This Dynasty review contains spoilers.
Dynast Episode 9
I didn’t think Dynasty could top its Thanksgiving episode, but the show really turned up the heat this week. It seems Dynasty used the first half of the season to put the pieces on the board. The initial mystery of Matthew’s death set up in the pilot was far less engaging than it should have been, but it has since given way to much more fraught dynamics between Blake and Steven, Cristal and just about everyone, and now Jeff and the Carringtons.
This episode really turned up the heat, but in a different way than the Thanksgiving episode, which relied on dramatic irony, high stakes, and Fallon’s utterly satisfying bitchiness. This week, though, Dynasty entices us with the promise of drama to come, which may even be more fun than the drama we have. Cecil and Jeff Colby have the most enticing news: Blake slept with the heretofore unseen Mrs. Colby. That sounds like a fun disaster for Blake, but I’m even more excited for the revelation that Jeff is not the hapless puppy dog mooning over Fallon that we once thought. Of course, that’s exactly when Fallon decided to try emotional maturity on for size and declared her intentions to take their connection seriously instead of pretending she doesn’t care.
The idea that Jeff is actually playing both Carrington kids right now is so much more interesting than just about anything he’s done all season. He now knows about how Steven’s lack of experience led to a death, which Matthew covered up on Blake’s orders. He also knows about Stansfield taking care of Willy and other Carringtons business, and was responsible for sidelining Steven’s go-to bender buddy in jail on Christmas. This family is so damn screwed. I’m looking forward to learning more about the circumstances of Jeff leaving Blake’s tutelage, and Jeff’s master plan.
Steven and Blake’s relationship, never altogether strong but tested recently by Blake’s corruption, is tested once again. This time, it’s Blake’s father who causes the trouble, which Blake steps away from with uncharacteristic restraint. If I were Steven I wouldn’t believe Blake either, but we’ll see. Steven’s substance abuse makes his character more complicated, since his compromised decisions while using force him to consider crossing lines that a sober Steven never would.
Poor Cristal didn’t even have a chance to realize that Blake was less than straightforward when he invited her sister to Christmas. It turns out Iris has been less than forthright, and has some of those marked payoff bills in her purse. It turns out the sisters didn’t just rob someone back in the day, they also covered up a (justified) murder. This plot is responsible for a truly amazing catfight, with four people and one giant Christmas tree on the ground by the end. I want to learn more about Iris, who I’m sure will crop up again, but I’m much more interested in Sammy Jo’s reaction to this, in part because he’s being quite reasonable: protecting Iris was unequivocally good, but lying to him was profoundly damaging.
The idea, though, that this is the reason Blake finally turns on Cristal is a bit far-fetched. Yes it’s murder (except that it’s not!), but protecting your sister from her abusive partner seems like one of the times accidentally killing someone is a regrettable but acceptable outcome. I’m hoping Cristal will start finding out more truths about Blake, since his record is far from spotless. The dynamic of him bestowing jobs, marriage, money and forgiveness upon a grateful Cristal is very 1980s, and unlike Fallon’s plaid power skirt suit, it has worn out its welcome in 2017.
One of the unexpected highlights of the show so far has been the begrudging camaraderie between loyal, upright butler Anders and newcomer Cristal. The relationship is still tenuous, but for the last few episodes, Anders has gone out on a limb for Cristal over and over again. When these two scheme together, it’s for the good of the Carrington family as a whole, and usually is for the greater moral good, even if they’re doing something illegal to get there.
I’m glad the show had the sense to drop the generic Manic Pixie Dreamgirl trappings that characterized Cristal in the pilot. This episode saw her letting down her guard in a more natural way, to enjoy dancing with her nephew to actually celebrate Christmas rather than trying to recreate a Norman Rockwell painting. Another improvement to Cristal has been placing her in opposition to anyone other than Fallon. If the show wants us to root for both of them, which it seems set on, then they can’t keep opposing each other. There’s also the fact that at some point, a continual conflict between stepmother and daughter will wear thin and feel unrealistic without any sort of resolution or detente, but to be honest this show isn’t all that concerned with realism – nor should it be.
My only real complaint is that at no point in this episode did Fallon and Steven’s mother appear. There have been so many hints about this woman and then a casting announcement was made. Sammy Jo and Grandpa Carrington spent so much time talking about the value of family that I kept waiting for her to walk through the door, with a slow pan up starting at a great pair of Louboutins, or whatever is more expensive than Louboutins. Alas, we’ll have to wait until 2018 to meet Mama Carrington.
Part of why her absence was so disappointing is that Grandpa Carrington was a bit of a bore. He stirred things up a bit, but mostly he served to make Fallon and Blake look like halfway decent people, by virtue of being an older, more heartless, and more racist asshole.
Fallon is certainly selfish, but she puts Steven first and the rest of the family not too far after that. She’s not a bigot in the outright sense, just in the casual way that she pretends not to know Sammy and Cristal are not Argentinean but Venezuelan, which is actually much more insidious in a real life person. Let’s just say that after a couple of elections in a row, the national tolerance for not-that-racist white ladies is at an all-time low.
This episode confronted race more directly than any other before it. I loved the use of Spanish in this episode, both with subtitles and without, as well as Kreyol. It’s only natural that family members would converse in their native language together, following in the steps of fellow CW show Jane the Virgin. Monica called Fallon’s subtle racism out directly, in an exchange I was pleasantly surprised to see. I’d love to see the writing on the show to back up Monica’s assertion that she doesn’t exist to make Fallon feel better. Unfortunately, Monica’s only qualities so far fall squarely in the black best friend trope. That may change, though, as a hookup with Colhane could pull her more centrally into the story.
And we top it all off with Iris’s very much alive ex, taking a meeting with an unsuspecting Blake. Iris has to know, right? Perhaps the two are up to some corporate espionage? If so, that makes Iris a pretty crappy mom to not only lie to Sam but to ream Cristal out for doing the same thing. How far down will Steven go? How long until Anders’s loyalty to Grampa causes problems for the younger Carringtons? We’ll have to wait until 2018 for the answers.