Sunday, April 7, 2013

DALLAS: Snidely Whiplash Has Nothing on Harris Ryland

Big, huge, Texas-sized doin's on Dallas this week.

In last Monday's episode, the state seized the land – and essentially, the business – of Ewing Energies as a result of the explosion that leveled the company's methane gas refinery.

Ken Richards (so cool to see Lee Majors again, in a guest role) pulls a Judas act on Sue Ellen and the family.

TESHA, the state's energy commission, ruled Christopher's negligence in not replacing a faulty sensor was to blame for the blast (when we all know it really was Cliff Barnes who paid for the platform to be dynamited, killing Christopher and Pamela's unborn babies in the process) and fines the family $1 billion for the catastrophe. (Note here: the Ewings' reaction, after Bobby tells the commission to stick their ruling where the oil don't flow, was not, "Oh, my Lord, where are we ever going to find that much money?" "It was more, "Oh, well, if we have to pay it, we guess we will." How much money do they have at Southfork, anyway? Must. Be. Nice.)

Even the governor of Texas (Steven Weber) appears to be in on the conspiracy to run the Ewings out of business and bring them to their haughty knees. And all the while, Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi) and Barnes are sitting back, rubbing their hands with glee and waiting for the dominoes to fall.

Oh, the soap's getting all sudsy now. It's all enough to merit a two-hour Dallas spectacular beginning at 8 p.m. EST Monday, April 8 on TNT, two new episodes back-to-back as the Ewing family unites to begin their counteroffensive.

Bobby wants to muss him up, but Ryland's got the upper hand – for now.*

With the death of J.R., this series needed a villain contemptible enough for the audience to boo and hiss whenever he appeared on the screen. Frankly, Cliff (Ken Kercheval) is a little long in the tooth for the assignment, but the producers appear to have found their man in Harris Ryland.

He pushes his mother (Judith Light) down a staircase. When he disapproves of his daughter's boyfriend, he has the kid snatched off the street, stuffed in a trunk and the snot beaten out of him. Boo! Hiss! Pileggi is certainly not the man he used to be in TV viewers' eyes, a mighty far piece from his days as Walter Skinner on The X-Files.

But I'm betting Pileggi knows what most actors recognize, and what Larry Hagman understood very well: villains usually get the best lines. And before we forget about it and move on, his closing speech as Harris at the end of last Monday's episode, "Let Me In" written by series creator David Jacobs, Cynthia Cidre and Aaron Allen, is a bit of business worth remembering.

Sitting in the governor's office, Ryland delivers a chilling, monotonal soliloquy comparing his strategy to that of a notorious killer of the animal kingdom. While he talks, the screen flashes with scenes of the Ewings' business and family slowly unraveling.

Ryland says: 

"I watched this program the other day. Some nature documentary on the hunting pattern of the Komodo dragon. Did you watch this?

"Well, see, the Komodo is venomous. His bite is poison. So he bites his prey – buffalo, usually – and then he waits.

"The Komodo is strong. But the buffalo is stronger. He can't take it down while it's at full strength. So the dragon waits, while the buffalo gets weaker and weaker. Takes days. Weeks, sometimes.

"Now the dragon keeps his distance but never loses sight of his prey. He's patient, and he has no mercy. That's his biggest strength.

"The dragon watches the poison takes hold, waiting for the buffalo to fall. For a moment to pounce. The buffalo panics, tries to escape, tries to fight the venom. But it's no use. The venom is absolute.

"There's no escapin' it, no fighting it, no endgame where the buffalo wins and the dragon loses. But the dragon's patience is well rewarded. The buffalo collapses, succumbs to the venom.

"And that's when the dragon feeds."

Hey, did he just call the Ewings a bunch of buffaloes?

Never herd anything like that.

*Photo courtesy TNT/Jade Rosenthal