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Saturday, March 1, 2014

"The Return" of DALLAS

Article first published as "The Return" of DALLAS on TheTVKing.

TNT's Dallas reboot began its third season this week with "The Return." Picking up twelve hours after season two ended, the characters and situations are pretty much static to how they were left. Which is fine because, on this show, no one is ever done with their secrets and betrayals. More come to light, some are furthered along, alliances begin to fray or shift, and we're right back into the soapy mess of Dallas.

The spectre of JR certainly hangs over the series and always will, long after JR and portrayer Larry Hagman's deaths. Sometimes this is obvious, such as a large picture of the deceased hanging at the offices of the newly-named Ewing Global, or frequent mentions of him in battles of wills between the cast. Other times are more subtle, such as we see a flash of JR in his son, John Ross' (Josh Henderson), face or belt buckle. JR will never be forgotten, he'll always be missed, but the show must go on, and so it does.

A large part of the newest chapter of the story involves the struggle over the future of Ewing Energies. John Ross secures a deal with Ryland Transportation after sleeping with Emma (Emma Bell), but her father, Harris (Mitch Pileggi), is soon out of jail, and so that arrangement surely won't last. John Ross also has a plan to raise come capital, but Bobby (Patrick Duffy) shoots it down, wanting to protect the land around Southfork. Then there's Cliff's (Ken Kercheval) proxy, who joins the meetings to prevent any big changes to the company. So it's a rocky situation that just gets more and more out of control as it goes on.

Because of the ever-shifting relationships and frequent surprises, one never knows in which direction Dallas will go. A lot happens throughout "The Return" to change things over and over again, with the preceding paragraph just mentioning a few of those. Drama drives the show, and there's plenty of that, with more constantly being thrown in to power the engine.

Elena (Jordana Brewster) is the biggest unknown this year. She is still pretending to be the sweet girl the Ewings know, but might she destroy them, having the inside knowledge and access? It seems she could be very dangerous if she really wants to be.

It does seem like "The Return" tries to set up a Bobby / John Ross dynamic that harkens back to the Bobby / JR relationship. It doesn't quite land, though. It may be that the two just are not equals, whether you think Bobby is too smart and experienced to fall for John Ross's stunts, or Bobby is too old to keep up with the younger John Ross' ruthlessness. I understand why Bobby is chosen for this role now, rather than Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), who has his own story, and isn't currently rising to the level of the other two. But for any lasting chemistry to be established, Christopher will have to fill the Bobby spot in the pairing, rather than using Bobby himself.

Which is not an argument to take Duffy off the show. I really like his character. He just needs to be set up against someone other than John Ross. Maybe Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) could be a worthy foe for awhile? Or maybe the family could finally unite and go against only outside forces, like Ryland and Cliff? One thing is certain, whoever the enemy is will always change from week to week and season to season, so any of these arrangements would probably be temporary.

The boys often rule Dallas so it's nice to see the girls get a chance to shine. There's a fantastic scene in "The Return" where Emma, Pamela (Julie Gonzalo), Ann (Brenda Strong), and Sue Ellen are wedding planning. There's plenty of tension, as Pamela doesn't know that Emma is sleeping with John Ross, yet there's also some affection between the older women and the younger ones. This is a more subtle scene than the conflict the males often bring, but one appreciated nonetheless.

At times, "The Return" gets a little too soapy. Characters don't act as we expect them to. For instance, who would have thought that Elena would ever be able to go evil, no matter what happens? Or Bobby would get so darn angry over minor infractions, rather than building up to a fervor? I do feel like this has markedly gotten worse in the third season than in the previous two. But it's still an enjoyable show, and it has a ways to fall before I stop watching it.

Dallas airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.

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