Dallas (the next generation): Season 2, Episode 3

“It’s a rare and beautiful thing when enemies share a common goal.” – JR

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Previously, on Dallas: Much hi energy treachery last week:

  • Christopher’s court hearing to annul his marriage to Pamela didn’t go too well when The Real Rebecca Sutter sold him out for a suitcase full of Barnes cash.
  • The new evil Pamela upset her dad’s sinister henchman Frank, who promptly sent Christopher a damning cellphone incriminating her in the disappearance of The Real Rebecca Sutter’s brother.
  • JR went a-blackmailin’ the local prosecutor to save Sue Ellen’s reputation (and her ass) from jail.
  • John Ross, having formed an alliance with his worst enemy/best shag Pamela, stepped up his efforts to regain control of Ewing Energies by helping Elena become an equal partner while she’s still in hock to his mother.
  • And Bobby, doggedly investigating why Ann’s secret daughter wants nothing to do with her, discovered the real secret – Harris had kidnapped her himself, and given her to his evil (and younger-looking than he is) mother to raise as a twisted snob.

With all this in place and the clockwork running, this week’s episode settled down into a slightly less manic pace, as the chess game continued. At least until the last couple of minutes, when it suddenly dropped a massive plot bomb shocker.

There was an awful lot of unlikely alliances being forged left right and centre; JR, able to sense Frank’s annoyance with Pamela, came to an … arrangement which could inconvenience her somewhat. Frank is going to contrive to have the body of Tommy Sutter turn up (with JR’s eager help), which would not only annoy The Real Rebecca Sutter, but would probably result in Pamela going to jail.

John Ross, meanwhile, had a surprisingly easy time enlisting the help of his mother in calling in Elena’s debt. Well, maybe not that surprising, really; he’s momma’s little boy, and Elena broke his black heart. So into Elena’s office Sue Ellen strode, superimposed badly on the CG view outside the window, to demand recompense. She looked mighty pissed; well, as pissed as she can look with a face that’s somewhat restricted in mobility.

Apparently, Elena hadn’t made good on her debt because her attempts to drill at the Old Henderson Place had been hampered by ‘a salt dome’ . Fortunately,at this point her drilling-mad little brother (of whom we’ve never heard before) turned up back at the old homestead. Fresh from a spell in the army that cured him of his juvenile delinquency by acting on political delinquency in Iraq, his name is Drew, and he’s going to be the show’s latest hunk. Seething with bitterness at the death of their father trying to drill for oil in a place that doesn’t have any oil, he’s also going to be ideal for helping Elena get past that ‘salt dome’…

Elsewhere, Christopher had got the drop on The Real Rebecca Sutter and dragged her to the local police department, where her description of her brother was strangely at odds with Christopher’s. Could it be that the Tommy Sutter we met last year wasn’t Tommy Sutter after all, and there’s a Real Tommy Sutter out there to go with his sister?

Probably not – I’d guess The Real Rebecca Sutter was just lying. Either way, it made the cops suspicious enough to visit Pamela’s old condo, where some CSI-style shenanigans revealed an awful lot of bloodstains in the places Frank hadn’t been able to properly clean. It’s so hard to find good help these days. Apparently, the spatter patterns were enough for the cop to conclude that they were from someone being shot, probably fatally – Gil Grissom would be proud.

So, could stuff be going pear-shaped for Pamela this early into her career in evil? I think not. If she’s any kind of a match for John Ross (beyond arguing about who goes on top), she’ll find a way out of this.

Who’s double-crossing who this week?

The same guys as last week, ie virtually the entire cast.

The Real Rebecca Sutter is still being fickle; now she works for Christopher, now she works for Pamela, now she works for herself. Christopher’s feeding her with suspicion about the fate of her brother at Pamela’s hands though, so she’ll have to make a decision pretty soon. My decision would be to vamoose before she gets a visit from Frank, as almost every lead in to commercial now seems to be a slow zoom onto his pursed-lipped, sinister face.

But Frank may not be quite the henchman Pamela thinks he is, now he’s under the spell of the wily JR. What corpse-conjuring antics will they cook up in an attempt to cage the Barnes bitch?

And does Sue Ellen even realise that her son has become the new JR, and is manipulating her into screwing over every other Ewing? Actually, perhaps. She used to turn a blind eye to it often enough with JR (though booze probably helped).

Hey look, it’s that hombre from that thing:

Elena’s newfound long-lost little brother Drew is played with a surly snarl by Mexican actor Kuno Becker. Soccer film fans may remember him from such movies as Goal. And Goal 2. And Goal 3.

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What on Earth is Judith Ryland wearing this week?

After last week’s nifty Servalan dress/Glenn Close hair combo, this week Judith was to be found lurking around the Dallas Police Department wearing her hair down and what appeared to be a cast-off ensemble from Cher:

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Given the pose, you could charitably assume she’d been picked up for streetwalking.

This week’s big cliffhanger:

Well, they finally pushed her too far.

Yes, Ann Ewing might have appeared both tough and saintly, but that secret daughter is plainly her Achilles heel. She spent the episode trying to reconcile with young Emma by the novel method of having her dragged down to the local police station. But even a heartfelt chat in the interview room failed to convince Emma that she wasn’t the monster Harris and Judith said she was. Funny, that.

Later, overhearing a policeman inform Bobby that Harris was not, technically, guilty of anything, Ann snuck out glassy-eyed to endure more lecherous torment from Harris in her quest for answers. After lip-lickingly probing her clothing to ensure she wasn’t wired again, Harris went on to (perhaps unwisely) push her to the brink of madness by taunting her about missing the experience of her daughter’s childhood.

So she shot him.

Dallas has always thrived on a good shooting – the most memorable being the first time JR was shot, which was enough of an event to be covered on the BBC News. The novelty wore off when the ratings-hungry producers kept having him shot, but, hateable though he is, the shooting of Harris felt similarly seismic. Will he recover? Well, Mitch Pileggi’s in the opening credits and it’s only episode 3. What do you think?

The faces!

Side note: one of the things I’d hoped they’d change this year was to have the cast’s faces in the credits (the way Dallas used to be) ideally in a triptych format:

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Sadly, they haven’t done that. So here’s a fan made one that’s pretty good; it doesn’t have the triptych thing, but at least has the cast visible:

The way it should be.

Dallas (the next generation): Season 2, Episode 2

“Son, you got the Devil in you.” – JR
”Takes one to know one.” – John Ross

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Previously, on Dallas: A barnstorming season opener set the scene for another year of Ewing double dealing, with John Ross (Josh Henderson really upping his game this year)now firmly cemented as the new JR.

  • Harris Ryland slimily revealed that he’d known where Ann’s secret daughter was all along, using the information to get back The Tape that stopped him from ruining Sue Ellen.
  • Sue Ellen’s gubernatorial chances took a bit of a blow when it was revealed on TV that her fabled honesty encompassed bribery and blackmail.
  • Rebecca, with a new black dress and veneer of evil, told a flabbergasted Bobby and Christopher that she was really Pamela Rebecca Barnes.
  • Christopher aimed to annul his marriage to her and deny her access to the children presently in her uterus by means of parading The Real Rebecca Sutter in court.
  • John Ross made a deal with another devil; sexual chemistry simmering between them, he offered Pamela a secret weapon in the court battle – The Real Rebecca Sutter.
  • And Ann tracked down her daughter, only to find that she was a hoity toity horse rider who wanted nothing to do with her.

This week, the double dealing continued, with JR himself getting more firmly involved than previously. Characters were reeling from last week’s revelations; Ann, previously able to cope rather well with stress, suddenly decided that the best cure for her shock was to take to her bed and have sedatives pumped into her, while Sue Ellen,having lost the election, was yet again reaching for the bottle.

Quite why a recovering alcoholic would keep a bottle of wine in the cupboard was not fully explored, as she was saved from herself by none other than JR. Ex-husband he may be, but plainly Sue Ellen is still high on his priority list, as he was able to take time out from his busy schedule of trying to ruin Bobby to help her out with a bit of blackmail. So it was straight off to the golf course to nudgingly explain to the local prosecutor that he had possession  of… certain photographs.

Larry Hagman’s performance was as charismatic as ever, but careful editing couldn’t quite hide the difficulty he was having walking, which was rather sad. It’s a tribute to the guy that he plainly worked right up until the end like a trouper, in one last hurrah for his most famous role.

He also got a confrontation with Pamela, all unaware that his son was busy conniving with her in the usual wheels within wheels plotting the show thrives on. Their confrontation in the Barnes boardroom came just after the show’s return to one of the classic tropes of Big Business drama – the Tempestuous Board Meeting, in which various extras in suits sit around a shiny table, but plainly haven’t been paid enough to have actual lines.

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It is decreed that in the Tempestuous Board Meeting, one of the characters will upset the corporate applecart, and so it proved here, as Pamela upstaged the furious Frank with her new plan for green energy. Frank, as we know from last year, was raised from the slums by Cliff but never actually adopted – a fact JR hoped to exploit. Cliff’s actual daughter nicking his meeting is plainly not going to please him; since Faran Tahir looks so much like the villain of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, she should watch out for her heart:

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Elsewhere, Lou the Lawyer took a break from his usual function as Mr Exposition to do some actual lawyering, as Christopher and Pamela faced off at the annulment hearing. Plainly both Lou and Christopher were taken by surprise when The Real Rebecca Sutter failed to back up their case, which may have something to do with the suitcase full of money Pamela had previously slipped her.

Christopher was pretty mad. “You want a war? You got one!” he snarled at Pamela, plainly looking to 1980s Schwarzenegger movies for his lines. But Pamela too has a bit of a problem; the real Rebecca Sutter doesn’t yet know that Pamela actually shot the brother she’s so keen to find.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Still everyone. That’s the Dallas way.

JR doesn’t yet know that his son has hooked up with the daughter of his deadliest enemy. And it’s not just to screw over Christopher, as other kinds of screwing are plainly involved. Thankfully it’s a first to see the Ewing baddie in a passionate embrace with the Barnes baddie, as I’m not sure JR and Cliff in that position would be quite such a pleasant image.

Frank’s obviously pretty PO’d with Pamela, so he’s paid a cute young drug addict to deliver a cellphone to Christopher, which contains damning voicemails that indicate Pamela might have done away with the brother of The Real Rebecca Sutter.

Christopher duly played his part like a good little puppet, setting his secretary on a mission to observe and report on John Ross’ secretary, then confronting The Real Rebecca Sutter with what he knew.

John Ross played along with Bobby and Christopher’s nice gesture of making Elena an equal partner in Ewing Energies. What, a favour from John Ross? Hardly – his mother holds all of Elena’s debts from last year, and if she can get him Elena’s shares, he’ll be one step closer to seizing the company.

Harris Ryland popped up for his weekly slime, smirking as he failed to divulge to Bobby how he knew where Ann’s Secret Daughter was. So Bobby took matters into his own hands without telling Ann, and put on his investigating boots for a trip to the local riding academy.

Hey look, it’s that gal from that thing:

As Bobby’s quest for answers led him to the sinister figure of Harris Ryland’s mom Judith, who is apparently younger than he is. Eagle-eyed 80s fans might have recognised Judith Light from Danza extravaganza Who’s the Boss, apparently wearing an outfit discarded by Blake’s 7’s Servalan:

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Appearances to the contrary, Judith Light actually is older than Mitch Pileggi. By a whole three years, making her, presumably, a very young mother at time of birth.

This week’s big cliffhanger:

Having spent the episode hot (well, lukewarm anyway) on the trail of Ann’s Secret Daughter, Bobby tracked her down by means of a horse. Turned out she and the horse were a package deal, having arrived from London together with the mysterious ‘Mrs Brown’. And who else should ‘Mrs Brown’ turn out to be but Harris Ryland’s mum? And she’s every bit as evil as he is, just a bit more glamorous. Turns out Harris actually kidnapped his own daughter, then gave her to his mother to raise believing Ann was a bitch. Even by his standards of bastardy, this is a new and exciting low.

Another rip-roaring Texan thrill ride then, with a new villain added to the mix in the form of Judith Ryland Brown, who may turn out to be the show’s new elder superbitch in Joan Collins style. Nice to see JR getting things to do too; he deserves to go out scheming. While John Ross is shaping into a formidable heir for him, Christopher is as adorably clueless as ever, leaving Bobby to be the smart good guy. Let’s hope that brain tumour doesn’t pop up again…

Dallas (the next generation): Season 2, Episode 1

“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…

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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.

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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.

Family matters

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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:

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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?

Everyone.

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.

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 10

“I’m gonna tell you something I’ve never told you before. I love you Bobby. And I don’t know who I’d be without you.” – JR

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Previously, on Dallas: Last week saw most of the show’s ongoing plots wrapped up, then suddenly dropped a triple whammy cliffhanger to set up one more week of Ewing double-dealing for this year.

  • Christopher and John Ross buried the hatchet to create a new joint venture, Ewing Energies
  • Bobby was so pleased to hear this he immediately keeled over with a brain aneurysm
  • JR revealed that he had a conscience after all by signing the Southfork deed back over to him, rendering everything he’s done this season somewhat pointless
  • Having compromised her political integrity every which way, Sue Ellen decided to drop out of the race for Texas Governor rather than give in to slimy Harris Ryland’s demands to launder dirty money
  • Lou the lawyer found Marta/Veronica’s Cloud drive, which just might contain evidence to incriminate everyone involved in the scam to get Southfork – particularly JR
  • The recovering Bobby, probably flabbergasted at a nice gesture from JR, had another aneurysm and was carted off to hospital
  • And Rebecca, still being plagued by shifty Tommy, took matters into her own hands in a struggle during which a shot was heard…

This week’s season finale had a lot to do in resolving these and other loose ends, while also setting up the plot for next year’s second season (it starts in the US in January). So we quickly established, in an arty slo-mo shot, that the gunshot victim was actually Tommy, who’d outlived his plot purpose at this point. But it was something of a surprise that Rebecca could so easily summon a shadowy Tarantino-esque figure to help her clean up and dispose of the body.

Well, she did have a former career as a con artist, I suppose. Unfortunately for her, having disposed of the body, she was obliged to spend much of the episode trying to find it again, as Tommy had kept her engagement and wedding rings, which Christopher wanted her to put back on.

Christopher and the rest of the Ewing clan were gathered at the hospital, anxiously awaiting Bobby’s prognosis. Larry Hagman gave us an impassioned speech by the bedside, as the newly contrite JR recognised that the show depended on his and Bobby’s rivalry, like an American archetype: “Wake up and get better. Keep fightin’. Keep fightin’ me.”

Actually it turned out (again) that Bobby’s health scare was no real problem, just a cheap dramatic device; he was on his feet again within ten minutes. But you can be sure those brain problems are tucked away in showrunner Cynthia Cidre’s file for potential later use.

Having last week given Christopher and John Ross the glimmer of a happy ending, the script this week was obliged to summarily tear them apart again to reset the dramatic tension for next year. So John Ross in particular had a pretty bad week which saw him lurching away from his newfound path of righteousness back into JR-inspired darkness.

It all started nicely enough for him; having leased the old Ewing Oil offices to set up their new corporate HQ, he also found time to propose to Elena by giving her an engagement ring that reminded him of dirty oil. What a romantic. But you could tell trouble was a-coming by the dismayed look on Christopher’s face when he found out about the engagement.

John Ross may have missed that, but he could hardly miss what came next as he was told of the video evidence from Marta’s Cloud drive, which incriminated him while, astonishingly, exonerating JR. Everyone was pretty angry about this, which seemed odd until you reminded yourself that the characters in the show didn’t actually have the details of all the dirty tricks John Ross has been up to. Listening at the door, Elena too was disgusted, and the engagement was off – even by soap opera standards, that was pretty quick.

Luckily for Christopher and Bobby, the evidence also gave them the drop on Vicente from Venezuela, unexpectedly back this week. Not only did it prove that the homily-spouting Venezuelan had fraudulently acquired the ranch, it also handily showed his men tipping ‘Marta’ out of a ninth floor window. So Vicente was off to jail, having lost both the ranch and the methane technology. You could tell this made him unhappy from Carlos Bernard’s trademark angry sneer – what’s the betting he’ll be back next year?

Next up for defeat was Mitch Pileggi’s unspeakably slimy Harris Ryland. When Ann learned of Sue Ellen’s plight, she immediately took steps to ensure that her sister-in-law could stay in the gubernatorial race.These steps involved her confronting Ryland in his office, where as usual he was straight in with the creepily licentious suggestions: “…since you’re here, and in the mood… how about it?”

Unfortunately for him, when the seemingly submissive Ann unbuttoned her blouse, it was to reveal a microphone that had recorded their every word, money laundering, blackmail and all. She left with a threat involving shotguns and a more effective clout to Ryland’s smug face than her husband had previously managed, then gave the tape to Sue Ellen. So Sue Ellen’s back in the gubernatorial race; which is nice for her, but may not be so nice for the people of Texas, given that she’s spent the whole season proving how eminently unsuited she is to the role. Still, this is Texas; last night they elected a dead guy to the State Senate, so they’ll probably cope with a soap opera drama queen.

Rebecca, meanwhile, was hunting high and low for those rings, while the slow-on-the-uptake Christopher was beginning to piece together what had been going on. Clocking her bruises, he enquired “did someone hurt you?” before belatedly launching a search for her miscreant ‘brother’; a hard task, given that he was already dead. Nevertheless, turning over Tommy’s hotel room with the ever-helpful Bum, Christopher was somewhat surprised when the room’s phone rang with a call from the real Rebecca – a rather less glamorous young lady in Des Moines.

So now Christopher had proof that Rebecca wasn’t who she said she was. Given that she’s already revealed herself to be a con artist who connived to split up his previous engagement, it was hard to see why this should be such a shock, but Christopher hit the roof. “So who the hell are you?” he angrily enquired. Ah well, that’s the real question, isn’t it? But ‘Rebecca’ had other points she could score: “I never had a chance, because you’re still in love with Elena!”

Of course he was. And handily for him, John Ross had just pissed Elena off enough for her to be single again. So together they got, in a steamy sex scene intercut with the mournful John Ross being handed back his oily engagement ring by Elena’s disapproving mother.

So, to the tune of Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” (they love Cash on this show), John Ross made the inevitable decision to turn back to evil. As his father handed him a glass of whisky and the two surveyed the Dallas night skyline, John Ross entreated JR to teach him “every dirty trick you know”, so that when he took the company from Christopher and Elena, they’d both be partners. “But if you cross me, I will send you straight back to that home.”

JR simply smiled benevolently; “that’s my son. From top to tail.” And so he is; all demons have tails.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Cliff, Cliff, Cliff! So JR’s machinations weren’t in vain, as his near-mummified rival turned out to be behind, basically, everything. His right hand man Frank had been thwarted in purchasing Southfork and the methane thing from Vicente by the inconvenient arrival of the FBI. Now we discovered that it was Frank who’d cleaned up Rebecca’s murderous mess. And that Rebecca had always been working for Cliff. Because we now know who she really is – his daughter! “Like your Aunt Pamela, I can’t trust you around the Ewings.”

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This might have come as more of a surprise if the opening guest cast list hadn’t conspicuously said, “and Ken Kercheval”, although to be fair, you might easily have forgotten that amidst the usual cornucopia of intrigue. The revelation also seemed at odds with much of what we already knew – but then the schemes in this show are so mind-bogglingly overcomplicated, it can be hard to keep track. Nonetheless, we can now safely say that the real villain this entire year has turned out to be Cliff, pulling the strings all unseen like Ernst Stavro Blofeld. If he’s not back next year, I’ll be very surprised.

Season Finale

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This has been an unqualified success in reviving a much-loved classic series and giving it a modern spin while remaining true to its original spirit. The new Dallas plainly costs a lot more than the old, with impressive Texas location shoots where the original made do with second unit stuff and a lot of Burbank studios. It looks great, and has a classy cast, even if the youngsters seem chosen more for photogenic reasons than acting talent.

Indeed, nice to look at though Jesse Metcalfe, Josh Henderson, Jordana Brewster and Julie Gonzalo undoubtedly are, the heart of the show, and its charisma, still lie with those original characters, and they’re still the best thing in it. JR, Bobby, Sue Ellen and Cliff might be noticeably older (very noticeably in Cliff’s case), but the actors have stepped back into those roles like they were never away.

With its labyrinthine double-dealing, Texan excess and often hilariously over-dramatic dialogue, the new Dallas is every bit the equal of the old, and its shorter season has allowed so much to be packed into ten episodes that it often felt like an overstuffed melee. That’s exactly as it should be. This has been so much fun, and I’m eagerly awaiting next year’s run.

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 8

“Turns out we’re not so different after all. We’re both just trying to make our fathers proud” – Christopher Ewing

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Previously, on Dallas: With John Ross banned from drilling on Southfork thanks to a handy document separating the mineral rights from the land rights, things got a little fraught.

  • Vicente from Venezuela, restive at the non-appearance of the oil he was promised, threatened to exercise his right to take Southfork in lieu of payment
  • Christopher learned not only that Rebecca was pregnant and that he was the father, but that she’s actually having twins
  • Dastardly Harris Ryland gave Bobby an envelope detailing Ann’s Dark Past, which he summarily burned without looking at it
  • Marta/Veronica took her stalking of John Ross to new levels by pretending to have kidnapped Elena
  • John Ross had the bright idea of setting Vicente on her, which led to the unfortunate result of her being thrown out of a very high window
  • And the cops turned up at the ranch to arrest John Ross for her murder.

This week, there was more toing and froing about the land/drilling rights to Southfork, and Rebecca moved closer to a reconciliation with Christopher, while Christopher returned to “the lab” to work on his methane drilling thingy. But the most pressing thing on everyone’s minds (including the good guys) was how to get John Ross out of jail. After all, he’s a Ewing – he may be an asshole, but he’s their asshole, and for this family that’s the most important thing.

John Ross has indeed made an unholy mess out of the situation JR left him to deal with – there’s no oil flowing, he’s about to lose Southfork to the Venezuelans and he’s in stir for a murder he didn’t commit. Just when things couldn’t seem to get any worse, Vicente popped in for one of his ‘little chats’.

With JR still taking a back seat this week, Harris Ryland nowhere to be seen and Marta/Veronica dead, it was up to Vicente to be main bad guy this week, and Carlos Bernard seized the opportunity with relish. “Disloyalty is dangerous,” he purred menacingly at the incarcerated John Ross, adding, “pointing fingers in the wrong direction could be hazardous – to you, and to your family.” And, presumably, to your fingers.

John Ross was probably relived at being spared yet another anecdote about what it’s like “in my country”, but any relief was short lived, because Vicente had a couple of thugs beat the crap out of him in a corridor, promising to kill him the next time if the oil wasn’t forthcoming. Like JR, he still has shreds of decency – he could probably get out if he told the truth about his affair with Marta/Veronica, but he doesn’t want to hurt Elena’s feelings. Very thoughtful, but not much use when you’re being repeatedly kicked in the crotch.

With the stakes clearly outlined by John Ross’ wounds, the Ewing clan closed ranks to find ways to help him. Bobby too was menaced by Vicente, but the “nice Ewing” has a core of steel and isn’t intimidated that easily. Nevertheless, he was prepared (after a chat with his mother’s gravestone) to sacrifice his principles and start drilling if it would save John Ross’ life.

Sue Ellen, once more forced to choose between political integrity and her son, made the wrong choice yet again. “The only way I can see to help John Ross is if I cross a line. A big one,” she agonised to Ann. “And if I do that, what does that make me?” “A mother,” said the sympathetic Ann, having stooped to a few dirty tricks herself. But then, Ann’s not standing for Governor of Texas, a competition in which Sue Ellen seems to be taking victory for granted.

After having previously tried to bribe Harris Ryland with an offer of high office (unnecessarily since he’d already done what she wanted), she was at it again, using a mixture of bribery and blackmail to try and force the coroner to rule Marta/Veronica’s death a suicide. This is obviously going to come back to bite her, especially given the platform she’s running on:

SueEllenLeaflet

And yet again, she’s ruining her reputation all for naught. It was Christopher who had the answer – placate Vicente with a large ice cube. Yes, the process of “using carbon dioxide to extract methane from hydrates” was valuable enough that Exxon were sniffing around it, so Chris figured Vicente would take it as a replacement for his cherished oil – after a quick demo in the living room that seemed a bit dangerous to me:

DallasMethane

Vicente was impressed enough by a man burning an ice cube on his table to favour him with a “where I come from” anecdote; an actually relevant one this time, as he revealed his bigger plan to seize control of Venezuela’s energy industry from President Chavez. Topical! Also probably bollocks…

Never mind, Vicente was impressed enough with the methane to leave Southfork alone and let the police find the secret camera footage showing that Marta/Veronica was alive when John  Ross left her. Of course, Vicente removed the footage of his own men chucking her out of a window – in his country, that sort of incriminating evidence can get you dancing the joropo in a Chavez prison.

Family matters

The Southfork cemetery gave us the chance to remember Miss Ellie’s second husband, after Jock’s death:

DallasMissEllie

Clayton Farlow (portrayed by 1950s king of the musicals Howard Keel) was another oilman who was perhaps ill-prepared for the sheer madness incurred when marrying into the Ewings, and for ten years he endured the wrath of JR. Eventually fed up with the dastardly Ewing’s inability to accept a “replacement” for his father, Clayton took Miss Ellie off on a big trip and then returned without her, giving a less than convincing explanation that she was fed up of dealing with all the Ewing conflict. This is the first time we’ve found out when she actually died.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

In yet another all too brief appearance, JR was shown to still be carrying on his arcane schemes to screw over Cliff Barnes by using his henchman Frank to betray him. Even JR seems to realise that this isn’t really going anywhere, as he hotfooted it back to his Dallas to lurk, crestfallen, over his stricken son’s bedside. Now that would be a scary vision to wake up to.

Elsewhere in the family, Rebecca might be mending fences with Christopher, but her stubbly, shifty brother Tommy was having none of it. He’d heard about Exxon’s interest in Christopher’s methane drilling whatsit, and with billions at stake, he’s not about to let Rebecca’s conscience and pregnancy get in the way of his hirsute evil.

This week’s big cliffhanger

And just to hammer the point home, Tommy grabbed an unwilling Rebecca and gave her a big sloppy kiss. But any worries about Luke/Leia incest shenanigans were quickly put to rest when he sneeringly revealed that (gasp!) he’s not her brother after all!

Another satisfyingly bonkers episode, with Vicente stepping up well as main bad guy – it’s just a shame that he’s presumably now satisfied with the methane doobry, as he’s unlikely to take much more part in the proceedings. But with only two more episodes to go, surely it’s time for JR to return from his extended vacation taunting Cliff Barnes and take back the crown as king of the Dallas baddies….

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 7

“I really hoped you kids would climb out of the hole this family dug. But JR’s just dragging you down with him.” – Bobby Ewing

DallasJohnRoss

Previously, on Dallas: With JR now sole owner of Southfork, and having buggered off leaving John Ross in charge, the first battles were joined in stopping the dastardly plans to drill on the family’s beloved ranch.

  • Harris Ryland, slimeball and trucking magnate, threatened to expose the saintly Ann’s Dark Past by means of sending her a mysterious necklace with the power to make her dissolve into tears
  • Bobby found this a bit annoying and went round to Ryland’s office to punch him
  • Vicente from Venezuela got all threatening with John Ross about the non-appearance of the oil he’d been promised
  • Marta, whose actual name is Veronica, took her John Ross-stalking to a new level by threatening Elena with a knife through her photo
  • Bobby and Christopher won the first battle over the drilling when Rebecca pointed them to an old document showing that JR’s ownership of the ranch doesn’t include mineral exploitation rights
  • And, in tried and tested soap fashion, we ended on the big cliffhanger that Rebecca is (gasp) pregnant.

This week, the focus was mainly on Rebecca’s pregnancy and John Ross’ increasingly frantic attempts to get round the legal obstacle to his drilling before being subjected to Venezuelan vengeance. With JR barely appearing (again), you’d think the show might be losing steam in the absence of its villain. Not a bit of it; John Ross might not be cutting it as a junior JR (yet), but there’s baddies oozing out of the Texan woodwork all over the place. Harris Ryland, Marta/Veronica and Vicente from Venezuela make for a good trio of antagonists while JR takes a break to play double dealing poker with Cliff Barnes.

John Ross had another bad week; JR has really dropped him in it. Has he got what it takes to be his father’s son and come up smelling of roses while screwing over everyone else? On current evidence, no. He may have his oil trucks running again (thanks to Bobby’s Ryland-punching antics), but he can’t drill any oil to put in them. This is a problem, as Vicente from Venzuela, a man with the demeanour of a minor league Bond villain, is not a patient man.

Peremptorily summoned to the black-clad bad guy’s lair, John Ross was all out of excuses. This gave Vicente the chance to deliver his usual style of veiled threats disguised as anecdotes about his home country. This week, it was about dancing. “You know, we have a dance in Venezuela called the joropo…” This was then described in more detail than was perhaps necessary before Vicente reached the point. “I can spot a good dancer when I see one Mr Ewing, and you are not a good dancer.”

Rightly terrified of a man whose idea of a threat is dance instructions, John Ross was getting pretty desperate, so he took Lucy out to lunch. Lucy’s appearances thus far have been fairly pointless cameos, so when John Ross started asking her to help sway her father Gary into allowing the drilling, it looked like she might actually have a plotline for the first time this series. Alas, any such hopes held by avowed fans of Charlene Tilton were quickly dashed as she went straight round to Bobby to blow the whistle on John Ross’ connivances.

Which left John Ross with only the unpalatable option of literally begging his uncle to allow the drilling before Vicente could send some heavies round to teach him to dance. Bobby’s refusal was predictable, but it looked like he at least enjoyed seeing John Ross grovel.

So, like every spoiled little boy in a jam, he went crying to his mom, the only levelheaded one in the family (for now – let’s hope no one pours her a drink). Sue Ellen had the sensible idea of asking for Elena’s help; what with her money funding Elena’s oil venture at “the old Henderson place”, Elena could hardly refuse the loan of a few barrels to keep Vicente in dancing shoes.

But John Ross had more to worry about than just Vicente, as bunny-boiling Marta/Veronica had taken to following Elena about and giving her evil glares. After last week’s knife/photo intersection, this is clearly a worrying development. But John Ross has enough of his dad in him to use one enemy against another; so he told Vicente a quick fib that she’d been creaming money off the deal, and asked the footloose Venezuelan to “put a scare into her”.

Unfortunately Vicente is not a man who does things by half measures. Having found Marta himself at a nearby hotel, John Ross had a bit of a row which involved him calling her a “crazy messed-up bitch” while she uttered things that people only say in soap operas such as “I’ve earned my way out of the slums of Caracas!” Then, just as John Ross finished this delightful exchange and left, Vicente’s heavies turned up and threw her out of the fifth storey window. Evidently her joropo had not been up to scratch.

Ann and Bobby weren’t having a great time either. The problem of Ann’s Dark Past keeps making her burst into tears at inopportune moments, such as Rebecca’s pregnancy scan (it’s twins), and lie to Bobby about shopping while she’s really hanging out at a children’s playground staring wistfully at young mothers.

The logical conclusion to draw is that Ann’s Dark Past involves her having had (and presumably given up) a child when she was younger. Fortunately for Bobby, Harris Ryland had an envelope containing everything about the Dark Past, which for some reason he was happy to give to Bobby (after having threatened him with assault charges). His motives seem inexplicable – maybe he’s just doing it for devilment.

If he was hoping to gum up the works of their marriage though, he hadn’t taken Bobby’s unfeasible decency into account. Showing Ann the mystery envelope, he then threw it onto the fire saying that when she was ready, she could tell him anything. Fortunately for Ann, he didn’t glance into the fire to see the photos of a younger her holding a child; fortunately for us, the camera did. Though why this would be such a cause of shame in this day and age seems perplexing.

Family matters

With Lucy almost having a plot this week, viewers may need reminding who her father, the much-mentioned Gary, is. Gary Ewing was the middle, boring Ewing brother between JR and Bobby when the show first began in 1978. As a third wheel in the nice guy/ nasty guy dynamic of Bobby and JR, he served little function dramatically, so the writers gave him an alcohol problem, forgetting that the show already had one alcoholic in Sue Ellen. That having failed to pique anyone’s interest, Gary was summarily shunted out of Dallas in season 3 and sent to launch lower rent spinoff show Knots Landing, which actually outlived its parent show by two years.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Given one scene in this week’s episode (shot in the same limo he was in a couple of weeks ago), JR is still scheming to bring down Cliff Barnes, who never did make an appearance in Vegas. His henchman/PI, the bizarrely named Bum, has discovered that Cliff’s henchman was adopted as a child by Cliff and given a wonderful lifestyle, but no inheritance, which might make him feel a bit aggrieved. As JR comments, “a cheated man is a dangerous man”.

Given that we’ve barely seen Cliff this series, and he seems to have no part in any of the plotlines, JR’s obsession with him looks a trifle odd. But at least it gave him a scene in the episode, however perfunctory; he’s still the best thing about Dallas, and his continuing absence from the main action seems a shame.

This week’s big cliffhanger

Having delved deep into the Big Box of Soap Cliches for last week’s “I’m pregnant” shocker, another old favourite was wheeled out this week as the police turned up at Southfork hot on the heels of John Ross. It seems they want to have a word with him about the murder of a woman he’d been witnessed having a furious argument with. Actually, these were the same cops who’d turned up at the ranch earlier to charge Bobby with Ryland’s assault; either Dallas has something of a police shortage, or these two comprise the special Ewing Unit needed to deal with the family’s frequent brushes with the law.

Three episodes to go, and the show’s still entertainingly implausible and mad, though the absence of JR is definitely felt. One or two plotlines – like Ann’s Dark Past – seem fairly pointless and redundant, but this is a show that can never have too much going on. And at least we finally discovered that Bum’s actual name is Steve Jones, which makes it even more bizarre that he’d voluntarily call himself Bum. Perhaps people kept mistaking him for the Welsh TV presenter…

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 6

“Life always seems more complicated than you imagine it to be – especially in this family.” – John Ross Ewing

DallasAngryBobby

Previously, on Dallas: Last week, everything came out in the wash, as all the double dealing so far was exposed.

  • JR revealed himself to be the new owner of Southfork
  • Rebecca came clean to Christopher that her brother had split up his earlier engagement, earning them both a one way ticket off the ranch
  • John Ross found out that his father had cut him out of the Southfork deed
  • ‘Marta’ revealed herself to be even more nuts than we thought she was as she seethed with jealousy over John Ross’ dalliances with Elena
  • Saintly Ann revealed her dark past as she went crawling back to her slimy ex, the owner of Dallas’ only trucking firm, for a favour – to stop the trucks carrying out JR’s oil
  • And Christopher discovered Marta’s ‘sex tape’ of her and John Ross, in which John Ross called her by her real name, and threatened to go to the cops unless John Ross proved his father’s involvement in the fraudulent sale of Southfork.

So, with Ewing battle lines drawn, the conflict was back out in the open for another week of twisty turny plotting, which soon laid the groundwork for yet more hidden wheels within wheels. Various parties competed for the favours of Ann’s ex Harris Ryland and his bounteous gift of oil trucks, marking him out as a major player in this second half of the series. Mitch Pileggi, formerly that nice Walter Skinner off The X Files, plays Ryland as a really nasty, creepy piece of work, so it’s good to see that he’s got a major role in the upcoming treachery.

Bobby, who bears the heavy burden of being the show’s only ethical character, predictably was not too happy when he discovered what his wife and son had been up to. Working out in a split second why the trucks belonging to his wife’s ex had ceased to turn up, he took Ann aside to spout homilies at her. Warning that Ryland was unlikely to offer favours for nothing, he counselled, “I just hope this doesn’t come back and bite us in the ass.” Ryland is so creepy, and Ann so repulsed by him, I wouldn’t put it past him to do just that – literally.

In fact, when Ann received an unexpected bunch of flowers from him accompanied by a mysterious small box, I half expected it to contain a human finger – or something equally unsavoury. But the seemingly innocuous little necklace inside was enough to cause Ann to crumple into floods of tears. Clearly it has some significance in her Dark Past. Still, it annoyed Bobby enough for him to hotfoot it over to Ryland’s office and give him an unannounced slap, which I have to say he took well. Probably enjoys that sort of thing.

Sue Ellen too was courting the unwholesome trucking magnate, on behalf of her desperate son, who needs that oil moving. Proving she’s got what it takes to make it in US politics, she offered Ryland a job in her cabinet should she win as Texas Governor. Ryland demurred; after being clouted by Bobby, he was going to send the trucks back in anyway. But he made sure to give Sue Ellen a big donation, now that he knows what her political honour is worth: “people like me, we need to make sure that people like you get into office.” The formerly honourable Sue Ellen looked dismayed – well, as dismayed as you can when your face is that immobile.

Christopher’s approach to screwing over JR and John Ross met with no more approval from Bobby than Ann’s did. ”A lifetime of dealing with JR has put me on both sides of blackmail,” Bobby averred, accurately. “It never pays off in the end. An eye for an eye just makes both people blind.” Fortunately for Christopher, the chance to hear more from the show’s ethical Yoda was averted by another possibility, as his conscience-stricken wife turned up bearing a gift filched from her shifty brother – an old document showing that the mineral rights to Southfork are not included with the land rights.

So JR and John Ross can’t drill for oil even if they own the place. One snag – Bobby and Christopher needed the original version of the document, which was harder to find than Arthur Dent’s compulsory purchase order in Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They had to rummage through Bobby’s grandfather’s old storage unit, wherein they discovered a desk, which contained a shoe, which contained a key to a safety deposit box at the National Bank of Texas, which hadn’t been opened “since before Mr Southworth’s death”. This took most of the episode, and failed to address how, if the document was so hard to find, Tommy happened to have a copy of it in the first place.

Still, they’ve got it now, much to John Ross’ frustration. John Ross did not have a good week. Dumped “in the briar patch” by JR to sink or swim (as it were), he found himself menaced by mad Marta, who took to impaling photos of Elena, and terrorised by Vicente from Venezuela, annoyed at not receiving his oil. Stalking around dressed in black with his menacing sneer and scary Latino accent, Carlos Bernard was clearly having a whale of a time delivering lines like, “in my country, when the sons fail to make good on the commitments of the father, there is a price to be paid.” Comprende, muchacho?

Said father, that Machiavelli of the petroleum industry JR Ewing, was comfortably ensconced with a trio of young manicurists in a Las Vegas penthouse, from where he was trying to get into a high stakes poker game run by Cliff Barnes, for some reason. He thinks Cliff’s up to something. Well, of course he is, this is Dallas. Everyone’s up to something.

Family matters

A bit of history to cover the mysterious document seen herein – Southfork was originally built by the Southworth family, of whom Miss Ellie, JR and Bobby’s mother, was the sole heir. When she married oil magnate Jock Ewing, the ranch passed into another name for the first time since the 19th century; JR and Bobby, despite both bearing the Ewing name, represent the opposing interests of each family. One’s mad keen on oil and wealth, the other likes integrity and sticking his arm up cattle.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Well, with the ammunition being freely offered from all sides, it looks like Harris Ryland’s gearing up to double cross absolutely everybody. I’d like to see him try and take on JR though.

JR has tasked his henchman, the curiously named Bum, with investigating Cliff Barnes’ henchman, the scarily bald Frank Ashkani. Bum is also trying to find ‘Marta’ for John Ross, while concealing that he knows perfectly well where JR is and how to get in touch with him. As a piece of treachery this seems fairly pointless, but I’m sure JR has his reasons.

This week’s big cliffhanger:

While trying to regain her place in Christopher’s affections (this is not going to happen quickly), Rebecca discovered that she felt a bit funny and had a nosebleed. Being a soap opera, there can only be one of two reasons for this – she’s terminally ill, or she’s pregnant. Since we’ve already had a terminal illness plotline this season, it proved to be the latter of the two options, as she confessed to nasty old Tommy while trying unsuccessfully to shove him out of the door and her life. This cliffhanger is so effective it’s one of the very oldest soap opera can offer – the final two words of the episode being, “I’m pregnant.” You almost expected to hear the EastEnders theme thundering in. Or Neighbours. Or Corrie. Etc, etc…

After last week’s barnstorming apocalypse of revelations, this was another great slice of treachery and betrayal, as the forces of Light, represented by Bobby and Christopher, commenced their battle against the forces of Dark – JR and John Ross. Expect to see the Eye of Sauron over Southfork very soon…