Critique: TNT’s Dallas Episode 4 – ‘The Last Hurrah’

Bobby Ewing, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, Last Hurrah, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Fence and sensibility

I like “The Last Hurrah,” but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed by it. This episode brings together more characters from the original “Dallas” than any TNT entry so far – in addition to J.R., Bobby and Sue Ellen, we get to see Lucy, Ray and Cliff – yet none of these old favorites have much interaction with each other.

This feels like a missed opportunity when you consider the episode climaxes at the “final” Ewing barbecue, which would seem like an ideal setting to bring together the old gang. Indeed, Bobby organizes the party so friends and family can bid Southfork farewell before he completes the sale of the ranch to the del Sol conservancy. “If you are here, it’s because you have a connection to this ranch and the people who’ve lived on it,” Bobby declares in his speech to the partygoers, but as director Marc Roskin pans the crowd, we see more anonymous extras than familiar faces.

How fun would it have been to watch J.R. trade barbs again with Lucy, or to see Bobby and Ray reminisce about the ranch that has meant so much to them? According to William Keck’s recent TV Guide cover story, Roskin filmed a scene where J.R. and Sue Ellen share a sentimental dance at the party, but it was left on the cutting-room floor. What a shame.

While this might not have been a rollicking Ewing barbecue like days of yore, J.R.’s big scheme in “The Last Hurrah” is as convoluted as some of the eye-rollers he came up with during the old show’s more exasperating moments. To get Bobby’s crooked lawyer Mitch Lobell to call off his extortion scheme and draw up new legal papers making J.R. the sole owner of Southfork, J.R. hatches a plot to photograph Lobell’s son Ricky, a recovering addict with prior convictions, doing drugs. J.R. then threatens to expose Ricky’s lapse unless Lobell cooperates.

J.R. also arranges to have Marta discover John Ross and Elena are getting chummy again because he needs Marta to get angry so she’ll work with him to secretly cut John Ross out of the Southfork deal – but doesn’t this plan seem kinda reckless? J.R. knows Marta is bipolar and has a history of violence; at one point, he calls her “crazier than an outhouse rat.” Is this really the kind of person you want to become mad at your son?

Look, I love seeing TNT’s “Dallas” pay tribute to the original series, but I want it to honor the old show’s best storytelling traditions, not its outlandish impulses.

Of course, there are several solid moments in “The Last Hurrah,” beginning with Bobby and Christopher’s father/son chats, which showcase the nice chemistry developing between Patrick Duffy and Jesse Metcalfe. I also like the scene where John Ross blackmails Rebecca – Josh Henderson delivers the line about her being “an extremely resourceful woman” with a Hagman-esque twinkle – as well as Julie Gonzolo’s performance as the increasingly desperate Rebecca.

I even appreciate scriptwriter Taylor Hamra’s subplot about the birth of the calf, which offers a nice contrast to the sense of finality that hangs over Southfork in the days before the barbecue. It’s probably coincidental, but the calf’s arrival also recalls the birth of a foal in “Bypass,” a classic episode from the original series.

The producers also deserve applause for upholding another longstanding “Dallas” practice: casting great character actors in supporting roles. Leonor Varela seems destined to join the long line of mentally unhinged villainesses in the “Dallas” hall of fame, while veteran Texas actor Richard Dillard is perfectly sleazy as Lobell. Dillard reminds me of Dennis Patrick, who was wonderfully smarmy as Vaughn Leland on the old show.

My favorite part of “The Last Hurrah”: the final moments in the scene where Sue Ellen expresses her concern about John Ross’s reconciliation with his father. After John Ross abruptly ends the conversation, Sue Ellen picks up the box containing Miss Ellie’s pearls, opens it and slowly caresses the beads.

Perhaps this gesture shows how Sue Ellen now understands the pain adult children are capable of causing their aging mamas, or maybe it’s just an expression of how much Sue Ellen misses Ellie and wishes she were still around to dispense motherly advice. Whatever the reason, it’s a lovely reminder that Miss Ellie remains part of “Dallas,” if only in spirit.

Grade: B

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Last Hurrah, TNT

Less hair, lots of harebrained schemes

‘THE LAST HURRAH’

Season 1, Episode 4

Telecast: June 27, 2012

Writer: Taylor Hamra

Director: Marc Roskin

Audience: 5.7 million viewers (including 4.1 million viewers on June 27, ranking 15th in the weekly cable ratings)

Synopsis: J.R. blackmails Lobell into calling off his extortion plot and cutting John Ross out of the Southfork sale, making J.R. the ranch’s sole owner. John Ross tries to blackmail Rebecca into helping him with a scheme, but she refuses and resolves to tell Christopher the truth about the e-mail that broke up him and Elena. John Ross and Elena grow closer. Cliff offers to fund Sue Ellen’s gubernatorial campaign, arousing J.R.’s jealousies. Bobby hosts Southfork’s final barbecue, where Rebecca begins her confession to Christopher.

Cast: Margaret Bowman (Miss Henderson), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Richard Dillard (Mitch Lobell), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Callard Harris (Tommy Sutter), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jason London (Ricky Lobell), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Leonor Varela (Marta del Sol)

“The Last Hurrah” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


Comments

  1. I give the show a B+. I do agree that there was some reckless impulses in the storyline. I also know from watching Dallas that J.R. is his own worst enemy. Nobady really does J.R. in better than what he does to himself. I wonder if the brief exchange between Lucy and Ray was a reference to the very first episode of Dallas when the two were rolling around in the hat. I do not see a real mother son connection between Sue Ellen and John Ross. I know Sue Ellen did not want to hold him when he was a new born and maybe the diconnect between the charecters is keeping up with that part of her character. J.R. does tell Sue Ellen that he is living up to his part of his parental obligation by being a good father to John Ross. I agree that the scenes with Christopher and Bobby were great. When Bobby tells him that the day he “adopted” him was the happiest day of his life. That reference was to one of the best story lines of the Dallas series. I wonder when the real relationship between John Ross and Christopher will be revealed? I give this show a B+ over a B because it left me wanting more. I want to see what happens next and my expectations are very high!

    • Thanks for your comment! You make a good point about J.R. being his own worst enemy. Very true. I also agree with you about Bobby and Christopher’s scenes in this episode. I’m glad they referenced the day Bobby and Pam adopted Christopher. That was a happy moment on “Dallas.”

      You mentioned the “real” relationship between John Ross and Christopher. Are you expecting the new series to reveal J.R. is Christopher’s biological father? On the original show, we were told Kristin miscarried J.R.’s child, but I suppose it’s possible the new series could rewrite that history. We’ll have to wait and see.

      Thank you again. I appreciate your feedback.

      Chris

  2. My mistake about John Ross and Christopher being half-brothers.

    “At the end of the third season, Kristin returned yet again and soon thereafter was found drowned in the Southfork Ranch swimming pool. She had overdosed on drugs and, in her stupor, fell and hit her head and went over the balcony railing, landing in the pool. After Kristin’s death, it was learned that her husband, Jeff Faraday, and not J.R., was the father of her child, who had become Bobby and Pam’s adopted son, Christopher Ewing. Kristin had miscarried the child she had conceived with J.R.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristin_Shepard

    Still Kristen is the mother and I am sure that will have some impact on the story line. I have no doubt that this revelation will be as over-dramatic as possible. One of the conversations that Chrsitopher and Bobby had was about him dealing with having been adopted.

    • I’d love to see the new series acknowledge Kristin by name and Sue Ellen’s relationship to Christopher. I think a lot of longtime fans would appreciate that.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] “The Last Hurrah,” the Ewing barbecue episode, was the season’s biggest letdown. It brought together more original cast members than any other TNT entry – in addition to J.R., Bobby and Sue Ellen, we also saw Cliff, Ray and Lucy – yet these old favorites shared little screen time. On the other hand, allow me to defend “The Last Hurrah’s” much-maligned calf-birthing sequence, a metaphor I appreciated, even if the snarkmeisters at Entertainment Weekly didn’t. [...]

  2. [...] Ross’s scheme, which unfolds in “The Last Hurrah,” TNT’s fourth “Dallas” episode, is more devious – and complicated – than the one his daddy [...]

  3. [...] Southfork, while Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo) decided the family’s final barbecue at the ranch was the ideal setting to tell Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) about her role in the scheme to break up him and [...]

  4. [...] Ross is arrested for Marta’s murder. We also don’t get to see J.R. and Sue Ellen’s dance from “The Last Hurrah,” although given the number of fans who are clamoring to see it, something tells me it won’t stay [...]

  5. [...] Ross is arrested for Marta’s murder. We also don’t get to see J.R. and Sue Ellen’s dance from “The Last Hurrah,” although given the number of fans who are clamoring for it, something tells me it won’t stay [...]

  6. […] luck continues: The 2012 Southfork barbecue was ruined when his new daughter-in-law “Rebecca” confessed she and her brother Tommy were scamming the Ewings. Geez, no wonder Bobby didn’t host a barbecue […]

  7. […] None of J.R.’s scenes are actually filmed in foreign locales, but the producers do an adequate job faking it. (This is also true of the scenes involving Pam, who spends this hour in the French Riviera, where Mark Graison shamelessly ignores his promise to leave her alone while she’s on vacation.) Stock footage is used for the establishing shots, with most of the scenes filmed on soundstages. One shot is nifty. Before the Cubans jail J.R., they interrogate him in a room that is pitch black, except for the ceiling light that shines on him. Filmmakers have been using this trick in interrogation scenes for years, but when it’s a scowl-faced Larry Hagman surrounded by darkness, the effect is especially sinister. (Almost three decades later, Marc Roskin would discover this for himself when he shoots a wizened Hagman in a pitch-black room in the TNT episode “The Last Hurrah.”) […]

  8. […] Have breakfast with “The Last Hurrah,” in which John Ross (Josh Henderson) squirts Elena (Jordana Brewster) with his hose. Insert your own […]

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