‘Dallas’ Season 2 Premiere: The Bittersweet Wit and Wisdom of J.R., Passing the Torch From Father to Son

Larry Hagman in Season 2 of "Dallas" (Skip Bolen/TNT)

The death of Larry Hagman hangs over this season of “Dallas“, to paraphrase a quip from the premiere, like mistletoe. Before the episode starts, the cast appears as themselves to acknowledge that this will be both a bittersweet viewing experience and exactly the way Hagman would want to be remembered. So let’s all drink a glass of bourbon and toast a TV legend who went out on top. Though it certainly was not the producers’ original intent, the first two episodes make a strong case that the show can survive without J.R. Ewing. Josh Henderson has turned John Ross into a viable heir to the Magnificent Bastard throne. Harrison (Mitch Pileggi) is a nasty piece of work for the Baby Boomer generation. Though this is a show with male protagonists, the women have brains, backbones, and careers. It’s better plotted and more fun than this season of “Revenge.” I’d like to think that Hagman was grinning when he watched from heaven. Study his final words of wisdom, with a few assists from John Ross. This is your last opportunity to learn from the master.

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“You know how they say men make up for their manhoood by buying fast cars? Well that goes double for diamonds.”- John Ross

Those were John Ross’s words to a bachelorette at her party when she flashed her five karat ring. She was wearing a ridiculous apron with a list of “dares” written on it in magic marker. He added “french kissing” to the list, a term most of us stopped using after middle school. But both John Ross and the bride-to-be are immature. He not only kisses her, but gets her into bed. If it was that easy, she really must be marrying the guy for the ring. She tells him to leave through the back so her dad won’t see. Instead, he walks right into the man’s study, announces he has a video of his sexy night and will keep it quiet provided the guy sells his trucking company to Ewing. That is one deliciously screwed up scheme. Of course, it was J.R.’s idea. So beware of the next good looking sweet talker who approaches you. He has a hidden agenda.

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“Darling, I’m only going to say this once, and I’m going to deny it the minute I leave this room. But the best decision you ever made was the minute you walked away from me.”J.R.

That’s what J.R. tells Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) when she has a vulnerable moment after the coroner she bribed last season tells the media his story. He’s in Harrison’s pocket, of course. Earlier, he told Ann (Brenda Strong) that he found their missing daughter. He will tell her where she is if she gives him the tape of him admitting he was going to blackmail Sue Ellen into doing his bidding if she were elected governor. She acquiesces, and gets a reluctant Sue Ellen to hand over the tape. We finally get the full story of what happened. Twenty two years ago she had a daughter named Emma. She was kidnapped at the state fair. When Ann is reunited with Emma, Emma wants nothing to do with her. It turns out that Harrison staged the kidnapping with his mother, and raised the girl in London. She now thinks Ann is Saran. In the strangest twist of the night, Harrison”s mother is the same age as him. That’s not a joke. Judith Light plays the role. She is 63. Pileggi is 60. They look like they should be lovers, not mother and son. Light’s a great actress, but what the hell?

In any case, once Harrison has the tape, the doctor comes forward two days before the election. The Texas Attorney General plans to indict her. Her campaign seems dead. Despondent, Sue Ellen pours herself a glass of wine. Fans of the original show know she is an alcoholic. Fortunately, J.R. shows up in the nick of time and gives her a surprisingly touching pep talk, praising everything she has accomplished since she left him. Then he blackmails the Attorney General, who had a tryst in a golf course hospitality tent, into dropping the charges. Afterward, she invites him in for tea. The lesson is that sincerity combined with an attack on your true love’s enemy is the way to her heart.

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“You ain’t the first Pam to fox her way into the hen house. I’m one-for-one on flushing out Pamelas, and I plan to be two-for-two.” – J.R.

That was what J.R. said when he confronted the erstwhile Rebecca Sutton after learning that she is really Pamela Barnes (Julie Gonzalo). It was an awesome calback to his hatred of the O.G. Pamela, Bobby’s wife. Now that she is not pretending to be naive, Pamela is awesome. She is wheeling and dealing just like the big boys. She makes a dramatic entrance, which she announces in the dialogue will be a dramatic entrance, by reintroducing herself to Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) and Bobby (Patrick Duffy) at Barnes headquarters. She makes it clear that that she will not grant Christopher an annullment and plans to fight him for custody of their yet unborn twins. John Ross proposes they forge an alliance of People who Hate Christopher. He’s managed to get the real Becky Sutton, who has agreed to testify on Christopher’s behalf in exchange for him promising not to press charges against Tommy, on their side. At the hearing, she claims that she can’t back up any of Christopher’s claims. She is motivated by a big back of cash. The judge rules that, since Christopher knew Rebecca was conning him — although not the nature of the con — and forgave her, they need a divorce, not an annulment, Pamela’s real angle is to get a piece of Ewing Energy, which was founded when she was married to him. That dovetails with John Ross’s desire to wrest control from Bobby and Christopher, who together own 60 percent of the company. (By the end of the episode, Elena has become an equal partner, theoretically giving him a little more power.)¬† J.R. pays her a visit just to rattle her cage and let her know that he hates her every bit as much as he hated the woman she is named after. It is awesome. The lesson: put your enemies on notice. It will make them nervous. Nervous people make mistakes.

“I’m not that good of a reader.” – John Ross

Obviously not, John Ross. Otherwise you would say that you are not that good at reading, or that you do not read very well. But that’s what he told Pamela as part of his seduction technique. Pamela is unaware that Cliff’s henchman Frank, threatened by her increasing power, has sent Christopher Tommy’s cellphone which features voicemails from Pamela threatening Tommy for Becky. There’s another voicemail of Becky revealing she was in on the scheme. Christopher now has the ammo he needs to get Becky to recant her testimony. But she thinks she is in the driver’s seat when she summons John Ross to her apartment. He awkwardly and hilariously quotes The Great Gatsby, saying she reminds him of Gatsby staring at the green lights. Well, except that in this scenario Frank is Gatsby, the striver from the wrong side of the tracks who is willing to break the law to get ahead. Pamela is more like Jordan. John Ross probably just read the Cliff¬† (Barnes) Notes. She offers him 50 percent of her future Ewing shares in exchange for the methane patent. He wants 100. They haggle then kiss. They settle on 70. Then says he’d have taken 50. thanks her for her generosity and walks out. He starts down in the elevator, but she calls it back up. They have sex. They are so much hotter and more interesting then Christopher and Elena already. The lesson: quoting literature will get you laid.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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