NEW YORK (AP) — Who killed J.R.?
That's the mystery propelling "Dallas" through the rest of its second season as a TNT revival.
And that question hangs heavy in the upcoming episode (airing Monday at 9 p.m. EDT), which confirms the sad truth every viewer knew was coming: glorious scoundrel J.R. Ewing has died, after decades of living-on-the-edge infamy dating back at least to 1980, when he was gunned down in his office and left for dead, with "Who shot J.R.?" the question on every viewer's lips for months afterward.
J.R.'s fate was sealed this time by the intrusion of reality. In November, Larry Hagman died of cancer at 81. And when he died, he took J.R. with him.
So the new episode — surely the first without Hagman's deliciously vile presence — stands as a fitting tribute both to him and to J.R., complete with a wake and a funeral for the rascally oil baron. Even the oh-so-familiar theme music is rearranged from its quickstep tempo to a dirge. The message of this episode, titled "J.R.'s Masterpiece": J.R. is gone but not forgotten.
Last Monday's episode featured the last, brief appearances by a visibly frail Hagman. There were three isolated scenes with J.R., who for reasons unknown had gone missing from Dallas. But the action mostly swirled among the other characters as they squabbled over Ewing Energies, which has pitted cousins John Ross (played by Josh Henderson) and Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) in a battle for its control.
In his final scene, near the end of the hour, J.R. was glimpsed at an undisclosed location on the phone with John Ross.
"Don't you worry, son, I've got a plan," J.R. told him. "It's gonna be my masterpiece. Because you shouldn't have to pay for my sins."
"What do you mean?" asked John Ross, struck by J.R.'s rare show of tenderness.
"Just remember, I'm proud of you," said J.R., as John Ross' eyes moistened. "You're my son, from tip to tail."
But at that moment, John Ross heard gunshots. He screamed into the phone, "Dad! Dad!"
Who shot J.R.?
"I need to know who killed my father, and why!" snaps John Ross in the new episode.
Sue Ellen, his mother and J.R.'s long-suffering ex-wife (played by Linda Gray), hoists a Dallas directory and reminds him, "Half the people in this phone book wanted to."
Yes, J.R. had legions of enemies with scores to settle. But who among them did the deed? And why did J.R.'s time run out, in all places, in a room at a Mexican flophouse?
His memorial takes place at the Dallas Petroleum Club, where high-powered mourners flock to bid him farewell.