Dallas: Season 4, Episodes 1 – 8
Posted by therebelprince on August 4, 2009
This time around on Dallas, the “Who Shot…?” aftermath, and where do we go from here?
After an early season finale, a lengthy much-hyped summer, and a writers strike delaying the season premiere, Dallas finally returned in late 1980 with “No More Mister Nice Guy”, the episode to resolve the fate of J.R. Ewing after his near-fatal shooting, and to cement Dallas‘ longevity in the eyes of the world. Over four long episodes, the suspects – among them Marilee Stone (Fern Fitzgerald), Alan Beam and Sue Ellen Ewing – attempt to prove their innocence and find different ways out. (It’s the last we’ll see of Alan, who becomes the first of the many one-season characters the show would often resort to; in this case, he skips town voluntarily).
The most fascinating suspect, obviously, is Sue Ellen whose motive combines with her drunken blackout on the night of the shooting. Kristin (Mary Crosby, above) doesn’t help, convincing Sue Ellen that she did indeed shoot her husband, but they’ll cover it up. Linda Gray brings her trademark talent as she becomes the focus during JR’s recovery saga. Ultimately, though, it is revealed that Kristin shot JR, but she has her own trump card: she’s pregnant, apparently with JR’s baby, so he lets her skip town. “Who Done It?” in which Kristin is revealed, broke all sorts of records taking 300 million viewers worldwide, and incidentally bringing Donna Culver (Susan Howard) back to the series full time as a genuine love interest for Ray. It remains one of the most watched episodes of television of all time, and assured the series a long and happy life in syndication; not to mention pop culture.
Was it much of a surprise that Kristin, the only certified evil character and not a main cast member, was the shooter? Not entirely, I daresay. She was certainly the favourite in betting pools, and the series wasn’t about to let go of Bobby, Pamela or Sue Ellen at this point. But it’s a darn good time watching the characters slowly sink into paranoia and doubt. Truly a pop culture moment for the books.
Delightfully, JR spends most of his time trying to prevent Bobby from being a success as acting President of Ewing Oil. These were the last episodes shot before Jim Davis was diagnosed with a blood cancer, and – although it has been remarked often – there is truly a noticeable shift once Jock is gone. His stern presence, and his unique ability to quell JR’s actions, was sorely missed, even if it allowed the next generation to “grow up” and become the characters they needed to be.
Lucy meets med student Mitch (Leigh McCloskey), and they’re quickly in a relationship. Sadly, given that McCloskey is both handsome and talented, the storyline’s initial facets – she’s rich and lazy, he’s poor but determined – are pretty much where these two will be stuck for the next two years. But more on that to come.
Pam returns to work, even as she dislikes Bobby’s devotion to the company, and tries to put off her lust for a child. It’s a storyline that will grow tired over the years, but it does ring true given how idealistic the Bobby of season 1 was.
And after three seasons of feeling underappreciated, Steve Kanaly was finally given a reason to stay on the show. Aside from his blossoming romance with Donna, he also discovers courtesy of his dying, deadbeat dad Amos (William Windom), that his father is none other than Jock Ewing. It’s a storyline that had been brewing in the writers’ minds for a couple of seasons, and finally comes to fruition here. It’ll lead to some great moments between Ray and the family, and will thankfully be handled well throughout the series run.
Meanwhile, Cliff Barnes is slowly (ever so slowly) tied into the main plot, as his stake in Ewing field 23 is put in jeopardy after an extortion attempt, over which the brothers Ewing come to blows.
This season feels a lot more soap opera than those which came before, but it’s also very solidly written and really no surprise that audiences tuned in in droves this season. On the other hand, wouldn’t it have been interesting if the “Who Shot JR?” resolution had a “Who Shot Dale Cooper?” effect, and people simply tuned out? I doubt Dallas would remain a household word had it ended after four seasons…
* It’s nice to see Gary Ewing again, crossing over for the first of many times from “Knot’s Landing”.
* I take Mary Crosby’s remarks that she happily left the series with a grain of salt. I mean, undoubtedly Kristin didn’t have the same staying power as some other Dallas villainesses – think Katherine Wentworth – but I can’t imagine anyone would be overjoyed to leave the number 1 series on TV just as it hit the peak?
* “Falcon Crest” premiered this year, the first of several Dallas imitators who would mostly enjoy long runs alongside the mothershow.
* We meet Punk Anderson, Jock’s close friend played by the wonderful Morgan Woodward; and young Tyler Banks steps into the role of baby John Ross Ewing.