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Monday, March 11, 2013

Dallas 2.8: The Death of J. R.

Dallas 2.8 put in a powerful show tonight on the death and funeral of J. R. Ewing, which brought a tear or two to even these cynical eyes.  That's no doubt because J. R.'s death as a development in the narrative was mandated by the sudden death of Larry Hagman last November, so the end of J. R. was more than the end of an iconic character.   The real death of Larry Hagman is also no doubt what brought out great performances from Linda Gray as Sue Ellen and Patrick Duffy as Bobby.  They were grieving for their close friend and colleague, whose fine work was crucial in propelling all three to decades of fame.

But the narrative tonight was also well written.  Most effective was the impact of J. R.'s death on Bobby.  When Annie asks him to talk to her, to share his feelings with her, he lashes out about how she never told him anything about her life, in particular, that she had a daughter.   It's clear that what Bobby is really upset about is how J. R. left Bobby out of J. R.'s most inner wheelings and dealings for years.  Patrick Duffy puts in another fine performance here, as does Brenda Strong as Ann.

Sue Ellen, predictably but powerfully, is driven to drink by J. R.'s death.  When she reads J. R.'s letter which asks her for one more chance, there's again a connection to a deeper reality - the producers of Dallas, I hear, were seriously thinking of getting J. R. and Sue Ellen back together, which would have been satisfying in a decades-long way.

Bobby won't be left out of finding out who killed J. R., because J. R. left Bobby a letter to get him started.  Tonight, J. R. leaves John Ross and Christopher out in the cold, as J. R. did so often to Bobby, but it's likely that that won't last too long.

Ray, Lucy, another J. R. wife, and one his mistresses were back tonight too, which added some good nostalgic depth to the episode.   Gary came home last week and was on again tonight.  He'll likely continue on the show, which is good.  I enjoyed Dallas last year, and I'm betting the show would have gotten even better had Larry Hagman and therefore J. R. lived.  But there's no doubt that J. R.'s murder has jumpstarted the revived series to a new, higher level, not least because it retrieves the classic "who shot J. R." motif from the original series.   So the new series will likely be better, at least this year, because of J. R.'s death.  But I'm still feeling bad that it had to take the death of Larry Hagman to do this.   Rest in peace, you created a character who will live on long after you.

And see also The New Dallas: An Outright Pleasure and New Dallas One Season One Evaluation

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