'Dallas' Bids Farewell to Larry Hagman and J.R. Ewing With 'Masterpiece' Episode
The series gives a heartfelt tribute to the TV icon while laying the groundwork for its biggest cliffhanger since "Who Shot J.R.?"
J.R. Ewing was laid to rest Monday in the funeral episode of Dallas, appropriately titled "J.R.'s Masterpiece."
In homage to what has frequently been declared the greatest cliffhanger in TV history, last week's episode of the TNT reboot found Larry Hagman's character the victim of a gunshot from an unknown source, prompting the all-too-familiar question: Who shot J.R.?
There weren't any answers during Monday's funeral episode, but viewers did see a heartfelt goodbye featuring tears, laughs and, of course, a little drama.
At the wake for his father, John Ross (Josh Henderson) observed that "half these people are here to make sure he's really dead, and the other half are here for the free drinks." But one uninvited guest was there for neither.
"I came to pay my disrespects and good riddance," proclaimed Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) during his grand entrance, going so far as to tell John Ross, "[I] wish I had killed your father, but somebody beat me to it."
When others began to echo his sentiments, a good old-fashioned, Dallas-style brawl ensued, with Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) -- surprisingly -- throwing the first punch. "We'll avenge his death as brothers," he later promises John Ross. "Ewings take care of Ewings, always."
Among the most heart-wrenching performances was Linda Gray's, as J.R.'s ex-wife Sue Ellen found herself struggling to deal with a final letter her former love had penned. Before she opened the letter, and after successfully staying sober during the alcohol-fueled wake ("J.R. always wanted everyone to get drunk at his funeral," she explained. "He thought it'd make everyone honest"), she succumbed to her demons and poured a glass of bourbon -- and then several more.
In his note, which she later read at the burial, J.R. declared his love for her and asked that she give their relationship one more try. Her answer: "Yes." (At the show's PaleyFest event on Sunday, executive producer Cynthia Cidre even revealed that prior to Hagman's November death, producers had considered having the duo remarry, possibly before the end of the season.)
Patrick Duffy remained stoic as Bobby through the majority of the episode, proclaiming that he needed to stay busy with the memorial planning because "if anything goes wrong, I know he's going to haunt me," and even coldly snapping at Ray (Steve Kanaly) when he speculated, "I just keep thinking he's somehow going to show up again."
"Well, he's not," retorted Bobby.
But he had a sentimental moment at the burial, and again in the final scene of the episode, when he finally allowed himself to break down in tears.
"Throughout my life, it's pretty much been easy for me to do good because I could always count on J.R. to do bad," he said. "A lot of times those bad things were necessary. Maybe more often than I care to admit. I don't want it to be true, but it is. My brother is dead. So now I have to figure out just what I'm supposed to do in this grand scheme of things."
Luckily for Bobby, J.R. is going to continue to help with that from beyond the grave.
In true J.R. fashion, the slick oil baron left clues for his family members to avenge his death and stay on top of the Dallas food chain throughout the remainder of the season, revealing that his "masterpiece" was to be taking down Ann Ewing's (Brenda Strong) ex husband Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), whom he suspects is joining forces with Barnes to destroy the Ewings. "Use what I've given to take from them what they want to take from us," he told John Ross via a letter alongside a gun. "When you've done that, Bobby will know what to do."
J.R. also revealed that he had been in Abu Dhabi in an effort to find Christopher's mother, who abandoned the family when Christopher was a young boy.
The contents of Bobby's letter were not immediately revealed, but it quickly becomes clear that J.R.'s death was not a random robbery and murder, as Mexican officials believe. "I knew you'd have at least one more left under your sleeve, J.R.," says Bobby. "It is a good one. I love you, brother."
As the closing credits began, viewers were promised that "the real mystery is just getting started."
So who killed J.R.? A highlight reel for the remainder of the season declares that each episode will add one more piece to the puzzle of "J.R.'s masterpiece," while executive producer Michael Robin told PaleyFest attendees, "You will know by the end of the season, by the end of episode 15."
Said Duffy, who is among a select group of people who know the answer, "It's probably the most brilliant piece of scriptwriting that I've read. … I think every fan who has ever watched the show will think it's the pinnacle of Dallas writing and plot."
What did you think of the J.R. sendoff? And who do you think killed J.R.? Weigh in with your comments below.
Email: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci