Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 13 – ‘Sins of the Father’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Sins of the Father, TNT

The master

Larry Hagman supplies “Sins of the Father” with its best moments, including the cool scene where J.R. pressures Frank to betray Cliff, as well as the surprisingly sentimental one where he vows to help Bobby get revenge against Ryland. But for once, Hagman isn’t the only great thing about the new “Dallas.” Every member of the ensemble shines in this episode, especially Brenda Strong, whose performances are pitch perfect. This is the first time I’ve cared about Ann’s storyline this season, and that’s mostly because Strong does such a beautiful job selling it.

Strong has always had the most thankless job on this show because Ann has been assigned a dual role previously occupied by two of the most beloved figures in the “Dallas” mythos. Not only has Ann succeeded Pam as Bobby’s wife, she’s also assumed Miss Ellie’s mantle as the first lady of Southfork. Now, in “Sins of the Father,” with all her secrets seemingly exposed, Ann finally begins to feel like her own woman. She repeatedly calls Harris a “son of a bitch,” lobs a few barbs at Judith, and then confesses to Emma her past addiction to tranquilizers. We’re not in Pam or Ellie territory anymore.

I applaud the “Dallas” writers for turning Ann into a flawed heroine, but Strong gets the credit for making the character so convincingly human. Ann’s tears during her reunion with Emma at the end of “Battle Lines,” the second-season premiere, seemed to exceed what the moment called for, but I never get that feeling watching her in “Sins of the Father.” Strong strikes the right balance between regret and resolve in this episode’s Ann/Emma scene, making me believe Ann is a woman who hasn’t forgotten her mistakes, even if she’s risen above them.

Strong is downright mesmerizing at the end of “Sins of the Father,” when Ann confronts Harris and shoots him. It’s unsettling to see Ann behave so coldly, although I can’t say the shooting shocked me since TNT’s second-season promos included a glimpse of her brandishing a gun. I also can’t help but notice how closely Ann’s shooting of Harris mirrors Pamela’s shooting of Tommy in last season’s “Family Business,” right down to the victim’s slow-motion fall to the floor. There’s one big difference, of course: Pamela’s shooting was an act of self-defense, while Ann shoots Harris in cold blood. How’s the show going to redeem her after this?

Even though Strong dominates “Sins of the Father,” this is a solid hour for all the “Dallas” women. For me, seeing Sue Ellen march into Ewing Energies and threaten to call in Elena’s loan was a little metaphysical: Suddenly it was the 1980s again and I was back in my parents’ living room, watching Sue Ellen square off against one of her rivals, except this time the fight was over her son, not J.R. The role of Mama Bear fits Linda Gray well, although I think this moment would’ve been more effective if Sue Ellen had taken it upon herself to go after Elena instead of being manipulated into it by John Ross. Regardless, I welcome the return of the take-no-prisoners Sue Ellen, and I’m thrilled to see her get involved with the family business. At long last, the new “Dallas” seems to have figured out how to put Gray’s gifts to good use.

As for Elena: How nice is it to see her do something besides moon over John Ross and/or Christopher? Jordana Brewster is an actress with tremendous poise and grace, and I’m glad the writers are turning Elena into such a smart, savvy businesswoman. She keeps her cool when Sue Ellen confronts her (Elena: “I’m not sure where all this anger is coming from, but if this is about something more personal, we should talk about it”), but Elena would be dull if she was perfect, and in “Sins of the Father” she isn’t. Brother Drew’s return rattles her, although I also feel the warmth between the characters during their heart-to-heart in the Southfork pasture. I hope the show will continue to develop Elena and Drew’s relationship with each other, as well as the one they share with mama Carmen. Between the three of them, Brewster, Kuno Becker (a promising addition to the show) and Marlene Forte have the potential to turn the Ramoses into a meaningful presence at Southfork.

Let’s also hear it for John Ross and Pamela. Their first scene in “Sins of the Father,” when they frolic in bed, arguing over who gets to be on top, is fun, and their repeated use of “Dallas’s” most enduring term of endearment – “darlin’” – is cute. On the other hand, John Ross’s worried expression over Pamela’s connection to Tommy’s death at the end of the episode feels a little out of place. I like the idea of him falling for Pamela, but isn’t it a little soon? For that matter, I also don’t buy the notion that the detective investigating Tommy’s death would call Christopher to the crime scene for a chit-chat (shouldn’t Christopher be a suspect too?), and I wonder if Harris would really be beyond punishment for kidnapping Emma. The criminal justice system on this show seems to be exist in another dimension.

Of course, every time “Dallas” offers head-scratchers like these, it usually cuts to something wonderful – like Hagman’s scenes. Director Jesse Bochco smartly shrouds Hagman and Faran Tahir in darkness during J.R.’s exchange with Frank, which makes it feel that much more mysterious. I also love how scriptwriter Bruce Rasmussen peppers J.R.’s dialogue with an extra dash of homey references (church socials, lapdogs), which allows Hagman to play off the suave Tahir. My gut tells me Frank isn’t long for this world, which is too bad because of all the new show’s villains, he’s the most menacing.

Hagman’s other highlight: the scene where Bobby asks J.R. to help him get revenge against Harris. Besides capitalizing on the chemistry between Hagman and Patrick Duffy, the scene also draws upon the deep familiarity between these characters. J.R.: “I’ve seen that look before. You go over there to get justice and you’re likely to beat him to death.” Bobby: “That’s why I need you. Help me find a way to bring him down.”

I wish the show had allowed the audience to savor the idea of J.R. and Bobby joining forces against a common enemy; instead, it cut to the scene of Ann shooting Harris, which kind of undermines any threat J.R. might pose. Then again, something tells me Mr. Ryland is going to be just fine (please note: Mitch Pileggi was added to this show’s opening credits two episodes ago), so J.R. might yet get his chance to stage his “masterpiece” against Harris. Rarely have I wanted to see anything more.

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ann Ewing, Brenda Strong, Dallas, Sins of the Father, TNT

Woman on the edge

‘SINS OF THE FATHER’

Season 2, Episode 3

Telecast: February 4, 2013

Writer: Bruce Rasmussen

Director: Jesse Bochco

Audience: 2.2 million viewers on February 4

Synopsis: When the police begin to suspect Pamela killed Tommy, J.R. urges Frank to betray her. After Christopher warns Becky she’s in danger, she receives a visit from Frank and disappears. At John Ross’s urging, Sue Ellen threatens to call in Elena’s loan, prompting Elena to turn to her estranged brother Drew for help striking oil. Ann tries to connect with Emma but is once again rejected. Bobby asks J.R. to help him get revenge against Harris, unaware Ann has shot him.

Cast: Amber Bartlett (Jill), Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Brown), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Rebecca Barnes), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Judith Light (Judith Ryland), Alex McKenna (Becky Sutter), Marcus M. Mauldin (Detective Ronnie Bota), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Matthew Posey (Bubba), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Faran Tahir (Frank Ashkani)

“Sins of the Father” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Enjoyed the review….as usual ;).

    I think Ann is a great character and that Brenda is exceptional, the scene with Bobby when he tells her about what really happened to Emma was lovely. The scene where her and Judith went at each other was fab. And she looked just plumb emotionally drained in that last scene…that and the JR scene was intense.

    I liked this episode because while we had a ton of plot movement, we also got some nice one on one scenes with a variety of characters.

    Yep,loved the Sue Ellen scenes. I think that Sue Ellen really does need to get Into the family business. Love when she gets all mama bear, as JR says! I think the show works better when John Ross interacts with both of his parents. I think having Sue Ellen as a secondary option last season was a mistake (sometimes it felt like Bobby was more important in his whole life than her…which felt wrong) With JR soon to be leaving, they need to give us more Sue Ellen and John Ross. Linda and Josh are wonderful together. And I think the show will feel more ‘Dallas’ if it is not John Ross against Bobby’s whole side of the family. I understand why the other characters would never willingly agree to JR being in the company….they are too afraid of him. But Sue Ellen is more of a wild cars. She is basically a good person….but she has a total blind spot with her baby boy. It would be interesting to see how much he would get away with before she would put her foot down. Plus, as we have both said…it would be great to have Linda in the thick of things!

    Ohhhhh, JR and Bobby. Loved this. Nuff said.
    (By the way, Larry looked very good in plaid. But as the camera rotated around you could really see how frail and thin he was.)

    • Thank you, Hel! I agree with everything you wrote, especially how Brenda Strong looked drained by the end of the episode. Great observation. I also loved Brenda’s scene with Patrick Duffy, who is always good.

      And yes, I’m thrilled that Sue Ellen is getting more screen time, including more time with Josh. I’m hopeful we’ll see these two interacting more in the future.

      Thanks again for your feedback. Keep it coming. I appreciate it!

      CB

  2. FINALLY! I’ve been be checking on this blog over and over almost since the minute the episode ended last night, waiting to see what you would say about it, Chris B.!

    My impression? HOLY S**T!!!!!! That is one cliffhanger that I did NOT see coming. And, it’s funny, I was just talking to my brother via Facebook about the difference between Pamela Rebecca and Ann, was that PR’s shooting was technically self-defense. She only made it a crime by covering up the shooting and having the body disposed of. But what Ann did was cold-blooded and pre-meditated. Now, even if Harris lives, as seems likely, as I noticed that she only shot him on his right side, but below the heart (which is a bit of a cop-out, since Ann is supposed to be a great shot, and she was standing right in front of him, point blank so, “realistically”, she should have killed him easily), we now have a major character who has clearly attempted to murder someone. Where they go with her character from there will be interesting, to say the least.

    I can’t say I’m as impressed with the Ramos family. Elena is one thing, but trying to make her mother and brother into key supporting characters is another. I can’t help but think that whatever story they’ve got planned for Drew could have been filled by another 4th generation Ewing character, such as I’ve mentioned here before, who has ties to the original show. But I’ll wait and see how that goes.

    The John Ross/Pamela Rebecca thing is moving fast but, as I’ve also mentioned before, I accept that this show has fewer episodes and must move things along faster than the original.

    As for J.R., there have been some good bits in these first 3 episodes, already better than the way he was used in the first season, although some of his dialog is sounding a little forced. It’s like he’s speaking in nothing but witty one-liners, as if the writers are just watched that 9 minute “Best of J.R. Ewing” video on youtube, and are now trying too hard to come up with new “zingers” for him. But I did like the idea that J.R. would be going through his tablet reading news stories about himself. And yes, the scene where Bobby came to him for help was brilliant. I love the idea that even Bobby knows that if you want to figure out the best way to screw over someone, then the man to talk to is J.R. Ewing. And THAT line, “This will be my masterpiece” was wonderful

    But then, as you say, it was a bit undercut by Ann shooting Harris. So I’m confused, but very eager to see the next episode (which I guess is the point).

    Still, only 3 Larry Hagman episodes left. 😦

    • Great points, J.R. I overlooked the fact that Ann is supposed to be a great shot. You’re right: She could’ve easily killed him. Perhaps she wanted only to maim him? And like you, I’m scratching my head about where the character goes from here.

      I have mixed feelings about the tablet thing, which I meant to address in my critique and forgot. On the one hand, I like the idea that J.R. is technically savvy and it makes sense that as an old man, he’d take time to reflect on his life. It makes him believable. On the other hand: I don’t want J.R. reveling in past glories, I want him out there stirring things up! But it was a cute bit regardless.

      I like the Ramoses. I think they have potential, and Jordana Brewster and Kuno Becker seem to have good chemistry. I hope the show will keep them in the mix, although I want the focus to remain on the Barneses and the Ewings.

      And man oh man, I’m going to be sad when we reach Larry Hagman’s final episode. You’re right: The show is making good use of him this year, even if his dialogue is a little zinger-heavy.

      One last thing: Sorry it took me awhile to get this critique posted. In the past, I was able to see advance copies of the episodes, which allowed me to write them ahead of time and post them after the West Coast broadcast. TNT isn’t sending “screeners” to bloggers any longer, so I’m watching the show “live” with everyone else. This means I’ll be writing critiques on Tuesday and posting them on Wednesday, although given my work schedule, some weeks the critiques may take longer. Hang in there and I’ll get them up as soon as I can.

      Thanks again for your feedback. I always appreciate it.

      Chris

      • I know what you mean about J.R., that remains my complaint about this series. I still can’t accept that J.R. would even end up in a nursing home for depression, and I think it was a huge mistake to disregard the two reunion movies,. I think the new series should have picked up from where those films left off. They still could have done a lot of things they did, except for the Pamela Rebecca reveal, since everyone already met her in J.R. RETURNS, but they could have done a similar storyline, rewriting it to have Christopher marry a woman who turned out to be Katherine Wentworth’s secret daughter, or someone else (& Katherine’s hatred of the Ewings would make more sense than Cliff’s @ this point). J.R. should have been a hugely successful businessman, maybe semi-retired, no longer running Weststar, but but still doing various investments while advising John Ross on how to take over Ewing Oil (which still could have been re-named Ewing Energies, to reflect the times) from Christopher (the two of them having inherited the company from Sue Ellen and Bobby).

        But, so be it, they made different choices. I don’t want to be like so many of the people I see on the Ultimate Dallas forums, who just complain about EVERYTHING and nitpick the show to death. So, in the context, I liked the scene with J.R. on the tablet, because he definitely is the kinda man who love looking over what people are saying about him, even if they’re criticizing him, he would think it was funny. “Any publicity is good publicity”.

      • Good points, J.R. I like your ideas of how the reunion movies could have been preserved within the continuity of the new show. Interesting concepts.

        As always, thanks for your contributions here. I appreciate them.

        Chris

  3. Hi, just watched the episode today and as always your review is 100% accurate. This episode is great and the shows keeps going stronger. Way better than the first season IMHO, although everything isn’t perfect and we have in mind the forthcoming sad moment of J.R.’s end.

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the critique. I agree this season has gotten off to a stronger start than the first season. Let’s hope it continues.

      Thanks for commenting.

      CB

  4. Here’s some random observations:
    We are finally given some real Ann character development in season two and this is NOT a stable woman! Bobby really needs to keep a closer eye on her because she is VERY prone to rash action. At some point this is bound to create real tension between them.

    Like many I’m not sure what to make of Drew Ramos yet. He’s still freshly minted after all but his introduction is a bit heavy handed. But that is something that classic Dallas fell prey to as well. For example: Jamie Ewing-Barnes, then Jack Ewing, then April Stevens-Ewing-Stevens-Ewing and finally Michelle Stevens-Barnes were a daisy chain of abruptly introduced characters that all tied together. There were others. Some of them worked out and others didn’t. We’ll see how Drew works out. In the meantime, the positive take away from his introduction is second season Dallas now has (depending how you count them) no less than three distinct storylines going on. The first season was way too much of a single track storyline with a couple teasers thrown in. This is a good thing.

    Speaking of Drew anybody else see Drew and Elena turning into another Tracy and Tommy McKay? That didn’t work out too well for Bobby. What does it mean for Christopher?

    I fear we just won’t have the chance to see JR take down Ryland. That is a shame. I really want to see this.
    One has to wonder if it was always in the plan for Ann to shoot Ryland or is that something adjusted after Larry’s death. I could see that going either way.

    I’ve seen it said somewhere else and I have to agree. There is a little too much shooting going on in this new show too closely together. Tommy, Ryland and soon JR. In my opinion this really needs to be spaced out a bit more.

    With JR soon to be gone I think it is safe to assume Sue Ellen will get the screentime we all want for her. If nothing else they can afford to pay her with Larry gone. But more importantly the writers do seem to realize they need more than just Bobby as a tie to the past.

    JR LeMar: I have to agree that they have turned JR into a best of sound bite machine. But in fairness I suspect that is a result of Larry’s health. If he were able to handle a larger workload I have to believe he would have been given one. As it is, they are trying to maximize the bang for the buck.

    Now about those ratings…

    • Great observations, Dan. I agree: Ann has gotten some character development — and what a doozy of a character she’s turning out to be! The comparison between the Ramos and McKay siblings is interesting. Also: Has it been confirmed J.R. will be shot? I know we’ve heard there will be a “Who Killed J.R.?” mystery, but I can’t recall if a shooting is involved.

      Thanks for your feedback, as always!

      CB

  5. I think Ryland Harris getting shot is just for starters. He has plenty more Ewing wrath heading his way. My burning question for season 2 was what was Bobby going to do that is out of character for him? Now we know. Bobby has, on rare occasions, done some dark things in the origional series. I think JR and Bobby are going to do something much worse than just shooting him. I know that Dallas is a TV show . If someone did something like that to one of my daughters, as what haoppened in the show, I do not know if I could be as restrained as Ann. I am not worried about Ann. As JR said to Frank “…rich people don’t go to jail.”

    John Ross looked at Pamela Rebecca Barnes much differently at the end. It is clear to him and everyone else that she shot and killed someone. I think he is a a little nervous about who he had just gotten into bed with. When John Ross was talking to Sue Ellen about Elana, I saw her expression change. It was if Sue Ellen knew JR had put him up to this. Sue Ellen owes JR a favor and it seemed to be clear to her that calling in the debt and getting those Ewing Energies shares from Elana is the favor JR would like in return.

    The scene with JR and Frank was perfect.

    I have good feelings about Elena’s brother. I think he is going to be cool.

    I thought it was great to have JR reflect back on his life from the outside perspective. He was straight up “ego-surfing” on his tablet.

    • I actually like the Drew character as well. Two reasons. 1) ..it gives Elena more of her own story. I think Jordana is a great actress..she gives more of a low key, but very nuanced performances. Last year she was essentially a supporting chAracter…a ping pong for Chris and John Ross. 2). I think the character brings a different feel to the show. Can’t put my finger on it yet..but he has a more down to earth feel…. Almost like Ray did for the original. I need to re watch it again. ( I also like that he seems to have a positive connection to JRo…don’t know if that will last..but I do like that)

      I think it is very clear that the show was being very careful with Larry/JR. He is essentially a supporting character now. According to an unnamed source in an obscure article, they were worried about giving him too much out of concern for his health. Plus they worried that if he couldn’t work that if he was embroiled in a major storyline ther would be problems. I think we all wish he was involved more, but I understand completely and just am so very appreciative that we get to see him for part of this season. Losing Larry was sad, but we know he lived a long very happy life. Losing JR is going to be hard because I have loved that character for so long…and it will feel like losing both the actor and the character.

      Btw… The Sue Ellen/JRo scene…I think she was aware that he was after her to do something to Elena. Cuz as soon as he started talking about that Elena neglecting her, she put her hand on his shoulder and said ‘vengeance will not mend a broken heart’. When he did give her those puppy dog eyes (lol), she was done for. She was quite willing to steamroll Elena. (Btw…both Linda and Jordana were good )

      • Yes! I’ve often believed Elena is to this “Dallas” was Ray was to the original. The down-to-earth outsider looking in. Good observations, Hel.

        Thanks for your comments.

        CB

    • Great observations, Jump. I need to go back and watch some of the facial expressions you pointed out. Love the term “ego surfing” too.

      Thanks for your comments!

      CB

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Sins of the Father,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Frank (Faran Tahir) enters his darkened home and finds J.R. […]

  2. […] its second season on a new night – Mondays – with 2.9 million viewers. This week’s episode, “Sins of the Father,” dipped to 2.2 million viewers, “Dallas’s” smallest haul yet. The Feb. 4 audience included […]

  3. […] “Dallas” delivered a shocker at the end of “Sins of the Father,” this week’s episode: Ann (Brenda Strong) shot her ex-husband Harris (Mitch Pileggi) and left him […]

  4. […] Brenda Strong believes her “Dallas” character Ann Ewing was in “an altered state” when she shot sadistic ex-husband Harris Ryland at the end of the TNT serial’s most recent episode. […]

  5. […] are the questions we’re pondering as we await tonight’s telecast of “Sins of the Father,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” […]

  6. […] Is Harris dead? At the end of “Sins of the Father,” last week’s installment, Ann (Brenda Strong) learned Harris (Mitch Pileggi) couldn’t be […]

  7. […] second season’s third episode, “Sins of the Father,” was seen by 2.2 million viewers on Feb. 4, but by the end of the week, DVR users had increased the […]

  8. […] him and warned him to stay away from her family. This is why I was so troubled when Ann shot Harris two episodes ago. A punch is one thing, but Harris doesn’t deserve a bullet to the chest. No one […]

  9. […] users who recorded Season 2’s third hour, “Sins of the Father,” and watched it within three days of its premiere boosted the audience to 2.9 million viewers, while […]

  10. […] users who recorded Season 2’s third hour, “Sins of the Father,” and watched it within three days of its premiere boosted the audience to 2.9 million viewers, while […]

  11. […] When will Sue Ellen make her move against Elena? Three episodes ago, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) told Elena (Jordana Brewster) that if she didn’t strike oil on the […]

  12. […] to pay for my sins” line in “The Price You Pay,” while the “masterpiece” bit comes from “Sins of the Father.” “Tip to tail” was memorably heard at the end of “Revelations,” the first-season […]

  13. […] Ann then slugs Harris and hints she’ll shoot him if he doesn’t leave the Ewings alone. She wasn’t kidding, was […]

  14. […] about a shocking twist! In “Sins of the Father,” one of the new “Dallas’s” second-season episodes, Ann discovers her ex-husband Harris […]

  15. […] snatched baby Lucy and brought her to Southfork, where she grew up being fed lies about Val. In “Sins of the Father,” Ann tries to tell Emma her side of the story, but Emma doesn’t want to listen. “This is a waste […]

  16. […] p.m. Drew (Kuno Becker) arrives in “Sins of the Father” — his hair won’t show up for several more episodes — and calls John Ross “J-Ro.” Thank […]

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