache: losing a father (Kevin Pollack), a grandchild to adoption, and, at one point, her grasp on sobriety. She also almost lost her mother, Bonnie (Allison Janney), to the scourge of addiction. But the Plunkett family’s struggles have allowed their support structure — Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy), Jill (Jaime Pressly), and Wendy (Beth Hall) — to slowly rise in importance both inside and outside their AA meetings, enriching the show in the increasingly frequent moments when it leans on its ensemble to get laughs. Mom isn’t just about Bonnie and Christie’s struggles anymore — it’s also about a group of women leaning on each other to get through life. And last night, that group was dealt a fierce blow when a new member of their circle fell to the thing that they’re all running from when Jodi (Emily Osment) overdosed on heroin.
Though Jodi wasn’t on the show for long — coming aboard this season as a street kid and addict and appearing in only a handful of episodes — her impact and loss will be clearly felt, and it’ll be interesting to see how this change impacts the show. To Christy, Jodi was someone to watch over and guide as she climbed back into her life. As she said last night before Jodi’s concerning relationship with another recovering addict (just six weeks clean) led to her demise, Christy has a lot of love to give now that she is clean and sober. Especially with her son Baxter splitting time with his now financially stable father (Matt L. Jones) and his well-off wife (Sarah Rue) and her daughter Violet (Sadie Calvano) also less present.
Thankfully, Christy has that support structure to help her absorb this loss and the guilt she’ll doubtlessly feel after she rushed Jodi off the phone in what we can now assume was a moment of crisis before she lost her way. Those women need her as well. And that was made abundantly clear at the close of last night’s episode immediately following the heart punch that came when Christy, Bonnie, Wendy, and Jill found out about Jodi’s death (a moment that was slightly undercut by a poorly timed commercial break). “Here’s how this is going to go,” she said, rising up and instructing the group that they were all going to keep the horrible news from Marjorie, who had just gotten married. That display of strength wasn’t surprising — you can’t go through what Christy has without a lot of steel in your spine — but it does, perhaps, signal that this won’t set her off on a downward spiral.
Mom has, in the past, showcased the way a loss can lead to a relapse when Bonnie lost her way following the death of Christy’s father, Alvin, with whom she had rekindled a relationship. It was a hard storyline to watch, but it was an important reminder of this show’s proximity to chemical dependency — same as this loss.
In past seasons, it hasn’t been hard to remember that Bonnie and Christy are always at risk of being held down by life. In addition to their struggles with sobriety and loss, they’ve had to contend with financial hardship, job loss, and frightening living conditions. The show has tackled these issues head-on, but this season, we’ve seen comparatively fewer reminders about the hardships of life. And that’s been nice, but what makes Mom special is its ability to balance humor with the crush of reality and its willingness to take its audience to a “real” place — something few sitcoms are willing or able to do. I suspect that we’ll see lightness on Mom again — this is a comedy, after all — but it will, as always and as in life, be made richer by the looming darkness.