No one gets shot, run over or blown up at the end of “Revelations” – and for this, we should be thankful. As much fun as the original “Dallas’s” season finales were, they feel a little gimmicky in retrospect. Smart storytelling, not splashy cliffhangers, keep today’s television audiences hooked.
Cynthia Cidre, the creative force behind TNT’s “Dallas,” seems to recognize this, so instead of trying to recreate old-school theatrics, she delivers a finale that focuses on concluding most of the show’s first-season storylines. This is a wise approach, but it might also be a function of circumstance: Since “Revelations” was filmed before “Dallas’s” second season was assured, the episode was no doubt crafted so it could serve as a satisfying series finale, if need be.
Whatever the reason, Cidre and “Revelations” co-writer Robert Rovner tie up a lot of loose ends, although one or two things also unravel. Mostly, though, this is an hour of victory laps: J.R. and John Ross confess their sins and are granted immunity by the feds. Sue Ellen tells her cheering supporters she’s staying in the gubernatorial race. Bobby recovers his health and his ranch. Christopher gets the girl.
Of course, the moment that leaves me cheering loudest belongs to Ann, who wears a wire and tricks Harris into admitting his illegal schemes against Sue Ellen. When Ann reveals her sting and Harris tries to snatch the recording device hidden beneath her blouse, she pops him in the mouth and declares, “You make a move against me, Sue Ellen or any member of my family – you’re going to jail.”
What a great scene. Brenda Strong’s delivery is determined, but it also carries a hint of vulnerability. This is probably how most of us would sound if we found ourselves conducting a sting against a creepy ex, heaven forbid. We still don’t know Ann’s secret – one of the few loose ends “Revelations” leaves hanging – but no matter. We know who Ann is, and thanks to Strong, we love her.
The other great scene in “Revelations” comes before the opening credits, when J.R. stands at Bobby’s hospital bedside and pleads with him to wake up after his surgery. J.R.’s speech echoes Bobby’s own soliloquy in “Changing of the Guard” but more importantly, it offers a glimpse into J.R.’s soul. “I love you, Bobby, and I don’t know who I’d be without you,” he says, gripping his brother’s hand. J.R. is finally acknowledging what the audience has known for a long time: He is incapable of checking his own impulses; he needs Bobby to do it for him.
A similar dynamic exists between John Ross and Elena, as we’re reminded in the charming scene where he proposes to her in the old Ewing Oil office space. “My life and everything I want it to be is better with you,” John Ross says while on bended knee. It’s a revealing line, but when Elena accepts John Ross’s proposal, the sweet smile that spreads across Josh Henderson’s face does more to humanize his character than any of the dialogue. (By the way: Kudos to Rob Cairns for scoring the beginning of this scene with a few notes from Jerrold Immel’s “Dallas” theme music.)
Visually, “Revelations” is another artistic achievement for the TNT series. Director Steve Robin’s opening shot of Tommy’s slow motion fall to the floor is creepily exquisite, particularly when the blood spurts out of the hole in his chest at the moment of impact. (This raises a question, though: If Tommy doesn’t start bleeding until he hits the floor, how do Rebecca and those stuffed monkeys wind up splattered?) I also love when the camera follows John Ross as he throws open the plastic tarp and sweeps into the old Ewing Oil office space with Elena in tow.
The two episode-ending montages are also fabulous. In the first, we hear Sue Ellen deliver her speech over scenes featuring other characters: When she talks about making mistakes, we see Carmen return Elena’s ring to John Ross; when the speech turns to overcoming adversity, we watch Ann embrace a wistful-looking Bobby on the Southfork patio.
The second montage – this one set to Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” – intersperses scenes of Christopher and Elena making love with images of John Ross staring out the window of his new office. In the last shot, the camera pulls back on John Ross, now with J.R. at his side, until we get a panoramic nighttime view of the dazzling Dallas skyline.
This brings me to a gripe: In this final scene, I’m disheartened to see John Ross declare he wants J.R. to teach him “every dirty trick” he knows. I understand John Ross is angry after Elena spurns him, but as we saw in the previous episode, “Family Business,” he is more interesting when he’s rising above J.R.’s wicked ways, not embracing them. John Ross has grown so much this season; I hate to see him go backward.
I’m also troubled by the big revelation in “Revelations” – not that Rebecca is Cliff’s daughter (what “Dallas” fan didn’t see that coming?), but that he’s the mastermind behind her scheme. I can accept that Cliff, despite his wealth and success, is still hell-bent on getting revenge against the Ewings, but I have trouble believing he would use his own daughter in a plot to hurt Christopher, the son of his beloved sister Pam. (Not to mention the fact Cliff knowingly allowed Rebecca to marry her own cousin, which is pretty icky, even if they’re not blood relatives.)
Hopefully, Cliff’s motivations will become clearer when “Dallas’s” second season begins in January, along with the precise identity of Julie Gonzalo’s character: Is the actress playing Pamela Rebecca, the daughter we discovered Cliff had toward the end of the original “Dallas’s” run, or is this another daughter we never knew about?
Whoever she is, I love hearing Frank (the menacing Faran Tahir) call Gonzalo’s character “Miss Barnes.” At its best, “Dallas” has always been the story of two families whose fates are forever linked – the Ewings and the Barneses – and I’m thrilled the new show is returning to those roots.
No matter how the rest of this storyline plays out, here’s hoping the new “Dallas” will maintain the quality of its past few episodes. The show hit its stride as it barreled toward the end of the first season. Can it keep the momentum going in Season 2? That’s the real cliffhanger here.
Season 1, Episode 10
Telecast: August 8, 2012
Writers: Cynthia Cidre and Robert Rovner
Director: Steve Robin
Audience: 5.9 million viewers (including 4.3 million viewers on August 8, ranking 7th in the weekly cable ratings)
Synopsis: After the gunshot kills Tommy, Rebecca’s mysterious associates dispose of his body. Bobby recovers from his seizure. J.R. and John Ross confess to their fraud scheme and are granted immunity from the feds, who nab Cano. Elena accepts John Ross’s marriage proposal but returns the ring after she discovers his role in the fraud. Christopher discovers Rebecca isn’t Tommy’s sister and tells her their marriage is over, then reunites with Elena. John Ross tells J.R. to teach him to play dirty so he can take Ewing Energies away from Christopher and Elena. Rebecca apologizes for botching her scheme and pledges loyalty to the mastermind behind her plot: her father, Cliff.
Cast: Carlos Bernard (Vicente Cano), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Alex McKenna (Rebecca Sutter), John McIntosh (Dr. Bennett), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Glenn Morshower (Lou), Kevin Page (Bum), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Faran Tahir (Frank), Gail Washington (nurse)