When we were last with the Ewings in Season 11 (the season that aired in 1988) a gun shot meant the final nail in the coffin of Sue Ellen and JR Ewing's marriage. There would also be the body of a third party to explain. In Dallas' last amazing cliffhanger, Sue Ellen shot JR after he pushed her lover over the balcony of his penthouse. Now, JR lies in hospital surrounded by his family, and Sue Ellen faces attempted murder charges as she shows little remorse for her latest revenge.
Meanwhile, Cliff Barnes finally tracks down his missing sister Pam, only to be faced with the fact that she doesn't want to return home to her family and her son. She's moved on, she tells them. In an attempt to give the audience some closure to the character (she disappeared from the hospital after a near fatal car explosion two years before), it is revealed that Pam has another reason for not returning to Bobby and Christopher.
This year also see's the long awaited return of the "Poison Dwarf" Lucy Ewing, who has now left Mitch in California and returned to the tardis that is Southfork. Full of sarcasm and loathing for JR, there is very little for Lucy to now do, but in egging Sue Ellen along in her final revenge plot, Lucy has become an enjoyable watch. In other major storylines, we see Ray Krebbs head for Europe to be with Jenna, who departed the show the year before. This marks the last appearance in the full Dallas runs for Steve Kanaly, although he would appear in the Dallas finale in 1991 and the subsequent reunion film.
The biggest departure though was Linda Gray, who gets the year's "cliffhanger", although it isn't so much a cliffhanger as a fond farewell to one of Dallas' most established and lovable characters. Again, Gray would return for the finale, the reunion films and is back next year full time, as Dallas returns to the screen for a 10 part run. Gray is phenomenal in this season. Whilst everything else whimpers to a dull finale, her ludicrous but scene stealing provocations of JR give her the ultimate exit from the show.
Season 12 also see's the introduction of a new wife for JR. Feisty, but vulnerable Cally is brought on board to provide JR with a new wife to cheat on in the wake of Sue Ellen's departure to England. Cally has potential, but the actress Cathy Podewell is no match for her predecessor. Linda Gray's well rounded potrayed as Sue Ellen, as she grew from drunken lush to business powerhouse, is one of the much under-rated performances of 80s tv drama.
Larry Hagman is back as JR, and as dastardly as ever. Whilst anybody would think that he is fast running out of devilish deeds and sarcastic put-downs, Hagman continues to deliver an outstandingly over the top performance. It's not over the top in that over-acting way that Ken Kercheval eats the scenery, but a knowingly flash performance that made him the most popular bad guy in television history.
There are also new threads hanging on this series with Bobby beginning to fall for April Stevens. Patrick Duffy still seems to be enjoying his role as Bobby and occasionally gets to step out of his nice-guy-shoes. It's always a pleasure to see Bobby fall from grace a little as it makes him all the more enjoyable to watch. He is also returning next year in the new series of Dallas.
This season quickly runs out of steam and becomes a vehicle for the silly plot of Sue Ellen's movie. The idea that she can just finance this movie and that it'll be of interest to everybody in America is a little far-fetched. It is in the dialogue between her and JR that we get the most pleasure. However, little happens as the season draws to a close, and it is the first time a Dallas finale ever left it's viewers without anything to hang a new season on. The show was rumoured to develop into an episodic drama after this season, with the further departure of 2 major character's. This didn't come to fruition and Dallas would begin again the following year.
There are other advantages to collecting this rather weaker season - if not only for completion sake. There is the trip to Vienna, which provides a stunning backdrop to the wicked deeds of JR and the contrasting romance that blooms between Bobby and April. We do see JR soften though when he meets an old flame, who would become integral to the plot's of Season 13 and 14. Other than that, its business as usual.
The episodes available on this DVD release are:
No Greater Love
The Call of the Wild
Out of the Frying Pan
War and Love and the Whole Damned Thing
Showdown at the Ewing Corral
The Two Mrs. Ewings
Comings and Goings
Wedding Bell Blues
The Way We Were
The Serpent's Tooth
And Away We Go!
Yellow Brick Road
The Sound of Money
The Great Texas Waltz
Mission to Moscow
There are no extra's on the DVD
The complete cast this season are:
Barbara Bel Geddes
Sheree J Wilson