TV Report Card | 'Dallas' Season 3A Review

Overview: The showdowns continued as John Ross (Josh Henderson) lied and cheated in an attempt to gain control of Ewing Global. Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) grew a beard and romanced a sassy ranch-hand (AnnaLynne McCord). Elena (Jordana Brewster) plotted revenge and embarked on a romance with her adopted brother. Bobby (Patrick Duffy) was on his toes trying to stop John Ross. Anne (Brenda Strong) and Sue Ellen (Linda Grey) attempted to rein in their despotic children to no avail.

Emma (Emma Bell) had an affair with John Ross and remained smugly self-confident throughout it all. Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) was none the wiser, failing to figure out her husband’s betrayal. The Rylands (Mitch Pileggi and Judith Light) continued their run as a mother/son team to be reckoned with, as the thin line between love and hate, became blurry for one side of the duo.

Storyline Direction Pros: The corporate storylines continued to impress. The Rylands involvement with the cartel provided an interesting layer to the overall drama. John Ross finally came into his own this season as the series’ villain and part-time anti-hero. J.R. is an impossible act to follow and the writing acknowledged the difficulty of such a task, crafting John Ross as a man becoming his father without having gotten there completely.

Elena finally received purpose outside of being Christopher’s shoulder accessory. She and newcomer Nicolas/Joaquin (Juan Pablo Di Pace) played well off of each other. Her growth came from a natural place and the writers managed to stay true to her credo, while also moving her ethics into greyer territory. 

The Sue Ellen/Anne friendship continued to be a series highlight as the two commiserated and supported each other through tough times. The evolution of Harris Ryland as the show’s onetime big bad, into a conflicted villain capable of redemption has been a delightful interlude. Also compelling has been his arc with Anne, as their relationship morphed from one of ill contempt to civility.

Storyline Direction Cons: Emma. Everything having to do with this character was simply annoying. If the reckoning of her finally being put into her place is the eventual promise of her arc, it cannot happen soon enough. Her smug gloating and arrogant countenance has made for an alarmingly distracting character.

Last season there were hints she was mentally unstable and while she continues to act in a manic fashion, the storyline seems to have been dropped. Her involvement in every storyline became overpowering this season and it wasn’t pleasant. Neither was the Ryland's planned takedown of John Ross, which had several holes including how they were going to explain how he was caught in the scandal at their brothel.

Pamela’s character was seriously damaged this season. Once one of the savviest characters on the show, she couldn’t figure out that John Ross was having carrying on a dastardly affair with the overtly seductive Emma. The finale shocker that saw her confronting her cheating husband, quickly devolved into a macho fantasy of bizarre proportions.

It was apparently wishful thinking that Drew, Elena’s murdering brother was gone. He returned to Dallas with apologies and no desire to face the punishment he deserves. New character Heather was unlikable and cocky beyond belief. Her obnoxious railing towards other characters was far from endearing, as was her treatment of her ex-husband. It’s a shame because up until Christopher’s romantic entanglement with her, he had actually gained a lot of likability. 

Performance Quality: The explosive encounter between an inebriated Sue Ellen and a fed-up John Ross led to spectacular performances from both Linda Grey and Josh Henderson. Henderson found his best standout moment to date. It was a turn tinged with desperation and pent up frustration.

The complete lack of John Ross’s typical arrogance was a telling moment for Henderson’s range and he succeeded in showing he has lots of it. Judith Light sumptuously devoured her role as Mama Ryland and Julie Gonzalo nailed Pamela's heartbreaking response to betrayal. Comparatively other cast members had less to work with, though they gave their material justice. 

Overall Grade: B-, Showrunner Cynthia Cidre continued to deliver enough intricate storylines to be the envy of any other primetime soap. The formula of what makes the genre so successful is the blend of family, conflict and business. She managed to excel on all fronts.