We don’t know much about Shelly Johnson before she hopped into Bobby’s truck for ‘a little pick-me-up before homeroom’.
She lives with Leo in a half-built house in the middle of nowhere, probably a lonely place for a young girl left alone for weeks at a time without even the protection of walls around her. Leo isn’t too concerned about his young wife’s safety when he’s out gallivanting with high school girls all night.
Far from simply being neglectful and a cheat, Leo is actively possessive and violent. Shelly is trapped in an unhappy situation and a loveless marriage.
Her only respite is the RR Diner and the motherly care of Norma. Season one Shelly is much harder than the girl we come to love. She plays to the customers for attention and tips, making mean comments behind Norma’s back, and being plain callous about the dramatic debacle that was Laura’s funeral.
She also has no qualms about having an affair with the dead girl’s boyfriend.
In fact, Laura’s death doesn’t seem to quell their passion in the slightest.
Shelly’s character was softened as the seasons went on. She’s a victim who underestimates the danger of her situation. She clings to Norma as a mother-figure, and as her only real friend. Even though, despite the similarities between them, Shelly, unlike Norma, is in actual danger of being killed by her husband at any time.
And as we left Shelly at her softest, we now encounter her offspring Becky. Becky is not, as others have mentioned, continuing the circle of Shelly’s life. Nor is she our new Laura. Becky is irresponsible, violent, reckless. Far from simply being the victim of an abusive relationship, it looks like she gives as good as she gets. While her druggie husband threatened her in one episode, in the next, she is out to actually kill him. Throwing her mother off the front of her car and leaving her in the dirt wasn’t something she thought twice about.
The scene in the diner with Bobby didn’t feel much like Becky reaching out to her parents to save her from a bad relationship. She just wanted to get herself out of trouble for what she did, and for her parents to bail her out as they always seem to.
Shelly seems to have continued to have a rough existence, and I expect this is a scene that has played itself out many times before.
Shelly is still looking for her knight in shining armour. No doubt she has no clue what kind of person Red really is. Men like him are adept with charm and lies. Her bright smile and excited rushing out to meet him were like a schoolgirl with a first crush.
Far from repeating the cycle of bad relationships, Shelly is glowing with hope that this time will be different. She isn’t someone who refuses to learn from mistakes, but rather someone who truly believes her mistakes are behind her and that this time she will find love.