‘Dallas’s’ Second Season Gets Off to a Promising Start

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Lessons learned

At one point during “Dallas’s” second-season premiere, J.R. offers Sue Ellen a sly grin and declares, “I never learn my lesson.” Maybe not, but the people who make “Dallas” seem to have learned theirs. This has been a good show from the beginning, but diehards like me couldn’t help but feel bothered by some of the historical flubs in the first-season plotlines (don’t get us started on those Southfork mineral rights) or the fact that our beloved Linda Gray was missing from two whole episodes.

Thankfully, those days appear to be over. The two-hour premiere, which TNT will telecast Monday, January 28, does a nice job giving “Dallas” devotees the stuff we crave. The first shot of the first scene is none other than Sue Ellen – a signal, I hope, that Gray will have a prominent role this year. The opener also offers the first Southfork swimming pool scene in 22 years, references to two long-unseen “Dallas” characters, and a fleeting-but-much-appreciated mention of an institution that was significant to the old show’s mythology. Someone’s been doing their homework.

Best of all, J.R. gets lots of screen time in the extended premiere, which is actually two one-hour episodes (“Battle Lines” and “Venomous Creatures”) that TNT will telecast back-to-back. Larry Hagman filmed a handful of episodes before his death last November, and in these first two hours, he’s as great as ever. Hagman’s scenes with Patrick Duffy will make you chuckle, while his exchanges with Gray will leave you reaching for the tissues. The magic is still there.

Of course, as much as I love watching my old favorites, it’s also good to see “Dallas” cultivating its next generation of stars. Josh Henderson has become a worthy heir to Hagman’s badassery, although he now has competition from an unexpected source: Julie Gonzalo, who is a hellion in heels as Cliff’s vengeful daughter. I’m also pleased to report the premiere gives Jordana Brewster some meaningful scenes. Brewster remains one of the best actors in this ensemble; she makes Elena feel like the kind of person you might know in real life, which – let’s face it – doesn’t always happen on shows like this. Henderson and Gonzalo might get the juicy lines, but Brewster and Jesse Metcalfe, her equally good leading man, keep “Dallas” grounded.

The premiere also establishes the battle for Ewing Energies as the season’s main story arc and introduces us to the sleek Ewing Energies set, which looks absolutely nothing like the offices seen on the old show. (Please note: This isn’t a complaint.) A nifty subplot focuses on Christopher’s foray into racecar driving, and we also learn Ann’s dark secret, a storyline that has more than a few holes but nonetheless offers a nice showcase for Brenda Strong.

Other highlights include our first glimpse of the mysterious new character Emma Brown, played by Emma Bell, who was so memorable as the doomed Amy on “The Walking Dead.” (I wonder: Does Bell find zombies or Ewings more cannibalistic?) We also meet Harris Ryland’s mother Judith, played to the hilt by Judith Light. Yes, Light is only three years older than Mitch Pileggi, who plays Harris. It’s too early to know if audiences are going to buy this, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Light.

The real question is how “Dallas” will fare once it runs out of episodes featuring Hagman. This week, TV Guide reported the show will write out its star with a “Who Killed J.R.?” mystery that will echo the old “Dallas’s” most famous cliffhanger. Whether or not this idea is really brilliant or really lousy will depend on the execution, but it’s a good sign the show is bringing back so many favorites for J.R.’s funeral and memorial service. The guest list will include Deborah Shelton, who played J.R.’s longest-running (three seasons!) mistress Mandy, and Cathy Podewell, who portrayed his second wife Cally, along with four characters who require no explanation: Gary (Ted Shackleford), Lucy (Charlene Tilton), Ray (Steve Kanaly) and Cliff (Ken Kercheval).

This group includes some of “Dallas’s” most iconic figures. Watching them come together to mourn – or celebrate – the death of the biggest icon of all is bound to be great television. It will never satisfy all of “Dallas’s” hardcore fans, but you have to hand it to the people who make the show. At least they’re trying.

What do you want to see during “Dallas’s” second season? Share your comments below and read more opinions from Dallas Decoder.

Comments

  1. Ah I’m encouraged by your review! I know from your site you have a discernible yet reasonable viewer’s eye so the positive write up is very good news. I’m thrilled there will be no Linda-less episodes (blasphemy) and to hear she is in the first scene of the premier is smashing. I am really looking forward to meeting Ryland’s mother. He is just the right kind of creepy and I’m curious to know about the person who created him, his mama! And I applaud TNT for bringing another ‘grown’ woman into the fold. Older actresses are that much more capable of being genuine vessels for the writers’ words. You just can’t fake life experience.

    • You’re so right, TSEE. It’s good to see the producers adding a mature actress to the cast. I’m a big fan of Judith Light — as both an actress an activist. It’s good to have her in the “Dallas” universe. And I really think you’ll enjoy Linda Gray’s scenes in the season premiere. She’s as fabulous as ever.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Chris

  2. Getting so excited!! I hope there are more characters showing up for the funeral. I still think its odd that everyone just ignores the fact that J. R. Has 2 other sons. Maybe Cally will bring her child? Or at least make mention of it. And James, maybe he has disappeared ? Or died?
    I liked the idea of Christopher and John Ross being on the same side, but the feud will be interesting to watch.
    As much as I like Judith light, I’m not sure about bringing in this “old” of a character? Maybe it will work.
    I like the idea if Who killed J. R. I hope it’s a good twisting plot.
    I also would like to see John Ross get a good woman, and I really don’t want to watch him sulk over Elana all season.
    Can’t wait!

    • I’m hoping Cally will address some of the unanswered questions that have been on fans’ minds. Where’s James? Where’s J.R. and Cally’s child? It should be fun to see her again. I also think it would be great to see other characters at the funeral and memorial service. Let me know what you think after you’ve watched the premiere.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Chris

  3. Dan in WI says:

    I for one am a little dissappointed we already know Hagman’s exit is “Who killed JR?” I hate spoilers of any kind. I can usually avoid them on the internet but when that is officially spilled…

    Chris, I don’t know how much you know about the upcoming season. If you do know more than you’ve listed in this article then I give you big kudos for not spoiling. What you give here is the perfect tease without telling us anything of substance and I appreciate that.

    • I know how you feel, Dan. I think it would’ve been cool if the producers had kept the “Who Killed J.R.?” storyline under wraps, but maybe that’s not possible in the modern media era.

      Thanks also for the kind words. These kinds of posts are always a challenge. My goal was to tease, not spoil. I hope I achieved that. There are a few more twists in the season premiere that I didn’t address at all here. I hope you’ll be surprised when you see them this Monday!

      Thanks for your comments Dan.

      CB

  4. I guess I was not the only one who brought up “mineral rights-gate”. cynthia cidre mineral rights. Larry Hagman passing was not a major surprise. JR’s “ghost” will be there even though JR will not. I think it is great that there will be a “Who killed JR” storyline. I bet Larry Hagman would not want it any other way. Here is an interview clip of Hagman shortly before he passed away. http://youtu.be/LqxbDTpOWtk He knows he is dying and yet he could not be any happier.

    • Anonymous says:

      So sorry, I meant to say if you web search “cynthia cidre mineral rights” you will find a wide variety of results.

    • This is a great interview! Thanks for sharing it, Jump. I hadn’t seen this one. Man, what I would have given to fist bump Larry Hagman.

      Thanks for commenting, Jump!

      CB

  5. Thanks for a review that is intriguing but doesn’t give away the details. I am so excited for Monday night.

    By the way, the best line of your review..’.Josh Henderson has become an heir worthy of Hagman’s badassery’. That made me laugh out loud. I also am looking forward to seeing Julia turn into one as well. She really grew on me as the season progressed last time.

    • I’m glad you liked that line, Hel! I love Julie too. I think you’ll enjoy seeing her transformation on Monday night.

      Thanks for commenting! Always enjoy hearing from you.

      CB

  6. the_lost_son says:

    I enjoy coming to this site a lot and I can’t wait to see the 2nd season.
    It’s a great thing that people like you are chosen to have a first glimpse on these first episodes. You have really a way with words. Reading your review made me exciting about the next season although you didn’t give anything away – no spoilers or anything like that.
    I know I repeate myself, but great again.

    • I’m very thankful to TNT for providing me with a preview of the new season’s first two episodes. It’s really cool that they do that.

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed my preview. Please let me know what you think after you’ve watched the new episodes.

      Chris

  7. I’m very excited about Judith Light joining the cast. As you know, I was a big fan of Who’s the Boss, and it will be fun to see her in a role very different from that. How the show deals with Hagman’s death is going to be very interesting–I would think pivotal to its future success.

    • I’m excited about Judith Light too. I think this character is going to be a lot different from her Angela Bower. And I agree with you about Larry Hagman’s death. This will be a make-or-break moment for the new show.

  8. Definitely off to a good start. I loved those first two episodes. Josh Henderson is growing into his role as “the new J.R.”, and if they keep giving him good material, I think he can help carry the show post-Hagman. Brenda Strong continues to impress me as Ann. They’re giving her some great material to work with. And I was surprised @ how much I loved the new attitude of Pamela Rebecca Barnes. She owned every scene she was in. I really hope they keep that up and develop her as a major villain.

    That’s one thing the original Dallas lacked, a really strong female villain who could stand toe to toe with by the men, but who wasn’t crazy, like Kristen or Katherine. I’ve long thought that they should have kept Kimberly Crider around, have her take over Westar (&, yes, I caught the mention of it in the 2nd episode) after Jeremy Wendell was sent to prison, instead of Carter McKay. But I digress.

    I was disappointed that they torpedoed Sue Ellen’s campaign like that. I thought it would have been a great role for her to be the governor and having to deal with all the political schemes that come with the job. Hopefully they’ll come up with some other good storyline for her. And I am glad that she didn’t drink.

    It was very bittersweet every time Larry Hagman was on the screen. I though the way he was used was pretty good, basically hovering around in the background, sticking his head when he feels like it, for good or bad. Basically being the devil on John Ross’ shoulder, and still using his own dirty tricks to help Sue Ellen. I heard there’s an upcoming scene where Bobby comes to him for help, which I’m looking forward to seeing. But it all just makes me sadder to know that his involvement is coming to and end soon.

    Oh yea, I noticed that Bobby was referred to as “Robert” again. I couldn’t help but think of you when I heard it. 🙂

    • AngelaDALLAS-FAN says:

      Who referred to Bobby as Robert?

      • In “Battle Lines,” when Frank approached Bobby and Christopher outside the Barnes Global building, he called him, “Mr. Robert Ewing.” It made me want to toss my remote at the TV, but I resisted the urge.

        CB

  9. After they all find out JR is dead I want the whole family together with Bobby saying “Who killed J.R.?”

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