Who killed J.R.?
I don’t know. But I’m dying to find out whodunit.
That’s what good soap opera is all about. And “Dallas” executive producer Cynthia Cidre and her team have made the revival of that iconic series a good prime-time soap.
They’ve also done a masterful job of saying goodbye to J.R. Ewing in Monday’s episode, which airs at 7 and 9:03 p.m. on TNT.
The man who embodied J.R. since 1978, Larry Hagman, passed away in November, in the midst of filming the current season. J.R. made his final appearance in the most recent episode — we saw him on the phone, from an undisclosed location, talking to his son, John Ross (Josh Henderson).
“I’ve got a plan,” J.R. said. “It’s going to be my masterpiece. Because you shouldn’t have to pay for my sins.”
“What do you mean?” asked John Ross.
“Just remember, I’m proud of you,” said J.R. “You’re my son, from tip to tail.”
At that point, John Ross and the audience heard gunshots. And, unlike Bobby’s (Patrick Duffy) sudden return from the dead in 1986 — which really just erased a season of the series — J.R. is not coming back.
Monday’s episode is a fitting farewell. There’s no attempt to canonize J.R. — everybody is pretty much surprised nobody killed him years earlier, with all his dirty dealings.
Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), who married and divorced J.R. twice, points out that “half the people in this phone book wanted to” kill him.
But J.R. was a member of the family, and the farewells will bring a tear to your eye.
It’s a measure of how good this episode is that it will also make fans smile. Hey, at one point during the wake, Sue Ellen; J.R.’s second wife, Cally (Cathy Podewell); and his longtime mistress, Mandy Winger (Deborah Shelton), reminisce about him together.
That’s before Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) breaks in, declares his joy at J.R.’s death and threatens the rest of the Ewings.
It’s classic “Dallas,” complete with a continuation of the Barnes-Ewing feud. Old-timers may recall that Cliff actually intended to shoot J.R. back in 1980, but Kristin Shepherd (Mary Crosby) got to him first.
We know Kristin didn’t do it this time. She drowned in the Southfork pool in 1981, and both Cliff and J.R. were suspects in what was eventually ruled an accident.
I’m not going to spoil the surprises in Monday’s episode, but J.R. leaves behind several messages. One of those made me gasp out loud.
And all of them demonstrated that the end of J.R. is not going to be the end of J.R.’s manipulations. The rest of this season of “Dallas” promises to be very interesting.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce