Following my initial review, I watched and waited. And I was surprised and satisfied. The 2012 “Dallas” season finale seized nostalgia and hit it out of the park, at least for those of us who might see what’s really happening.
The heated exchanges between Bobby and J.R. took us back, while the sight of alcohol before Sue Ellen’s eyes triggered memories. We were even treated to but one extended scene with a very aged Lucy. Still, the final “surprise” twist of the season trumped it all, which for true “Dallas” fans should be no surprise whatsoever.
It’s all in the name, and this name is Rebecca. The coincidence sat in my mind throughout the season, as the name of actress Julie Gonzalo’s character did not go entirely unnoticed. As it turns out of course, there was never any coincidence at all. If this sort of gasp followed by thought followed by understanding is what producers of the TNT series intended, then I’m here to say they did one hell of an excellent job.
For those of you in need of a quick refresher: Rebecca was the name of Pam and Cliff Barnes’ mother; she died in a plane crash in 1983. In 1984 Cliff’s girlfriend Afton gave him the heave-ho and left town, returning in 1989 with a young “secret” daughter revealed to be Cliff’s. In the 1996 “Dallas” reunion movie, Cliff and Afton were reunited, and at this time Cliff finally met his now teenage daughter (her age accelerated just a bit), named Pamela Rebecca after her aunt and her grandmother. Are you still with me?
Sixteen years later, a character appears on the new “Dallas” series, named Rebecca. Low and behold, the season ends with the revelation this Rebecca is, yes, Cliff’s daughter. So again, if we think it out, there’s no coincidence and no surprise. The nostalgia by now is spinning out of control!
Naturally it gets more complicated, leading me to wonder what we the viewers are supposed to remember, and what the new show’s producers might want us to conveniently forget. Take that 1996 movie for one: Then-teen Christopher spent significant time with then-teen Rebecca, all the way to knowing that his uncle Cliff is her father, making her his cousin. And if he knew this in 1996, he would know it in 2012. So why would he marry his cousin? Or does Cliff have more than one daughter, if not more than one named Rebecca? Or is Gonzalo’s character merely impersonating someone named Rebecca, as was suggested in this season finale? Or are we supposed to forget the 1996 movie ever happened? Have I lost you?
If this all seems hard to follow, rest assured: The newest “Dallas” plots have been very hard for even me to follow. With layer upon layer of deceit and manipulation packed into a mere ten-episode story arc, there’s been no moment throughout the new series to blink without missing something. Unlike the old days of the 30-episode season with plenty of time for character and plot development, now everything happens fast. Then it gets either resolved or advanced even more quickly.
Storylines get rushed, various performances prove unconvincing, and the overall flow leaves something to be desired. This is the essence of “Dallas” in 2012. At the same time, as with any new ensemble the actors thankfully grew into their roles throughout this first season, while the overall energy ramped up as I grew a little– just a little– more comfortable with the overlapping complexities coming at us.
All the while we’re hooked by that damn nostalgia proving itself the driving force. From Miss Ellie’s gravestone to the former Ewing Oil offices, from John Ross mastering the ways of his father to a 63-year-old Bobby on his near-death bed (as opposed to a 36-year-old Bobby on his complete-death bed), we the viewers have been generously peppered for a second season of modern-day Ewing shenanigans, come January 2013. Perhaps Afton will appear to deliver us some answers, Rebecca’s mother after all. Among all else I can’t wait to hear how Cliff transformed from a cheap skate eating Chinese takeout in his average condo, into a high roller flying around on his own jet with a team to dispose of a body at a moment’s notice.
May the nostalgia continue, again for those of us who really know ‘Dallas” history and can manage to keep up. If you can’t, then why watch? At the end of the day, this series really is for us, the longtime all-knowing fans. And now we have the name “Rebecca” to lead the way into the next exciting chapter.