Dynasty Episode 1 Review: Pilot

The Dynasty premiere gives us an enticing first taste and leaves us wanting more.

This Dynasty review contains spoilers.

Dynasty Episode 1

There seem to be two questions associated with Dynasty: The first is why? And the other is how does it compare to the original series? We’ll get to why in a minute, because it deserves a better answer than, “because they’ve already rebooted everything else.”

The soap-y drama is definitely still intact, although the hair and wardrobe has had a serious update. Think more crop tops and cut outs than shoulder pads and big hair. Personally, I’m holding out for an “80s throwback party” episode so we can see the new cast dressed in the style of the original, similar to the 1950s dream sequence on Riverdale. There’s plenty of hair-pulling, intrigue, and the pilot chewed through enough plot for at least three episodes, turning an engagement party into an impromptu wedding just a couple of days after half the main cast meets for the first time.

The cast of this update is more diverse, racially and in terms of sexuality. The rival Colby family is black, Cristal Flores’ friends are a diverse crew, and actress Nathalie Kelley’s Latinx heritage and Spanish language carry over to her character, which we learn when we realize Sam Flores is actually her nephew, Sammy Joe. Monique Colby even calls Blake and Cristal’s wedding, “very white,” which is true, though certainly less so than the original show.

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There’s a nice upstairs/downstairs setup in the form of Fallon’s relationship with Michael, a black man who drives for her father, as well as Steven’s relationship with Sam, and the couple driving the show, Cristal and Blake. Even multi-millionaire Jeff Colby calls himself a “work study kid,” yet he assumes the only black man he meets at the wedding, Michael, must be a waiter. Even bleeding heart Steven doesn’t even notice when Sam steals a thick wad of cash from him. The racial and class diversity opens the show up to offer commentary on a variety of issues when it chooses, which could keep the show feeling fresh. Dynasty smartly realizes that watching a bunch of rich people have everything they want is much less interesting than watching people chafe at their economic difference and (semi-secret) pasts. This, more than anything else, may be the answer to why this show, why this reboot, why now.

The sex on the show is PG-13 at best, as is just about everything else. Compared to Gossip Girl, whose marketing campaign it feels like they copied off of when promoting this show, Dynasty is practically Sunday at church. So far the machinations of the various power players and explaining the various relationships at play is the priority – it’s possible that b-roll of power plants got more airtime than sex scenes.

Dynasty is hoping that its updated identity politics and of the moment references will make it feel new instead of eyeroll-inducing. Not 5 seconds into the episode and there’s a clip of the Trump family, Murdoch headlines, and the Kardashians, under voiceover about how dynasties rule the day. Using three families with less than sterling reputations is a clear indicator of where the heat is for this show: nepotism, corruption, and excess. Steven even calls the Kochs, Murdochs, and (by implication) the Trumps “evil,” which is pretty bold, even for the CW. The more that Dynasty leans into this theme with a knowing wink rather than the hair-pulling, the better.

Perhaps the savviest decision was to introduce us to both Fallon Carrington and Cristal Flores (Nathalie Kelley, Sybil the siren from the last season of The Vampire Diaries) separate from their inevitable rivalry. Both of them are shown to be smart, driven and hard working, and their efforts are cast as a struggle against the male establishment that underestimates them. Fallon, our narrator who happens to be a hyper-competent young woman and heir apparent to her father’s energy fortune, drops the term “mansplainers,” references the popular slogan the future is female, and frames her professional goals in terms of feminism, sounding every bit like Ivanka Trump. Cristal wears pants to her wedding, stands up to her powerful fiance-turned-husband, and opens the show running the board room at Carrington. Two beautiful women pulling each other’s hair is what most people will expect from this show, but they’ll have to keep both of these women multi-dimensional to keep a 2017 audience interested.

Aside from the dynamics already mentioned, in the last five minutes, Dynasty leaves us with enough new mysteries to make a second episode completely enticing. Stern butler Anders knows “everything” about Cristal, whatever that may be. Sammy Joe moves into Casa Carrington, after threatening to expose Cristal’s secrets and letting slip to Steven that there’s more to Cristal than meets the eye. Fallon drops the bomb to her father that she’s leaving Carrington to become CEO of a new energy company with Jeff Colby, and which doesn’t go unnoticed by Michael, her (now-overlooked) confidante and fuck buddy. And to top it all off, Matthew’s wife accuses Blake of killing Matthew.

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Dynasty is less bonkers than Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars, or How to Get Away with Murder, more like the early days of Revenge. If you’re looking for a fun, trashy nighttime soap with politics that (probably) won’t make you cringe, Dynasty fits the bill.

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3 out of 5