Dallas Decoder Asks: How Should J.R. die?

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

Exit the hero

J.R. Ewing’s funeral will be seen in the “Dallas” episode that airs Monday, March 11, TNT confirmed yesterday. But how should the legendary character die? And what’s the best way to honor Larry Hagman, the actor who portrayed J.R. for more than three decades? Dallas Decoder asked four members of the original show’s creative team to share their ideas.





There’s only one way J.R. should die: He’s got to be shot by a jealous husband. He’s J.R. Ewing – how else could he die? The husband could be a character from the original series or it could be someone new. The show could build a new “Who Shot J.R.?” mystery around the shooting. If he isn’t shot, he should die in the bed of one of his mistresses. No matter how the show kills him off, J.R. shouldn’t die a hero. He should be the villain you love to hate, right until the very end.

Loraine Despres, writer, 1979 to 1980; credits include “Who Done It?”, the episode where Kristin is revealed as J.R.’s shooter





J.R. survived being shot 40 years ago. Maybe this time the bullet hits the mark. Yeah, shameless. But why not? Even if cynics hate the idea, it’ll create buzz and it might just be the best chance of bringing in new viewers to the show. J.R. was TV’s greatest villain and deserves some villainous payback. The funeral? Could be a three-episode event with every former important cast member they can find. Cliff pouring bourbon on J.R.’s grave? Priceless. This is the biggest franchise event imaginable. I also wouldn’t hesitate using flashbacks if at all possible. It may not please the producers who surely would prefer original material but I think viewers would love it.

Howard Lakin, writer, 1980 to 1982; producer/writer, 1988 to 1991; credits include “The Fourth Son,” the episode where Jock discovers he’s Ray’s father 





You could always have J.R. called out of town and then have his plane go down, but I would have it play out that he’s been hiding the fact that he has cancer – although you don’t have to say “cancer” necessarily. Remember, when the new show opened, J.R. was in a nursing facility, so it’s possible he’s been ill and no one knew it. There could be scenes of the family reacting to the news that he died suddenly and finding out he hid his illness from them. Whatever scenario the show goes with, they shouldn’t drag it out too long. I don’t think they should do what the original series did with Jim Davis, when they sent Jock to South America for an extended period. With J.R., I think you have to allow him to pass away quickly and quietly.

Michael Preece, director, 1981 to 1991; credits include “Acceptance,” the episode where Miss Ellie comes to terms with Jock’s death





I could never kill off J.R.! I’d have forces bearing down on him that we think have caused his death (in an explosion, perhaps?). No body or a body that of course can’t be identified. And then, every once in a while, a story comes up in which a shady businessman in Hong Kong lost everything to a mysterious figure, or a big deal was made in London that ripped off illegal investors but made some mysterious figure, Mr. X, a ton of money. Is it J.R.? Is he traveling the world, destroying his enemies to the benefit of himself and his family as they receive benefits out of the blue that suddenly save themselves and their company? We’ll never know. We can only hope. These stories would occur for generations, giving him immortality. That’s how I’d write off J.R. Ewing – by never writing him off.

Lisa Seidman, writer, 1989 to 1991; credits include “The Decline and Fall of the Ewing Empire,” the episode where J.R. loses Ewing Oil to Cliff


Now it’s your turn: How would you kill off J.R.? Share your comments below and read more news from Dallas Decoder.


  1. WOW, I really like Lisa and Michael’s ideas. The cancer might hit too close to home for some because of Hagman’s death, but then again, it would explain why J.R. looked sort of frail as the season went on. But think having him in the background as a mysterious benefactor is also cool, then when it’s time for a big reveal, boom! J.R. dies mysteriously off camera. But somehow, I can’t see J.R. straying too far from Dallas and Southfork. I think I would start the episode with Bobby hanging up the phone in tears during a particularly big family breakfast (including Sue Ellen, Ray and Lucy!) And then they all mourn together. (Or not!) Maybe J.R’s wishes was to die in private and be immediately cremated and have his ashes scattered over Southfork. Or they will simply do a funeral scene (as big as a Southfork BBQ) and perhaps do flashbacks. Though flashbacks may seem out of place with this cutting edge new show. (And I mean CUTTING edge. I read a recent interview where Patrick Duffy says the scenes move too fast sometimes.

    Or maybe, Sue Ellen is the first to find out. Oy, decisions, decisions!

    • I agree, Lady G.: Michael and Lisa’s ideas have a lot of merit. But you’re right: These are tough decisions. I think this might be the only instance where I don’t envy the new show’s writers.

  2. This may be the shows biggest decision ever! I guess part of it will depend on the story lines going on at the time.
    I think it would be interesting if there was a murder, but who would do it? I also like the idea of a hidden illness, but I just can’t see J.R. Becoming frail and suffering. He may just pay someone to put him out of his misery. I think it needs to be a quick death. Nothing drawn out, or a mysterious disappearance.

  3. BhamDallasFan says:

    I think you have Rebecca kill JR Ewing…she needs to carry the villain card…and what better way than to finish the job that her daddy, Cliff, could never do. Clearly, it’ll have to be an explosion at the Ewing offices or someplace that JR will be–since tragically we don’t have Larry Hagman to do the scene. Rebecca does the deed…Cliff embraces her full as his daughter….Pam comes back disgusted with both and tries once again to talk sense into her niece that the feud against he Ewings is futile.

    • Interesting idea! Rebecca has killed once (Tommy), and it would be kind of poetic if she achieved what her father never could: J.R.’s “destruction.” I like the idea of J.R.’s death bringing Pam back to Dallas!

  4. I think JR needs to go out in JR EWing Style and it should be Cliff Barnes; finally at old age he gets his revenge. It could be a huge confrontation of the battle of wits and Cliff pulls out a 38 and shoots him right in the heart. “Well you bastard you actually have a heart.” AS JR is lying taking his last breath, Rebecca comes in and saves her dad from the murder. She’s the eye witness cleans up the gun and they claim JR attacked first and it was Cliff for self defense. Thus JR lingers a bit in the hospital as all his ex mistresses show up to town to bid him not so good a fair well. They show memories of each woman with JR then have a touching Sue Ellen goodbye and Bobby. The funeral should be big, all of Texas and have a huge Ewing BQ to send him off. Ray and Bobby can go in the chopper privately and pour JR;s ashes all over Southfork and let them have flash memories of their beloved, evil brother 😉

    • Interesting ideas, Jennifer! Some of these scenes might be difficult to shoot without Larry Hagman, but it’s fun to envision J.R. and Cliff having one last showdown. I like the idea of Bobby and Ray scattering J.R.’s ashes around Southfork. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Well, I do beleive there has to be an accident. One that kills JR. We won’t find out that the accident was actually a murder till the lasy show of season 2. They should leave us all hanging for season 3, starting with a who done it! I to think that a lot of the women in JR’s life need to show up for the funeral, along with James and his boy and any other children that have come along. When you think about it there could be hundreds of them out there!

    • I’m with you! I want to see J.R.’s mistresses come back to mourn him. And I like the idea of other offspring coming out of the woodwork. Who knows how many children J.R. may have sired! Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it!

  6. No thank you, Loriane. Not everything has to be so black and white. JR wasn’t 100% evil, he was a complex character. I would like to see him die protecting Sue Ellen or John Ross. Throw JR and Sue Ellen fans a bone.

    • Amal, you make a great point. J.R. was very complex. I’d love to see him die protecting Sue Ellen and/or John Ross. It would very much be in keeping with his character.

      Thanks for commenting!


  7. Barbara Fan says:

    I like the idea of JR dying to protect his former wife and his son but dont know how they could film it it – would need to be off camera
    Given his history with the ladies in Dallas I would like him to die on his back and with a big smile on his face as befits the mighty JR Ewing and his many mistresses
    But at the end of the day – no JR and no Larry is a very scary thought – he was Dallas
    Pure and Simple!!!

    • I like that idea too, BF. You make two great points: J.R.’s death is probably going to happen offscreen — and it’s going to be hard to imagine “Dallas” without Larry Hagman. He was the heart and soul of both the original series and the new one.

      As always, thank you for commenting. I appreciate it.


  8. Lisa Seidman’s scenario only works if Larry Hagman is still alive. Otherwise, I think it’s almost disrespectful not to acknowledge Hagman’s real death, by keeping J.R. Ewing alive. As much as I wish this hadn’t happened, it has, and I think both the actors on the show and the fans need some closure.

    In this I’d say that Michael Preece’s scenario is the closest to how I’d like it to be. Unlike some of the other commentators here, I would not try to make J.R.’s death some big storyline, there doesn’t need to be any murder mystery or anything like that. And, really, they don’t need to explain it as dying of cancer or anything else that specific. I mean, he was 81 years old, it’s not that out of the ordinary for an 81 year old man to die. So that’s it. I’d just have J.R. die in sleep. I’d probably open the show with a Texas TV news report about how local business tycoon J.R. Ewing died in his sleep the night before, with some background on who he is, and then the TV flicks off and we pull back to reveal that it Bobby has turned off the TV with the remote, and he’s in the den @ Southfork with the rest of the family, all consoling each other, and they begin making plans for the funeral. And that basically needs to be the whole episode, seeing people’s reactions, and preparing the funeral, and having the actual service, ending with J.R.’s casket being put to rest, buried @ Southfork, next to Miss Ellie.

    To me, the biggest question is, who will the guests be? I think they need to try to get back as many former cast members as they can for the funeral, even if they don’t all have lines, just to show them sitting in the church. I think people Sly, and Mandy Winger should definitely be back. Maybe even Carter McKay. Thankfully, Gary and Val were already signed to appear, they need to be there, along with Ray and Lucy, but then there’s other people we haven’t seen, like Jenna Wade and her daughter Charlie. Last we heard of her, she was married to Ray and living in Switzerland. Are they still married? And if she shows up, then what about her and Bobby’s son, Lucas? He’s be in his early 20’s now, raised by Ray, but everyone knew Bobby is his biological father, so how he would get along with Christopher? If he were introduced to the show, that would offer a lot of potential storylines in the future, even if he wasn’t brought in as a regular cast member immediately.

    Of course, speaking of long-lost Ewing children, the biggest question to me is J.R.’s other son, James. They’ve made no mention of him on the new show, so far (although the Dallas Facebook Timeline makes mention of him, including saying he returned to Southfork for Miss Ellie’s funeral), but if they were ever going to bring him back (possibly along with his son, J.R.’s first grandson, Jimmy), now would be the time. Like Lucas, they don’t HAVE to have become a regular member of the show just now, but having him show up @ the funeral, and interacting with John Ross and the rest of the family would be interesting. And then he can always return to the show down the line when they have an actual storyline for him.

    I’d also hold in reserve the idea of bringing in the son J.R. had with Cally. He’d be in his early 20’s by now, it would be pretty easy to bring him into the show @ some point, by saying that when she heard that J.R. died, Cally felt guilt that her son never got to meet his father, and she finally told him about J.R.. And eventually the boy decided to travel to Southfork, to meet the rest of the family.

    • Great points, J.R. I agree with just about everything you’ve outlined here. Like you, I want to see a lot of original stars return for J.R.’s funeral — and Sly and Mandy should definitely be on the list. I also think it’s a good idea to bring back James and Jimmy, even if they don’t become regulars again. And Gary, Val, Ray and Lucy are must-haves.

      Thanks for your thoughtful post. I appreciate your good ideas.


  9. I think he should go out getting killed protecting Sue Ellen. We would not have to see it for it to work. Southfork gets a call that some crazy person went after gubernatorial candidate (or former candidate) Sue Ellen and JR was there and defends Sue Ellen, guy went nuts, pulled out a gun, and shot it. The family rushes to Dallas Memorial and finds Sue Ellen there. We hear what happen from Sue Ellen.

    I think JR could go out being shot. He has been shot 4 times before and survived. He even told Ann last season that bullets don’t seem to affect him. So fitting that a bullet would take him. I think him getting killed defending his true love is a nice closure for all of us that have loved watching the two of them for years.

    Politicians have been targets of crazies. We all remember the unfortunate case of the Rep. Giffords getting shot last year. So it is reasonable that someone has fixated on Sue Ellen. Or it could be that someone put the person up to it and we have to find out who was behind. That would add a mystery element if they so wanted.

    I actually think that him getting murdered off screen can be quite effective. We would learn from the witnesses what happened. sue Ellen as the witness….Linda Gray would totally kill that scene…it would be tremendously effective and emotional.

    Another possibility….JR suddenly disappears and no one knows where he went. Then a few days or few weeks later his body turns up and the mystery ensues.

    Than I would love to see what kind of crazy stuff JR could concoct from the grave with his will or maybe revealing secrets. Cuz we all know JR had tons of secrets. We have 20 years of missing information to delve stories from

    I TOTALLY believe that JR needs a huge send off. I know Bobby, Sue Ellen, and esp. John Ross are going to take it hard. The other past and present characters will have a variety of reactions. Gary and Ray will be sad but conflicted. Jenna would be sad…she actually had a okay relationship with him. Lucy would be sad, but you know she will be running that mouth. LOl….she inherited JR’s sharp tongue and total lack of tact. Cliff should crash the funeral and cause a big Cliff scene…..oh the list goes on. And the pool? Someone should end up in it. It should be grand. With a lot of people and lots of people that we actually recognize and know.


  1. […] Now that the character has been laid to rest once and for all, it’s interesting to go back and read their ideas, which aren’t far off base from what ended up […]

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