Thoughts on Dynasty (Seasons 5 – 7)

At the time of writing this, I’m actually part-way into season 9, the last season. And with these sorts of soap operas, it’s often difficult to break apart what storylines or character moments happened when, because they tend to go in a mostly unbroken line, where it’s hard to say where one storyline ends and another begins. But I wanted to talk about this middle part on its own since a lot happened there, and leave the last two seasons — which the DVD itself splits off into its own package — to talk about alongside my overall thoughts on the show, so I figured I’d get down to it.

At this point, I think that Dynasty’s stories aren’t as good as Dallas’, but they have cast members with more presence than Dallas did. I don’t want to take anything away from people like Larry Hagman or Patrick Duffy or any of the other excellent actors on the show, but it’s hard for them to compete with actors who have the presence of John Forsythe and Joan Collins. On top of that, actors like Michael Nader and Gordon Thomson manage to bring in the overly melodramatic tone that for some strange reason works in a soap opera and combine it with an overarching charisma that makes them ideally suited for soap opera shows. Leann Hunley comes in as Dana and also manages to put on a strong, soap operaish performance. They have much less to work with, but they certainly know how to pull it off.

Adam, however, seems to be a bit of a problem for the show. He continually makes Heel-Face-Heel turns, but the show has a tendency to have him do those turns right about the time it establishes something about him that should make us sympathetic to him. He never really gets to be the full-on villain like Alexis, but he does things bad enough that we should be completely unsympathetic to him, usually right after he does something to make us sympathetic to him. As stated above, Thomson plays the role well and can use his charisma to make us sympathetic to Adam, but the character ends up squandering any good will that we might have had for him almost in the next scene. One of the worst parts was when he was being blackmailed for potentially not being a Carrington and he treated Dana terribly over that … when she was the only person who knew him and liked him both as who he grew up as and as who he was claimed to be. We can sympathize with his fears — as they’re consistent with his character, at least — but treating Dana as if she was only interested in him as Adam Carrington made little sense, and was never addressed.

Unfortunately, the show also has a problem with the other Carrington son, Stephen. Throughout those seasons, he again continually wavers between getting into relationships with women and leaving them because supposedly he’s really gay despite having lots and lots of sex with multiple women. The plot gets really, really old, and it never really seems to go anywhere or get resolved. It was an interesting twist to have him try a relationship without sex with Sammy Jo, but it never really went anywhere either, nor did that resolve anything. Yes, soap operas have to keep storylines going to have something for their characters to do, but this one wasn’t interesting in the first place and got even more so as time went on, so they really should have tried to find something else to do with the character (this does happen in Season 8).

This season also contained the infamous Moldavian Massacre cliff-hanger ending, infamous because maybe two characters died out of that, one of which didn’t and both of them being secondary characters. I agree that it didn’t live up to the hype of the cliff-hanger, but I’m a little more sanguine about it because the deaths did impact the storylines. One of them was the death of Stephen’s lover, which for better or for worse kicked Stephen back down the path of hooking up with women again. The other was the King of Moldavia, which led to a rescue mission when it was discovered he was still alive and a long-running fraud plot against Alexis that resulted in fireworks and contributed to the break-up of Amanda and Michael. So while the immediate effects weren’t as dramatic as we were led to believe they’d be, they did still have a major impact on the storylines.

One of the characters that I was most interested in watching was Amanda, because I’ve always liked Catherine Oxenberg (which is self-referential, because the first thing I saw her in was Dynasty). Amanda is an interesting character. Her flirtation with Dex got to be really, really annoying — especially how quickly she’d dump whomever she was currently in love with to pursue him even though he was married to her mother, and then she’d be upset when Alexis got mad at her over that — but it did reflect something that, at least, Oxenberg managed to convey in the character, as she came across as someone who was beautiful — and she knew it — but a little sheltered, and so much of her flirtations in general came across as her getting to a place where she could use her beauty to get what she wanted and having fun testing that out, which usually ended up getting her in trouble. However, when she took up with the old chauffeur that everyone said was trouble, it got a bit irritating, as she was made out to be far too stupid or naive than she should have been at that point. She was also played at that point by Karen Cellini, which was an interesting move in and of itself. It made the early compliments about how stunningly beautiful she was rather odd, since while Cellini was attractive she didn’t have the stunning beauty of Oxenberg. However, she also managed to pull of the playful snarking that Amanda engaged in in that season better than Oxenberg would have. At the end of that season, however, Amanda went back to England which was somewhat welcome because the plot of her fighting with Blake over the man she was in love with wore very thin and there didn’t seem to be anything else to replace it with.

Claudia also exits the show in these seasons, after taking up with Stephen again, and then with Adam, and then feeling that she was shafted out of her inheritance from Matthew, and then lighting the hotel on fire (accidentally) and dying in the blaze. I liked the character, so I think she deserved better than that, but it really cemented her as the Butt Monkey of the show that nothing good ever happened to but where almost all of that was never her fault (except for the ending where she turned more manipulative without really being good at that).

Matthew Bleisdel returned in these seasons as well, and was about as interesting as he was in his early seasons, which is to say that he wasn’t at all interesting. The most that came out of that was that Stephen had to kill him and was broken up about that for a while.

There’s also a storyline where Blake and Krystle’s daughter, Krystina, ends up having a heart condition and needs a transplant. This not only shows off John Forsythe’s acting chops, but the actress playing Krystina ends up doing a fine job of being amazingly cute while doing it.

The show is okay to watch, and the storylines move fast enough — sometimes too fast, to tell you the truth — so that it isn’t boring watching it. But watching it and the performances is better than trying to follow the plot most of the time. Still, so far definitely worth watching.

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