There has probably never been a more prominent phrase in television history than "Who shot J.R.?" For decades, the phrase rang out, and in Dallas: The Complete Second Season, it unfortunately resurfaces due to the real-life death of seasoned television actor Larry Hagman. After losing his battle with cancer mid-season, the writers of Dallas came together and re-focused the remaining episodes, working J.R.’s television death in and in some ways, giving Larry Hagman a final farewell by allowing the character he is best known for to live on in infamy. The ironic part of J.R.’s last scheme is that it actually works to bring the Ewings together rather than pull them apart. The ability for the cast and crew to build around the death has amplified why this series has always been at the top of its game, and why Dallas: The Complete Second Season deserves the outmost recognition.
In Dallas: The Complete Second Season, the Ewing’s start at each others’ throats and the battle between J.R. (Larry Hagman) and Bobby (Patrick Duffy) goes on as it started so many years ago. The newer cast also gets involved, with John Ross (Josh Henderson) and Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) finding their own spots in the battle for Southfork and with Ewing Energies. In traditional Dallas fashion, however, even the leading ladies get involved in the feuds. Of course, there is a battle between Ann (Brenda Strong) and Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) as the patriarch women of Southfork, but the next generation of women continue to make marks of their own. Using their names and beauty as their best assets for manipulation, Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) and Elena (Jordana Brewster) dig in their heels for the battle between the Barnes and Ewing clans.
Adding to the drama, newcomer Emma (Emma Bell), the long-lost daughter of Bobby’s wife Ann, enters the scene and fits right in with the deceptive nature of these prominent families, intertwining herself with Elena’s brother Drew (Kuno Becker), John Ross, and even her own father (Mitch Pileggi). The character of Emma looks to be a key piece to the puzzle in the upcoming season due to the shift in the guard that has taken place in Season 2, so it will be interesting to follow her and the rest of the characters at the start of Season 3 after the loss of J.R. has finally settled down.
There are a few really great extras on the discs as well, including a last conversation with Larry Hagman which involves a question and answer period talking about things old and new. Also included is an outstanding longer director’s cut of "J.R.’s Masterpiece," a fitting title for the final episode that we will see of Larry Hagman’s character. Digging further and watching the episode for a third time, commentary during "J.R.’s Masterpiece" reveals the thoughts behind writing in J.R.’s death and rewriting the season to revolve around one final plan for J.R. to finally get nemesis Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) out of the marketplace and rob him of Cliff’s perceived entitlement. It should be said that this is one of the most powerful television episodes I’ve ever seen, and will likely pull at the heartstrings of any fan of the series. It was a great treat to hear the commentary and how writers bounced between many possibilities on how to write in J.R.’s death. In the end, they made the perfect decision by deciding that they would come full circle and once again, we are left to wonder at the end of the episode, "Who shot J.R.?"