29 Years Ago Today: ‘Dallas’ Airs Its Final Episode
Dallas was a television phenomenon during its 14-season run on CBS, but all good things must come to an end. Dallas ended its spectacular run with a very special two-part episode that aired its final installment on May 3, 1991, bringing a close to one of the most iconic television series of all time.
Dallas followed the dramatic saga of the Ewings, a family of Texas oil tycoons who have long been at odds with the Barnes. In a plot borrowed from Romeo and Juliet, the show began with a five-part miniseries in 1978 in which Barnes heir Pamela Barnes (Victoria Principal) married Ewing son Bobby Ewing. The show's drama often set them as virtuous characters against Bobby's brother, J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) and his alcoholic, unfaithful wife Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray). The result was TV gold.
By the time the show closed in 1991, many of the original stars had departed, including Principal and Gray, but the tension between J.R. and Bobby was still a prime driving force for the show. The final episode, titled Conundrum, aired in two parts, and it features J.R. getting his comeuppance after 14 seasons of his villainous ways finally come back to him.
Defeated in every aspect of his life, personally and professionally, the episode begins with J.R. drinking and holding a gun, contemplating taking his own life. A spirit appears, and in a story that draws from the classic film It's a Wonderful Life, he guides J.R. through the years, showing him what life would have been like for the people around him if he had never been born. But in a dark twist, instead of encouraging him, he shows him that virtually everyone he's ever touched would have been better off if he had never existed.
The episode ends on a classic Dallas cliffhanger as the camera pulls away from J.R. to Bobby, who has entered the house unknown to his brother. Viewers hear a shot go off, and when Bobby rushes to see what's happened, he exclaims, "Oh, my god!" J.R.'s fate is left unanswered as the final credits roll on the long-running show.
In subsequent Dallas reunion movies it's revealed that J.R. merely shot the mirror where the spirit was talking to him. Hagman reprised his most famous role several times, including a 2012 reboot of Dallas for TNT. He was still playing his most iconic role when he died on Nov. 23, 2012, at the age of 81 after battling throat cancer.
Producers killed off J.R.'s character upon Hagman's death, giving him an elaborate send-off that culminated in the revelation that J.R. had taken his own life in a complicated plot to redeem himself by helping bring an end to the longstanding Ewing/Barnes feud.
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