I’ve been working on a rather long review of a worthy revival of one of the greatest TV series of all time–which will be posted in several parts, related to what made the original series great, my reactions to the new series, and why I think it’s of great cultural import.
Most of it’s drafted, but I have some to go, and before the season finale airs, though, I wanted to get some predictions/speculation posted in case I’m right.
My original intention was to have these predictions build out of my review of the series thus far, so a bit of a recap. My biggest beef with this series is that it plays fast & loose with continuity.
Here’s the deal, in short.
Since the very first episode of the original series, one of the recurring storylines of the Ewing Saga is how Southfork Ranch, besides being fictionally the biggest working ranch in the state of Texas, also sits on perhaps the biggest oil deposits in the country (for some reason, on the new series, they’re acting like this is news). This was such an important plot point in the original series, yet never fulfilled, and the relationships of then-young cousins John Ross and Christopher were so full of foreshadowing that the story called for some kind of continuation.
So, of course, that’s the focus of the new series. In the pilot episode, John Ross Ewing III follows in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and once again secretly drills on Southfork. His uncle Bobby (who was given the deed by his mother in the last season of the original series, but in this series has it by trust from her will) is incensed. Bobby, by the way, has cancer. The infamous JR is in a sanitarium and has been for some time (the vaguery of which I will discuss elsewhere). Learning John Ross’s plans to get the family back in the oil business, JR experiences a miraculous recovery. Meanwhile, Christopher marries “Rebecca Sutter,” a girl who not only looks a great deal like his possibly dead or just missing adoptive mother Pam, but also has the same name as Pam & Cliff Barnes’ mother and the middle name of Cliff’s daughter, Pamela Rebecca. When the promotional stills first came out last year, people said, “Who’s that girl who looks so much like Pam? Is she some kind of Barnes?” And the producers INSISTED, “She’s not a Barnes. This is Ewing v. Ewing. No Barneses.”
Yet shortly before the series “premiered” (though fans are calling it Season 15 and not even referring to it as a new series), TNT posted a video explaining the basics for those who didn’t know the original show, and a good deal of it focused on the Barnes/Ewing Feud.
Now, in the producers’ defense, when they wrote the script, they weren’t sure about the extent of the involvement of the original cast members, or their health. Ken “Cliff Barnes” Kercheval and Larry Hagman have both had quite a lot of health problems since the series ended–in some of his guest appearances in the late 90s on shows like _Diagnosis Murder_, Kercheval was in a wheelchair.
So Kercheval signed on to make 3 guest appearances. His first two were little more than cameos, though they hinted at something more.
When Christopher introduced Cliff to his wife Rebecca, she and Cliff cast each other the kind of look that actors use when the characters are supposed to be indicating it’s not the first time they’ve met.
The show hasn’t gotten much into explaining what’s happened between 1991 and 2012, but Cliff is now a multi-billionaire who’s based out of Las Vegas. JR spent a few episodes in Vegas, trying to find out what Cliff is up to (in real life, Hagman was going through cancer treatment).
John Ross was conspiring with a woman originally introduced as “Marta del Sol,” whom JR learned by the end of episode 2 was not the “real” Marta del Sol (Carlos del Sol having been a Mexican billionaire JR had business dealings with in the past but hadn’t seen since his daughter was a child). Her “real name” was Veronica Martinez or something, and John Ross met her in Las Vegas.
Marta/Veronica, who is now dead, put John Ross in contact with some “Venezuelans” who financially backed his scheme to buy Southfork from Bobby through a fake land conservation trust. The main representative of these “Venezuelans” is Vincente, a really nasty dude who is Venezuelan but has been in the US several years, doing shade business deals of various sorts. In other words, it’s not certain Vincente actually represents some kind of Venezuelan organization, as he claims.
So we have these people John Ross is mixed up with, who all claim to be something they’re not, and they all have ties to Las Vegas, and we know they’re working for someone.
Then on the other hand, there’s “Rebecca Sutter.”
It is definitely clear that Rebecca is supposed to be “somebody.” There’s a subplot that Bobby Ewing’s “new” wife Ann apparently had a child at some point, and the way it’s being handled suggests she gave the child up for adoption. So one choice is that Rebecca is Ann’s daughter.
Rebecca has a “brother” named Tommy–Carter McKay, the Ewings’ main adversary from the latter seasons of the original series, had a son named Tommy. So I wondered if they might throw one out of left field and make them McKays.
However, as time has gone on, several things have already been revealed about the mysterious Rebecca: a) her “brother” Tommy was responsible for breaking up Christopher and his first fiancee; b) when she “accidentally” met him in China, it was arranged; c) while she then claimed it was Tommy’s idea, we learned in last week’s episode that the whole scheme was *her* idea, and she has a lockbox at the bank full of cards and cash indicating a dual life; d) Tommy is not her brother, and it’s not even clear their relationship predated this long term scam of the Ewings.
Rebecca was the name of Pam & Cliff’s mother.
Cliff had a daughter, Pamela Rebecca Cooper–who was a key figure in 1996’s _JR Returns_, but the 1996 & 1998 TV movies are being ignored.
Cliff seems to know Rebecca
Rebecca engineered this whole plan to infiltrate the Ewing family.
Oh, and last week’s episode saw Tommy meeting secretly with this mysterious guy named Frank who serves as Cliff’s representative and all around henchman.
So what will probably be revealed in tonight’s season finale is that Cliff Barnes has been behind both “Rebecca and Tommy,” and the “Venezuelans,” as a means of getting at both Ewing cousins and their incipient businesses, as well as Southfork. If he’s behind the “Venezuelans,” that means that he has a lien on Southfork, and they might pull the biggest surprise of them all and have the Ewings lose Southfork altogether when Cliff calls his lien.
Conversely, if Kercheval (who, while not a “regular” till the third or fourth season, is the only actor besides Hagman to have appeared in all 14 seasons) is not in it for the long haul, JR mentioned some super-high stakes poker game Cliff runs, and my back-up prediction is that JR will play a multimillion dollar poker match with Barnes, and if he doesn’t wipe him out, he’ll at least win back the rights to the “original” Ewing Oil.