"Who shot J.R.?" was the question that kept TV viewers guessing during the summer of 1980. This March, the question, sadly, will become "Who killed J.R.?"
The November death of TV icon Larry Hagman meant that the producers of TNT's hit "Dallas" remake had to scramble to deal with the death onscreen. But again, as sad as it is that Hagman and wily ol' J.R. will soon bid primetime adieu forever, the show will celebrate the actor and his classic 1980 storyline with a new plot that will find one of J.R.'s many (many!) enemies finally seeking the ultimate revenge.
[Related: How Larry Hagman created TV's best villain]
Details of the murder are still being kept hush-hush, but actor Josh Henderson, who plays John Ross -- aka J.R. Jr. -- on the TNT series, tells Yahoo! TV that J.R.'s sendoff, which the cast and a lineup of guest stars shot earlier this month, will be an emotional affair for viewers.
"It was a tough episode. You're going to see a gamut of emotions from everybody," Henderson says. "It's going to be a beautiful, beautiful piece of television, I believe. I really hope that people, out of respect for the legacy that Larry left and for that character, that people can tune in. It's going to make them feel. It's raw emotions.
"It was tough to film," he continues. "At the same time, it was a beautiful moment, because he was such an amazing man. I am affected in real life, and I bring it every day to work with me. He's missed."
Among the original "Dallas" characters who will show up to memorialize J.R. in the season's eighth episode (scheduled to air on March 11): J.R.'s decades-long nemesis, Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval); his brother Gary (Ted Shackelford) and Gary's daughter Lucy (Charlene Tilton); Ewing half-brother Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly); J.R.'s former lover Mandy Winger (Deborah Shelton) and his (other) ex-wife, Cally (Cathy Podewell).
Hagman, who had already begun work on the show's second season when he became ill, will appear in at least five episodes, including tonight's two-hour season premiere, which finds him, as usual, plotting with his son and reeling off a few choice one-liners.
The "Who killed J.R.?" storyline, which TV Guide reports was given a thumbs-up by Hagman's co-star and longtime best friend, Patrick Duffy, as well as Preston Hagman, the actor's son, is just one of a handful of new developments that will provide drama for the Southfork clan this season.
The first-season finale included the revelation -- to viewers -- that Christopher's wife, Rebecca, is actually the daughter of Ewing family rival Cliff Barnes. Rebecca is pregnant with twins by Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), and though they broke up in the finale, he doesn't know who she really is. Yet. That changes in the Season 2 opener, when he and dad Bobby (Duffy) find out just how little they knew about Rebecca (real name: Pamela, after her aunt, who is also Christopher's adoptive mother … don't think too hard about those family connections).
Rebecca is rebounding and continuing the Barnes family plot against the Ewings by teaming up with the one person she absolutely shouldn't be hooking up with, which, of course, is John Ross.
Meanwhile, Christopher has already reunited with former love Elena (Jordana Brewster), and the two are going to heat up the Ewing pool with some sexy action that is another throwback to the original series and the many watery romps experienced by various Ewing men and women.
"The relationship with Christopher is definitely maturing," Brewster says. "For the first couple of episodes, they're in their honeymoon phase. They're so happy. Finally they're together. But then things get a little bit complicated. Everything should be OK eventually, I think, because they're both moral, good people in the midst of all the crazy Ewings. But they definitely come up against some conflict. I've had a lot of fun with those things because it's showing Elena's strength and her ability to go off on her own. That's been really, really fun to play."
Elena's got family drama of her own on the horizon, too. Her brother, Drew, returns to Southfork, more bitter than he was when he left Elena and his parents behind years earlier.
And Rebecca isn't the only Ewing woman with secrets. Bobby's wife, Ann (Brenda Strong), finally reveals her complete past with her creepy ex-husband Harris (Mitch Pileggi). Hint: it's a heartbreaker, and it will force Bobby to get in the mud with Harris, courtesy of a little help from the master of dirty trickery, J.R.
The show's 10-episode first season averaged more than 4.5 million viewers per episode, making it one of the most successful new cable dramas of the season. Season 2 will include 15 episodes.
"Dallas" Season 2 premieres Monday, 1/28 at 9 PM on TNT.