Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 122 — ‘Legacy’

Ben Piazza, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Legacy, Walt Driscoll

Into darkness

“Legacy” opens with Pam, having decided to separate from Bobby, packing up her Porsche and driving away with little Christopher. It’s a landmark moment in the life of the series. “Digger’s Daughter” shows Bobby and Pam arriving at Southfork as newlyweds, and now she has spent her last night under that roof as his wife. Soon the couple will be divorced, and even though they’ll eventually remarry and Pam will return to the ranch, things will never quite be the same. I know some fans welcome the changes that Bobby and Pam’s split herald, but as far as I’m concerned, a little bit of the old “Dallas” magic dies the moment she pulls out of that driveway.

Pam’s decision to leave is triggered by the death of her mother Rebecca, whose will reading delivers this episode’s other monumental moment. The Wentworth empire, which Rebecca inherited from her late husband Herbert, is divided among her three children, Cliff, Pam and Katherine. The “Dallas” writers make this division mighty complicated — Cliff gets Barnes-Wentworth Oil, Pam and Katherine split their mother’s shares in Wentworth Industries and all three siblings become equal partners in Wentworth Tool and Die — but no matter. What’s important is that Cliff and Pam are now rich, forever changing the original “Dallas” dynamic of the have-not Barneses versus the wealthy, wanton Ewings. It’s also worth noting that the collection of companies that Rebecca leaves behind becomes the basis for Barnes Global, the conglomerate that Cliff uses as his weapon to bludgeon the Ewings during the second season of TNT’s “Dallas.”

Beyond these turning points, “Legacy” offers some unusually nifty camerawork. This is the fifth episode directed by Patrick Duffy, who once again demonstrates a flair for visual storytelling. Two of my favorite shots are found in the sequence where J.R. and Walt Driscoll meet after hours at Ewing Oil. Duffy positions the camera behind the reception desk as Driscoll arrives and steps off the elevator, a unique angle that, as far as I can remember, is never repeated. Moments later, J.R. stands in the foreground, shrouded in darkness, as Driscoll sits behind him, counting the money from their crooked oil deal. The shot makes Larry Hagman look utterly sinister.

I also admire Duffy’s inventive approach in the opening scene. After Pam’s Porsche pulls out of the driveway, Duffy pans the camera upward to reveal J.R. watching from the balcony. We rarely see the Ewings up there — the shot of J.R. gazing at Kristin’s dead body in the swimming pool in “Ewing-Gate” is a notable exception — so it’s neat to see Duffy put this part of the Southfork set to use. (Perhaps the “Dallas” actors are particularly attuned to this sort of thing: When Hagman directed the third-season episode “Mother of the Year,” he showed Lucy sliding down the Southfork bannister — the first time we see someone descend those famous stairs in that manner.) The “Legacy” shot of J.R. on the balcony also reminds us that he was hovering in the shadows the last time Pam left Bobby, at the end of “The Red File, Part 1” a second-season classic.

Scriptwriter Robert Sherman doesn’t deliver many new insights into the characters, but he does a nice of reinforcing what we’ve come to expect from them. I especially like the scene where J.R. paces on the patio, ranting about the outcome of Rebecca’s will reading. It’s always fun to hear J.R. insult Cliff — in this scene, he calls him a “lunatic” and predicts he’ll now be free to do “any fool thing” he wishes — but beyond the humor, the scene allows Sue Ellen to once again serve as J.R.’s confidant. Ever since the state revoked his permission to pump extra oil, J.R. has publicly declared the loss is no big deal. Here, he tells his wife the truth: “I’m in trouble.” It’s nice to see J.R. treat Sue Ellen as a partner — and that’s how she seems to think of herself too. Notice how she asks him, “Are you afraid we’re going to lose?”

Another good scene: Sue Ellen tells Clayton she’s upset that he’s seeing Miss Ellie. “I thought you were my friend,” she says. This prompts Clayton to confess that he was once in love with Sue Ellen, but since growing close to Ellie, he realizes Sue Ellen isn’t the woman for him. “Clayton, I just don’t understand,” she says. His response: “Not then, and not now.” This dialogue makes Sue Ellen seem a bit more self-absorbed than she was when Clayton was secretly pining for her at the end of the fifth season, but Linda Gray manages to make her character sympathetic nonetheless.

The other highlight of “Legacy” is the scene where Lucy and Muriel pull Mickey out of the Braddock saloon after a thuggish cowboy punches out his lights. The next time we see Mickey and Lucy, he’s waking up in his car with his head on her shoulder. It’s a charming moment and the first time we’ve seen the troubled Lucy demonstrate her growing affection for him. More than anything, I like seeing a woman coming to a man’s rescue on “Dallas,” which marks a real departure for a show with chauvinistic tendencies. Of course, I know before all is said done, Mickey will end up rescuing Lucy. Or maybe he already has.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Mickey Trotter, Timothy Patrick Murphy

Cold shoulder no more

‘LEGACY’

Season 6, Episode 19

Airdate: February 18, 1983

Audience: 21.5 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Robert Sherman

Director: Patrick Duffy

Synopsis: Pam takes Christopher and moves into a hotel. Cliff inherits Barnes-Wentworth Oil from Rebecca, while ownership of Wentworth Tool and Die is split evenly among Cliff, Pam and Katherine. J.R., fearing Bobby and the newly wealthy Pam will reunite and join forces against him, offers to end the contest for Ewing Oil, but Bobby refuses. J.R. is forced to sell some of his gas stations and completes his first illegal shipment to Cuba. Clayton tells Sue Ellen he once loved her but now realizes she wasn’t the right woman for him. Lucy rescues Mickey from a bar brawl.

Cast: Mary Armstrong (Louise), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), J.P. Bumstead (Horace), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Karlene Crockett (Muriel Gillis), Michael Currie (Sam Reynolds), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Chuck Hicks (bar patron), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Kenneth Kimmins (Thornton McLeish), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Ben Piazza (Walt Driscoll), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Tom Rosqui (Teddy), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Bill Zuckert (Bill)

“Legacy” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. OMG…when I saw this episode, I died at the car seat that Christopher was in! We’re come a long way in 30 years!

  2. You know – as for the scene with Sue Ellen and Clayton, I admit I hated the way he is treating her. I understand he was heartbroken when she didn’t return his feelings and went back to JR, and that he wasn’t ready to do her the favor of helping JR with the oil refinery – but how does that give him the right to put on such a self-righteous attitude? He acted as if Sue Ellen had played some dirty tricks on him, lied to him, cheated on him – but she has always been honest with him. When she had asked him about that refinery, she hadn’t played any games. She had frankly and honestly told him that she wanted to help JR. If Clayton really was her friend, his reply would have been something like: “I would do anything for you, Sue Ellen, but I won’t help JR. Sorry, but that’s all I can tell you.” I honestly can’t see why it was necessary for him to create such a drama out of it, feel betrayed. I’m not getting it.
    In this particular scene at Southfork, he tells Sue Ellen he discovered some qualities in Miss Ellie “I thought you had”. This is like a slap in Sue Ellen’s face. It’s so smug, so arrogant, like “Forget it, there’s no use trying to explain anything to you, you’re too dumb anyway. And I thought you were a decent person, but you aren’t. You aren’t even worth for me talking to you any longer.”
    I don’t know if this impression was intended by the script writers, but that’s the way it got across, at least to me. Clayton appears vindictive and small-minded in this scene. I feel bad for Sue Ellen. She didn’t deserve this.

    • I love your feedback, Balena. My impression of this scene is that it makes Sue Ellen seem more self-absorbed than she was when Clayton was pining for her. She wasn’t that oblivious during those episodes, was she?

      • Hmmmm… I’m not so sure, because at that time I think she was so happy to have Clayton as a dear friend, someone to confide in and rely on, that she was just not open for the idea Clayton might see anything different in their friendship than she did. Oblivious, maybe, but I think that was due to her emotional state at that time.
        I’ve always liked Clayton for respecting her feelings and trying to understand her, which is why I think his behaviour in this scene is so unfair and out of character.
        Or maybe I’ve seen Clayton as a “nicer” character than he actually was. This is one of the eps I haven’t seen in 30 years, if I’ve seen it at all… I have missed some. And some scenes were cut by German TV. 😦

    • Dan in WI says:

      I really don’t think Clayton was intentionally being condescending to Sue Ellen though it is possible some condenscencion crept in unintentionally. Nor do I feel Clayton thought Sue Ellen did him any kind of wrong. I see this as more along the lines of sheer and utter frustration. Like most of the world Clayton sees JR for what he is. So when you have a dear friend and would be lover not only fall for JR but fall for him a second time and go back to him how can you not be frustrated. We’ve all had a friend who mistakenly falls for the wrong person. While there are many who think JR and Sue Ellen are truly meant for each other Clayton will never fall in that camp. He just sees someone very important to him making a very big mistake and fears for what will happen to that friend as a result.

  3. Garnet McGee says:

    We have seen Sue Ellen become a more compassionate less selfish person. Why does she still want to stay with JR? She knows he is the kind of man who would gloat about his brother’s pain. At one time she would have too but not longer. It doesn’t make sense for her character to want to stay with him. I understand that she still loves him and wants a united family but it no longer fits her personality. The Katherine character is annoying. She seems like a character from Days of Our Lives not Dallas. The way she is written is too soapy. She would be better suited for one of the trashier night time soaps but does not belong on this show which seems more grounded in reality than that. The sweet scenes between Mickey and Lucy and Ellie and Clayton are more to my taste.

  4. Katherine & Pam should have been left say 51% of everything Cliff got to. In this way, they could have acted as a check on him. It was wrong to give an unproven 2nd rate lawyer total ctrl. of an oil company. Unlike J.R. & Bobby who had to earn their Ewing stripes at Ewing Oil for their shares, Cliff was given “carte blanche” to go wild & unchecked. Remember he stole money & assets from his mama Rebecca when she was alive, it seems II me her being dead lets him do even worse.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Legacy,” a sixth-season “Dallas” episode, Sue Ellen sits alone at the breakfast table on the Southfork […]

  2. […] The real breaking point came during the middle of “Dallas’s” sixth season, when Pam left Bobby because she felt he was too preoccupied with his fight for control of Ewing Oil. This […]

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