" I will not have this! A common brawl in a lily pond...you look like a couple of female mud wrestlers! I won't stand for it!"
- Blake Carrington
Damn you, Paramount! Why do you have to keep me waiting so long to get my Dynasty fix?! Given that fans are sure to pick up every installment regardless of the release schedule, the studio has decided to start breaking up the seasons into two volumes starting with the 1982-83 campaign, enabling it to make more money.
So when that slutty Sammy Jo showed up on the Carrington mansion doorstep carting in the family's newest member--young Danny, the result of her tryst with the confused, gay and presumed dead Steven--us Dynasty whores had to wait a little longer to see the rest of the season play out. Sure it makes me angry (seriously, how long is it going to take for all of these volumes to be released?!), but all was forgiven as I popped in the first disc and picked up the action with Episode 13.
Just one look at the leotard-clad Sammy Jo--showing off her inner redneck by stuffing sausages into a croissant (the classy Carrington version of Pigs in a Blanket!) as a disappointed Krystal watches in disgust--is enough to get me giddy. But there's so much more! What about the porno-worthy sequence with Alexis rubbing her hands into Mark's hairy chest (captured in close-up!) as the sultry sounds of saxophone music kick in?
Sammy Jo also tries to auction off her son ("I don't care what you think, Aunt Krystal! What's important is me! I have one life and one body, and I wanna use it for me!") and has a standoff with Alexis that ends with a zinger: "What's a matter? Didn't one tramp hear what the other tramp just said?" And how about the cartoonish sight of that mystery man, his face covered in bandages after radial reconstructive surgery?! (Hmm, wouldn't that be a convenient development if an actor had to be replaced?!)
And that's just one episode! How can you not eat this rich trash up?! Here are some crucial points to remember from the first half of the season: Alexis (Joan Collins) inadvertently caused Krystal (Linda Evans) to have a miscarriage, but that wasn't evil enough--she also decided to lure tennis stud Mark Jennings (Geoffrey Scott) to Denver in the hopes of causing Krystal more heartache. It turns out the two are still technically married, much to Blake's chagrin: "We had no way of knowing that your Mexican divorce wasn't legal...I'm sure they'll understand that!" (Who writes these gems?!)
Meanwhile, the sinister Adam (Gordon Thompson)--the newest addition to the Carrington clan--was up to no good. When he wasn't busy raping Kirby (Kathleen Beller), he was poisoning Jeff (John James) with a deadly paint in his office walls. As for Steven? He was assumed dead after an oil rig explosion in the South China Sea.
As the season progresses in this volume, the storylines heat up: Steven returns, but now he looks like Jack Coleman (not Al Corley) and sports surprisingly few scars for someone who underwent so many facial surgeries. Apparently, the eyes leave no doubt that he truly is Steven, a point made obvious with a funny close-up during his reunion with Blake. (And pardon my crassness but I can't resist...the phallic imagery for Steven's sequence during the opening credits has got to be on purpose, right?)
Still bitter over his homophobic father's treatment of him and a perceived indifference from his family, Steven only agrees to return home when he learns about Danny. But when he meets and befriends super-sexy lawyer Chris Deegan (one of my childhood crushes, Eight is Enough's Grant Goodeve), Blake (John Forsythe) worries about how the "lifestyle" will affect Danny's upbringing. It also disturbs Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear), who assumed Danny would be in Blake's rich hands.
While Dynasty was always seen as a guilty pleasure of excess, this is one of the instances where the writers showed some social responsibility--injecting gay characters and issues that were ahead of their time on the television landscape (although Steven and Chris never kiss, dammit!). Goodeve gets a nice moment when Chris shares his coming out struggle with Steven, who also has some spirited arguments with his dad and ex-wife that give the season even more passion ("Let him grow up with a straight family...don't stick him with you for a father!"). Even if the language show's the fears and limits the writers were working with (when did people stop saying "a gay"?), it's so nice that the show devoted so much time to the issue.
Unlucky with Krystal, Mark now focuses his energy elsewhere by bedding both Alexis and her daughter Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin), who slowly warms up to him after some initial reluctance: "Don't color me as a dude on the make in the take, Fallon! I make my living as a tennis player. I'm not a tennis bum!" (How much fun were these writers having?!) But when Alexis gets wind of Fallon's infatuation, the wheels in her diabolical mind start turning--leading to one of her signature schemes, an unabashed display of selfishness that crushes two people at once. It's jaw-dropping scenes like this that made Alexis--and the show--such a hit.
Elsewhere, Jeff continues to lose his sanity and his grip on reality (although his grip on Fallon's neck seems to be doing just fine!). It all culminates with an unintentionally (?) funny collapse on the tennis court (nice tennis outfit, Jeff!) that has everyone questioning the source of his sickness. His weakness gives Alexis an idea to take over control of Denver Carrington and create an oil empire with Colbyco, thus driving Blake insane ("I would love to see you strangle on your own arrogance!"). She works on winning over the board of directors, leading to a ball-busting meeting where she gets to channel her inner Joan Crawford circa Mommie Dearest ("Don't f#@! with me, fellas!").
Seeing his own chance for more power, Adam dotes on his mom like a good ol' Norman Bates ("Yes, mother!"). But Jeff's condition comes back to haunt the elder Carrington son--and if that isn't making him nervous enough, Adam becomes increasingly jealous of the attention directed at Steven: "I've been around a lot more than you...I mean sleeping with girls!" (Well said, Adam...but what about the raping?) He also has to worry about the pesky return of that doctor from Montana, who's concerned about some addictive behavior from his former patient's past--vices that that start to resurface.
Then there's Kirby--poor, sad sack Kirby. When she isn't annoying me by calling Joseph (Lee Bergere) "Pa Pa!" (and talking about ex-lover Jean Paul), she's making me laugh by going on a date with her rapist (always a great idea!) and continuing to pine for Jeff. She's at her crush's side during his recovering, leading to one of the most hysterical scenes of the season (again, I wonder whether it's intentional): Kirby pours her heart and soul out to Jeff, admitting she once considered suicide before finally professing her love to him--only to realize that he's dozed off, unaware of her confession (poor thing...stop embarrassing yourself, Kirby!).
But the Debbie Downer never gives up, and her pathetic persistence finally pays off when--after admitting her love again when she thinks Jeff is asleep (!) and nearly getting raped again by Adam (!!)--Jeff makes an impromptu, ill-advised proposal that (temporarily) gives the woman a respite from her grief.
As the season winds down, the tension mounts in the cliffhanger, where Kirby gets some startling news; Chris moves in with Steven, reigniting Blake's homophobia ("I'll be damned if I'm going to let two gays raise that baby!"); Fallon starts to become suspicious of Adam; and Alexis starts to anger a lot of men, including Blake, Adam, Mark, Joseph, private investigator Morgan Hess (Hank Brandt) and congressman Neil McVane (Paul Burke), fuming after Alexis exposes his "tawdry affair with a governor's nymphet daughter!" Her evil plotting causes one of those "miserably ungrateful men" to a cabin, where Alexis has lured Krystal for a confrontation that soon turns more fiery than expected. While it's not one of the more memorable cliffhanger events from the series, it still has its moments (Oh Alexis! Did you really think the sink water was going to help?!).
What else could you possibly want from Dynasty? Glitz and glamour are mixed with blackmail and back-stabbing, the action filled with all the lurid behavior you've come to expect from the series (against all logic, characters never call the police here--but what fun with that be?!). Did I mention Joan Collins' lips, which pout and glisten off the screen with a life all their own? What about the rotating male secretaries that Alexis uses, or all of the opportunities the show uses to get John James and Geoffrey Scott shirtless? This is pure fun, just as campy and entertaining today as it was 25 years ago.
This volume also provides another round in the Alexis/Krystal Catfight Series--the two claw at each other in a lily pond, a scene mistakenly pictured on the Season 3, Vol. 1 box. It's another fine standoff in their rivalry, highlighted by Collins slamming Evans over the head with her wet hat. The slaps and punches are so mild (you have to laugh at the overblown audio effects that accompany them), but at least they do their own stunts this time (the same can't be said of the finale in the cabin, where obvious stunt doubles--one looking quite manly--are inserted in some shots).
The most fun is had during any scene featuring Collins or Locklear--the diva and the understudy get to have all sorts of fun bitching it up, and you can't help but lap up every drip of their cattiness. Sadly, Locklear--doing double time on T.J. Hooker--only appears twice this volume, while Pamela Bellwood gets one appearance as Claudia, recovering in the sanitarium after she went bonkers with that baby doll. I wish the writers gave Fallon more sarcastic quips--her little joke with Krystal in "The Vote" is one of the few honest, natural laughs of the season.
But the writers clearly had a sense of humor, a point made clear in "The Downstairs Bride" when Sammy Jo learns about Steven's resurrection via The National Enquirer--whose cover loudly advertises Dynasty's biggest rival. Have a look for yourself...I dare you not to smile:
The 12 episodes are spread across three discs; I'd avoid reading the summaries included on the DVD sleeve--they're a little to detailed, and spoil some of the surprises and fun:
13. Danny (aired 1-5-83)
14. Madness (aired 1-12-83)
15. Two Flights to Haiti (aired 1-26-1983)
16. The Mirror (aired 2-4-83)
17. Battle Lines (aired 2-6-83)
18. Reunions in Singapore (aired 2-25-83)
19. Fathers and Sons (aired 3-3-83)
20. The Downstairs Bride (aired 3-9-83)
21. The Vote (aired 3-16-83)
22. The Dinner (aired 3-30-83)
23. The Threat (aired 4-13-83)
24. The Cabin (aired 4-20-83)
As before, the episodes arrive in their original full-frame presentations. While there's plenty of film dirt and some very minor flicker--and more noticeable grain in outdoor shots (mostly quick inserts)--this is still a surprisingly strong presentation for such an old series. There's lots of detail, and the colors are frequently vivid and eye-catching.
A mono track is about as strong as you could hope for; while a few brief sequences fluctuate in volume, overall this is a solid effort with sharp, crisp dialogue and well-rendered score elements.
Sadly, just trailers.
While I'm annoyed that Paramount has decided to break up the season sets into two volumes, Dynasty is just too entertaining to deny. Glitz and glamour, backstabbing and blackmail, sex and scandal...what more could you possibly want? Featuring some great moments with Joan Collins and Heather Locklear, another Alexis/Krystal catfight and a surprising dose of social responsibility ahead of its time, this volume comes easily Recommended.