No nighttime soap opera compares in drama or staying power to the 14-season ’80s hit Dallas. On Saturday, Larry Hagman, the show’s notorious J.R. Ewing, passed away at age 81. Here’s a compilation of the most legendary episodes from the show’s incredible reign. Also, read a recent interview with the show’s stars, including Hagman, here.
A House Divided
This Dallas episode pioneered the now-ubiquitous season cliffhanger when it aired in 1980. Still only in its third season (of what would become 14), the show was struggling when it cut out for the summer with Texas oil baron J.R. Ewing getting shot. Who was the mysterious shooter? The public couldn’t wait to find out.
Who Done It?
After the previous season’s cliffhanger, this episode ended up setting the record as second-highest-rated TV show in history. After that episode, a fan base grew rapidly and 83.6 million people tuned in to find out the culprit was his sister-in-law/mistress Kristin. Turns out most of the world knew before the cast did—they were locked in a restaurant as the episode aired. “We were the last people on the planet to know,” Patrick Duffy, who played Bobby Ewing, joked in an interview with The Daily Beast.
Blast From the Past
Despite an entire season without Bobby after his tragic death, he was raised from the dead in a shocking plot twist that dismissed that last season as his wife’s bad dream. Turns out, the actor, Patrick Duffy, had decided to leave at the end of his contract, but was persuaded to come back on the show by the urging of the producers and other actors. In an interview with The Daily Beast in June, Duffy remembers getting a voicemail from a producer. “I said, ‘They’re going to ask me back on the show.’ [My wife] said, ‘The only way you can come back on Dallas is if it was all a dream.’” Turns out her premonition was right.
A Patriarch Passes On
One of the hardest plot decisions was what to do after actor Jim Davis, who played Jock Ewing, died in 1980 from multiple myeloma. The writers decided to kill his character off, and sent the characters off to South America to look for Jock after his plane went missing. Coming back, the siblings had to deliver the bad news to their mother.
How to end 14 years of mesmerizing drama? In the series’ two-part grand finale, J.R. journeys through the different paths each character might have taken if he had never been born. Finally, egged on by an evil spirit, a destitute J.R. resolves to commit suicide, and gun to his head, pulls the trigger. The audience doesn’t see where the shot went, and, in typical Dallas fashion, can only assume that he’s dead.