Monday, January 28, 2013

'Dallas' Premiere Review - 2.01 Battle Lines / 2.02 Venomous Creatures

        On the season premiere of TNT's Dallas, Christopher and John Ross clash; Christopher tries to gain the upper hand in his divorce; John Ross takes revenge on Christopher and Elena; Ann is blackmailed by her ex-husband; J.R. and John Ross strike a deal to try to get control of Ewing Energies; and Pamela seeks to fulfill her father's revenge against the Ewings.

        Dallas returned for its second season tonight on TNT. The death of big scene-stealer Larry Hagman last November was definitely hanging over the proceedings. Although he filmed several episodes of the season, the writers knew that he was weak during the filming of these episodes. So they used him more sparingly throughout but he continues to give a great enrapturing performance. How he was the one to help Sue Ellen out of bribery charge was masterful and a true delight watching him act yet again. However, one of the biggest questions most people have going into the season is how the show will write out such an iconic character. Of course, that thought will have to wait since the series has those first few episodes with him to plow through first. So, let's get into what happened in the two-hour season and if it was better than the stuff that was happening in the first season last summer.
        It seems that at the moment the show is intent on focusing solely on three storylines - Christopher's divorce from Rebecca (who from now on will be referred to as Pamela), Ann's rediscovery of her daughter and the the business ventures of Ewing Energies. I hate the fact that the show is still pushing the methane side of the business but fortunately that overworked explanative dialog is sidetracked throughout most of that plot and the plot itself is less focused on then the other two. Last season ended with John Ross and J.R. conspiracy to take full control of the company together and both of their motivations remain visible clear although they are doing other stuff as well.
        I'm also unsure of how much John Ross has returned to his morally bad ways. Last season the character really started to stand out as unique once he was more morally ambiguous and was even helping Christopher and Elena. Now, he is back to being a mimic of J.R. - which could be useful later after Hagman's departure but right now seems too on the nose. Right now though, he seems like an amateur compared to Hagman's master.
        The character transformation that pleased me the most though was Pamela's in that now she has been given a backbone and is doing her own thing. Granted she still has a bit too much innocence in her as John Ross is quite to note that she is only operating under her father's desires instead of her owns. Hopefully, she will become a fuller character with her motivations down the line. For now though, she'll probably stick to sleeping with John Ross to hurt Christopher and Elena. Although I'm unsure of how John Ross is planning on explaining all of this once those two find out.
        Ann and Sue Ellen have proven yet again why they are my favorite female characters on this show. They are both strong women with equally powerfully emotional arcs. As soon as the show dismissed the silly governor's race of Sue Ellen, she immediately became interesting and well integrated amongst the rest of the cast. When she poured that glass of wine, I felt that pain and really did wonder what she would do. (Then I asked, why was there a bottle of wine in her house in the first place?) Similarly, Ann was put through the emotional ringer in this premiere as she rediscovered her lost daughter. That story is set up to be one of the large ones this season and I'm already appreciating it more so than last year's season long business negotiations. It perfectly allows Mitch Pileggi's character to remain in this world while also setting up some interesting characters in his mother and their daughter. Emma Bell didn't do enough to excite me but Judith Light did with her very limited screentime. Their prospects are high for me to like this even though not everything is working together quite yet.

So what did everyone think of the premiere? How intoxicating are Brenda Strong's icy blue eyes? What do you think of Judith Light playing Mitch Pileggi's mother despite only a three year age difference? Why couldn't they have started with everyone being equal partners instead of going through those plot mechanics? Share your thoughts in the comments.