It’s difficult to completely escape a feeling of melancholy watching the first two episodes of “Dallas’ ” second season, knowing the show will have to grapple with the death of Larry Hagman. Yet setting that aside, the program returns from its surprisingly tasty maiden run clicking on all cylinders, with plenty of bed-hopping, two-timing and Texas-sized dealmaking to go around. Viewed that way, the series reboot can be celebrated as a fitting tribute to its original star, who enjoyed an improbable resurgence of cool along with this venerable title, as “Dallas” bravely gave old dogs their day.
Although ratings cooled a bit as the season progressed, “Dallas” remained a solid performer for TNT. And in the sort of cold calculus J.R. could no doubt appreciate, Hagman’s death might actually provide an initial boost to the show, which returns with a two-hour launch before becoming the lead-in to TNT’s medical procedural “Monday Mornings.”
As for the story, “Dallas” pretty much picks up right where season one left off, with fast-shifting alliances, a coalescence of big money, business and politics, and blackmail the preferred form of negotiation. And while the action is principally driven by the next-generation Ewings, showrunner Cynthia Cidre spreads the wealth, as it were, in terms of storylines for the senior contingent as well.
Two main plots this time involve Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), the adopted son of Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), seeking to dissolve his marriage from the scheming Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo), and the gubernatorial candidacy of Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), which is tested by the sacrifices made and secrets carried on behalf of Bobby’s current wife (Brenda Strong), whose power-broker ex-husband (Mitch Pileggi, wisely promoted to series regular) is seeking to gain control of her.
If all that sounds like a lot to metabolize, there’s also the little matter of the Ewings’ energy operations, throwing often-squabbling cousins Christopher and John Ross (Josh Henderson) into business together, along with Christopher’s dad and Elena (Jordana Brewster), the woman who’s alternately been involved with both cousins.
Still, the focus will inevitably and perhaps appropriately be on Hagman, and as with season one, he’s seldom in a scene without committing outright larceny. When a family member suggests a setback might be educational, he grins, “I never learn my lesson.”
J.R. surely didn’t. But in his encore run with this iconic character, Hagman clearly managed to teach a few of them — and whether in cowboy or acting terms, only burnished his legacy by dying with his boots on.