A Different Kind of Cliffhanger

TNT's Dallas flames out in season 3 finale

TNT's Dallas flames out in season 3 finale

Annalynee McCord and Jesse Metcalfe in season 3 of Dallas
So long, Jesse Metcalf as Christopher. Photo by Skip Bolen
Judith Light on TNT's Dallas season 3
Judith Light as Judith Ryland deserves a spin-off. Photo by Skip Bolen
Josh Henderson in season 3 of TNT's Dallas
Josh Henderson's acting only improves in scenes with Judith Light. Photo by Skip Bolen
Annalynee McCord and Jesse Metcalfe in season 3 of Dallas
Judith Light on TNT's Dallas season 3
Josh Henderson in season 3 of TNT's Dallas

This week,  Dallas  tried to go out in a blaze of glory. But as they’ve done for most episodes in this, its third season as a reboot on cable’s TNT, the show’s writers kept the characters busy just putting out stupid little fires.

Right up to the last minute, of course. Because what would Dallas be without a cliffhanger? (And that cliff may keep hanging because TNT has recently shuffled its programming execs, and diminishing ratings mean the show may not be renewed.)

The big tease for this week’s two-hour season finale was that a “Ewing will die.” More about that in the final paragraphs. And hint: It’s one Ewing nobody will miss much.

 Pause here to reflect on how all the evil dudes this season were Latino. Way to help cement friendly relations with our neighbors south of the border, writers of Dallas.

Titled “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang,” the double episode had scads of loose ends to tie up from a season split by a five-month hiatus. Like, how would Bobby’s second wife, Annie (Brenda Strong), and her long-lost daughter, Emma (Emma Bell), be rescued from their Mexican kidnappers, who were holding them in a dingy ranch house somewhere in Nuevo Laredo?

Why they were kidnapped and what the kidnappers working for the Mexican drug cartel were up to — sheesh, weeks and weeks of episodes were wasted on those convoluted plotlines. That, coupled with the additions of superfluous characters who’d pop in and out of the action so randomly, made it hard to keep up.

The link back to the denizens of Southfork was that dual-named baddy Joaquin/Nicolas (Juan Pablo di Pace), a slick-haired Latino who for a few episodes was a savvy businessman working with Ewing Global. Then it was revealed he was an international narco-terrorist who wanted to bang Elena (Jordana Brewster), who used to bang Bobby’s son, Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe).

After setting up a crooked takeover of Ewing Global’s IPO shares in a previous episode, Joaquin/Nicolas spirited Elena off to a lake cabin and stuck a pinhole in her diaphragm (oh, that old trick). Later he had her brother murdered but set it up to look like suicide.

Pause here to reflect on how all the evil dudes on Dallas this season were Latino. Not a couple here and there. All. And not just a little unpleasant, but really, really bad. Drug smugglers, kidnappers, murderers, narco-terrorists. Way to help cement friendly relations with our neighbors south of the border, writers of Dallas.

It’s bad enough that our governor calls out the guard to point guns at Latino refugee children; now we have a cable TV show making all its brown people out to be packs of violent criminals. If more — no, make that any — serious TV critics watched this show, maybe they’d have noticed and made an issue of it.

 The many times Linda Gray as Sue Ellen looked longingly at liquor on this series could be its own drinking game.

It was nice that Dallas was shot on location here and used some of our talent in small roles. But besides tossing in some token references to local places like Museum Tower (where Joaquin/Nicolas lived in the penthouse), Dallas the show paid scant attention to the real geographical location of this city — especially in relation to Mexico.

Hollywood-based TV writers may be able to drive from LA to Tijuana in a couple of hours, but here in northeast Texas, we know it’s at least a seven- or eight-hour drive to get to Nuevo Laredo. (It’s more than 400 miles.)

On this week’s Dallas, characters were hopping between Big D and the Mexican border like the only thing separating here from there was a swinging screen door. In one scene, where John Ross (Josh Henderson) had traded himself to the narco-meanies in return for weepy Emma, he was rescued by some U.S. marshals and walked into the den at Southfork before the ice in Sue Ellen’s highball glass had melted.

(She wanted to drink while waiting for news of her son’s safety, but Bobby stopped her. The many times Linda Gray as Sue Ellen looked longingly at liquor on this series could be its own drinking game.)

That rescue of John Ross, thanks to a magical cigarette lighter equipped with a GPS device that alerted the authorities (are they high when they write this tripe?), did yield one of the finale’s best lines: “The Mexican Marines are on their way.” From the halls of Montezuma to the hills of … Montezuma.

Somewhere in all the badly edited action sequences, what we love about the core characters on Dallas was lost. We like Bobby as the gentle peacemaker who can flare up to protect his family. This season he became the Texas Railroad Commissioner so he could help the narco-cartel ship cocaine across the state — to protect his family. (Oh, don’t bother to look up the details. It’s too dumb to care about.)

 There was one great addition to Dallas, and that was actress Judith Light, playing Judith Ryland, who is ripe for a spin-off.

We love Sue Ellen and the actress who plays her, Linda Gray, because of the character’s beauty and her flaws. She fell off the wagon in one episode this year but was shunted in and out of rehab faster than a Ewing can drive from Plano to Nuevo Laredo. That was a storyline that could have played out longer, given Gray a shot at an Emmy (she can do some drunk-acting like nobody else), and provided something and someone on this show worth caring about.

But producer Cynthia Cidre and her cadre of scribes went nuts with the Joaquin/Nicola/Elena plot, which then blended over into the Ewing Global-goes-public stock shares plot (snoresville), which was folded into the Emma-and-Annie get kidnapped debacle. Even those Arctic oil leases reared their icy heads again this week.

Nobody cares about oil leases! We wanted sex in the hayloft and drunk Sue Ellen! Not more shots of Bobby in his paneled den, looking at his laptop — scenes so bad, even the horsehead lamp base behind him couldn’t bear to watch them.

There was one great addition to Dallas on TNT, and that was actress Judith Light, playing Judith Ryland, a mother so mean, Medea would call Child Protective Services to report her. Judith as Judith hissed like a wet cat, snorted coke off a ranch hand’s hand, ran a whore house, double-crossed her own son (the ever-sexy baldy Mitch Pileggi) and stole away Bobby’s job as Railroad Commish so she could traffic drugs on Texas railways.

Judith Ryland is ripe for a spin-off, and if TNT doesn’t renew Dallas, a new show about this character starring the scenery-gnashing Ms. Light should be next on the development slate. She’s scarier than American Horror Story’s Jessica Lange. And she’s invented a new Texas drawl that all of us should adopt immediately.

But back to the finale and which Ewing bit the dust. After all the kidnapping crapola wound up, that left Elena back in the arms of Christopher. But wait, as Christopher waited in the car, Elena was seen barfing up this week’s script and looking aghast at a pregnancy pee stick that came up “yes.”

That night in the lake cabin with the perforated diaphragm left her preggo with a tiny Latino. Oops.

And oops again as she headed for the car just as it exploded. (Oh, that old trick.) Buh-bye, Jesse Metcalfe as Christopher Ewing. Get those abs tight for pilot season, kiddo. We didn’t see Annie burst into tears at this plot turn, but you know she would.

We end our 13th hour of this year’s Dallas with John Ross’ getting his butt patted by Judith Ryland, who lured him into her limo in the driveway (why doesn’t Southfork have a guard gate, for pity’s sake!) and rewarded him for the rescue of her granddaughter, Emma, by giving him photos of his many nights of sexytimes at her brothel.

These two should have been co-villains all this season. They’ve got chemistry, and being in a scene with Light seems to make Josh Henderson’s acting better. (It couldn’t get worse.)

John Ross then made a call on his cellphone, telling his minion to “find my sister.” Excuse me? Sister? Honey, big daddy J.R. didn’t have any daughters. He did have another son by a long-forgotten character named Cally Podewell, who tricked him into marriage in season 12 of the original series.

If Dallas does come back, maybe they’ll be up for exploring a transgender theme.