“That grin makes you look like trouble. And my daddy told me to stay away from trouble.”
So, them feudin’ Ewings are back, quicker than I expected on the UK screens. Looks like Channel 5 showed the season premiere the very night after the US broadcast – though they only showed one of the two eps shown over the pond, meaning they’ll presumably remain a week behind. Quicker than the period of months from last year, though.
And woo-hoo! My blog is back. Haven’t written anything for a month; it’s not like there haven’t been interesting political events and TV shows, just that my new job has kept me incredibly busy. But now the Ewings are back, I have a deadline to carry on from last year…
Previously, on Dallas: You might need a moment to remember last year’s gloriously convoluted plotlines of betrayal, sex and very big Stetsons. Fortunately, all through this first episode, the characters involved kept meeting up and telling each other things they must logically already know for our benefit:
- Sue Ellen’s still running for Texas governor, and still has no recognisable party affiliation. But she’s doing well, apparently, so here’s the cue for things to go pear-shaped for her campaign. Wait, remember all that bribery and double dealing she engaged in last year?
- Exposition-spewing lawyer Lou (the ever-reliable Glenn Morshower) popped up to remind us (and Christopher) that Christopher had married a conwoman whose fake brother had spurred her on to steal Ewing money and secrets even while Christopher impregnated her with twins. “She’ll never see those kids,” snarled Christopher – a neat trick, given that she’s still gestating them.
- Christopher and John Ross had come together to set up a new company, Ewing Energies, which would combine the former’s love of green energy with the latter’s love of oil. Naturally, they were instantly at loggerheads, with JR lurking behind to pull John Ross’ bitter twisted strings.
- Bobby’s saintly wife Ann has a Dark Secret – one which slimy ex-husband Harris Ryland threatened to reveal to Bobby. Ann used to have a daughter – but what happened to her?
- And in a stunning twist which most people probably saw coming, Christopher’s conwoman wife (who’d already murdered her fake brother) turned out to be the daughter of none other than … Cliff Barnes!
So, this season opener strode in with even more confidence than the last, buoyed by the success of last year’s revival. Noticeably, the new cast seemed to take more prominence over the older ones than previously; a sign, perhaps, that the show can stand on its own feet without the need for past glories.
Probably a good thing – as fans will undoubtedly be aware, JR Ewing is no longer with us. The undoubted star of the original, Larry Hagman sadly passed away late last year. He did complete filming for several episodes of this new season, and was briefly present here for a couple of scenes; but he looked frail, and watching him was tinged with sadness.
Still, it’s looking like his mantle will be well picked up by the younger, fitter (boy, is he fit) John Ross, played as ever by the chiselled Josh Henderson. John Ross wasted no time getting his shirt off in a pre-credits opener that showed him to be the new bad guy in town – not only did he charm a young bride into bed at her father’s house on her hen night, he then promptly used a film of said event to blackmail her reluctant daddy into selling him a trucking firm. Way to go, John Ross!
Other characters introduced last year made a welcome reappearance, a sign that they’ve worked out as popular as the originals. Everyone’s favourite slimy trucking magnate Harris Ryland turned up to loom lecherously behind ex wife Ann, before villainously explaining last years’ blackmail plot and revealing that he values his and Ann’s kidnapped daughter mostly as a bargaining chip to leverage aspiring Governor Sue Ellen. Mitch Pileggi has been promoted to the main cast this year – a sure sign we’ll be seeing a lot of Ryland this season.
Conflicted (and ineffectual) conwoman Rebecca was back too, having had an extended vacation, much to sinister henchman Frank’s displeasure. Thus invigorated, she had a newfound evil veneer suitable for her function as the New Cliff.
Looking good for a pregnant lady, she had a revelatory, exposition-filled confrontation with Bobby and Christopher at the Barnes Global building (“but what’s she doing here??”), which also seems to accommodate corporate vulture Deloitte; perhaps Cliff’s not doing as well as he thinks. Or perhaps the producers just CG’d an extra sign onto the Deloitte building and forgot to remove the original.
Be that as it may, it was positively Star Wars-esque as these adversaries confronted each other, complete with a parental reveal – “Cliff Barnes is my father!” Yes, Rebecca is actually Pamela Rebecca Barnes, last seen as a wee infant in the late 80s. So now that cat’s out of the bag, it’s time for Pamela/Rebecca to take her father’s place as Darth Barnes. I’m just waiting for the light saber duel.
Having now discovered Rebecca’s true identity as Pamela Rebecca Barnes, daughter of Cliff, all but the most dedicated fans may need reminding that she was born in the original show’s12th season, round about 1988, to Cliff’s ex Afton Cooper, sister of Lucy Ewing’s then husband Mitch. Still no info on the fate of the Pamela we know, Cliff’s half-sister and Bobby’s ex – is Victoria Principal still too busy for a cameo?
Hey look, it’s that guy from that thing:
No notable guest actors this week, but a quick cameo from former NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd (who is definitely not an actor, on this evidence). Playing himself, Ricky was impressed with Christopher’s methane-fuelled stock car. I wanted to know more about how it worked, but Christopher was less than forthcoming, perhaps worried that Cliff Barnes might be watching.
Who’s double crossing who this week?
Harris’ blackmail of Sue Ellen is back on track with his acquisition of ‘the tape’ (there’s always a tape), and already her gubernatorial campaign is in a bit of a mess with the news appearance of the Medical Examiner she tried to bribe/blackmail last year. Not sure how Harris gains from Sue Ellen not becoming governor, so maybe there’s more than one double cross going on here.
Elena is innocently trying to buy decommissioned oil rigs from an unsuspecting (and near-incoherent) Texan oilman, who is unaware that Christopher’s Secret Methane Plans can turn them into money spinners.
John Ross, trying to gain control of Ewing Energies (and screw over his hated cousin), has forged an unholy alliance with Methane Plan-seeking Pamela/Rebecca Barnes, which hinges on him poaching Christopher’s star witness in the marriage annulment case – the real Rebecca Sutter.
This week’s big cliffhanger:
John Ross’ reveal of his Evil Plan. But also – why does Ann’s daughter know and hate her? What will happen to Sue Ellen’s political ambitions? Will Elena succeed in buying her beloved Christopher some cheap oil rigs? And will the scriptwriters remember Bobby’s brain tumour at an opportune moment?
This was a hugely enjoyable season opener, with the confidence of a show that’s found its niche. It was nice to see JR, frail though he may look, but he doesn’t seem as instrumental to the show’s success as he did last year. Bobby too took something of a back seat, and there was no sign of Cliff, leaving Sue Ellen as the only Dallas veteran with much of a plot. But that’s OK – the new guys have proved their worth in twisted soap opera shenanigans and looking good with not many clothes on. I look forward to their undoubtedly bizarre and implausible goings on over the coming weeks.