Of all the things Dallas has attempted in this continuation of the series, it’s hasn’t done much to alter the tried and true mantra that there is no drama unless someone is in the hospital. It wasn’t much of a leap to assume that – since the show started off with Bobby (Patrick Duffy) being diagnosed with cancer – as the season reaches its conclusion, the heart and soul of the Ewing clan would once again be staring down death, never bothering to ask why it prefers to stalk him instead of J.R. (Larry Hagman).
That reason could possibly be that the crotchety son of a gun simply refuses to die – shrugging off everything from murder to suicide, and even cancellation, apparently. Another reason is that ‘Family Business’ is something of a schmaltzy episode that gets right to the heart of the matter, which is: deep down, the Ewings really do care about one another. With all the love that’s spread around Southfork this episode, the potential to spoil that happiness must have been handled with the kind of glee only someone writing a soap opera could possibly enjoy.
‘Family Business’ also welcomes back into the fold a whole heaping bowlful of J.R., who had been mostly absent these last few rounds – likely as some sort of tentative research to see just how well the show does without him. The answer: fine, but it is exponentially better whenever J.R. is in the house stirring up trouble and feelings of resentment, simply by trying to gain access to his ailing brother’s room.
As is typically the case, the closer a season comes to its end, the more perilous Bobby’s health conditions must become. Since Bobby’s cancer was little more than a footnote, or secret that one family member can use as an excuse to feel left out of the inner circle, it was time for the moral center to have another medical incident. After suffering what Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) very clinically describes as “some kind of brain seizure,” Bobby is put on bed rest; with a fulltime nurse by his side and an ambulance in Southfork’s driveway ready to assist in the episode’s cliffhanger ending.
While he’s bedridden, Bobby masterfully uses the age-old technique of shame to whip his family into shape – should he not survive the inevitable second “brain seizure.” This means getting his son and John Ross (Josh Henderson) to finally stop comparing their fathers and work to create a new company that holds the promise Ewing Oil once did. The young men decide to enter into what will undoubtedly be a disastrous relationship after an argument regarding the horizontal drilling of Southfork from the Henderson plot (that’s similar to the milkshake-drinking technique described in There Will Be Blood) basically puts Bobby in the hospital to begin with.
The family rallies around Bobby, but really all that matters at this moment is J.R., and his battle of conscience after his little brother hits him with the news of his illness. At first, the elder Ewing can’t possibly understand why anyone would hold him responsible for Bobby’s condition. Ann (Brenda Strong) sets him straight by telling it’s because “you’re a sociopath.” That, and possibly the threat of being shot by “wife number three,” gives J.R. a moment to consider just what he wanted out of Southfork all along. Dallas has its moments where it revels in the incredibly long history of the show, and Hagman’s performance is its cornerstone. Following a confrontation with Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), one gets the feeling that to J.R., family loyalty can trump even his greed. Throw in a melodramatic, but still very effective scene where he tells Bobby to keep the reminders of their familial connection coming, and Hagman essentially swoops in and saves the show from itself. He’s so convincing that his signing over of the Southfork deed to Bobby doesn’t register as ridiculous at al.
That’s not to say other stars or story elements haven’t exhibited some promise. Cliff Barnes’ right-hand man, Frank (Faran Tahir), is revealed to be conspiring with Tommy (Callard Harris) to get his hands on Christopher’s methane technology – likely at the request of crazy old coot, Cliff Barnes. Thankfully, though, it looks like Tommy’s increasingly desperate role is coming to an end after Frank summarily dumps him, and he likely ends up shot by Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo). As two of the least sympathetic characters on the show, that cliffhanger holds about as much weight as a commercial break. Still, waiting in the wings of utter villainy is the repugnant Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), who so far has set his sights on the Ewing women (possibly because they don’t back hand him as readily as Bobby does), but until now, Harris seemed only to be wrapped up in seeing how creepy he could get in dealing with his ex-wife. By the end of ‘Family Business,’ however, Harris stands at the top of the Dallas scumbag food chain after blackmailing Sue Ellen with the knowledge she bribed a medical examiner to exonerate John Ross.
If Pileggi’s performance proves anything, it’s that being taken seriously on Dallas is definitely an older man’s game.
Dallas returns next week with the season finale episode ‘Revelations’ @9pm on TNT. Check out a preview below: