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
13 Jun 12: DALLAS: Hedging Your Bets v. 14 Jan 15: EMPIRE: The Outspoken King v. 04 Oct 15: BLOOD AND OIL: The Ripple Effect v. 18 Oct 17: DYNASTY: Spit It Out
Two major characters were shown committing serious crimes towards the end of last week’s episodes. EMPIRE’s Lucious Lyon shot his lifelong friend Bunky in the face while BLOOD AND OIL’s Wick Briggs made off with a tanker full of oil belonging to his own father (inadvertently causing a fire in the process). Meanwhile, a third incident — Matthew Blaisdel’s death on DYNASTY — may or may not have been deliberate, and in this week’s ep the finger of suspicion is variously pointed at Blake, Fallon, Steven and Jeff Colby.
As the news of their crimes spread, Lucious and Wick both do a first-class job of feigning innocence. When Bunky’s disfigured corpse is fished out of a river, Lucious’s tears appear as genuine as the rest of his family’s. “I’m gonna find the person that did this to my friend and when I do, I’m gonna —” he begins. Likewise, Wick looks genuinely appalled when he sees the burns sustained by his father in the fire he caused. “I say we string the bastards up,” he says of the perpetrators.
There’s no rest for Soap Land’s newlyweds. Because of Bobby’s decision to sell Southfork and the police enquiry into Matthew’s death, the honeymoons of Christopher and Rebecca on DALLAS and Blake and Cristal on DYNASTY, to Tahiti and French Polynesia respectively, are postponed indefinitely.
Father/son relationships in C21st Soap Land are proving as complicated as they were back in the '80s. On DALLAS, Christopher takes Bobby’s decision to sell the ranch personally. “You don’t trust me to take over,” he tells him. Bobby denies this to his face, but not very convincingly. “He left here … like I’d personally kicked him in the gut,” he later admits to Ann. Meanwhile, even as John Ross and JR collude to steal Southfork from under Bobby’s nose, cracks in their alliance begin to show. “Dad, I’ve made it this far without your advice. Don’t start now,” John Ross warns his daddy. “Son, never pass up a good chance to shut up,” snaps JR in reply. Over on EMPIRE, Lucious gets his eldest and youngest sons to do his bidding by promising each of them total control of the family company, while threatening to disown his middle son if he publicly announces that he’s gay. “I’m sorry, Dad, the world does not revolve around you,” Jamal tells him. “Your world does,” Lucious points out. “I pay for everything — your clothes, that $12,000-a-month loft you live in, the credit card bills … Come out and you’re on your own.” The injuries sustained by Hap Briggs in the rig fire on BLOOD AND OIL bring his estranged son Wick to his side. “I’m really sorry for all the messed up stuff between you and I,” Wick tells him. “In spite of it all, you’ll always be my boy,” he replies. When his wife suggests that Wick might have been his anonymous attacker, Hap refuses to consider the idea. “No son of mine would put a gun in my face”, he insists. But later on, he starts to develop suspicions of his own.
Matters become further entangled towards the end of this week’s B&O when we discover that Wick’s new girlfriend Jules is an ex-flame of Hap’s. Moreover, it’s a flame may not have entirely burnt itself out: when Hap visits Jules to tell her to stay away from his son, they have as much trouble keeping their hands off each other as another secret ex-couple, John Ross and Marta Del Sol, do on DALLAS. John Ross, however, manfully resists his desires because of his involvement with Elena — an involvement that becomes strained when Elena accuses him of sending the phoney email that split her and Christopher up a couple of years earlier. In spite of his vehement denials, she tells him she wants to keep their relationship on a strictly professional basis, which suddenly leaves him free to have wild and crazy hotel room sex with Marta after all.
While Marta and John Ross are busy slamming each other against walls and tying each other up (not to mention the mickey she slips him or the secret camera she uses to record their assignation), there’s a slightly more perfunctory sex scene in EMPIRE where Andre’s wife Rhonda, her hair in curlers, ties a bib around her neck before going down on him. This is the second depiction of oral sex in C21st Soap Land after Michael the chauffeur gave Fallon a good seeing to in the back of a limo during the DYNASTY premiere. This week, Fallon returns the favour — during Matthew Blaisdel’s funeral. Rhonda’s act of fellatio is an attempt to persuade Andre to keep an important appointment: “For most people, cancelling a doctor’s appointment is just lazy, but for someone who’s bipolar it’s life-threatening … You need to recalibrate your meds again.” Andre’s manic behaviour later in the episode suggests her efforts were in vain. Hearing her ordinarily contained husband referring to himself in the third person (“Andre got it going on, baby!”) prompts her to adopt another approach. “I swear to God I will have you committed if you do not take those damn pills,” she snarls, grabbing him by the nuts.
As well as learning of Andre’s condition on EMPIRE, we also find out the source of Claudia Blaisdel’s mental health problems on DYNASTY. Whereas in the original series, the implication was that Claudia’s condition stemmed from her sensitive, even poetic nature — Steven comparing her to Emily Dickinson amongst others — here the explanation is far less romantic as New Steven explains to the police that New Claudia’s “impaired memory, paranoia, delusions” are due to a car accident she suffered the previous year (with the suggestion that the accusations she has made about Blake killing her husband should be discounted as the ravings of a madwoman).
On EMPIRE, Cookie, trailed by her galumphing new assistant Porsha, walks in on Jamal having sex with Michael. “Come on, boy, get up, we got work to do,” she urges, sitting on the edge of the bed without batting an eye. “Shut up, Dora,” she adds when Michael objects to her presence. Michael is also seen in a state of undress in his DYNASTY guise of Sam where he climbs out of the Carrington pool and invites Steven to join him in the hot tub. Steven declines, suggesting that they “press pause" on their relationship. ("We’re practically family.”) In a reversal of the KNOTS LANDING flashback to 1968, where Young Anne tricked Young Mack into believing she was swimming naked before emerging from the pool in a strapless swimsuit, we don’t realise until Steven’s line at the end of their conversation (“If you wanna borrow a swimsuit next time, you can ask me”) that Sam has been standing in front of him fully naked the whole time.
Back on B&O, when Wick and his accomplice Garry try to offload their tanker full of stolen oil onto a potential buyer, they are told that it is too hot a property for anyone to touch: “There’s oil that makes you a profit and there’s oil that puts you in a corner cell at Leavenworth.” On DYNASTY, Blake Carrington is likewise concerned with concealing evidence. “We need to erase any traces of Matthew beyond his employment at Carrington Atlantic,” he explains to his family — specifically referring to Matthew’s affair with Cristal. To this end, Fallon enlists the aid of Jeff Colby’s tech wizardry to destroy any evidence of the photo she emailed her father of Matthew and Cristal together. There is a reverse situation on DALLAS where John Ross hires a detective to trace the identity of the person who sent Elena the fake email from Christopher's account. (Rather stylishly, John Ross’s secret meeting with the private eye takes place on a funfair ride.)
DYNASTY refuses to let Cristal, and by extension the audience, grieve for Matthew’s death. Every time she tries, she is undermined by brutal wisecracks from Fallon (“I know it’s a little gauche in the wake of a man’s death, but I feel like one little decapitation shouldn’t blow the whole deal”), cold-hearted pragmatism from Blake (“If I don’t put my emotions aside, this family will bleed millions”), flashbulbs from the press and stylistic flourishes from the show itself — slow-motion sequences, flashbacks, jump cuts — that leave no time for her (or us) to process a genuine emotion. Each time Cristal comes close to any kind of catharsis, she is denied it. Moments after learning of her lover’s death, she is obliged, in her role as Carrington Atlantic’s Head of PR, to make a statement to the press about Matthew. This proves too much and she collapses — a collapse which is immediately turned into online gossip for Fallon to gloat over. Later, she returns to her old apartment to look through keepsakes of her time with Matthew — only to find Anders standing over her. “Anything that needs to be removed, I can take them off your hands,” he tells her coldly. During Matthew’s funeral, she steals away from the ceremony to weep in solitude — but Fallon won’t allow her even this moment of privacy. “You do know you’re not the star of this Lifetime movie right? The role belongs to his actual wife,” she tells her before removing Cristal’s dark glasses from her face and tossing them into an open grave. Cristal retaliates by pushing Fallon into the grave after them and then walking away with a slight smirk on her face. It’s a cool, funny moment, and you get the sense Cristal is starting to get the hang of what it means to be a Carrington in New DYNASTY — it’s not about having feelings, it’s about going for the cool, funny moment. Even Steven, the show’s Mr Nice Guy and Cristal’s one ally in her new home, can’t resist a snappy one-liner when the news of Matthew’s death first breaks. “Cristal was screwing the dead guy,” Fallon informs him. “I assume Claudia doesn’t know? Surely she would have led with that,” he quips in front of his new step-mom.
The idea of a corrupt, obsessively self-interested family who won’t rest until they’ve made over their vulnerable new addition in their own image sounds deliciously dark, and New DYNASTY is kind of fascinating to watch, but it lacks the vital component to make us connect emotionally with the characters. This is because the show continues to mirror Fallon’s attitude — most specifically, her humour. This is isn’t the same kind of bad sitcom humour that infected some of the ‘80s soaps, particularly FALCON CREST. That humour was broad, smug and lazy. Fallon’s (and therefore DYNASTY’s) humour is smart, brittle and almost neurotic in its determination to keep everyone (the audience included) at an emotional distance.
Soap Land's weddings may be over, but a couple of the guests have got left behind. In both cases, it’s a relative of the bride. While Rebecca Ewing’s brother Tommy gets a job at Southfork, Cristal Carrington’s nephew Sam moves into the Carrington manor and proceeds to eat everything in sight.
Only one episode into their respective marriages, it becomes apparent that neither Rebecca nor Cristal are who they claim to be. A cryptic conversation between Rebecca and Tommy makes them sound like a modern-day version of Jill Bennett and Peter Hollister. “I just wonder sometimes what the point of all of this is,” says Rebecca to her brother. “You know what the point is,” he replies. “We spent the last two years of our lives working on this job. There’s a ton of money on the line here … Keep your eye on the ball, sis, and don’t get too comfortable being Mrs Ewing.” Meanwhile, Anders wonders how Cristal will sign the guestbook at Matthew’s wake. “So many choices,” he muses. “Miss Flores? Mrs Carrington? Or did he know you best as Miss Celia Machado?” And just like Cristal isn’t really Cristal, JR discovers in the closing moments of this week’s DALLAS that Marta Del Sol isn’t really Marta Del Sol. Realising John Ross has double-crossed him, he grimly acknowledges that “he’s a chip off the old block.”
Marta, Cristal and Rebecca aren’t the only ones who appear to be hiding something. The final scene of EMPIRE reveals that the mighty Cookie Lyon isn’t quite who she seems to be either. “We had a deal. I did my part,” she tells an Agent Carter of the FBI. “I know we had a deal,” the agent concedes, “but you know what, Cookie? … We need you to testify in front of a grand jury.” Cookie looks worried: “If I testify I’m dead. You gonna get me killed.” Likewise on BLOOD AND OIL, Billy LeFever is warned that there is more to his brand new benefactor and business partner Hap Briggs than he realises: “You’re in bed with the Devil now.”
On last week’s DALLAS, Ann Ewing found a bottle of tablets prescribed to her husband Bobby, looked them up on the internet and concluded that he must be dying. On this week’s EMPIRE, Lucious’s assistant Becky finds a bottle of tablets prescribed to her boss, looks them up on the internet and concludes that he must be dying. When Ann confronts Bobby with what she has learnt, he modifies the grim diagnosis he was originally given. “There is a seventy percent remission rate … I’m gonna fight this with everything I’ve got,” he assures her. When Becky does the same to Lucious, he doesn’t pull any punches. “There’s no cure. I’m dying,” he tells her flatly.
The seemingly insignificant character who knows too much and threatens to become a liability is a familiar soap figure, and he crops up a few times this week. On DALLAS, Bobby’s attorney Mitch Lobell is the man who helped John Ross commence drilling on Southfork behind his uncle’s back. In return, he was paid $500,000. Now he wants more. “Son, if you don’t figure out how to get me $2,000,000 by the Cattleman’s Ball, not only am I gonna tell Bobby you set him up, I’m gonna tell JR you’re planning on screwing him over,” he threatens. On BLOOD AND OIL, Garry was Wick’s accomplice in the robbery that led to the fire at the end of last week’s ep. Upon learning that Hap has offered a reward for information about those responsible, Garry panics and frames a third party, shooting him dead for good measure. On DYNASTY, Matthew Blaisdel’s best buddy Willy gets drunk at Matthew’s wake and starts shooting his mouth off about Blake’s whitewashing of the truth: “You really are a great salesman, Carrington. You told Claudia what she wanted to hear and she fell for it!”
In contrast to Blake’s policy of “Carringtons unite” at the expense of everyone else (“The lengths he’ll go to and the lies he’ll tell to protect his own family — it’s like the rest of the world doesn’t matter,” observes Cristal), Lucious and Cookie actively try to pit two of their sons against each other on EMPIRE. “Your daddy’s got Hakeem performing at Leviticus on Saturday. I’m gonna get you up on that stage too,” Cookie tells Jamal. “He don’t want me there,” Jamal points out. “I don’t care what he wants,” she replies. “You are gonna show everybody you are just as talented as your brother … We gotta figure out a way to steal focus from Hakeem.”
Over on the other two soaps, quasi-sibling rivalries are brewing. On DALLAS, Christopher appeals to his cousin to bury the hatchet (“You and I, we’ve been on opposite tracks since we were born and for what? We’re family”), only for John Ross to throw it back in his face. “We ain’t family, bro,” he replies. “I’m a Ewing, deep in my DNA. Everything I am, everything I’d die for has the name Ewing on it.” On BLOOD AND OIL, there’s a brief but telling exchange between Wick and Billy, after the former realises the latter is his father’s new partner. “Well, I guess my dad will work with anyone these days, huh?” Wick says. “Yeah, anyone except for you,” counters Billy.
Save for the saintly black couple Billy and Cody befriended, the cast lineup of BLOOD & OIL’s pilot episode was a largely caucasian one. This week, however, we are introduced to the black sheriff, Tip Harrison, who heads the investigation into the rig fire and oil theft. (B&O is clearly keen on monosyllabic non-name names — Tip, Hap, Wick.) We also meet Hap's’ Hispanic daughter Lacey. Like Fallon at the start of last week’s DYNASTY, Lacey makes her entrance by private jet. Just as Fallon was, she is met by her father’s hunky driver, AJ. Unlike Michael Culhane, AJ stops short of immediately going down on her in the back of a limo, but by the end of the episode, they’re kissing passionately in the hallway as Lacey’s stepmother watches disapprovingly from the shadows. Like Michael, AJ lives in a back house on his employer’s property which could prove handy for sexy assignations. One extra twist is revealed in the final moments of the episode: AJ is spying on Hap! But for who?
Like Sheriff Tip on B&O, Sheriff Derrick on DALLAS is black. Both appear to be honest cops whereas Stansfield, the black police chief investigating Matthew’s death on DYNASTY, is in so deep with the Carringtons he’s referred to as "Blake’s pocket cop". Meanwhile, Monique Colby once again has some pointed observations to make about race as she queries her brother Jeff’s interest in her best friend: “Wherever this obsession with Fallon comes from, it’s a little cliche — recent billionaire chasing after a white chick?” But the really complicated racial stuff is still on EMPIRE. “Pay that Pakistani,” Cookie tells Lucious as she steps out of a cab without a backward glance.
After watching the opening episodes of EMPIRE and New DYNASTY, I came up with a nifty little theory about the two series based on their attitudes to their respective American President: Lucious Lyon being on first name terms with Barack Obama reflected EMPIRE’s confidence and swagger; DYNASTY making a blatant comparison between the Carringtons and the Trumps while simultaneously describing the President as evil without being able to mention him by name indicated a certain confusion about its own identity. So far, so neat and tidy. But then comes the scene in this week’s EMPIRE where a drunken Hakeem is caught on video urinating in the middle of a restaurant while declaring, “All you white people that voted for the first black president to make you feel good about not being racist — the joke’s on y’all cos Barack Obama ain’t nothing but a sellout!” Like Cristal’s collapse on New DYNASTY, Hakeem’s outburst swiftly goes viral. (“What’s viral?” asks Cookie — as well she might after seventeen years behind bars.) Lucious is then shown grovelling to the White House over the phone (“Mr President, I am so, so sorry … We all love you … Come on Barack, you know you don’t have to use that kind of language with me!”) before the line goes dead. Ironically, the scandal works in his son's favour: “Everyone wants to see Hakeem perform since that video went up. This bad boy thing has launched him,” reports Anika. So, rather than suggesting a similar kind of existential crisis to DYNASTY’s, EMPIRE’s irreverence towards Obama, as well as other black icons (“Who’s Diana Ross?” asks rising hip-hop star Kidd Fo-Fo) only reinforces its confidence about what it is and what it wants to say. While EMPIRE has all the trappings of a trashy soap, a character as flawed as Luscious Lyon can still refer to a real-life seventeen-year-old killed by the police eight months before this episode aired (“The Empire artists are telling the next generation that even though they live in a world where Trayvon Martin can get shot down like a dog …”) without it feeling crass or exploitative.
Back on DALLAS, Elena asks Sue Ellen to use her influence with the bank regarding a loan she needs to finance an oil exploration venture. Instead, Sue Ellen offers to finance the deal herself. “I’d be thrilled to work with such a smart and independent young woman,” she gushes before inviting Elena to be her date to the Cattleman’s Ball — which constitutes some kind of Soap Land first. This conversation might be the closest DALLAS has ever come to passing the Bedchel Test, i.e., a scene between two women where they discuss something other than a man. However, their conversation does include some endearingly clunky exposition about Elena’s father (“I was so impressed with the way you handled your daddy’s tragic passing on that rig”) as well as Sue Ellen suggesting a different alternate universe scenario for herself to the one she played out in “Conundrum”. “If I hadn’t met JR, I’d like to think that I could have been like you,” she tells her new best friend.
Most of the other female encounters in Soap Land are less mutually supportive. Every time Cookie encounters Lucious’ younger girlfriend Anika (aka “Little Halle Berry”) on EMPIRE, there’s an antagonism between them that really crackles. When Cookie shows up at Lucious’s house uninvited, Anika makes a point of “accidentally” walking in on them in her undies. Later, when Anika sniggers behind her back in a crowded elevator, Cookie loses control and has to be restrained from attacking her. Over on BLOOD AND OIL, there’s clearly no love lost between Carla Briggs and her stepdaughter Lacey. She has yet to push her into a grave the way Cristal does Fallon, but one senses she wouldn’t be entirely averse to the idea.
It’s party time on all four soaps. On DALLAS, the Ewings attend the Cattleman’s Ball. Unlike the Oil Baron’s Balls of the ‘80s, the dress code is more Stetsons and jeans than bowties and shoulder pads, but it still has all the trappings of a movie premiere — red carpets, paparazzi, TV cameras. Just as glam is the opening of Lucious’ new club, Leviticus, on EMPIRE. While the Cattleman’s Ball doubles as JR’s coming out party (it’s evidently the first time he’s been seen outside of his nursing home for quite some time, possibly years) Cookie’s new assistant Porsha suggests a different kind of coming out for the Leviticus party: “Jamal should come out as a big queen the same day Hakeem is playing and that’d steal his whole thunder for sure!” Cookie goes for the idea, but in the event, Hakeem and Jamal turn the tables on their competing parents by performing at the club together, presenting the kind of united front of which Blake Carrington would be proud. The big party on DYNASTY is Matthew’s wake, hosted by Blake at the manor. “He turned this whole thing into a PR event to control the narrative,” says Cristal. In fact, the only gathering of the week that doesn’t feel like a publicity stunt is a family dinner at the Briggs’ house — the definition of family extended to include all the major players.
The ghosts of Bobby and Blake’s first wives continue to hover over the proceedings. “It’s no secret I didn’t approve of the first Mrs Bobby Ewing,” recalls JR, before giving the third Mrs Bobby Ewing his seal of approval (“You’re his soulmate, Ann. I’m happy to have you as my sister-in-law”). Meanwhile, Fallon's entrance at Matthew’s wake in a revealing red dress prompts one guest to remark that “Fallon really is her mother’s daughter, isn’t she?”
Two of the oldest soap conventions — the mute servant and one character storming unannounced into another’s office — are verbally acknowledged on EMPIRE. After Cookie shows up at Lucious’s swanky house (the house she helped pay for by spending seventeen years in prison), she demands to be fed. Chowing down on some chicken, she whispers to a maid who appears to be a silent extra, “You ain’t got no bacon?” The maid does not respond. “Oh, you don’t talk?” Cookie asks her. “I do talk,” the maid replies haughtily before continuing to ignore her. In a later scene, Lucious tells Cookie to “stop barging in my office”. She responds by taking off a shoe and hurling at his retreating back. It misses, prompting the memorable line, “Porsha, get my damn shoe!” There’s an equivalent moment on DYNASTY when Fallon’s relentless bitchiness finally prompts Blake to hurl a glass in her direction. “Aw, Daddy, you missed,” she responds without batting an eyelid.
Alongside JR, Bobby and Sue Ellen on DALLAS, the most recognisable face in this new breed of soaps is another icon of ‘80s television, Sonny Crockett from MIAMI VICE, who plays Hap Briggs on BLOOD AND OIL. MIAMI VICE’s position as a time-slot rival to DALLAS led to possibly the most enjoyable meta-reference in all of ‘80s Soap Land — the Mandy Winger screen test in which she played the long-suffering girlfriend of a Crockett lookalike (played by Roger Grimes/Tommy Mackay). This week, Hap gives a sly nod to the same era when he surveys the damage caused by the rig fire and concludes, “I survived the ‘80s. I can survive this.”
Authenticity — specifically, how much of it one should sacrifice to get ahead — is a theme on three of this week’s soaps. While Hakeem accuses Obama of selling out on EMPIRE, Cookie makes a parallel observation about Lucious. “Sounds like you grew a vagina,” she tells him after listening to him being coached by media consultants prior to a TV interview. “I liked you better when you was a thug.” “Cookie, I got to go on white TV and try and talk in a way that don’t frighten these folks to death,” he explains. Being white already, Sue Ellen Ewing can afford to take a bolder stance. In fact, she makes it a condition of her running for governor. “No-one has more skeletons in her closet than I do,” she tells a group of potential backers in a scene deleted from this episode of DALLAS. “I want the people of Texas to know everything there is to know about me — that I was a drunk, an adulterer, almost homeless.”
Conversely on DYNASTY, Cristal only proves herself a Carrington when she betrays her own integrity (and her dead lover) in public. ”Matthew was in love with me,” she tells Willy in earshot of a reporter at the wake, “but as I’m sure he was too proud to tell you, it was completely one-sided.” “How can you say that about him at his own funeral?” Willy asks her. “The truth’s not hard to say. You just spit it out and kick sand over it,” she replies coolly. This last line is an echo of what Matthew told her during a flashback earlier in this same ep: “Lying is easy. You just spit it out and kick sand over it.” And that line was, of course. an echo of what the first Matthew told the first Krystle in the very first episode of Original DYNASTY when he was trying to pretend he was no longer in love with her: “The truth isn’t hard to say. You just spit it out and kick sand over it.” So by the time Cristal says it, the line has become a betrayal of a homage of a line that was a lie in the first place. “You are one of them,” Willy realises.
And the Top 4 are …
1 (1) DALLAS
2 (3) BLOOD AND OIL
3 (2) EMPIRE
4 (4) DYNASTY
20 Jun 12: DALLAS: The Price You Pay v. 21 Jan 15: EMPIRE: The Devil Quotes Scripture v. 11 Oct 15: BLOOD AND OIL: Hustle and Flow v. 25 Oct 17: DYNASTY: Guilt Is for Insecure People
Three episodes in, we find each of the soaps digging further into their backstories, the better to illuminate and explain their characters’ actions in the present. And once again, the overriding theme is father/son relationships.
A good example of both is the terrific opening scene of DALLAS. JR is treating himself and John Ross to an old-fashioned shave in some kind of exclusive gentleman’s club. While a towel covers John Ross’s face, JR recounts a childhood anecdote about his own father that paints a much darker picture of Jock as a parent than we’ve ever heard before: “When I was eight years old, I asked my daddy for a horse and he said when I came up with the money, he’d sell me one. So all that summer, I worked in the oilfields, digging trenches and such, twelve hours a day, and true to his word, Daddy sold me a horse. I learned quick enough that horse was blind. Now I loved my daddy and I respected my daddy, but most importantly, I feared my daddy.” By the time JR has finished his story, he has taken the blade from John Ross’s barber and is holding it to his son’s throat. John Ross opens his eyes. “I went down to Mexico and talked to Mr Del Sol about the Southfork deal,” JR continues. “I know Marta is not Marta. Were you going to cut your daddy out of two billion barrels worth of oil? Hmm?”
Meanwhile, EMPIRE’s Lucious Lyon imparts his own cheerful childhood tale to a tearful little boy at Bunky’s funeral. “My daddy died when I was little, just like you,” he tells him, “but you know, men don’t cry.” He hands the kid a hundred dollar bill. “You wanna be a rapper when you grow up? Here, I believe in you so here’s an advance on your first album. When you’re ready, come see me.”
Lucious expands on his “men don’t cry” message during a blistering confrontation with his own son Jamal. “I tried to tell you since you were a baby that it’s not about black eyes or bloody noses in this world, it’s life and death and if you don’t toughen up, these streets will eat your ass alive!” “Since I was a baby, you beat me,” Jamal replies. “You told me that was to toughen me up. That was a lie. You beat me because you hate me and you always will because I’m always gonna be who I am.” “I don’t hate you,” Lucious counters. “I don’t know you. I didn’t bring any women into this world and to see my son become somebody’s bitch?! I don’t understand you!” Soap Land’s only previous example of a homophobic father was Blake on Old DYNASTY. Whereas his disparaging remarks about his son’s “lifestyle” were delivered with a kind of icy distaste, Lucious’s in this scene are impassioned, confused and strangely moving.
After unnerving John Ross with the razor blade, JR abruptly changes tack. “I was never much of a father during your formative years,” he admits, “and I’d like to make up for that. I’d like to teach you all the things my daddy taught me about big oil. Can you find in your heart to give me that chance? I won’t let you down this time.” Hap Briggs makes a similar overture to his son Wick on BLOOD AND OIL. “You must have asked me a thousand times, ‘Daddy, how d’you get that oil out of the ground?’” he remembers. “I was so damn busy back then, I never answered you … Well, now it really is time for me to teach you. I want you as my partner.” “Pop, I want that … more than anything in the world,” Wick replies. John Ross accepts JR’s offer too and they embrace. Over his father’s shoulder, he permits himself a shy smile — clearly, this is the relationship with his daddy he’s always craved.
This is all very nice, but can either father really be trusted? Just as we’re not sure if JR really has forgiven John Ross for trying to double-cross him, we’re also uncertain whether or not Hap has figured out Wick is the one who attacked him at gunpoint and is now setting him up for a fall. For now, Hap continues to pull on his son’s heartstrings as he explains why he named a particular oilfield Koala #1. “You were born premature,” he recalls. “Koala was the incubator they had you in and I bought this parcel of land the day you came home. It was always meant to be your first well.” Over on New DYNASTY, Blake also recalls the birth of one of his children. “I was on the golf course,” he tells Fallon, “when Anders called to tell me that your mother’s waters broke … Your being born was one of the greatest days of my life.” As he speaks, he gestures to a framed photo of himself as a young man, looking remarkably like Jake Hansen from MELROSE PLACE, cradling his newborn daughter.
JR, meanwhile, finds a snapshot of Miss Ellie and Bobby when she was a young mother and he was a little boy, i.e., long before Barbara Bel Geddes and Patrick Duffy had been cast in their roles. This gives us a glimpse of a period of Ewing history we’ve never seen before. “She doted on that boy something fierce,” JR remembers “I spent a lot of my life hating how much she loved him — wasted years.”
Now he knows Carlos Del Sol is not really involved in the Southfork deal, JR tells John Ross he wishes to meet “the real money men”. This leads to the introduction of Venezuelan businessman Vicente Cano in a great scene where it becomes clear that JR has lost none of his ability to negotiate a deal. “I wanna make sure we’re on the same page on this deal,” he tells Vicente. “After you buy Southfork from my brother, you’ll convey that property to me and my son for 14% of all profits received from the oil recovered from our wells.” At this, John Ross and Fake Marta exchange nervous looks. “The deal was 15%,” Vicente points out. “That was when I thought I was dealing with Carlos Del Sol — he’s a trusted old friend,” explains JR calmly. “If that oil should stop flowing to us for any reason … that would be unacceptable,” warns Vicente ominously. “The best way to understand a man is to talk to his friends and his enemies — my friends are in the statehouse. My enemies are gonna be harder to find,” parries JR. Vicente laughs and agrees to the 14%.
Over on EMPIRE, Lucious demonstrates a more direct method of negotiation after he is approached by Mel, the manager of one of the singers on his label. “I’m-a hold you to all those promises you ain’t kept when you signed her or you gonna need some more protection,” Mel snarls. Lucious casually invites him to continue their discussion in his trailer. On his way inside, Lucious picks up a metal bar. We remain outside with Lucious’ security guards and overhear various thumps and groans coming from within. After a moment, Lucious emerges. “Mel had a little accident,” he informs one of the guards. “You might wanna clean that up.”
But it is BLOOD AND OIL’s Hap Briggs who proves the week’s most devious businessman. The more the show’s ambitious young hero Billy LeFever hears about Hap and Wick’s new Koala venture, the more he wants a piece of the action. When Hap informs him that “the minimum buy-in on that piece is $500,000,” Billy offers to trade him his entire stake in the McCutching field (the deal he originally made with Hap). Hap accepts the offer — but then Koala turns out to be a bust. The whole deal was a trap by Hap to sucker Billy into handing over his fortune. “You used me, Pop!” Wick realises. “Damn right I used you,” admits Hap. “I needed to get McCutching back. That’s the prize — a trillion dollars worth of oil … That’s the one we do together.”
Along with all the double-dealing, there’s plenty of espionage this week. On DALLAS, Tommy Sutter slips his sister Rebecca a little gizmo to plug into Christopher’s laptop so they can keep tabs on his gas hydrate research. However, Rebecca is suffering from the Spy Who Loved Me syndrome, i.e., she’s fallen in love with her own husband, and is reluctant to betray him any more than she already has. Meanwhile, her past crimes are catching up with her as John Ross’s detective informs him that it was she who sent the fake email that split up Christopher and Elena two years earlier.
Meanwhile on EMPIRE, another private eye, hired by Anika, provides Lucious with photos of Cookie’s clandestine meeting at the end of last week’s episode. “I would bet my bottom dollar that those two are Feds,” the detective declares. Lucious duly confronts his ex-wife (“Did you snitch on me so you could get out of jail early?!”) which is bad news for Cookie’s FBI contact, Agent Carter: “Lucious can’t know we’re FBI. We’ve spent five years building this case … We won’t have it compromised by your nosy ex-husband.”
Back on BLOOD AND OIL, Hap’s driver AJ has been spying on his boss for a no-nonsense bespectacled middle-aged woman who, like Cookie’s Agent Carter, looks a bit like Edna in The Incredibles. Is AJ’s Edna an FBI agent too? We don’t know yet, but she is not impressed by the snaps he took of his boss at the end of last week’s episode. “Those photos prove nothing,” she snaps at him during their secret meeting. “There’s a lot of people that you’re letting down. Get those soil samples and get what we need!”
Blake’s chauffeur Michael is also being pumped for “front-seat intel” about his boss, this time by Fallon, who wants something she can use against her father now that he has taken out a cease-and-desist order to prevent her from trading under the Carrington name. Jealous about her close working relationship with Jeff Colby, Michael refuses. He does, however, divulge to Steven that Blake has had Matthew Blaisdel’s phone lifted from police evidence. This is of particular relevance to Steven as he was arrested for Matthew’s murder at the end of last week’s ep. When he asks his father why he has the phone (“The only reason that makes any sense is because there’s something on it that incriminates you!”), Blake gets defensive: “How dare you question me? … I am protecting you and this is the thanks I get!” “There it is,” snaps back Steven. “There’s that Carrington temper again. You think your name means that you can give everything with one fist and then smash it with the other? That’s why I don’t answer your calls, that’s why I left. And as soon as I’m exonerated, I’m gone for good!”
Following some minor surgery, Bobby’s terminal condition ain’t so terminal anymore. However, he’s not entirely out of the woods — his doctor warns that the medication he’s on to prevent a relapse could have serious side effects. “Hair loss isn’t one of them, right?” Bobby joshes — but Ann is concerned, which suggests maybe we should be too. In fact, prescription medication is everywhere this week. Fake Marta is shown nervously popping a couple of pills on DALLAS while on EMPIRE, Cookie catches Lucious struggling to take the lid off his medication, which he pretends is merely for hypertension. And on BLOOD AND OIL, Lacey makes an intriguing jibe at her stepmother: “Careful Carla, I don’t think wine mixes well with anti-depressants.”
Bobby’s remission leads to a change of heart about selling Southfork — bad news for JR and John Ross who have just made their deal with the scary Venezuelans. So they cook up a scheme that entails JR moving back to the ranch and getting his hands on Miss Ellie’s diary. He then passes this on to John Ross, who threatens to use its contents, including the fact that his grandmother “spent some time in a mental institution” after Jock’s death (presumably the Takapa resort had a psychiatric wing), to contest her will unless Bobby go ahead with the sale of the ranch. “There is nothing in Mama’s journal that will help overturn her will,” argues Bobby. “Maybe it won’t,” John Ross concedes, “but it’ll get me my day in court and if you push me, I will use that day to tell all of Dallas every private thought and secret shame Miss Ellie ever had … If I don’t hear from you in twenty-four hours, I’m filing!”
JR feigns outrage at John Ross’s ultimatum and they stage a showdown in front of Bobby and Ann (although the shock on John Ross’s face when JR lands him a right hook looks real enough). There’s more play-acting on EMPIRE when Agent Carter pretends to be Cookie’s probation officer in order to put Lucious off the scent of whatever it is they’re really up to.
A few more tantalising tidbits are revealed about Blake’s and Bobby’s first wives this week. “Secrets are what killed things between me and Alexis,” Blake tells Cristal. “Pam just disappeared one day,” Elena tells Rebecca. We also learn that Blake had the Carrington name trademarked after Alexis “tried to use it to start a line of lip-plumping kits," that she encouraged Steven to learn the piano as a child, was given to reading “crazy feminist books” and once presented Blake with some cufflinks “for Guy Fawkes”. As Guy Fawkes Night is a specifically British celebration (albeit one more associated with bonfires than gift-giving), this seems to suggest that the writers intended Alexis to be English at this point.
Back on DALLAS, Elena goes into further detail about Christopher’s upbringing. “Both of his real parents died before he ever got to meet them … It was just him and Bobby. When Christopher found out he was adopted, he started to feel he had to earn being a Ewing — Ewings don’t fail.” This serves to explain Christopher’s strong reaction when he walks in on Bobby signing Southfork away, John Ross’s blackmail having had the desired effect. Bobby insists that he’s doing “what needed to be done, what’s best for everybody.” “That’s bullshit!” Christopher argues. “You’re selling because you don’t think I can beat John Ross … Stop protecting me like I’m still a little boy. I’m a grown man!” This prompts Bobby to tell him about his cancer. Devastated by the news and angry that his father kept it from him for so long (“I didn’t wanna burden you,” Bobby explains. “Telling me you have cancer isn’t being a burden, it’s letting me be a part of your life. Stop shutting me out!” Christopher yells), he breaks down in Elena’s arms. Their inevitable kiss is caught on camera phone by Tommy who sends the resultant snaps to Rebecca, in the hopes that they will turn her against Christopher once and for all. However, in the same way that the compromising photo of Cristal with Matthew Fallon sent Blake ultimately brought him and Cristal closer together, the same thing happens with Christopher and Rebecca. (Three weeks in, and it’s hard to imagine how Soap Land ever got along without camera phones. But, as Michael Culhane points out to Fallon this week, “There was definitely no texting in the ‘80s.”)
“I’m a grown man!” Christopher tells his father on DALLAS. “I’m a man!” Jamal tells his father on EMPIRE. “My obedience is no longer for sale.” “Nice speech, kid,” Lucious replies cynically, “especially hearing it in the apartment that I pay for.” Jamal responds by moving out.
From Zsa Zsa Gabor to Henry Kissinger, from Mary Lou Retton to the Mayor of Texas, ‘80s Soap Land was no stranger to the occasional, almost invariably awkward, appearance by a real-life celebrity “as themselves”. This week, EMPIRE ups the ante by having the Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight, perform at Bunky’s funeral as … Gladys Knight. The show has her do what she does best, i.e., sing up a storm, with an impassioned “Hallelujah for you, Bunky!” her only non-musical line.
To use Cristal’s terminology from last week, Lucious “controls the narrative” at Bunky’s funeral just as Blake did at Matthew’s wake — even going so far as to deliver a eulogy for the man he murdered. But then an eyewitness to the shooting steps forward. Fortunately for Lucious, he’s a paranoid schizophrenic with a drink problem. But despite his Irish accent and silly hat, something about him moves the investigating officer (in a way that nothing about the disturbed Claudia moves anyone on DYNASTY) into paying his quasi-religious ramblings about Daniel and the lion’s den some heed. “Is this the lion?” he asks him, showing him a picture of Lucious. Of course, Lucious Lyon!
When Lucious learns of a witness, he asks his son Andre to find out more details from “your contact down at City Hall.” Andre elicits this information while bending said contact, Deputy Mayor Alvarez, over her desk and taking her from behind. When he gets home, his wife Rhonda is curious to hear about the meeting. “It must have taken a lot of persuading for you to get her to dig up police privileged information,” she remarks. “I would love to know how you did that.” “You know the deputy mayor, babe,” he replies smoothly. “She likes it like this.” He then proceeds to do to his wife what he has just done to the deputy mayor. “Call me her name,” moans Rhonda, like nobody in Soap Land has since Lucy Ewing in that hayloft thirty-seven years earlier. He obliges, even though “Deputy Mayor Alvarez” is more of a mouthful for him than “Pam” was for Ray Krebbs.
There’s further role play on EMPIRE as it emerges that Andre’s little brother Hakeem is two-timing his new girlfriend with an older woman. “Tell me, who am I to you?” she asks as they make love on a pool table. “You’re my mama,” he replies. “Tell me again,” she insists. Adding to the craziness, Mama is played by none another than Streatham’s finest, Naomi Campbell. (Combine this with Gladys Knight and a two-scene appearance by Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr, and Old DYNASTY at its most guest starriest pales by comparison.)
The kinkiness continues on BLOOD AND OIL where Jules Jackman achieves a Soap Land first by sleeping with a father and a son in the same episode. (I know we got pretty used to mothers and daughters bedding the same man back in ‘80s Soap Land, but when you switch the genders around, it somehow feels even more grubbily salacious.)
And there’s even more sexy role play over on DYNASTY as Fallon straddles Michael while dressed as ‘Like a Virgin’-era Madonna. “You like it when I pretend to be someone else, don’t you?” she observes.
The ‘80s just happens to be the theme for DYNASTY’s charity ball this week. Curiously, whereas Cristal’s and Fallon’s gowns pay homage to the sparkle and taffeta of the original series, the ball’s other period references belong more to the New Pop era of early ‘80s Britain — Sam’s pork pie hat recalls the ska revival heralded by 2-Tone and Madness, while the soundtrack is provided by UK acts like Billy Idol, the Human League and New Order. (In addition, Steven is shown playing Soft Cell’s version of ‘Tainted Love’ on the piano.) Anders, conversely, is dressed as a TV icon from later in the decade — no, not Jim Robinson from NEIGHBOURS, but Sonny Crockett from MIAMI VICE, aka Hap Briggs in BLOOD AND OIL. And while we’re on the subject, might Hap’s son’s habit of turning up the collar and pushing up the sleeves of his jacket also be a homage to Don Johnson’s former self?
Speaking of the ‘80s, there are some notable references to DALLAS’s onscreen history this week. As well as the Pam stuff, JR assures Ann that “bullets don’t seem to have much of an effect on me, darlin’," after she mistakes him for an intruder and pulls a gun on him. And while New DYNASTY has already made a habit of repurposing dialogue from the original series, JR quotes the 1980/81 season of DALLAS directly when he says to John Ross, “I’m going to tell you the truest thing my daddy ever told me — ‘nobody gives you power, real power is something you take.'”
There’s no sign of Sue Ellen Ewing or Monique Colby this week. As if to compensate, a few long lost relatives emerge out of the woodwork. Most exciting is Cliff Barnes — noticeably older, smaller and richer than the Cliff we last saw in “JR Returns”. The familiar goofiness and bluster have been replaced by an aura of power and mystery. Whereas he would once have been provoked by JR’s introductory greeting (“Time has not been kind to that face, but I do recall the smell of brimstone and crazy”), it now washes over him. Seems he’s been away from Dallas for some years, and no-one knows why he’s back or what he wants. Bobby looks pleased to see him, but JR and Christopher are each unnerved by his return. “You think it’s coincidental that he shows up in Dallas just when Southfork is for sale? If that land is in play, he’ll destroy everything in his path to get it!” JR warns. When Cliff offers to invest in his gas hydrate project, Christopher is openly hostile: “This isn’t about supporting me, is it, Uncle Cliff? It’s about screwing my family.” Cliff replies with an ominous warning about the Ewings: “You are never gonna be one of them, Christopher, and don’t let them destroy you like they did Pam.” Just like JR, this once familiar character has become dark and unknowable, and it’s absolutely fascinating.
We are also introduced to Cookie’s and Cristal’s sisters, Carol and Iris respectively. Carol attends Bunky’s funeral while Iris appears in a Venezuelan flashback of Cristal’s. As we know from Caress Morelle on Old DYNASTY and Vicente Cano on New DALLAS, Venezuela is a dangerous place. We see Cristal in a squalid room twelve years earlier, frantically bundling wads of cash into a bag, then arranging with Iris for them to both flee the country. Then, for some unknown reason, she is forced to leave her sister behind. In the present day, Sam (Iris’s son) tells Cristal that his mother is in trouble and needs money fast. Cristal wants to help, but worries that a large cash transaction will alert Blake to the fact that “my entire past is one big lie.” She’s not alone there. “He’s in love with a lie,” says Tommy reminds Rebecca on DALLAS, referring to her husband Christopher.
In the first episode of BLOOD AND OIL, Hap Briggs battled with a masked intruder, not realising it was his own son. In the first episode of New DALLAS, Ann Ewing chased a trespasser away from Southfork, not realising he had been hired by her husband’s nephew. On this week’s DYNASTY, Blake is attacked by a burglar in his own bedroom, not realising that the break-in was arranged by his wife’s nephew. “My husband got hurt!” Cristal tells Sam when she finds out. “He got in the way — and a little cut is nothing compared to what could have happened to my mom,” Sam replies. “My friends will sell the stuff. She’ll have the cash in the morning.” During the attack, Steven comes to Blake’s rescue, leading to a cessation of hostilities and a nice heart-to-heart between father and son.
Blake admits to Steven that he procured Matthew’s phone from the police out of “morbid curiosity about Cristal’s affair … I returned it to evidence … If there was anything on there that would have helped exonerate you, I would not have hesitated to admit what I’d done … There is nothing I wouldn’t do to protect you.” His next words are in stark contrast to what Lucious told his gay son in their big scene (“If you don’t toughen up, these streets will eat your ass alive!”): “The thing I admire most about you is how much you care about other people, how you love.”
Blake’s conflict with Steven in this ep is more interesting than his feud with Fallon, but she nonetheless has some great one-liners. On whether Blake is capable of killing Matthew: “I know Dad’s a Cristal addict, but do you really think he’d go that far?” On Steven’s credibility: “You don’t know anything — you wear a belt with jeans.” On the 1980s: “Ah, the ‘80s — when greed was good. I wasn’t born yet, but I do miss it.”
EMPIRE and BLOOD AND OIL each end with a worm turning, as nice guys Jamal Lyon and Billy LeFever vow to get back at Lucious and Hap respectively. “I’m going after his empire,” Jamal tells boyfriend Michael. “I did not see this coming today, but you know what? When the time comes, neither will Hap Briggs,” Billy tells wife Cody.
Just as Billy has seen through Hap (sooner than I was expecting — but then the series only has ten episodes so I guess they’re wise to get a move on), so Bobby sees through JR’s ‘reformed character’ act. In other words, he knows it was JR who was behind John Ross’s blackmail over Miss Ellie. His weary acceptance of the fact is unexpectedly moving. “Honey,” he tells Ann, “the fact that JR did it and he thinks he can make me believe he didn’t do it — that’s just who is he is and who he will always be.” And yet he loves him anyway.
“I grew up in a family where stabbing everybody in the back was encouraged,” Bobby tells Christopher on New DALLAS. “Thanks for being so honest — kind of rare around this house,” Steven tells Sam on New DYNASTY. And as if to prove Steven’s point, we discover at the very end of this week’s ep that when Blake seemingly confessed all to his son during their reconciliation scene, he still wasn’t telling the whole truth. He didn’t return Matthew’s phone to the police — and now the burglar has it! “If what’s on that phone gets out, it will ruin the Carrington name!” he tells Anders.
And the Top 4 are …
1 (1) DALLAS
2 (3) EMPIRE
3 (2) BLOOD AND OIL
4 (4) DYNASTY
Oh, it's all just so ... delicious. There's no better word for these than delicious. Now I wish I had watched Blood And Oil when it aired (and I had just moved to the other, non-oil producing end of North Dakota). Maybe it would still be on.
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