OK, so TNT’s _Dallas_ leaves us with the mystery of “Who killed JR?” hoping that it will be as much a success as “Who shot JR?” was 33 years ago. It may all tie together, in that JR was shot by Christopher’s biological mother, Kristin Shepard, Sue Ellen’s sister. Indeed, while we saw JR’s second wife Cally Harper Ewing and his longtime mistress Mandy Winger, I was really surprised there was not a single direct reference to Kristin.
The 1980 finale was masterfully done. Besides being a ratings triumph and pop culture phenomenon, it set several precedents. Trying to keep the solution a secret, the producers did not tell *anyone* who the real shooter was. They filmed every one of the suspects shooting him: including Jock and Miss Ellie! I remember reading somewhere that Barbara bel Geddes took great delight in the scene. _Dallas_ built up over a season what _Murder She Wrote_ does in a half an hour. JR drove away Gary. He tried to drill on Southfork. When that wasn’t successful, he mortgaged the ranch to pay for oil leases in Southeast Asia because the other members of the Lonestar Cartel wouldn’t chip in on an international deal. He nearly lost the ranch when those wells didn’t come in, forcing a heartbroken Ellie to approve drilling on Southfork till the SE Asian fields came through. When the wells hit it big, the cartel tried to get back in, and JR refused. Meanwhile, Bobby kept trying to either get some respect at Ewing Oil or get permission to start his own company. Jock, after JR’s mortgaging the ranch fiasco, claimed to give Bobby more power, but JR still overrode him. Bobby discovered some old wells that had been closed for decades but could make a profit with modern technology, so he reopened them. Cliff Barnes found out that his father, and his father’s heirs, retained rights to royalties on some of those wells, and claimed his rights. JR shut the wells down.
When JR found out that there was going to be a revolution in Southeast Asia, he went back to the cartel and “let them in” on the deal so he could free up cash for other projects. Vaughan Leland, the banker who did the loan to begin with, mortgaged everything to get in on the deal. Then the revolution happened, and the wells were nationalized. Vaughan Leland lost everything, as did a few members of the Cartel. Seth Stone committed suicide. In parallel stories, JR also triple-crossed his henchman of the season, ambitious young lawyer Alan Beam, and his mistress, Kristin Shepard. When Bobby found out JR knowingly conned the Cartel and Vaughan Leland, Jock backed JR, saying the Cartel members knew “bidness” is risky, and that Leland deserved it. Jock also backed JR on shutting down the wells that the Barneses had rights to. Bobby said he was sick of both of them, and he and Pam left Southfork, breaking Ellie’s heart. Oh, and then there was Sue Ellen, whom JR once described as a “drunk, a tramp and an unfit mother.” She was going to leave him for rich rodeo cowboy Dusty Farlow, but Dusty had gone missing after a plan crash, and
Sue Ellen saw no way out of her abusive marriage except a gun. There were a lot of suspects, and the only ones with alibis were Bobby and Pam, whom the viewers saw driving away while JR was being shot.
This time, since it wasn’t planned, it was more _Law & Order_ than _Murder, She Wrote_: a sudden and unsuspected act of seemingly senseless violence.
JR was actually shot several times: 1) on a hunting trip in the first season; 2) by Kristin in the infamous season 3 finale; 3) by mercenary BD Calhoun in Season 9; 4) by Sue Ellen in the 10th season finale; 5) by Peter Ellington in _War of the Ewings_. Bobby was also shot by Katherine Wentworth in the 1984 cliffhanger, in a similar scene to the 1980 one, because Katherine thought he *was* J.R. Hence, in the promotions for TNT’s new series, they showed a scene where Ann holds a gun on JR, and he says, “Bullets don’t have much of an effect on me.” This time, they did.
What we know:
1) JR was in Abu Dhabi, both signing oil leases for Ewing Energies *and* trying to track down information on Pam.
2) *WHY* was JR looking for Pam, whom he hated? When he left town, Bobby’s wife Ann was still on trial. Did he want Bobby to have a contingency? Knowing that the Ewings were in for a major fight with Cliff, did he somehow think that Pam would side with them against her brother after 26 years? OR did this have something to do with Christopher’s paternity?
3) JR left Abu Dhabi early but told John Ross he was still there. He secretly went to Mexico, apparently trying to track down “dirt” on Harris Ryland, for his “master plan.” He met a “lady”–someone sophisticated–at a bar, then returned to his hotel, to which he was followed by his killer.
4) He left Sue Ellen a letter asking to go out on a date (producers claim they’d hoped to reunite JR and Sue Ellen for a third marriage; I really never thought they had long term plans for JR since Hagman’s health was so bad, and if anything I’d still like to see Sue Ellen bring out that blackmail movie she made about her & JR when she left in 1989). So he planned to return, at least *before* he left town.
5) By the time he made it to Mexico, he expected to die. He left a package for everyone, delivered by his henchman “Bum”. Bum explains to everyone what JR was up to and how he set some plans in motion. He gives John Ross and Bobby special things JR left them.
6) John Ross gets a box containing a gun and a letter. The letter says to expect Harris Ryland and Cliff Barnes to team up against the Ewings, and that the box contains what he needs to stop them (I’m presuming it’s not the gun, *unless* the gun is some kind of evidence).
7) Bobby gets the letter, has a very disturbed reaction, and suddenly insists on talking to Bum alone. He tells Bum to bribe whomever it is necessary to bribe to ensure the world thinks JR’s death is a random robbery-murder as the police already presume, that the Ewings will take care of the real killer. Then he goes to JR’s room, has a drink of JR’s bourbon and branch, cries, and commends his brother for a masterful plan.
I just read that the “actual” piece of paper merely described the reactions Bobby was supposed to have, but Duffy convinced the producers to tell him what the fictional letter was supposed to say so he could act it right. Apparently, the letter says who the real killer is. However, since the main spoiler we’ve been given about JR’s funeral is that there will be a revelation about someone’s parentage–assuming that wasn’t a complete red herring–I think it all ties together.
Now, it would be a masterful stroke and bring the whole saga to a nice wrap-up if Pam killed JR, but why so suddenly after 26 years of absence, and what does all this have to do with Ryland? Bobby’s reaction showed that he wanted to keep the contents of the letter from the rest of the family–why is that? Perhaps because it relates to Christopher’s paternity? Again, why was JR looking for Pam? The clues are all so vague as to go in a number of interesting directions, but I *hope* the writers handle this well. They say it will all be wrapped up by the end of the season, and the killer will be revealed in episode 15 on April 29. If it goes in one of the directions I suspect, it really should be a masterpiece.