Dallas was the quintessential TV show of the eighties, and by the thirteenth season (1989-90) it was showing its age. That is not to say that the program had run out of steam however. Ever since the famous "Who Shot JR," cliffhanger of 1980, every season ended with one. Season twelve saw Sue-Ellen finally leave J.R. for good, and telling him that she had a biographical film of their life together hidden away, to use against him at any time.
The cliffhanger is resolved in the first episode of season thirteen, with J.R. frantically searching, and never finding the film in question. Like many things that occur in the world of Dallas, the damaging film is never spoken of again. Instead, we get the introduction of a young man who may or may not be J.R.s son, the return of Carter Mckay's prodigal son, and a new love interest for Bobby Ewing.
In classic Dallas style, there are subplots and red-herrings galore. Matriarch Ellie (Ewing) Farlow, and her husband Clayton set off on a couple of adventures during the season. One finds them journeying all the way to Kalispell, Montana for a surprising resolution to (deceased) family patriarch Jock Ewing's World War II exploits. The second trip sees the Farlows involved in a strange murder case involving longtime friends of Clayton's.
The murder case leads directly into the season's cliffhanger finale, which finds J.R. voluntarily comitting himself to a mental institution in a ploy that might backfire; the doctors are not in on J.R.'s ruse. They believe he actually is a paranoid, unstable person, who would benefit from long-term mental care.
Meanwhile, J.R.'s young, long-suffering bride finally contemplates divorce, and Bobby meets a Pam Ewing look-alike who nearly derails his wedding plans. There are a number of other episodic details that most people can see a mile coming, but that was always the fun of Dallas anyway. Like everyone who watched the show, I loved the way the characters reveled in sex, money, wealth, and power. It was never meant to be Citizen Kane, after all.
Dallas had sunk pretty low in the ratings by the time it had reached season thirteen, suggesting that a lot of early fans were no longer tuning in. If that was the case, I suggest checking out Dallas – The Complete Thirteenth Season. The shows still had a lot of surprises left, and remain a kick to watch as well.