The double-episode premiere of the second season of Dallas was definitely marred by the knowledge that we won’t have America’s Favorite Villain, JR Ewing, around for much longer, but “Battle Lines” and “Venomous Creatures” proved to me that the show could be strong enough to survive his sad passing.
Much of the show’s success will depend on the feud between Christopher and John Ross, whose relationship perfectly mirrors the twisted, often toxic bond of fraternal competition and jealousy that has run (mostly one-sided) between their fathers, Bobby and JR, for the past thirty-five years. Fortunately, the writers realize this, and have invested much time and energy into creating a very believable story for the rival cousins that is equal parts business and personal.
On the surface, it would seem like the fight is just over Ewing Energy; Christopher remains firm on the side of his new methane technology, while John Ross longs to be an oil baron. But the real fight is over the heart of the ever-good and delightfully intelligent-in-her-own-right Elena, who broke John Ross’s heart last year when she (rightfully) dumped him and returned to her first love, Christopher. Being his father’s son, John Ross isn’t about to take that lying down (unless it’s in bed with a woman who can help him get revenge).
One of those women this season will be Christopher’s estranged wife, Pamela Rebecca Barnes, who flew back into town to announce her real identity and her intention to carry on her father’s quest to take down the Ewings. She has a trump card, the twins she’s supposedly carrying, but an unholy alliance with John Ross (both professional and sexual) is a good back-up plan in case she can’t get the piece of Ewing Energy that she wants in the ensuing divorce.
The problem is that she sort of killed the man posing as her brother last year, and her father’s right hand man, the one she’s started to treat like crap, knows it. Thanks to him, Christopher now suspects it, and the real Rebecca Sutter, who was supposed to help Christopher will his annulment, but ended up perjuring herself for Pamela, is turning out to be a key player in the whole messy thing.
As for the adults, JR’s final few episodes are bittersweet for us, but perfect for the character we’ve loved and hated. He saved Sue Ellen this week, not just from falling off the wagon, but from facing federal charges when the story about her bribing the ME to save John Ross from a murder charge came out and ended her politician aspirations. As my mother, a long-time old-school Dallas fan, reminded me, in his own sick way, JR has always loved Sue Ellen.
But Sue Ellen wouldn’t have been put in that position if not for the new villain in Dallas, Anne’s horrible ex-husband, Harris Ryland, who might just prove to be even more evil and amoral than JR ever could be. What kind of a monster kidnaps his own child, raises her to hate her mother, then brings her back into the picture when he needs leverage to save his butt? Rejected by the child she thought she lost forever, Anne was devastated, which, of course, set Bobby on a righteous path to find out the truth. Standing in his way, though, is Ryland’s wicked mother, played to chilling, Southern perfection by Judith Light, who could be a very formidable enemy this season.
So, there’s lots of irons in the fire, and although Dallas definitely lost one of its shining stars, I think that if they handle all of those irons right (and after these episodes, I’m hopeful), they will live on in the name of Larry Hagman.
What did you think about the episodes? Let me know below! And remember you can always follow me on Twitter @krieli1 so you never miss a review.