Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by James from London, Sep 18, 2016.
That line is soooo cringey and meaningless, and from Alexis too !!
Well, they could also have characters light candles for those they killed: Blake for Ted Dinard, Alexis for Krystle's miscarriage and Dex whom she landed on, Fallon for Roger Grimes, Steven for Matthew . . .
13 Jun 12: DALLAS: Changing of the Guard v. 07 Jan 15: EMPIRE: Pilot v. 27 Sep 15: BLOOD AND OIL: Pilot v. 11 Oct 17: DYNASTY: I Hardly Recognised You
Three of the four soaps include a shock medical diagnosis in their opening episodes. For the DALLAS and EMPIRE patriarchs, the news is grave. Both are dying — Bobby Ewing of “a gastrointestinal stromal tumour, a fairly rare form of cancer”, Lucious Lyon of “ALS … a rare autoimmune disease.” Meanwhile, the young heroine of BLOOD AND OIL, Cody LeFever, learns she’s pregnant. This is good news — or would be if she and her husband Billy weren’t living in a tent after the half dozen washer-dryers they were transporting to North Dakota to embark on their new lives as laundromat tycoons hadn’t been written off following a vehicular collision with a dirty great oil tanker.
Will Bobby and Lucious prove as fortunate as Jason Colby, who began his own family saga with an equally terminal diagnosis — one that later turned out to be false? And will the old Soap Land curse which decrees that the first pregnancy of a new series must inevitably end in miscarriage (as it did for Pam Ewing, Krystle Carrington, Karen Fairgate and Emma Channing) apply to Cody? Only time will tell.
As it did with Jason, the news of their impending demises prompt Bobby and Lucious to start putting their houses in order. Lucious is all about expanding. “I am proud to announce that Empire Entertainment has filed to become a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange,” he declares. This leads to the question of which of his three sons should take over the empire when he’s gone. “In order for it to survive, I need one of you Negroes to man up and lead it,” he tells them. “I will start grooming someone soon and it can only be one of you.” “… We King Lear now?” his middle son Jamal asks. Meanwhile, Bobby Ewing, having lived through his own King Lear thanks to the terms of his father’s will in 1982, has no desire to visit the same kind of conflict on the next generation. “All those fights, JR, over Ewing Oil and Southfork,” he recalls wearily, “those fights changed me, changed me in a way I don’t like. I worry about Christopher and John Ross … I don’t want them to be like us.” So while Lucious expands, Bobby retracts. “The time has come to sell Southfork,” he announces.
The Bobby we see here is sad-eyed and battle-scarred (“I am sick to death of this family devouring itself over money!”). There’s none of the self-satisfaction or lame humour that crept into his personality during his relationship with April and then resurfaced during “JR Returns”. The moment where he tenderly kisses his catatonic brother on the forehead and quietly murmurs, “I hope you know — always loved ya” is very moving.
Over on DYNASTY, Blake Carrington also has a pivotal announcement to make. To this end, he summons his children home to Atlanta. Estranged son Steven speculates that Blake might be in the same boat as Bobby and Lucious. “Maybe he’s dying?” he wonders. Daughter Fallon, meanwhile, is convinced that Blake’s announcement, like Lucious’s, pertains to the future of the family company. “Today my father gives it to me,” she predicts confidently at the start of the episode.
Just as the opening instalments of the original DALLAS and DYNASTY both centred around a new marriage — the aftermath of Bobby and Pam’s elopement, the preparations for Blake and Krystle’s big day — wedding arrangements also provide a backdrop for the premiere episodes of twenty-first century DALLAS and DYNASTY.
In each case, the happy couple are introduced to the viewer in a roundabout way. In Christopher Ewing’s first scene on DALLAS, his business meeting at a country club is interrupted by a young woman who, speaking in French, asks for his help. He follows her into the ladies’ locker room where they proceed to make out. “I hope that’s your fiancee in there with you, Christopher,” calls out a society matron who has overheard them. While hastily tucking his shirt in, Christopher embarrassedly introduces the woman to his bride-to-be, Rebecca Sutter. “May I suggest that you save something for the honeymoon?” she tells them. In Blake Carrington’s first scene on DYNASTY, he exchanges tense words during a board meeting with an employee who suggests his company is “out of touch”. The employee, Miss Fuentes, is later summoned to his house to discuss the matter further. When Fallon and Steven arrive home, they walk into their father’s office to find him and Miss Fuentes having MELROSE PLACE-style sex on the desk. While hastily tucking his shirt in, Blake embarrassedly introduces his children to his bride-to-be. “This obviously isn’t how I intended you to meet … Fallon, Steven, this is Cristal, my fiancee.” Alas for Fallon, this is his big announcement. As she flounces off, Steven apologies to Cristal on her behalf: “Forgive my sister, she thought she was getting a promotion not a stepmother.”
Actually, none of these patriarchal pronouncements go down too well with the next generation. John Ross is no happier about the idea of his uncle selling Southfork than Fallon is about her father acquiring a new wife. Likewise on EMPIRE where Lucious’s eldest, and most calculating, son Andre is angry at having to compete with his younger brothers to become his father’s successor when he considers himself “the most qualified to run the company”.
In EMPIRE’s opening scene, Lucious watches as a singer in a recording booth renders a heartfelt ballad. It sounds fine to me, but Lucious wants more. “I need you to sing like you are going to die tomorrow, like this is the last song you will ever sing,” he insists, urging her to reach deep into her emotions. It takes her a couple more tries, but then she nails it. What sounded good before now becomes spine-tingling. The opening episode of New DALLAS is shot through with a similar feeling of urgency. Bobby, John Ross and Christopher in particular are bristling with emotion. One gets the sense of them fighting back tears of angry frustration in almost every scene.
Bobby’s decision to sell Southfork clashes headlong with John Ross’s discovery of oil on the property. This opens up a whole can of historical worms. Indeed, New DALLAS is layered with family history. Back story we were given at the start of the original series now sounds like ancient lore. “This ranch has been in my mama’s family a hundred-and-fifty years,” declares Bobby. “Miss Ellie threw Jock’s rig off the ranch,” Christopher reminds John Ross. “Eighty years ago, Christopher!” an exasperated John Ross yells back. In the old days, JR made a habit of quoting Jock (“Like my daddy always said …”); now it’s John Ross who quotes JR: “If there’s one thing my daddy taught me, it’s to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” And there are the aims and ambitions that John Ross and Christopher have acquired in the twenty-odd years the series has been off the air. “All my life, I’ve been trying to put the Ewing name back on top,” says Christopher of his quest for alternate energy. “I’ve staked everything on this — all I’ve ever wanted,” says John Ross of his determination to drill on the ranch.
The stakes are indeed high. Everything on New DALLAS matters — and the tone is set by the gravity of Bobby’s prognosis, which he chooses not to reveal to his family. This creates a complicity between him and the viewer: we share his secret. The same applies to Lucious and his condition on EMPIRE. An immediate connection is also forged between Fallon Carrington and her audience. New DYNASTY begins with her delivering an introductory voiceover (the first in Soap Land history) in which she fallonsplains this brash new world to us.
While DALLAS takes its mood from Bobby, DYNASTY takes its attitude from Fallon — which means it’s witty, glib and defensive. Things matter on DYNASTY too, but you’re gonna have to wade through a barrage of sarcastic one-liners and ironically arched eyebrows to find them. “Cristal seems nice,” Steven tells his father. Blake frowns. “That wasn’t sarcasm — I really like her!” he insists.
When we first encountered Jason Colby in 1986, he bragged about how he was once thrown out of the White House. The clear implication was that here was a big shot and a maverick. We get a similar idea of Lucious Lyon’s importance in 2015 when his assistant informs him of an invitation from the President to attend a state dinner. He sighs before replying, “OK, tell Barack, yes, but this is the last one for the next few months.” A Soap Land patriarch on first name with the sitting president — not even Jason Colby could match that!
By the time DYNASTY arrives two years later, there’s a new president in town. “Like it or not, we live in an age of dynasties,” begins Fallon’s voiceover, followed by footage of three real-life examples: the Trumps, the Kardashians and the Murdochs. The wording here is very telling — for all of New DYNASTY’s flippancy, it actually opens on a note of apology: “like it or not …” While Lucious is on first name terms with Barack, Fallon can’t even bring herself to say his successor’s surname. “Look at everyone we know,” she says to Steven later in the episode, “the Kochs, the Murdochs, the president Dad voted for — all of those businesses were passed down to the next generation.” Again, Fallon’s choice of words is revealing. “The president Dad voted for” — as if she were handling Trump with a pair of verbal tongs to prevent herself being contaminated. Steven’s reply is also striking. “Worth noting — all of those people are evil.” OK, that’s the show’s most unambiguously sympathetic character casually referring to the incumbent American president as evil. So while the series, via Fallon, has twice identified its own dynasty as a fictional equivalent of Trump’s real one, it also clearly despises him.
Back in the ‘80s, DYNASTY crossed the moat to show us the romance and mystery of the rich and beautiful. Now, there is no moat. With the grotesque Trump in the White House and on Twitter and the ubiquitous Kardashians on television, being rich has never seemed less romantic or mysterious than it does in the late 2010s. In the absence of romance and mystery, the vibe of New DYNASTY is brittle and ironic.
“Strong intelligent women are the future of business in our country,” predicted Alexis Colby in ‘DYNASTY: The Reunion’. “As for the idea that the future is female,” continues New Fallon twenty-six years later, “Daddy likes to say that the future’s not here yet, but he’s wrong about that.” As if to prove this point, Elena Ramos (DALLAS) and Carla Briggs (BLOOD AND OIL) are the ones on their respective shows responsible for sniffing out a hitherto unsuspected reserve of oil. (Rather than Digger Barnes’s nose, they rely on “a seismic survey” and “new thermal mapping technology”.) It’s Elena who discovered what lies beneath Section 18 of Southfork. “If I’m right, you’re sitting on a couple of billion barrels of light sweet crude — the most sought-after crude oil in the world,” she informs Bobby. “This will make us richer than we ever imagined!” adds John Ross. “The Bakken reserves are at least ten times previous estimates, bigger than the Saudi Ghawar field,” Carla informs her husband, oil tycoon Hap. (I’ve no idea what a Saudi Ghawar field is, but it sounds impressive. Hap thinks so too.) Back on DYNASTY, it’s Fallon herself who learns that a company named Windbriar is ripe for take-over (“We’re talking over a billion in assets”).
Environmentalism has been a useful plot device in Soap Land ever since Cliff Barnes began using his position in the Office of Land Management to make life difficult for the Ewings in 1979. In the 2010s, however, ecology is more than a mere Maguffin. It has become an intrinsic part of the drama. On New DALLAS, Christopher’s determination to develop a viable source of alternate energy is central to both his conflict with his wildcatting cousin (“Oil is the past, alternatives are the future,” he tells John Ross earnestly) and his need to prove himself to his daddy. “All my life,” he tells Bobby, “I’ve been trying to put the Ewing name back on top … This may be hard for you to understand, but I always felt like I needed to earn my way into this family.”
DYNASTY’s Steven is singing from the same environmental hymn sheet as Christopher. At the start of the new series, we learn that he and Blake are estranged, not because of his sexuality this time, but because of his ecological beliefs. Blake “was literally planning to frack a Native burial ground” before Steven led a protest that cost his father “a lot of money, his respect within the community and, he’d say, his son.” Steven then quit the family company, vowing “never to return … unless we balanced our portfolio with fifty percent renewable energies.”
On EMPIRE, ecology is less of a factor than the rise of digital technology. During a press conference, Lucious explains how the music business provided him with a way out of the ghetto he was born into. “Music saved my life,” he says. However, “the internet has destroyed the musician’s ability to make money because our work is downloaded for free online, and now it’s impossible for the disenfranchised kids growing up in the projects to overcome poverty the way that I did.” Ironically, another impoverished black Soap Land character, a self-described “financial aid kid”, made his fortune developing the very technology Lucious sees as such a threat. DYNASTY’s Jeff Colby “developed a music software that would go on to earn him his first billion.”
Ecology and the internet are not the stumbling blocks to making a fast buck in C21st Soap Land. Just as Blake came a cropper when trying to extract gas from a Native burial ground, the land with the all-important oil reserves on BLOOD AND OIL belong to an Indian reservation. And while Miss Ellie may not have been a Native American, her wishes are just as sacred to the Ewings — at least to some of them. “I promised Mama there would be no drilling on Southfork,” insists Bobby. “You don’t think we’re long past caring about Miss Ellie’s precious little wishes?” is John Ross’s thrillingly blasphemous response. “Don’t you ever speak my mama’s name in my presence again,” Bobby snarls. “You have dishonoured her.” John Ross isn’t the only entitled rich kid with a mouth on him. On EMPIRE, Cookie Lyon, Lucious’ ex-wife and the mother of his kids, is freed from prison after seventeen years. “I ended up where I ended up for you and your brothers,” she tells her youngest son Hakeem. “You want a medal, bitch?” he asks in reply. She responds by beating him upside the head with a broom. On BLOOD AND OIL, Hap Briggs puts his foot down after his screw-up son Wick disgraces the family name once too often. He tells him the time has come for him to learn the oil business from the bottom up. “You think I'm just gonna toss you the keys to the kingdom and watch you drive it over the cliff? … You’re gonna work on a rig.” “So the bitch got to you, huh?” Wick replies, referring to stepmom Carla.
“I guess everyone wants to kill their old man sooner or later,” says a minor character on BLOOD AND OIL. Indeed, dysfunctional father/son relationships are everywhere you look in Soap Land. “You’re a mess … you’re a disappointment,” Lucious tells Hakeem on EMPIRE. “The next time I’m proud of you, Wick, it’ll be the first,” Hap tells his son on B&O. When Wick screws up yet again and tries to pin the blame on someone else, his father calls him “a lying son of a bitch” and knocks him down in the mud in front of the other men. Wick then takes a swing at his dad, but misses. “You are out, boy,” Hap tells him, “no cards, no clubs, no cash … You don’t deserve to be my son.” Things are comparatively cordial between Blake and Steven — at least for now. “It’s good to have you back,” Blake tells his son. “Thanks,” Steven replies warily. “Let’s see how long it takes for you to kick me out this time.”
“I’m out of the house, I’m out of the will, I’m cut off,” complains Wick to Jules, B&O’s sexy local businesswoman with a somewhat incongruous London accent. “He’s kicked me off the ranch … Bobby’s cut me off,” echoes John Ross, turning to his father in his hour of need. As recently as “JR Returns”, JR sincerely complimented Bobby on raising Christopher to be “a fine young man”. On New DALLAS, his first words upon awakening from his dormant state (almost like a vampire) are: “Bobby was always a fool, stubborn as a mule and particularly harebrained about that foundling, Christopher — he’s not even a Ewing.”
New JR is something of an enigma — he acts the doddery old man, the good ol’ boy, but what’s behind it? Is he out to help John Ross or exploit him? We can’t tell anymore. This is neither the glumly suicidal JR we left at the end of the original series or the fun cartoon one we found in the reunions. He’s become unknowable, inscrutable, for the first time since the 1970s.
In 1978, JR described homosexuality as “a growing phenomenon” that he couldn’t understand. Three years later, Blake Carrington suggested “faggotry” was a condition one could be treated for. Now, according to Jamal’s boyfriend on EMPIRE, “it’s 2015, nobody cares. There’s football players coming out.” Or maybe it’s not quite as simple as that.
There’s an extremely potent flashback on EMPIRE to when Jamal was just a little kid and the Lyon family were still poor. Lucious and Cookie are laughing and having fun with friends when Jamal totters into the room in his mom’s high heels and headscarf. Lucious sees red and yells, “Are you out of your damn mind, walking in here like a little bitch?!” He picks up the boy, carries him outside and dumps him in a trashcan. There’s something so primal, so real about all of it — the child’s innocence and then his fear, the father’s fury, the mother’s rage at what her husband has done to her boy. You can believe all three characters still carry the scars of that night years later, 2015 or no 2015.
“Your sexuality — that’s a choice, son,” Lucious informs Jamal calmly in the present. “A sissy can’t sell records to the black community — I get it,” Jamal shrugs. “You really need to stop calling yourself that,” Lucious tells him. “Well, that’s what I am, Dad,” he insists quietly. New Steven is unapologetically gay too, but his father doesn’t appear to view it as either a condition that needs treatment or as a business liability. If anything, it’s an advantage. “I didn’t realise you were whoring me out, Dad,” Steven says angrily after Blake sends him to meet a prospective client who comes onto him. (The word whore comes up a lot: “I ain’t a virgin but I ain’t a whore either,” Christopher Ewing tells a couple of would-be investors when they offer him a lousy percentage on a deal. “Those plots have been drilled harder than a Tulsa whore,” Hap Briggs insists when his wife first tries to convince him there’s oil under that there land.)
As chance would have it, Jamal’s boyfriend Michael on EMPIRE is also Steven’s pickup Sam on DYNASTY. Whereas Michael is supportive and domestic (the first time we see him, he’s cooking dinner), Sam is a thief who, immediately after having sex with Steven, goes through his pockets and steals his cash. When they later run into each other at Blake and Cristal’s wedding (Sam turns out to be Cristal’s nephew), Sam apologises, but Steven doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
As well as the same love interest, EMPIRE and DYNASTY’s gay sons share other characteristics. Each is the “good” child and both are shown playing the piano while their high-maintenance siblings rap over the top. While Jamal’s musical collaboration with Hakeem takes place in the present, we see home movie footage of Steven as a geeky teen diligently playing the original DYNASTY theme while Fallon upstages him by reciting Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Doper than Dope’ in front of the camera. (At least it’s not ‘Henry the VIII, I Am’. And what is it with DYNASTY and home movies all of a sudden — first at the end of the reunion and now here?) While Hakeem and Fallon are openly hostile to the family outsider in their midst — long-lost mother Cookie and step-mother-to-be Cristal — Jamal and Steven offer them the hand of friendship. And as if to prove that it’s no longer the ‘80s (or even the ‘90s), Jamal and Steven are both are shown kissing a man — the same man, come to that. Steven and Sam even get a bed scene.
“Look at us — outside the gates, looking in,” broods John Ross on DALLAS, while literally outside the gates of Southfork, looking in. “You and I are black sheep, Elena. I’ll always be JR’s son to them, no matter what. And no matter how smart or educated you are, you are always gonna be the cook’s daughter.” On DYNASTY, Steven describes himself the same way: “I guess I’m the black sheep looking to come home to greener pastures.” “Are you the black sheep of your family too?” he asks Sam hopefully towards the end of the ep. “No, she is,” Sam replies, meaning Cristal.
1980s Soap Land was an overwhelmingly caucasian place and, despite coming out in ’97 and ’98 respectively, ‘Back to the Cul-de-Sac’ and ‘War of the Ewings’ could only muster one significant non-white supporting player between them. Twenty-first-century Soap Land is another story. The very first face we see in any of the new soaps is DALLAS’s Elena Ramos whom, we later learn, grew up on Southfork with John Ross and Christopher — just another of those invisible Hispanics who failed to register on the original series. Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Krystle, now Cristal, is also Hispanic, as is her niece Sammy Jo, now her nephew Samuel Josiah. Michael the chauffeur is now black. And the Colbys, the only family richer than the Carringtons in the original and very white DYNASTY-verse, are now extremely rich and extremely black. As is pretty much the entire cast of EMPIRE.
It feels like there’s a direct line from Tilly and Sam, the first black faces in Soap Land (DALLAS ’78), to Dominique and Brady, the first black couple (DYNASTY ’85), to the Williamses, the first black family (KNOTS ’87) to Lucious and Cookie helming the first black soap in 2015. And it’s only taken the best part of forty years.
Nor is it like those strangely colour-blind ‘80s where no-one seemed to notice Blake Carrington’s half-sister was black. Race is openly acknowledged in all sorts of interesting ways. On EMPIRE, Andre is married to Rhonda, the only significant non-black cast member — a fact that does not go unnoticed by his mother Cookie. “Why you marry that white girl?” she asks. “We met at school,” he explains. “She’s brilliant.” “Pretty white girls always are, even when they ain’t,” Cookie replies drily. (Rhonda is at least smart enough to suggest that Andre divide and conquer in order to gain his father’s empire — in other words, pit Jamal and Hakeem against one another in the hopes that they destroy each other, leaving him “the last man standing.”) Meanwhile, Fallon makes a point of referring to Blake as “an old white guy” who “made his fortune doing deals with old white guys at private clubs.” Jeff’s suggestion that Fallon befriended his sister at school “because you thought hanging with the financial aid kids made you seem edgy” helps explain her Salt-N-Pepa home movie routine. But it’s Jeff’s sister Monique who finally acknowledges the thirty-nine-year-old elephant in the Soap Land room when she describes the Carrington wedding as “beautiful — very white, but …”
At times, preconceptions about race and class overlap. There’s a very interesting exchange at the Carrington wedding where Jeff Colby sees Michael with Fallon and asks him to fetch him a drink. “He’s not a waiter,” Fallon replies. “Oh man, I’m sorry,” says Jeff. There’s an awkward pause as he waits to be introduced. “This is Michael Culhane,” Fallon explains, before reluctantly adding, “he’s the chauffeur.” “Oh, well, perfect … he can give us a ride,” smiles Jeff. And then Michael has to watch as the (black) billionaire walks off with the (white) girl he’s sleeping with. And things get seriously complicated when stereotypes about race, class and sexuality collide. Cookie’s reaction upon meeting Jamal’s boyfriend Michael: “Oh honey, you didn’t tell me you was dating a little Mexican! Look at her, she’s adorable! … You need to get La Cucaracha to clean up around here a bit.”
EMPIRE is full of references to black cultural figures. As well as the shout out to Obama, there are photos on display of Lucious with Tina Turner and Oprah Winfrey. He makes a gag that conflates Don King with Martin Luther King. Cookie contemptuously refers to Lucious’ current squeeze as “little Halle Berry” (not to be confused with “actual Halle Berry” from KNOTS Season 13) and claims James Brown was her uncle.
While Cookie is back in her children’s lives after seventeen years, the absences of two other Soap Land mothers, Pam and Alexis, are shrouded in mystery. Boldly, it’s Elena, the character we can’t recall from the original DALLAS, who remembers Pam in a little anecdote about how she used to turn a blind eye when Elena would make coffee for Christopher when they were kids. “I miss her,” says Elena sadly. “So do I,” replies Christopher. “Ever since the day she took off,” says Steven to Fallon regarding their absentee mother, “you’ve done whatever you can to fill the hole she left.”
The underlings in the new series are more outspoken than their ‘80s counterparts. Whereas former Southfork staff Raoul and Teresa never ventured an opinion on anything, Carmen Ramos, Elena’s mother and the Ewings’ cook, makes no secret of her disapproval of Christopher’s choice of bride. “She’ll never make mole like Elena,” she sighs. “You and my daughter made such a beautiful couple.” On EMPIRE, Lucious’s plus-sized assistant Becky is a blast. Jamal is curious to know how she gained entry to a gay bathhouse. “I told them I was pre-op and they didn’t wanna check,” she explains — which isn’t exactly the kind of thing Peggy used to say to Mack. DYNASTY majordomo (Joseph) Anders is as hostile to Cristal as his predecessor Joseph (Anders) was to Krystle — but possibly a tad more threatening. “I know everything,” he tells her darkly towards the end of the episode.
Soap Land weddings being what they are, there are romantic complications. It emerges that Christopher is still hung up on Elena, his former fiancee, who is now dating his cousin/rival John Ross. Just before his wedding to Rebecca, he and Elena both realise they were duped, Katherine Wentworth-style, into ending their engagement. (“I never sent you any email!”) Meanwhile, Cristal is still hung up on her married ex, Matthew Blaisdel, who works for Blake.
Convinced Bobby is selling Southfork to finance Christopher’s alternative energy venture, John Ross looks for ways to discredit his cousin. When he fails to persuade Elena to spy on him, he hires someone to break onto the ranch and look for dirt. An intruder in the house prompts the new mistress of Southfork, Bobby’s wife Ann, to get the gun out of the hall closet as Miss Ellie once famously ordered Ray to. “Next time, Mrs Ewing, shoot him,” a cop advises after the intruder escapes. “Oh I will,” she replies. And she will.
Meanwhile, Fallon instructs Michael keep tabs on Cristal. He gets a photo of an intimate-looking moment between her and Matthew (a farewell kiss) and Fallon sends it to Blake in the hopes of busting up the newlyweds-to-be. Having likewise got the dirt he needs on Christopher, John Ross waits until the morning of the wedding to blackmail the groom. “Your team in China just caused an earthquake!” he crows. “What do you think your dad would say if he knew your little experiment had caused the deaths of thousands of people? … Unless you convince your father to take Southfork off the market, I will expose you for the fraud that you are, Christopher!”
John Ross and Fallon’s schemes both backfire. Christopher and Cristal elect to come clean with Bobby and Blake, thereby strengthening the respective bonds between them. Christopher’s conviction that he “can make Ewing Alternative Energies the next Exxon” (that’s the same Exxon Fallon claims tried to poach her on a recent trip to Dallas) strengthens Bobby’s determination to sell the ranch to a land conservancy, and he seals the deal with a handshake right under John Ross’s nose. Meanwhile, not only does Blake decide to bring his wedding to Cristal forward, but he offers her the job of COO of Carrington Atlantic. “That was supposed to be mine!” cries Fallon, ripping Cristal’s wedding dress (while she’s actually wearing it). Cristal gets the last word. “Call me, Mom,” she smiles — a variation on James Beaumont’s “Do I call you Mom?” to Cally and Michelle Stevens’ “Is it all right if I call you Daddy?” to JR during Old DALLAS’s last two seasons.
Early on in this week’s DALLAS, John Ross volunteers Elena as Rebecca’s bridesmaid in front of the entire family. Elena squirms, but can’t get out of it, any more than Bobby could when JR publicly appointed him his best man at the height of their battle for Ewing Oil back in ’82. This is our first example of John Ross behaving like a rascal, just like his daddy, just for the hell of it. Conversely on DYNASTY, when Steven volunteers himself as Blake’s best man at the last minute, as the bride is on her way down the aisle, it’s one of the few genuinely sincere moments of the episode (and all the more touching for it).
(Spoiler alert: Neither of this week’s brides — Rebecca Sutter Ewing and Cristal Fuentes Carrington — is really who she says is, but we won’t know that for ages so forget I said anything.)
New DYNASTY’s ambivalence towards the lifestyle it portrays can be seen in its depiction of Blake and Cristal’s wedding. To begin with, the show lingers on the elaborate preparations for the big day, but then these are rejected in favour of a comparatively simple ceremony: a path of rose petals, bouquets of wildflowers, Cristal in trousers and, as per her request, “Bowie on Spotify”. The end result is neither as grand as either of the original Blake and Krystle weddings nor quite as stripped-down-simple as their Season 9 ceremony.
The use of original recordings of recognisable pop songs was something of a novelty during ‘80s Soap Land. FALCON CREST and KNOTS LANDING each went through a ‘60s Motown phase, DALLAS dabbled no more than twice during its entire run and DYNASTY, not at all. By the 2010s, the “pop montage” has become a TV cliche. To accompany its big wedding, DALLAS goes slo-mo conventional and gives us an Adele album track, ‘Turning Tables’. Given that TV dramas that didn’t feature an Adele song were likely in the minority during 2012 this could easily seem a generic choice, but it complements the lingering close-ups of longing and confusion between Christopher and Elena very effectively. It also sets us up for characters turning the tables on each other during the closing moments of the ep. (I’m talking about that fantastic reveal where we learn that Marta Del Sol, who is supposedly in business with Bobby but is really in business with JR, is really really in business with John Ross.)
The semi-informal nature of DYNASTY’s wedding, meanwhile, allows Cristal the opportunity to press shuffle on her David Bowie playlist. Happily for her, it lands on ‘Modern Love’ — Bowie at his most ‘80s (all the better to evoke the era of the original series) and weddingy (“Get me to the church on time!”) — rather than, say, ‘V2-Schneider’ from his more austere Berlin period. Unsurprisingly, specially written R&B and hip-hop tracks run throughout EMPIRE and it all sounds great.
Towards the end of both BLOOD AND OIL and DYNASTY, there is a freak accident that might be the result of an ancient superstition. Early on in B&O, Wick Briggs angered the local Native American townsfolk by shooting dead a white moose that had wandered onto his father’s property. “Whoever kills a spirit animal is cursed!” one of them says. Fast forward to the last scene of the ep where Wick is attempting to rip off his father by siphoning oil from one of his tankers. Hap and Billy catch him in the act but don’t recognise him because he’s wearing a mask. Wick then pulls a gun on his father. Billy makes a grab for him and the three men end up in scrapping in a puddle of oil. The lights fuse, there’s an explosion and a single cinder (digitally rendered) casually floats down toward the puddle of oil. Hap’s eyes widen in horror when the cinder lands beside him. Suddenly, everything is engulfed in flames.
Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Matthew is inspecting the Windbriar land on Blake’s behalf when a truck explodes, injuring Matthew and sending a wind turbine thingy out of control. One of the propellor whatnots breaks off and (digital rendered) heads straight for Matthew. While he is lying injured, Cristal has her wedding guests perform a ritual known as “the kissing bells” for the newly married couple. “The ringing is supposed to scare away the Devil,” Cristal explains to her groom, “and then once the Devil is gone-" “We live happily ever after,” Blake concludes. By the time the ringing is over, Matthew is dead.
There’s more death towards the end of EMPIRE, but it’s far more premeditated. Lucious’s driver Bunky, whom he’s known since they were kids, turns nasty when Lucious refuses to pay any more of his gambling debts. He visits Lucious at his home, pulls out a gun and threatens to expose his shady past. “Them four dealers you killed back in the day? … I’ll light a match and I will burn this bitch down to the ground,” he tells him. The subsequent scene where Lucious meets Bunky down by the docks and shoots him in the face marks the first time a Soap Land patriarch has unequivocally committed murder — although Claudia Blaisdel has an inkling Blake might have had something to do with what has happened to Matthew. “YOU KILLED MY HUSBAND!” she screams at him in front of his wedding guests.
“Blood may be thicker than water, but oil is thicker than both,” quips JR in the penultimate scene of this week’s DALLAS, thereby paving the way for BLOOD AND OIL — which kind of feels like the underdog soap, partly because it’s about underdogs. There’s something vaguely KNOTSian about the premise: an “ordinary” young couple (Billy and Cody LeFever, high school sweethearts no less) embarking on a new life in a strange town, hoping to strike it rich. There’s an echo of THE YELLOW ROSE as well in its harsh, gritty landscape (a chilly North Dakota) and the episode’s interest in depicting the lives of the riggers and day workers as well as the bigwigs that employ them. How long that’ll last is hard to say — it took three or four seasons for anyone to strike it rich in KNOTS; Billy and Cody are millionaires by the end of the first ep.
“The fun is just beginning,” John Ross promises Marta at the end of DALLAS. “There’ll be plenty of time for this after the wedding,” Cristal assures Fallon following their brief tussle before the nuptials. Oh goody!
And the Top 4 are …
1 (1) DALLAS
2 (-) EMPIRE
3 (-) BLOOD AND OIL
4 (2) DYNASTY
Separate names with a comma.