It’s our first mostly JR (Larry Hagman) free episode of the all-new Dallas, which gives us a sneak peek into what the show looks like without the elder generation of Ewings kicking around. So what’s the verdict?
Let’s bitch it out…
Well, to be honest, it’s pretty much business as usual. Aside from a dearth of memorable lines (let’s just say that the Best Lines below are a little light), the plot machinations continue to chug along. In fact, if we’re simply looking at the plot – the what of what happened tonight? – then ‘Collateral Damage’ is the busiest episode to date as we get pregnancies (twins!), death (crazy Marta!) and a thimble full of info on Ann’s (Brenda Strong) background.
Of course we all miss JR – who appears only to cast assurances of his son’s abilities before reminding us that he’s absent digging up info about Cliff Barnes. Clearly his Vegas vengeance storyline will get some love in the remaining episodes of the season, as we’ve seen altogether too little of JR and Cliff thus far in this reboot. And by “clearly” I mean “this better happen.”
Back on the ranch, everything revolves around timing and responsibility. On the Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) front, Anne helpfully reminds the adopted Ewing that if he hadn’t found out about Rebecca’s (Julie Gonzalo) “lifted from a Disney movie” false identity, the news of her pregnancy would be a celebration. When he’s called in for the results of the paternity test, it’s clear that a twist is in the works. Naturally he’s not just becoming a father; he’s expecting twins! What could be more perfect than a new generation of Ewings to fight over all that damn cattle and oil? Side Note: Request to Dallas producers: do everyone a solid and make one of the twins a girl so that we can stop associating “active” with men and “passive” with females.
Seriously, though…if you consider how the gender dynamics of this show are playing out, Dallas clearly embodies a deeply regressive perspective. Women are all tied to traditional (passive) gender roles: mothers, lovers, criers, whores, madonnas, etc. Men, on the other hand, are active agents (they get to do things): hit, kill, produce, scheme, etc. It’s a frustratingly old-fashioned take, exemplified very clearly in this episode as Ann cries and runs from rooms at every mention of flowers, babies or ex-husband Rylan (Mitch Pileggi). We get it – her mysterious past involves the death of a child (or something to this effect). But does this hard-edged woman – who wielded a shotgun in the first episode – have to be reduced to a snivelling wimp in service of a baby-related storyline? Ugh.
On the more active (but no less obvious) front, we have John Ross (Josh Henderson). Last week I suggested that John Ross is one of the best aspects of the new cast – despite the molestache (which I refuse to look past!). Lo and behold, this week he gets the juiciest storyline. We’ve known for weeks that things with Marta (Leonor Varela) were not going to end well, so as soon as John Ross asks Vincente (Carlos Bernard) to help him deal with the crazy-beyotch, you know that she’s not long for this world. A quick scratch on John Ross’ neck in her hotel room, a plunge out the window and John Ross’ speedy escape take us to our logical conclusion as the police arrive on Southfork to bring John Ross in for Marta’s murder. I’m sure no one saw that coming…
Oh Dallas. You’re fun, but can you please try to be just a smidgeon less predictable?
- In my original draft, when referring to Marta’s fate I wrote the words “it’s curtains for her”. How ironic then that the femme fatale literally closes the curtains moments before her death. And then, just to drill home the symbolism, after John Ross spots her bleeding body on the roof of the car, he looks up to see the curtains billowing out her open hotel window. Subtle knowing wink by the show? Distrust of the audience’s ability to deduce that she was tossed (how else would she have gotten down there!)? Both? You be the judge!
- I also particularly liked the “eye witnesses” that clearly turned John Ross in. I don’t think that that couple could have eyeballed John Ross more if he had stabbed Marta a gazillion times and then had his way with the body. Considering he spends a few seconds staring at the corpse (like everyone else) and then hurriedly gets in his car and drives off, I’d hardly call it “fleeing the scene.” Clearly the scratch on the neck is more damning evidence, but my Spidey senses suggest that the Venezuelan guidos who will show up on the hotel’s security cameras are more likely the assassins than the milquetoast white kid who can’t grow a proper mustache. Just sayin’
- The ‘responsibility’ theme in this episode (embodied in Christopher’s responsibility to his pregnant wife) is also evident in John Ross’ responsibility not only to his father, but also to Marta, whom he’s sold out. Having both cousins – who frequently suggest that they’re different – grapple with the same challenge would be clever if Bobby (Patrick Duffy), Elena (Jordana Brewster), Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) and Ann didn’t all address this in some capacity during the hour. Dallas’ continuing motto: “We don’t think you’re smart enough to get this, so we’re literally going to spell it out for you.”
- Want another example? The inclusion of the fireplace in Bobby’s scene with Ann, which exists solely to burn Rylan’s pictures. Why would Ann even have it lit? It’s the middle of the freaking summer! Overlooking that silly element, I did like Bobby’s speech to his wife. Sure, it is full of clichés about trust and we all know he’s going to burn the photos, but Duffy and Strong have a nice, easy-going chemistry that makes them endearing, even when tossed into these kind of “filler” scenes
- John Ross took Elena to a particularly restaurant on their first date because of its Jalapeño burgers? A) Way to treat your girlfriend right, considering you’re a millionaire B) The only thing more laughable? The suggestion that he doesn’t mind taking her to a dive bar because he knows that she “likes good food”. Can we switch “likes good food” for “likes no food” instead, because that seems more appropriate considering Brewtser’s continued emaciated look
- Finally, has the show realized that Metcalfe and Gonzalo have no chemistry? It sure seems so considering all of their scenes are around fifteen seconds long. Inner dialogue of the director: “Oh god, these kids are terrible, but they have to interact! Umm…have one of them insult the other each time so that they can storm out.” P.S. Rebecca’s line about Christopher’s parents and abandonment was way harsh, Tai
- Bobby (to John Ross about his thwarted attempt to bring in Charlene Tilton’s Lucy): “It’s really nice that you took her out to lunch. It’s good to see you two stay so close.”
- Elena (responding to Christopher’s “I want to make things works with you” statement): “I’m making things work with John Ross.” What a romantic sentiment! This is clearly a love that will stand the test of time
What do you think, Dallas fans: did you miss JR? Were you momentarily excited to see Lucy return (just give her a damn plotline! Lucy was one of my favourite characters in the original!) Are you at all intrigued by Ann’s backstory? And how much sh*t is John Ross in with this potential murder charge? Hash it out below
Dallas airs on Wednesdays at 9pm EST on TNT