In the old days, Dallas built itself such a reputation for season finale cliffhangers that were jaw-dropping, in one sense or another, that it’s easy to imagine the show’s writers feeling that the pressure was on for them to really deliver in the last five minutes of tonight’s episode. Although the first season of this “continuation” of the classic series has had its ups and downs, overall, it’s been something of a triumph: TNT managed to deliver an entertaining summer crowd-pleaser and reaped high ratings and audience goodwill, with an idea that could easily have gotten the network jeered at for being reduced to drawing its original programming from an empty hole in the ground.
Tonight’s episode had its share of slack, pasty moments, as the writers hustled to tie up loose ends and punish the evildoers, so that any children in the audience would go back to school knowing that wickedness does not pay in the end, no matter how entertaining it can be. But the final twist was terrifically gaudy and, at the same time, made enough emotional and psychological sense to raise the stakes by making certain characters more interesting than they’d ever been before. I suspect that the episode could have been better overall and still felt like a letdown if the show had dropped the ball at the end; instead, the warm radioactive glow of the last couple of scenes made everything about what had preceded them seem a little bit brighter.
Any list of things that that now seem brighter than they once did has to include Julie Gonzalo’s character, Rebecca, who accidentally kills her fake brother and partner in crime, Tommy, and after taking a few seconds to pull herself more or less together, picks up the phone, says “I’m in trouble,” and is soon visited by a cleaning-and-disposal team whose professional skills would do Harvey Keitel proud. While bloody water is dumped in the bathtub, Tommy’s body is rolled up in a carpet, stuffed in a cart and wheeled away, presumably to be delivered to a nearby hot dog manufacturing plant operated by Texas’ answer to Gus Fring. While Rebecca is revealing herself to the audience as something a bit more formidable and well-funded than a petty grifter, J.R. is at Bobby’s bedside in the hospital, exposing what passes for his softer side. Alone with his brother, who is dead to the world and can’t hear him, J.R. unburdens himself: “I love you, Bobby. And I don’t know who I’d be without you.” Larry Hagman plays the scene absolutely straight, but considering who we all know J.R. to be, the line has to be considered double-edged.
Rested and fully recuperated the next day, Bobby sets out to dispense rough justice to all who have dared to make his life difficult these last few weeks. Helping him, from the grave, is the false Marta Del Sol, who turns out to have been a veritable one-woman C-SPAN. “To protect herself,” Bobby tells the Venezuelan “legitimate businessman” Vicente Cano (Carlos Bernard), “she recorded things.” Considering that, at Cano’s order, the false Marta ended up plastered to the roof of a car like a Garfield decal, you could say that she could have found a better way of protecting herself, but at least her taping system left behind the evidence needed to put Cano behind bars and extricate the Ewings from the “deals” made to leave him with ownership of Christopher’s energy operation. Bobby also has the necessary goods to put J.R. and John Ross away, but family loyalty stays his hand; he only uses what he knows to force them to take part in his scheme to entrap Cano.
As a bonus treat, Bobby gets to witness the breakup of John Ross’ engagement to Elena, though he doesn’t have to do much to bring it about. Instead, he just lets John Ross know he’s onto him, and John Ross, the sensitive puppy, starts rattling off the details of his various transgressions, unaware that Elena has just entered the next room and is practically sitting in his lap. She’s free to pursue her heart’s true desires, which is a lucky bit of timing when you consider that Christopher has just learned more details of Rebecca’s perfidy and wants nothing more to do with her. Meanwhile, Bobby’s wife Ann goes to see her loathsome, leering husband, Mitch Pileggi, and entices him to boast about his legal and ethical lapses before she will have dirty, dirty sex with him.
Pileggi plays this scene so goatishly it’s as if he’s liable to grow horns and start eating tin cans at any second, but just when it looks as if Ann may permit him to have her way with her, she unbuttons her blouse and reveals that she’d been wired for sound the whole time. “The next time you ask me for a hug,” she hisses, “you’ll be hugging the business end of my shotgun.” Somewhere, Miranda Lambert dives across the room to find some paper on which she can write that line down. With Pileggi declawed, Ann tells Sue Ellen that he has lost the control he had over her, and she can now make her official announcement that she’ running for governor. Sue Ellen kind of likes this news, though, as someone who lives in Texas, if she wants to be elected Governor here, she’s going to have to claim to believe in a hell of a lot of things that are a whole lot worse than just doing a little money laundering with Mitch Pileggi.
At the end, with all the enemies of the Ewings seemingly vanquished, John Ross, who had come so close to being forgiven and accepted into the fold by the “good” characters, stands in the offices he’s acquired and demands that his father teach him to be a double-dealing son of a bitch, a request that puts a smile on J.R.’s face and a spring in his step. At the same time, Cliff Barnes, who really has become a twisted old bastard, is being assured by his daughter that the emotional connection she now has to the Ewings only means she won’t wimp out on him, the way Aunt Pam did. Dallas has to spend its season finale brushing away the interlopers, like the Carlos Bernard and Mitch Pileggi characters, who come from outside the family, because they’re a distraction from the real danger, which is the family itself. With relatives like these, who needs enemies?