Sue Anne Ewing (Linda Gray) indignantly blurts out, “You mean that bastard is still alive?!" after she discovers that she failed to kill J.R. (Larry Hagman) at the end of Season 11. As I recall, I was thinking the same thing about Dallas in general by the time the 12th season rolled around.
Not only are there explosions on the Southfork Ranch in season 12, but on the show as well. With Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing) having left the series in season 11, Priscilla Presley (Jenna Wade) and Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs) would soon follow in this one, taking a lot of their fans with them. Additionally, Linda Gray wanders off at the end of this season following a lame, and failed, plot to make a movie of J.R.’s life which would have exposed all of his backstabbing schemes to the world.
In the midst of all the departures, the show overcompensates with humorous and overblown plot twists. There are exploding dams and oil wells, hired mercenary ranch hands toting machine guns and/or side arms, and field trips to Europe. One of my favorite scenes this year is when J.R. hilariously pretends to be dying in the hospital to try to make Bobby feel sorry for him.
One great result of all the behind-the-scenes shakeups is that we get to see Miss Ellie stop being a weak and timid damsel in distress — when her beloved Southfork is threatened, she stands her ground and becomes a “mama bear protecting her cubs” force to be reckoned with to whom J.R. pales in comparison.
The great George Kennedy joins the cast in season 12 as the Ewing's affable but secretly evil neighbor, Carter McKay. McKay is possibly the most worthy adversary that not only J.R. has faced, but Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) as well. Fans of the show will like the return of Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers) into Cliff’s life, bringing along a daughter that may or may not be his.
As one would expect, this year J.R.’s lust-obsessed brain has dropped back into his groin and he can’t resist the temptation of a pretty young thing while on a camping trip with Bobby and their sons. His intended target takes the form of Cally Harper (Cathy Podewell) and before J.R. knows what hit him, he’s cut off from his powerful connections, convicted of rape, and sentenced to jail with no way of getting word out for help.
Of course, the season doesn't end there. There is a wedding, a tornado, a range war, and possibly the ultimate sign of the apocalypse — Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) becoming a partner in Ewing Oil… with Miss Ellie’s blessing! It is almost needless to say that J.R. doesn't take that particularly well.
For a refreshing change, the season leaves the confines of the studio and spends a lot of time on the actual Southfork Ranch in Texas. The cameras also take the aforementioned field trip to Europe, which seemed to be the studio’s excuse to reward the cast members that were willing to remain on the show with excursions to Vienna, Salzburg and Moscow.
This collection comes in the form of the usual (and annoying) three double-sided discs that make watching the season straight through with a multi-disc player impossible — one will have to get up and flip the discs. Due to their double-sided nature, these discs are unlabeled with only fine print at the center hole indicating the series' name and the disc's number and side. DVD extras are limited to English subtitles for the hearing impaired.
All things considered, I liked this season and if you’re a fan of the show this volume makes a great addition to any collection.