Critique: TNT’s Dallas Episode 8 – ‘No Good Deed’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, No Good Deed, TNT

Up close

In “No Good Deed,” John Ross is jailed for a murder he didn’t commit and then savagely beaten by a couple of inmates who are connected to the real killers. The Ewings respond to this crisis by rallying around their tarnished golden boy, making this the first time the characters on TNT’s “Dallas” begin to feel like a real family. Not coincidentally, it’s also the first time the new show begins to really feel like the old one.

The original “Dallas” is often described as a series about rich people behaving badly, but the deeper truth is that “Dallas,” at its heart, was a show about family. TNT seems to fully realize this in “No Good Deed.” This is an hour of big, dramatic moments that once again demonstrate an essential “Dallas” tenet: No matter how much the Ewings fight among themselves, when outside forces descend upon Southfork, they all pull together.

Several scenes in this episode give me chills. In the first, Bobby is in the den, railing to his lawyer about J.R. and the plot to steal Southfork, when Ann enters the room with a stricken look on her face. “It’s John Ross,” she says. The goose bumps return in the next scene, when we see Bobby, Ann, Elena and Christopher burst through the emergency room doors and circle a badly shaken Sue Ellen.

As good as these moments are, “No Good Deed” also benefits from its many scenes of quiet familial warmth: J.R. arrives at John Ross’s hospital bedside in the dark of night and gently strokes his sleeping son’s hair. Bobby visits Miss Ellie’s grave and vows to protect the family, finally recognizing the people who live on the ranch matter more than the land itself. John Ross and Christopher stand in the Southfork driveway, shake hands and acknowledge they’re not that different from one another after all. “We’re both just trying to make our fathers proud,” Christopher says.

Then there are “No Good Deed’s” small but meaningful details: When a trembling Sue Ellen fumbles with a coffee dispenser in the hospital waiting room, Ann takes the cup and pumps the coffee for her. During a family conference in the Southfork living room, Ann rubs the back of a worried Elena. John Ross calls Sue Ellen “mama” when she brings him home from the hospital.

The nice thing about Julia Cohen’s script is that it doesn’t just make the Ewings feel like a real family, it also makes them feel like real individuals. “No Good Deed” is centered around the theme of sacrifice – Bobby offers to lift the ban on drilling the ranch, Sue Ellen surrenders her integrity, Christopher forgoes a piece of his gas hydrate project – and by seeing what the Ewings are willing to give up, we discover who these characters really are. (Shades of “Ellie Saves the Day,” one of the greatest episodes from the original series.)

“No Good Deed’s” most heartbreaking moment belongs to Sue Ellen, who musters the courage to bribe the medical examiner, only to discover her ethical lapse was for nothing. I can’t help but feel sorry for her when she stands at John Ross’s bedside and proudly predicts Marta’s death will be ruled a suicide, only to learn the charges against her son have been dropped because new evidence has emerged clearing him. It’s tragic stuff, but isn’t it nice to see Ann provide Sue Ellen with so much support and comfort throughout her ordeal?

Of course, the character who provides “No Good Deed” with its heart is the young man who is at the center of it all: John Ross. Yes, we feel sympathetic toward him after that savage beating, but those cuts and bruises merely symbolize how he’s finally become a flesh-and-blood character.

John Ross seems genuinely ashamed of his role in the plot to steal Southfork, as evidenced by his willingness to stay in jail rather than reveal his relationship with Marta and risk losing Elena’s faith in him. He also refuses to blame J.R. for his misfortune, another sign this is no longer the petulant brat we met in “Changing of the Guard.” I’ve been a fan of Josh Henderson’s from the beginning, but “No Good Deed” finally makes me a fan of John Ross.

“No Good Deed” is also distinguished by Michael Katleman’s arty direction, including the moody opening scene, where Henderson and Jordana Brewster’s faces fill the screen, recalling the tight close-ups that were a signature of the old “Dallas.” And while TNT’s show has a style all its own, there are times I wish it more deliberately mimicked its predecessor. How cool would it have been to hear a few notes of Jerrold Immel’s “Dallas” theme music when J.R. received the call about John Ross’s beating, the way we did in the classic episode “Swan Song,” when J.R. got the call Bobby was dying?

Katleman also does a masterful job in “No Good Deed’s” final scene, when Tommy backs Rebecca against the wall, threatens her and then plants his mouth on hers, thus revealing the Sutters aren’t siblings after all. I suspect that creepy buss will have “Dallas” fans buzzing today, but I hope they don’t allow the shock value to obscure all the warm and wonderful moments to be found in “No Good Deed.”

The Sutters may not be family, but after this episode the Ewings finally are, and my goodness, isn’t that nice to see?

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, No Good Deed, TNT

Touching

‘NO GOOD DEED’

Season 1, Episode 8

Telecast: July 25, 2012

Writer: Julia Cohen

Director: Michael Katleman

Audience: 5 million viewers (including 3.3 million viewers on July 25, ranking 24th in the weekly cable ratings)

Synopsis: When Cano’s thugs beat John Ross in jail, Sue Ellen bribes the medical examiner to rule Marta’s death a suicide so her son will be freed. Her sacrifice is for naught: Christopher gives Cano the South American rights to his gas hydrate project, which prompts Cano to release evidence that clears John Ross. Christopher makes amends with John Ross and reconciles with Rebecca, who is later confronted by Tommy, who isn’t really her brother.

Cast: Amir Arison (Varun Rasmussen), Carlos Bernard (Vicente Cano), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Damon Carney (Paul Jacob), Akai Draco (Sheriff Derrick), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Callard Harris (Tommy Sutter), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Glenn Morshower (Lou), Kevin Page (Bum), Marisol Ramirez (Detective), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing)

“No Good Deed” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. I really liked this episode a lot, and as you’ve nicely summarized, it had a lot of great moments–both big and dramatic and subtle but telling. I liked how Bobby, Christopher and Sue Ellen each hatched a plan to help John Ross. That Christopher’s was the one to succeed is interesting. I think it gives his character a newfound centrality in the family (something he’s probably struggled with much of his life). That Sue Ellen’s plan bombs miserably has shades of J.R.–the plan itself is the sort of carrot and stick approach he would have employed against his adversaries.

    • Good point about Christopher. In many ways, he’s the hero of this episode. His sacrifice frees John Ross and seems to pave the way for his father to reclaim Southfork. As for Sue Ellen, you’re so right: Her scheme is very reminiscent of something J.R. would do. And like his schemes often do, her plan backfires. Poor thing.

  2. I also liked the connections forged between the characters: Sue Ellen and Ann getting closer, John Ross and Christpher (perhaps) burying the hatchet, at least for now. It was nice to see Sue Ellen finally get some significant screen time. We got one of those rare reminders that J.R. is human rather than reptilian.

  3. I enjoyed watching this episode. It looks like there are some chances and experiments with the direction and production of “Dallas” this season and it really worked out great on this episode. I have noticed that the way the episodes are shot and edited seem to change week to week. I noticed many different camera angles for each scene in “No Good Deed”. I feel this episode has set the ground for some upcoming feuds and plot lines. I think Sue Ellen is going to go further and further back into being the crazy Sue Ellen with a drinking problem we all know and love. I hope she makes Governor!

    • You have a good eye for this show’s visual details. Thanks for sharing your observations. And yes, I’d love to see Sue Ellen become governor too — as long as she doesn’t spend all her time in Austin!

  4. This was the best episode of the season! I also agree with all the points you made about the family aspect and feel very sorry for John Ross. I like his character a lot. I love how much Sue Ellen appeared. And I get a sneaking suspicion she may take to the bottle again over this unethical business. I’m getting very curious to see Cliff Barnes again, he’s been gone too long. It was nice to see J.R show his human side and the editing in the dark hospital room was perfect. The moment we saw the shadow of the hat we knew who it was. I felt so bad for John Ross when he tells Sue Ellen that he dreamed his father came to see him. There was a look on J.R’s face in the hospital that said this is war. I can’t wait to see what he cooks up for payback. Ann is proving to be such a lovely, strong character, I can’t wait until her secrets are revealed. The ending with the Sutters was really not such a shock, but I hope see that unravel. This is one relationship I wish J.R would stick his nose into and destroy and send Tommy packing as he had done so often in the past!

    • I loved seeing that shadow of J.R. wearing his hat. It’s very symbolic: Even when’s not around, he casts a long shadow over this show.

      And yes, I’d like to see J.R. teach Tommy a lesson too!

  5. Nice episode analysis. This was my favorite one so far, mostly because we finally got Sue Ellen for more than a few seconds. I am an original series fan and I was always fascinated by Sue Ellen’s complexities. Although I loved seeing her in this episode and I liked the storyline, it still feels like her character is disconnected with the rest of the show. We still don’t know why she’s running for governor and what the motive is behind her integrity-based campaign slogan. It’s outrageous not to explain these basic things to us viewers by now and it’s hard to take Sue Ellen’s ambitions seriously without that information. On a positive note, John Ross showed a different shade of humanity when he thanked Christopher twice at the end of the show. That was important.

    • Thank you for commenting! I agree: I’m glad we saw more Sue Ellen in this episode, but there are still lots of unanswered questions. I’d like to see the show address how she is addressing her scandalous past on the campaign trail. I wrote about the need to give Sue Ellen more to do a little earlier this month: http://wp.me/p1A4ah-DV.

      I also agree it was nice to see another side of John Ross. He isn’t a carbon copy of his father, which is nice to see.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Sue Ellen is running for governor on TNT’s “Dallas,” despite the skeletons she stuffed in her closet during the original series. To recap: Sue Ellen was institutionalized for alcoholism; arrested for J.R.’s shooting; and embroiled in a series of ugly paternity suits, divorces and custody battles. Also, a drunken Sue Ellen was behind the wheel when Walt Driscoll smashed into J.R.’s car, and when J.R. was shot again, she did pull the trigger. The hits keep coming: Sue Ellen recently accepted a donation from sleazy Harris Ryland and blackmailed a coroner. [...]

  2. [...] hilarious stuff that came out of J.R.’s mouth, Sue Ellen delivered the season’s best line in “No Good Deed” when she blackmailed the hapless medical examiner by reminding him, “You’ve been writing more [...]

  3. [...] “No Good Deed,” one of the strongest hours during the new show’s first season, Bobby visits Ellie’s grave on [...]

  4. [...] include the one with Josh Henderson from the publicity shot above, which TNT released to promote “No Good Deed,” the episode where John Ross is arrested for Marta’s murder. We also don’t get to see J.R. and [...]

  5. [...] include the one with Josh Henderson from the publicity shot above, which TNT released to promote “No Good Deed,” the episode where John Ross is arrested for Marta’s murder. We also don’t get to see J.R. and [...]

  6. [...] Bobby (Patrick Duffy) tries to protect Ann by telling the police he shot Harris. Like John Ross’s arrest for Marta’s murder last season, this latest incident is part of an old tradition of Ewings [...]

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 253 other followers

%d bloggers like this: