Dallas: Family Business

Posted on August 02, 2012

Oh, did we ever clap and cheer last night, as Dallas ran headlong and joyfully into the land of soap opera excess. Tears! Slaps! Plot-convenient brain seizures (inadvertently rendered HILARIOUS by Patrick Duffy’s hyper-blinking performance)! Threats! Hugs! Another brain seizure! A GUN GOES OFF!

Kittens, it was delicious. As we tweeted last night after it was all over, “Shit just got real and monkeys just got bloodied.”

We had a hard time figuring out exactly where this episode was going and decided at the halfway point that the theme was “Oh, right. Everyone in this family HATES J.R.” Which seemed to us a bit redundant. Don’t we have 35 years of history to point out that J.R.’s a weaselly little shit and no one who gets near him stays there for long? But it was a bit more poignant than that. Yes, the family rallied around their shared enmity towards its former Favored Son, but the combination of all that slapping, yelling, and defiance actually had an effect on the wily old bastard. At any other time in the character’s history, we would have found his actions here (signing South Fork back over to Bobby voluntarily) virtually impossible to believe. But there’s no denying that J.R. is a very old man and, as is so often the case, it’s only when the grave looms over every day do certain people examine their life and their motivations. In other words, a combination of Sue Ellen’s slap (which we CHEERED), John Ross’ thawing and realization that he’s not ever going to be his father (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing), Not-Pam’s threat to shoot him (to which we shouted, “She’ll do it, J.R.! And she’s probably a better shot than Kristen EVER was!”), and Bobby making deathbed speeches about scorpions, combined with his own frailty, effectively and realistically brought J.R. to that moment. And hats off (Stetsons, of course) to the writing team, because they injected one line into that scene that prevented it from being too treacly; a line that perfectly illustrates J.R. Ewing, even when he’s trying to do the right thing:

“If you die, I get that back.” Brilliant.

We would have never predicted this going into it, but this reboot has real heart to it, hearkening back to the earliest days of the series, when it was less of a soap opera and more of a family melodrama. “I love you; do you know that?” Bobby asks his brother. “Well, you just have to keep telling me that to remind me.” These writers really get these characters and have managed to bring them into the 21st Century by shading them with gray and playing on their decades of established history. This show might be a textbook example of How to Relaunch a Beloved Franchise. It’s devious, twisty, addictive soap opera fun, with real heart and emotion behind all the plotting.

And now, with Bobby collapsing to the floor in his depressingly poorly appointed bedroom (SERIOUSLY. Those sad little tin STARS.) and Rebecca possibly lying in a pool of her own blood (or charged with murder) we think it’s time, isn’t it, darlings? It’s time for Pamela Barnes Ewing to disembark and shake this family up even further. But she better watch out for Not-Pam’s shotgun. That bitch CRAZY.

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