'Dallas' Season Finale Recap: J.R.'s Killer Is...

Did Cliff Barnes put the final bullet in the Texas oil baron?

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Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing and Ken Kercheval as Cliff Barnes on TNT's "Dallas."
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Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing and Ken Kercheval as Cliff Barnes on TNT's "Dallas."

SPOILER ALERT: This recap of the second-season finale of "Dallas" contains storyline and character spoilers.

We already knew who shot J.R. Ewing the first time around, way back in 1980, but who put the final bullet in the Texas oil baron who took great delight in being called a "scoundrel"?

It was J.R. himself. Sort of.

In a twisty Season 2 finale that paid homage to both Larry Hagman's iconic J.R. Ewing character and the "Who shot J.R.?" storyline from the original series, the "Dallas" writers revealed it was J.R. who had plotted his own murder, part of a grand scheme to put an end to the decades-long Ewing/Barnes feud while ensuring it was the Ewings who emerged victorious.

J.R. didn't pull the trigger himself, however. In a letter to brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy), J.R. revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer, and had just days to live when he made his fateful journey to that hotel in Mexico.

With his death a foregone conclusion -- and no one but his friend/private eye Bum aware of it -- J.R. had Bum (Kevin Page) shoot him, then left enough evidence to frame his lifelong enemy, Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), for his killing.

[Related: What Were J.R.'s Last Words to His Son?]

By the end of the two-hour finale, Cliff -- who'd been set up by the entire Ewing clan (even good-guy Bobby) and his own daughter Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo) -- sat in a Mexican jail, after J.R.'s stolen belt buckle and the murder weapon had been planted in Cliff's car and safe-deposit box.

Lest you feel too sorry for old Cliff, however, note that earlier in the season he had ordered a bomb to be detonated on an oil rig, knowing Rebecca and his two unborn grandchildren were onboard. Becky later lost both babies, whose father was a Ewing (Christopher, who's also Cliff's adopted nephew).

And don't underestimate Cliff's ability to orchestrate revenge from that Mexican jail cell; he dug up some old documents and presented them to Elena (Jordana Brewster) after summoning her to Mexico. The papers revealed that J.R. had years earlier pulled a switcheroo with some deeds that left Elena's father in possession of the wrong piece of land. The piece of land he intended to buy was full of enough oil to make the Ramos family wealthy instead of being employees of the Ewings. The piece of land Elena's dad actually got was devoid of oil, and was the site of his death.

Elena, who'd just been dumped by fiancé Christopher, was egged on by Cliff to believe the Ewings had cheated her family just the way they'd cheated the Barneses, setting up what will be a potentially powerful new storyline if the series is renewed for a third season by TNT.

[Related: Cidre Discusses Her Plans For the Next Season of 'Dallas']

Cliff also gave Elena the power to control his one-third of Barnes Global (versus Rebecca and Christopher, who each own one-third of the company).

Other major happenings in the briskly paced finale:

  • During his trip to Zurich, Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) found out that his adopted mother, Bobby Ewing's ex, Pamela, was dead. She had died in 1989, a fact that Cliff knew and paid people to keep secret so he could control her shares of Barnes Global instead of Christopher inheriting them. So yeah, again, no need to feel too badly for Cliff.
  • Written on J.R.'s tombstone: "The only deal he ever lost." Said John Ross (Josh Henderson) at the end of the emotional, two-tissue scene in which Bobby read J.R.'s letter, which said J.R.'s love for Bobby had always outweighed his jealousy of him: "The only person that could take down J.R. was J.R."
  • John Ross and Rebecca revealed their Vegas nuptials to everyone. Mama Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) was thrilled, though she warned John Ross to treat his new bride well. That, of course, isn't in the cards: In the last scene of the finale, John Ross picked up flowers and headed into the bedroom of a dimly lit suite, where a lingerie-clad woman waited for him. No, not Becky -- it was Ann's daughter, Emma (Emma Bell). Like father, like son.
  • That infectious tune that helped drive the final scene of the finale: The Mavericks' "Come Unto Me," from the band's new album "In Time." If you don't know who the recently reunited country-rockers are, they are the best band you've never heard, and we highly recommend remedying that ASAP.
  • The latest Ewing/Barnes wedding does mean that, with Christopher's shares, the Ewing family now controls two-thirds of Barnes Global.
  • Sue Ellen started drinking again after J.R.'s death earlier this season, but she continues to be unafraid to resort to J.R.-style tactics to protect her family. She turned blackmailing Governor McConaughey's (guest Steven Weber) dirty deeds right back on him to ensure the Ewings would be able to resume drilling. P.S. How much do you love the "Dallas" writers' cheeky decision to name Weber's character after one of Texas's most famous celebs?
  • Thanks to Drew (Kuno Becker) and Emma (working separately), the dastardly Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi) also found his tuchus in a jail cell by finale's end. Sadly, Drew still had to lam it, even after his well-intentioned deeds, because he did (though he was blackmailed) cause that explosion on the oil rig, the one that killed Becky's babies.

Except for that last scene with John Ross cheating on his new wife with Emma -- sure, it's great for Season 3 drama and makes sense given Junior's role model, but we just love the Romeo and Juliet-ness of John Ross and Becky as a couple -- it was a satisfying, fitting end to a terrific second season of "Dallas," and left us with fingers tightly crossed that the network greenlights a third season.

But what did other "Dallas" watchers think of the season ender?

Variety film critic Scott Foundas tweeted:


Entertainment Weekly's Mandi Bierly agreed with us about John Ross's extracurricular activities: "we went from loving John Ross ... to loving to hate John Ross in the finale's final moment."

@TeamSueEllen tweeted:

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