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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dallas Honors "Legacies"

The second season of TNT's Dallas draws to a close this week with two fresh hours, "Guilt By Association" and "Legacies." We finally find out what J.R.'s (Larry Hagman) master plan is, and, when the Ewings unite, Cliff (Ken Kercheval) and Harris (Mitch Pileggi) are taken down for good. Or are they?

For a show like Dallas, the rules must constantly change, new secrets are continuously revealed, and the players that lose one battle will return for another stage in the war. Cliff and Harris are heavily involved with the Ewing family, and thus will probably get the chance to fight another day. If Dallas is renewed, which it has not been yet.

What J.R.'s murder comes down to is that no one could ever take down J.R. except J.R. himself. It's a brilliant twist. Many might believe Cliff is responsible right up until the moment Cliff is arrested, after which it quickly becomes obvious that he is not. Cliff is the only acceptable character who could commit the act, given his long history with J.R., but there is something deeply satisfying in J.R. being the one to sacrifice himself.

For one thing, this means that no one can best J.R. Part of the draw of Dallas is that J.R. must always continue. People can come after him again and again, and yet he always survives and gets his revenge. For anyone, even Cliff, to succeed in killing him would tarnish his "Legacies" just a bit, so it's good that J.R. is the instrument of his own destruction. The character, by necessity is gone, but that doesn't mean his influence is.

For another thing, J.R. orchestrating his own death is an act of love. It's also an act of vengeance, of course, getting even with Cliff for all that Cliff has done to the family. But it proves that J.R. cares about Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and John Ross (Josh Henderson) in that he uses his final days to help them. It's a true testament that there is a heart deep within J.R., which is how the character's death has been dealt with. We feel this in the scene by the graveside, where J.R.'s letter is read, and John Ross forgives Bum (Kevin Page) for pulling the trigger, at J.R.'s insistence. It's the best moment in the finale.

Not that the victory against Cliff is final. The Ewings have their reasons to let Cliff take the fall for something he didn't do, and his own daughter, Pamela (Julie Gonzalo), also hates him for killing her babies, so even should she learn the truth, she probably won't work to clear Cliff's name. These people are content to let Cliff rot.

However, Cliff reaches out to Elena (Jordana Brewster) after Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) abandons her. In Elena's grief, she is susceptible to Cliff's influence, believing that J.R. screwed her family. Whether J.R. is guilty or not is immaterial; Since Elena thinks that Christopher discarded her, even though he returns too late to confess his love, she may be willing to wage war against the Ewings. What she doesn't realize, or doesn't care about at this time, is that she will be Cliff's pawn in doing so.

Cliff, like J.R., is a very dangerous enemy. He doesn't mind betraying those he loves to get his way. For him, winning is a singular focus. It's why, should Dallas go on, he will rise again and have another crack at the Ewings. He simply has to.

Harris's fate is less certain. Emma (Emma Bell) has reason to hate her father, and reason to betray him. Harris isn't shown in "Guilt By Association" or "Legacies" to have anyone pulling for his side now. He has even run off his own mother (Judith Light). Alone and abandoned in jail, this could be the end of Harris's story. At least until Dallas needs an old foe to dust off in a couple of years, and then he is fair game.

The villain for now, though, is John Ross. When John Ross's mother, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), asks him to treat new wife Pamela right, he smirks, and promptly runs off to sleep with Emma. John Ross doesn't care about Pamela or Emma; he is using both to get what they want. But since they are both women with money and influence, he could wind up regretting his actions when they learn the truth, as they inevitably will, and take it out on the Ewing clan.

Could John Ross be a worthy successor to J.R.? Is there reason for Dallas to continue past "Legacies?" I think so on the second question, am less confident on the first. Henderson plays a great character in his own right, but no one will ever replace J.R. Dallas can still continue, forging a new path. As long as John Ross doesn't try to morph into his departed father completely. But there are still stories to tell involving Pamela and Emma in regards to John Ross, and I still am not sure that the elder Pamela Barnes is dead, which could make for another season of intrigue.

Dallas has aired all of its produced episodes, and now awaits news of renewal from TNT.

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