Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 39 — ‘Endgame’

Dallas, Endgame, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, TNT, Which Ewing Dies?

Our hero

In “Endgame,” does John Ross go to Mexico to save his company or his mistress? He later tells Emma his rescue mission was strictly business, but I’m not convinced. John Ross seems to genuinely care for her, which makes his decision to take her place as Luis’s hostage seem surprisingly selfless. It brings to mind the occasions when J.R. acted nobly, like the time he rescued his kidnapped son from the clutches of the villainous B.D. Calhoun. I suppose this makes John Ross’s heroics in “Endgame” yet another example of how the poor guy can’t escape Daddy’s shadow. Whenever John Ross does bad, he reminds us of J.R.; now we know the same thing is true when John Ross does good.

Not that our young hero is willing to admit this to anyone, or even to himself. At the beginning of “Endgame,” after Bobby shoots down John Ross’s offer to bypass the CIA and meet with Luis to negotiate Emma’s release, Pamela accuses her estranged husband of using Emma’s rescue as a smokescreen to reclaim Ewing Global from the cartel. Pamela’s words seem to sting John Ross, prompting her to deadpan, “Oh, my God. Have you actually convinced yourself you’re doing it for her?” John Ross quickly regains his composure, flashes his grin and responds, “You know me better than that. The only person I’ve ever cared about is me.”

John Ross might be mocking Pamela’s lack of faith in him, or he could be using his bravado to shield his softer side, something J.R. was known to do too. After all, there are plenty of examples of John Ross demonstrating concern for others, including the scene earlier this season when he sat on Pamela’s hospital bed and poured out his heart to her. Also, consider what happens in “Endgame” after John Ross has defied Bobby and gone to the Mexican house to see Luis. The two men are sitting at the kitchen table, hashing out their deal, when a cartel thug brings Emma into the room. John Ross instantly leaps to his feet and goes toward her, only to have another gunman shove him back into his seat. If John Ross was as self-centered as he claims, would his instincts compel him to go to Emma the moment he spots her?

Regardless of what’s going on inside John Ross’s head and heart, it’s fun to watch Josh Henderson swagger his way through “Endgame,” wearing that cool leather jacket and delivering all the instantly quotable dialogue in Bruce Rasmussen’s script. When John Ross visits the commando-for-hire Walter (more shades of B.D. Calhoun), Walter asks him why he needs his services. John Ross’s crisp response: “In the next couple of days, I’m going to get myself in a very bad situation. I’d like you to come get me out of it.” Henderson also gets to play the tough guy at the end of episode, when the newly freed Emma shares her fear the cartel will kill him. “People may die in this house, but it ain’t gonna be me,” John Ross says. And like every good action hero, Henderson also gets to toss off some one-liners, like this gem about the perpetually in-the-dark Ewings: “We’re slow, but we do figure things out.”

If “Endgame” feels like an action movie version of “Dallas,” I suspect that’s purely intentional. The original show also did action episodes, although many of them drew from “Dallas’s” western traditions, unlike “Endgame,” which is darker and more noirish. The pacing is relentless from the get-go; before the credits even roll, U.S. marshals have stormed Nicolas and Elena’s lake house. The thrills continue when Bobby retrieves Ann from the trunk she’s been stuffed into and when Nicolas makes his getaway in a scramble of minivans, which has the odd effect of making us admire the bad guys’ craftiness. I also like the tension director Millicent Shelton builds when the kidnapped Emma comes so close to passing a note to a neighborhood boy, only to be caught by Luis. (The implication that he then rapes Emma is heartbreaking, although I suspect it will give the wonderful Emma Bell some good material to work with if the show returns next year.)

Shelton balances all the suspense with quiet surprises. I expected the long-awaited meeting of Sue Ellen Ewing and Judith Ryland to be a dramatic showdown between two soap queens, but it turns out to be anything but. In the scene, everyone is nervously awaiting word from Bobby’s visit to the Mexican house when he calls and tells Sue Ellen he’s coming home with Ann — but not Emma. Judith hears this and accuses Bobby of betraying the Rylands by saving “that bitch wife of his,” but instead of spewing venom back at Judith, Sue Ellen tries to comfort her. Linda Gray makes her character’s sympathy palpable, while Judith Light manages to pound the coffee table — and her head — without getting too theatrical. What could have become a moment of camp instead stirs feelings of compassion.

“Endgame’s” biggest surprise of all is how absorbing I find the cartel drama, a storyline I’ve knocked more than once this year. The casting has proven superb, especially Juan Pablo Di Pace as Nicolas and Antonio Jaramillo as Luis. In some scenes, I despise these characters and in others, I feel sympathetic toward them; occasionally, I experience both feelings at the same time. (I also like Carlos Miranda, who does a nice turn as Fernando, the sweet-faced thug whom Emma charms in her bid for freedom.) The “sibling” rivalry between the oh-so-smooth Nicolas and the rough-around-the-edges Luis is another clever touch, and I love how Rasmussen’s script has John Ross play on Luis’s insecurities by comparing his relationship with Nicolas to John Ross’s relationship with Christopher.

It all culminates in “Endgame’s” tense, taut climax, when El Pozolero delivers his blunt description of the cartel: “We are not businessmen who commit crimes. We are criminals who do business.” (Another line about murder being “a wonderful bonding experience” is memorable for the wrong reason.) I also like seeing El Pozolero referring the argument between his squabbling “sons,” which comes off like a parallel universe version of the great scenes where Bobby sits at his desk in the Southfork den, mediating fights between John Ross and Christopher. Watching this scene again yesterday, it struck me: After the events of the next episode, “Brave New World,” we’ll never see Bobby intervene in another clash between the Ewing cousins. How sad is that?

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Emma Bell, Emma Ryland, Endgame, TNT, Which Ewing Dies?

Prisonera

‘ENDGAME’

Season 3, Episode 14

Telecast: September 22, 2014

Audience: 1.72 million viewers on September 22

Writer: Bruce Rasmussen

Director: Millicent Shelton

Synopsis: Bobby asks Luis to release Emma, but Luis frees Ann instead. When Emma tries to escape, Luis rapes her. After the CIA finds Nicolas and takes him into custody, he agrees to lead U.S. marshals to a meeting with El Pozolero at the Mexican house, but once the cartel’s thugs have Nicolas, they ditch the feds. John Ross tells Judith that Harris is working with the CIA, hires a commando squad to secretly follow him to Mexico and then goes to the cartel’s house, where he persuades Luis to sell him the Ewing Global assets in exchange for Emma’s release. After Emma returns Southfork, El Pozolero and Nicolas converge at the house, where Nicolas tries to prove his mettle by pointing a gun at John Ross’s head as Luis pressures him to shoot.

Cast: Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Antonio Jaramillo (Luis), Judith Light (Judith Ryland), Carlos Miranda (Fernando), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Gino Anthony Pesi (George Tatangelo), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Miguel Sandoval (El Pozolero), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Mikal Vega (Walter)

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

Comments

  1. Marilyn Hadey says:

    LIKE I HAD SAID JUST BEFORE, HOPE TO SEE MORE CONCLUSIONS OF DALLAS. THERE NEEDS TO BE SHOWS OF DALLAS WHERE IT WILL LAST FOR THE WHOLE YEAR NOT JUST A COUPLE OF EPISODES. THANKYOU DALLAS PRODUCERS.

  2. Antonio Jaramillo really delivered a solid performance. John Ross got through to Luis on a personal level because they both had to live in the shadow of people “better” than they are. It makes sense for John Ross to go to Mexico because his life is his business and the business is his life. Oh how Happy Pamela was to see Ann instead of Emma. It looks like Pamela is all about business too. Seeing Pamela with Nasir was great I also think it is great that “Dallas” does not stoop down to “abarbsploitation” and instead portrays Arabs as regular as possible in a night time soap opera. I enjoyed the interpersonal body language between the characters displayed on Southfork. It does look clear that Harris Ryland will gain his “redemption” for everything except being guilty of having the utmost craziest mad-whack mother a person could possibly have.

  3. I loved John Ross’s rescue of Emma it was great.

  4. The Season finale of Dallas TNT was superb! To the Executives, Producers, Writers: Please have many episodes, not just 15. This show should last many months with no split
    season. It is is well written, worthy of due respect & the story lines are quite explosive! On the upcoming unholy union of John Ross & “Mama Ryland”, what a great idea! Renew Dallas TNT for Season 4 & beyond. Fans remember to continue emailing comments & support for Dallas TNT to be renewed to: info-tnt@turner.com This is the best show on TNT & make no mistake, the fans have power. Let’s show it. JOB WELL DONE!

  5. Another great episode of Dallas, and also a great critique. I love your critiques,
    Thank you Dallas Decoder!!!

  6. Viewers are tuning out of Dallas TNT precisely because the show is so dark and wretched. Can’t Cidrr invent more compelling TV without so much violence and foul language. This is not entertainment. It is STRESS. Grade D from me.

  7. I am not sure I agree 100% with you, John.
    First, I don’t think the show uses that much foul language. Considering the times we live in, I’d say it’s merely mirroring what’s out there. And there is probably more violence on other TV shows than on Dallas. The displayed violence feels out of place to me too though for a soap, and I find it unnecessary. I’d advocate to use that time of explosions and gun waving for some more character driven plots. I think fires, explosions and people falling from the balcony is gimmicky and doesn’t contribute to a compelling story.
    That’s not saying though that I dislike the show. Not at all. I’d say it needs improvement. But it is still very entertaining. I would not grade it a D. There has to be more problems with a show to give it a D. I give you that though: There is a lot of people out there who are not willing to watch the show. The producers better listen carefully what you dislike. (I have a feeling though that the opinions are all over the place. Not sure how to reconcile all that in one show.)

  8. I thought it was great and the show should be renewed FOR SURE! All of the actors delivered great performances. I’ve always liked John Ross, Sue Ellen, Bobby and Pamela. I think Antonio Jaramillo did a great job in adding depth of character to Luis. They said before this season started that the characters would flip flop (as far as goodness and badness), and he particularly showed this. I started out disliking the character, and ended up feeling empathy for him. I wish they didn’t kill him, because — well, just because. Same with Emma. I disliked the character, but started feeling sympathy for her and her situation. (Her grandmother is so deliciously bad!) I also started to like Harris Ryland more than I did. I liked Pamela, but the girl has some serious issues to deal with (e.g., trust issues with her father)! Two wrongs don’t make a right! Love your critiques, by the way! Vida

  9. The DALLAS Parallels here are exactement C.B. is Miss Ryland getting raped by Luis & the other drug lords, it reminds me of when Little Lucy Ewing was kidnapped & forcefully raped on the original DALLAS:CBS series. I hope you like this comment & I’ll take my J.R. Ewing Bourbon at your house next week straight up!

  10. The biggest improvement I noticed here is the rape of Emma. Unlike that ridiculous threesome which so many defended because the show was just keeping up with the times, they realized they didn’t have to show it for us to know it happened. In this respect it was must more like CBS Dallas.

  11. This show must go on! Dallas is so good ! Love the actions ,actors,the writing ,everything is awesome . Better than the old series . Really don’t get why people doesn’t Watch it !

  12. Garnet McGee says:

    I have such mixed feelings about this episode. It was really well done but I’m prejudiced because it so shortchanged my favorite female character of Pamela. Why are the writers no longer interested in giving her a meaty story? Why are the content to turn her into a supporting player while Emma becomes the lead. I also don’t like the emphasis on the cartel. Was it suspenseful? Yes. Was it well done? Yes. But I would rather see a drama tightly focused on the main characters. Lots of the talk of CIA blackmail, black ops nonsense was boring and tedious to follow. How men scenes of gun toting men do we need on this show? Nicolas deceiving Elena went on entirely too long. I loved Nicolas when he first appeared but then they turned him into a diaphragm poking buffoon. I appreciate that Emma’s rape was implied rather than shown. I would have preferred she not be raped at all but the writer’s like to redeem the female characters through personal trauma. They did it last season when Pamela lost her babies. I encouraged my friends to watch seasons 1 and 2. If a person had never watched Dallas TNT I’m not sure I would encourage them to start..

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