‘Dallas’ Finale: Who Killed J.R.? (Hint: It’s Not Who You Think)

"Dallas" (TNT)

Everyone wondered if “Dallas” could survive J.R.’s death. The epic, satisfying, downright fun finale serves as the show’s argument that a third season is not only a possibility but a necessity. As the writers had no idea whether the show would be back, the two-hour episode wraps up enough stories that it could serve as a series finale and cements the legacy of J.R. But it also has several juicy cliffhangers that will propel the show forward. With any luck, this show will be on long enough that John Ross and Pamela truly become the new J.R. and Sue Ellen.

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“I always dreamed my wedding ring would come from a gumball machine.” – Pamela to John Ross

The episode opens with John Ross (Josh Henderson) and Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) flying home from their Vegas wedding on the Barnes jet. She is wearing a giant costume jewelry ring that is not much uglier than a lot of the other fashions on this show. A strategic marriage in which the couple actually is in love is the best kind of soap opera plot. Cliff (Ken Kercheval) interrupts their almost honeymoon by phoning Pamela to announce that he is getting the ultimate payback for what Jock did to Digger. In other words, something that happened long before she was born. I’m sure she’s thrilled to sacrifice her babies for the cause. The newlyweds check Cliff’s flight manifest and learn he flew to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico where J.R. died. John Ross phones Bobby (Patrick Duffy) to tell him that Cliff killed his dad. Of course, there’s no way that the shooter would be revealed this early in the finale, but John Ross is only the sharpest tool in the drawer because the other tool is Christopher. Bobby tells Bum it’s time to put the plan in motion. Bring on J.R.’s Masterpiece!

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Step one is Pamela planting J.R.’s comically large initial belt buckle on Cliff. It’s a copy because the real belt buckle went missing from the crime scene. While John Ross and Pamela are proving that the couple that frames together stays together they plant it, she finds Cliff’s mom’s engagement ring. John Ross vows to buy her the best ring ever when the plan is complete.

“Just a little something I learned from J.R. If you can’t count on someone to do the right thing, don’t give them the choice.”
Sue Ellen to Ken

Sue Ellen (Linda Grey) tracks down Ken in the Cayman Islands. She wants evidence of the TESHA cover up. He explains that his son founded a tech company that was dumping toxic chemicals. He sat on the report and the governor has been blackmailing him ever since. She says if he doesn’t give her proof and trust that she will protect him, she will expose him herself.Sue Ellen hands the governor the original TESHA report on the rig explosion which has proof of sabotage.  The governor snarks, “Ken should known you can never trust a drunk.” She says he’s the one who needs a drink. Because now he is going to do what she wants. She tells him, “Let’s discuss eminent domain.”

“I’m exactly my father’s daughter.” — Emma to Harris

Emma (Emma Bell) moves back in with Harris (Mitch Pileggi) , telling him that he was right about Ann. She wants to avoid rehab, But this too is part of the plan. Emma drugs Harris with whatever the hell she is on and steals a notebook in which he has conveniently recorded all of his drug transactions with the cartel. Harris is pretty stupid not to keep that data in an encrypted file. He’s no Walter White. She hands the book to the Ewings, who make sure Harris is arrested for trafficking, just as J.R. planned. Emma visits him in jail. She says this is the real her. “I’m exactly my father’s daughter.”

Drew Accidentally Helps J.R.

Drew tracks down Harris’s henchman Roy, then proves he has Ewing moves by setting him up to be busted with drugs and a gun. The bad guys are pretty stupid this episode.Drew then phones Bobby to inform him that Roy Vickers has been arrested for possession of the same narcotics that Harris has been transporting. Apparently the high heeled shoes are made of pressurized cocaine. I wonder if they are wearable. Bobby tells Drew to turn himself in. Drew tells him to tell Christopher he is sorry for killing his unborn children and rides off into the sunset because the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison is unappealing.Christopher learns that Elena has been in touch with Drew all along and breaks up with her because he feels that he can no longer trust her.

Pamela visits Roy in jail. He confirms that Cliff knew she was on the rig when he ordered the explosion. Cliff continues his murdering ways by having Roy shanked. Unlike Harris, he is Walter White.

“I mourned Pam a long time ago.” – Bobby

Victoria Principal should not have announced that she had no interest in playing Pam again. The show took her seriously. Christopher tracks down her former surgeon Dr. David Gordon in Zurich. After some attempted subterfuge, he reveals that Pam ran away from Dallas because she thought she was hideously disfigured. He did what he could to help her. When he was almost done with the surgeries she found out she was dying of pancreatic cancer. He took her to Abu Dhabi for experimental treatment that didn’t work. She died before she could return to Dallas to say goodbye. Cliff found out that Christopher would get a third of Barnes if Pam died so he paid David off to keep Pam’s death a secret. Not only is Cliff a bastard for letting his nephew think that his mother abandoned him, but David is the least ethical doctor ever. Karina gives him Pam’s will, passing all of her shares to Christopher. Christopher learned his mom’s biggest regret was not seeing him again. Maybe she should have trusted that her family would still lover her even if she looked different. When Christopher share the news of Pam’s death with the rest of the Ewings, Bobby brushes it off, saying he mourned her a long time ago, It’s a rare false not for this show. Bobby should have hoped she was alive, even if he didn’t want to reconcile with her.She was the love of his life.

Who killed J.R.” – Cliff to Bobby. “You’ll never know, Cliff.”

Now the the Ewings have all their ducks in a row financially, Bobby shows them J.R.’s letter. Cliff got to Mexico before J.R. could finish his plan. He has Cliff’s gun in a box, which Pamela recognizes. Carlos bought Cliffs’s gun from the cartel. J.R. wanted Cliff to think he got away with it before he got arrested. Pamela offers to get her dad to Mexico to avoid the difficulty of having him extradited. Pam tells Cliff that she wants to build a casino in Nuevo Laredo. She plants the gun in his limo. The cops find the buckle in Cliff’s safe deposit box. The cops exhume J.R.’s body which is morbid. The CSIs prove he was shot with Cliff’s gun.

The Ewings show up in Cliff and Pamela’s hotel room to confront him. Christopher informs him he is now one third owner of Barnes. Pam adds she married John Ross. Cliff is now the minority owner of his own company, The Ewings control both Barnes and Ewing. The cops show up to arrest him.. Cliff claims the gun was stolen from him weeks before J.R.’s death and that he was in Cabo not Nuevo Laredo. He has been framed. He insists he didn’t kill J.R.

Bobby visits him in prison. He tells him the feud is over, He can’t hurt his family anymore. But if Cliff admits to blowing up the rig, conspiring with Harris, and having Roy killed, Bobby will help him. Cliff says he has never done anything the Ewings asked him to do and he’s not going to start today. Cliff asks, “Who killed J.R.?” Bobby says, “You’ll never know Cliff.”

“The only person that could take down J.R. was J.R.” — John Ross

At J.R.’s grave, John Ross and Christopher demand to know what really happened to J.R. and about the whole master scheme. Bobby reads his final letter. J.R. was dying of cancer. That’s a great nod to Larry Hagman’s  illness, but with both J.R. and Pam dying of it, maybe the rest of the family needs to get some genetic testing. J.R. wanted Bobby to put an end to the feud. He had Bum steal Cliff’s gun and use it to kill him just to frame Cliff. That is hardcore, and utterly in character. J.R. would consider it a waste to die of natural causes. Plus, nobody knew more about getting shot. J.R’s final words to Bobby were moving: “My jealousy, as powerful as it was, was nothing compared to my love for you.” Bum tearfully tells them, “J.R.’s last ac was an act of love for his family.” J.R.’s gravestone gets the last word: “The only deal he ever lost.” since he orchestrated his own death, he didn’t actually lose.

Cliff’s Final Move

J.R. underestimated Cliff. From prison in Mexico, he has his lawyer send Elena (Jordanna Brewster)land deeds. She takes the bait and visits him. Half this episode takes place in jail. Cliff tells her that JR paid someone in the records office to switch his land deed with her father’s. J.R. stole the oil rich land, while her father was stuck with a dry plot. He wants Elena to be his proxy and make the Ewings pay. Next season will be all about the Ramos versus Ewings feud. Elena has a few moves of her own. She pays a visit to her childhood Joaquin who lives in a compound surrounded by armed guards. It looks like Harrison isn’t the only one with ties to a drug cartel.It took two seasons, but Elena has finally done something interesting.

“Don’t Tell My Wife.” – John Ross

The Ewings celebrate getting their company back installing an ugly portrait of J.R.in the office. Sue Ellen gives John Ross some good advice about treating Pamela right because it;s difficult to be an Ewing wife. Then she disappears with a bottle of J.R.’s bourbon. John Ross buys flowers. But they aren’t for Pamela. They’re for Emma, who has brought him some more of Harris’s files. They have sex! I was furious with him, because I love his relationship with Pamela. But if he truly is the new J.R., he can’t be too faithful. Pamela and Emma represent the two sides of Sue Ellen: savvy, battle scarred business woman and addict. John Ross, you are truly your father’s son, from tip to tail.

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

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