Oh, Dallas!

May 07, 1991|By Mike Bowler


It was lamentably wrong of you to allow J.R. Ewing to kill himself last Friday in the final moments of the 13-year run of "Dallas."

I don't say this because J.R. didn't deserve to die. You couldn't have allowed him to live after 356 weekly demonstrations of pure evilness. This guy gave the word "villain" new meaning. He cheated on his two wives, driving Sue Ellen to drink (and back again). He destroyed careers. He betrayed his brother Bobby so many times that we lost count. (J.R. was betraying Bobby even when Bobby was dead.)

But don't you see that by allowing J.R. to take his own life, you failed to allow for the vengeance of the gods (or of God, if you wish)? You gave J.R. volition over his own life until the end, until he had volition over his own death. In letting him kill one more human (a crime that bothers me and most other people no end), you let him off the hook.

Don't you have any sense of tragedy, CBS? If ever a villain deserved a tragic demise, a fateful demise, this was he. You had any number of models from our rich literature:

* The Odysseus Model: John Ross III, J.R.'s son by Sue Ellen, picks up a loaded gun and accidentally shoots his father through the floor below the bedroom where J.R. is suffering his hangover. John III doesn't know he's killed his old man. This introduces the element of fate, which all good tragedians understand.

* The Hamlet Model: There are a bunch of murders at the end (which would have been all right in this context, J.R. having been far from the only scoundrel in "Dallas"). When J.R. shows up unexpectedly at the funeral of one of his ex-mistresses (a suicide), Jock Ewing decides he's had enough. He arranges a duel in which J.R. will die from a sword with a poisoned tip. But in the chaos, the foils are switched. J.R. (among several others) is done in.

* The Medea Model: In a mad act of revenge, one of J.R.'s wronged ex-wives or ex-mistresses goes on a rampage, killing all of his children.

* It's Too Late Model (from several plays and novels over several centuries): J.R. sees the error of his ways, apologizes to Bobby and tearfully embraces him. Just then a South Fork chandelier falls on J.R., injuring him fatally. How much better this ending!? How much more packed with lessons about fate and the gods (or God)! Suicide, CBS, was too good for J.R. He didn't learn any lessons. And neither did we.


Mike Bowler

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