With blackmail plots, frame-ups and more double crosses than two chimps playing tic-tac-toe, the season finale of Dallas finally answered some big questions. Among them, where’s this show going now that J.R. Ewing is dead?
Before we tie up the loose ends of this year’s storylines, let us do a deep debutante bow to Linda Gray, the 72-year-old actress who plays Sue Ellen Ewing, now the matriarch and Lady Macbeth of Southfork and Ewing Energies.
Nobody works a white pantsuit and shiny bangs like this woman. She came, she acted drunk, she conquered the spotty writing and hacksaw editing of a cable TV reboot. And she and she alone, after the death of Larry Hagman, made this show watchable.
Now let’s gitterdun with the recappin’:
Pamela’s dead after all: For all the teases about a possible return of Victoria Principal as Pamela Barnes Ewing, mother of Christopher (Jesse Metcalf), the finale revealed that the character has been dead for years. Christopher flew to Zurich (or what actually looked like a big house in Highland Park) and learned from Pamela's second husband that she had died of pancreatic cancer.
Thus, Christopher inherits a third of all Barnes Global shares, flipping power away from family nemesis and Pam’s brother, Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval). Cliff had kept Pam’s death a secret to prevent the Ewings from getting their paws on the majority stake in his company.
Snort-me pumps: That truckload of pink pumps Barnes conspirator Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi) had delivered from Mexico a few episodes ago was loaded with pressure-packed cocaine. Drew Ramos (Kuno Becker), brother of Christopher’s squeeze, Elena (Jordana Brewster), figured it out and fixed it to have Ryland and his henchman Roy Vickers (Alex Fernandez) arrested for drug smuggling. Roy was then killed in jail.
Southfork still has sliding doors: Before next season, can the set designers on this series please give the Ewing ranch house an update? From the outdated wall colors (teal and mustard!) to the tiny, un-luxe kitchen, Southfork looks like more like a tract house in McKinney than the mansion occupied by an extended family of oil-rich Texas millionaires.
Body count: Besides J.R., the show offed a lot of characters this season. Before learning that the original Pamela earned her angel wings back when angel-wing hairstyles were in fashion, we also saw the deaths of Roy Vickers and of the unborn twins of Pamela Rebecca Barnes and Christopher Ewing, miscarried when Pamela was injured in the rig explosion carried out by Drew on orders from Cliff Barnes. (Oh, what a tangled, badly scripted web.)
Sue Ellen one-ups the governor: In a great scene in the season-ending double episode, Sue Ellen visited Texas Gov. McConaughey (Steven Weber) and told him how the cow ate the cabbage. Her little file of evidence of his major cover-up related to the rig explosion convinced the guv to rescind the eminent domain takeover of the Ewings’ most profitable oil patch. They're back in the money!
Letters and phone calls: Every major plot turn this season hinged on the reading of a hand-scrawled missive or the buzz of a cellphone at just the right moment. They don’t read this many letters on Downton Abbey.
Un-burying J.R.: Yep, they exhumed him and pulled a couple of bullets out of his chest. (Hey, nice work missing those earlier, Dallas medical examiner!) Those proved that Cliff Barnes’ gun fired the shots that killed J.R.
“He’s trying to frame me from the grave!” yelled Cliff in jail. “I didn’t kill J.R.!” He repeated it five more times for emphasis. But he’s in the hoosegow in an orange jumpsuit waiting to see what the writers come up with next season to get him sprung.
So who shot J.R.? None other than J.R. himself. Well, sort of. As revealed in a letter to Bobby read at J.R.'s grave in the finale, ol’ big brother Ewing was dying of pancreatic cancer when he arranged to have his best friend, Bum (Kevin Page), shoot him in Nuevo Laredo in an act of mercy using Cliff Barnes’ very own pistol — thus framing Cliff for murder.
But J.R.’s letter begged Bobby to end the decades-long Barnes-Ewing feud. And he does it like this? Well played, J.R. The family celebrated finding out this news by hanging a portrait of J.R. (that looked like it was made out of Legos) in the lobby of the new Ewing Global.
Best line this week: John Ross, J.R.’s son, saying, “The only person who could take down J.R. was J.R.”
What’ll they do next season? They have to get Cliff out of jail and rescue Judith Light’s Judith Ryland character from that nursing home for starters. That's our wish, anyway. This show needs more Judith Light.
Also, John Ross (Josh Henderson) is married to Pamela Rebecca, but he’s shtupping Emma (Emma Bell), pill-popping tarty daughter of the now-jailed Harris Ryland. A true Ewing, just like his daddy.
And with that, we leave the Ewings, Barnes and everyone they screwed this season or plan to screw next year with a wave of the Stetson until we meet again.