The Modern Family clan is mourning the loss of a beloved character: DeDe Pritchett.
In the beginning of Wednesday’s special Halloween episode, Claire (Julie Bowen) gets an unexpected phone call from her stepfather informing her of her mom, DeDe’s (Shelley Long), death. While it’s unknown how she died in the beginning, the family is informed at the end of the episode that DeDe died “peacefully in her sleep.”
As each member of the family attempts to work through the grieving process in their own ways, they all reminisce about the happy (and not-so-happy times) they each shared with DeDe.
“I was just thinking about this great Halloween with mom,” Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) tells his sister, Claire, as they’re handing out candy to trick or treaters. “I wasn’t really fitting in in high school, so mom took me to go get ice cream at this place in West Hollywood and the parade was going on and before that, I had never been to a gay event. The thing is, she didn’t force me to talk about it. She just let it be. i think that was her way of saying she was okay with me.”
“I remember once that mom told me that I ate ice cream like a prostitute,” Claire recalls.
Throughout the past 10 seasons, DeDe has made a name for herself as the critical (and sometimes passive aggressive) mother, grandmother, and ex-wife. Still, Long’s character made a lasting impression on the Modern Family family.
In September, co-creator Christopher Lloyd told Entertainment Weekly that a “significant character on the series” will die in the show’s tenth (and likely final) season.
“We’re handling some bigger life events in this season,” he explained. “We do deal with a death, which is certainly a topic that families have to deal with, and on television, it’s not easy to do because that’s a heavy subject. But at the same time, it would seem unusual for a family not to go through it.”
While Lloyd didn’t offer any more hints as to the identity of the character, he shared that their death “will be a moving event … that has repercussions across several episodes.”
Lloyd also said that while he hopes the long-running series will get picked up for another year, season 10 would serve as a fitting send-off.
“From our standpoint creatively we’ve gotten excited writing this season and changing the lives of the characters — some in a significant way — and it’s made us think, ‘Wow, there’s a lot to explore in the lives of these characters,’ ” he said, adding that “they’re in many ways such different characters than they were five or 10 years ago when we started.”
“So our standpoint was, ‘Well, if we can do another season, we may as well,’ ” he said, adding that “if it winds up that we tried and just couldn’t make it work, we will have a great final season for sure.”
Modern Family airs Wednesdays (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.