Previously on Dynasty: The Carringtons are super rich; Fallon Carrington’s father Blake got engaged to Cristal; Cristal had a married ex-boyfriend, a mischievous nephew named Sammy Joe who made out with Fallon’s brother Steven Carrington, and a dark secret that Cranky Butler totally knows, but we don’t. Cristal got the COO position that Fallon wanted, so Fallon got a guy named Jeff to back her as the CEO of a different company, Carrington Windbriar. Then Cristal’s married ex got blown up and squished by a windmill blade at Windbriar, and his wife thought Blake did it.
The show opens with a slow, funky cover of Duran Duran’s “Notorious” that is absolutely perfect. The Carrington estate is crawling with cars, and Fallon and Steven are blithely discussing which of them got off for drunk driving and which for indecent exposure—memories sparked by the Atlanta police chief, Stansfield, who just showed up. A waiter is still handing out drinks, because we don’t want people to go thirsty while the cops investigate a murder in full hearing of many party guests in the Carrington living room. Matthew’s wife, Claudia, insists that Blake is going to try to keep her quiet, and tries to get Steven to sell Blake out, which, nice try. Steven pulls the cop aside to tell him that Claudia had a car accident recently that left her with impaired memory and paranoia, and she’s “popping benzos like breath mints.” See, they don’t have to like threaten to kill her to keep her quiet. They’re just going to ue their status and her misfortune to discredit her, which is a far more elegant way to do it.
Steven leaves poor Claudia to the cop and runs into Sammy Joe, who reveals that he has a room at the Carrington estate tonight. Steven says flirtatiously, “I’ll find you.”
Fallon busts in on Jeff and his sister crowded around their phone and says of Matthew, “I know it’s gauche in the wake of a man’s death, but I feel like one little decapitation shouldn’t blow the whole deal.” Heh. I enjoy Fallon’s utter shamelessness about the fact that she’s a terrible person. Also, decapitation? What? Anyway, Fallon recruits her secret chauffeur lover to help sneak her famous rich lover out of the house. Meanwhile, Jeff’s sister, who’s a friend of Fallon’s, marvels that the wedding has turned into a murder mystery: “It’s like the escape room of weddings!” It’s a classic genre of joke: not quite timely, and doesn’t make enough sense to justify the so-last-year reference.
Before Jeff can sneak out, Blake confronts him angrily about dragging Fallon into this, which she corrects snippily. When Jeff leaves, Fallon implies she thinks Blake did know what was going to happen to Matthew. I like how Fallon’s like begging for attention and approval from this guy that she literally thinks is a murderer.
Everyone gathers in the office, including a sad-looking Cristal, Stansfield, Fallon and Steven, and Blake. Blake is bragging about their great insurance, which is totally shocking to Cristal. Fallon busts in to say that the press are waiting for a statement, and isn’t it convenient that the head of PR is sitting right here? Poor sweet Cristal is so out of her league with Fallon. Blake kicks everyone but family out of the room, and Fallon leans forward to pretend to be so sympathetic to Cristal: she’s been a wife, a mistress, a COO all in one day. “Cristal was screwing the dead guy,” Fallon informs Steven. Cristal hisses that his wife is right outside, which Fallon rightly and smugly points out never stopped her before. The bitchiness goes on until Blake throws a crystal glass at the fireplace like a giant drama queen and tells them to come together to protect their family.
“You mean our business,” says Cristal.
“Same thing,” Fallon and Blake retort in unison.
Cristal is then obliged to stand in front of a horde of press and make the announcement that Matthew is dead. As soon as reporters start asking whether it was a homicide, Cristal totally freezes up, having slightly inappropriate flashbacks to all her tender moments with Matthew. Instead of answering them, she just acts all shocked and faints. Uh… was she not there like five minutes ago when Claudia accused Blake of murder?
Cut to the next morning: Fallon’s sitting at the breakfast table in a turban paging through news stories about her new stepmother. As one does. Steven asks her if there’s a cactus where her heart should be, and Sammy Joe strolls in behind him, rather scantily clad, to help himself to the spread on the side table, which resembles the breakfast buffet at an upscale European hotel.
Blake arrives and demands to talk to Fallon and Steven, so Sammy Joe takes one more “croizzant” and parades out. Left alone, Blake says he wants everyone on his page. They agree to meet in “the Green Room.”
Outside, Cristal is walking the dog, and Sammy Joe kindly offers her a croizzant and sympathizes with the complications of her life. Cristal says she didn’t love Matthew like she loved Blake, which, Sammy Joe is rightly dubious. Cristal tries to push him away, but when he pushes a little, she reveals that they all knew Matthew was her ex-lover when they made her announce the death. Sammy Joe has the grace to look sympathetic in the midst of his shock. Just then Blake peremptorily calls Cristal into the green room.
Gathered together, the family argues over whether to destroy evidence of Cristal and Matthew’s affair. Cristal doesn’t love the idea of destroying evidence, but Blake hilariously says, “Not evidence. Sensitive family information.” Oh, is that what the Godfather is calling it these days? Fallon calls her a homewrecker, but Steven jumps in to point out all deadpan that Fallon had a motive (pushing Windbriar’s value down so she could buy it dirt cheap) and the means to kill Matthew herself. Fallon just shrugs and goes, “That’s fair.” This is the healthiest sibling relationship I’ve ever seen on TV. They just get each other. It’s so cute and twisted!
Cristal lets herself into her apartment—shouldn’t she be looking into moving out of this dump, speaking comparatively?—and picks up various objects that remind her of Matthew. She’s interrupted by Cranky Butler, who’s followed her here to help destroy evidence, ahem, I mean Sensitive Family Information. She’s a little touchy about his constant creeping and emotional blackmailing, but he just takes the box of Matthew memorabilia and parades out, unbothered.
Fallon meets up with Michael, and they start pawing each other while she purrs that he needs to delete the picture of Matthew. Michael is all, Oh, I sent it on a disposable phone to an encrypted account. Then Fallon admits she forwarded the photo right to her dad’s regular account. Well, at least one of them is competent at this spying stuff. She leaves, telling Michael she’s going to visit IT.
At a sketchy diner, Cristal meets up with Matthew’s friend Willie, who was there when he died. He says in a shaking voice that Matthew called her name before he died, and then warns her about the kinds of people the Carringtons are. “They’re just people,” Cristal protests, which… kind of makes me think she hasn’t been paying attention. “We’re just people,” Willie corrects her. He tells her that Blake tried to transfer Matthew to China before he died, and that Matthew had turned down the offer, and the two men fought. He wouldn’t put it past Blake to kill Matthew, since Matthew knew all Blake’s secrets. Cristal, once again, looks shocked. She’s like Taylor Swift with all the shocked faces.
Cristal arrives home to find Stansfield, the police chief who’s all buddy-buddy with Blake, happily munching on takeout while he and Blake brainstorm about Matthew’s enemies. She starts eavesdropping as Blake, that shameless fucker, steals Steven’s idea about driving down Windbriar’s value to blame Jeff for the murder.
Fallon is paying a call to Jeff, who’s wearing a super fetch red velvet jacket, to find out how to “make a little digital something disappear.” Something that was sent from a private server. Oh, um, I think I know someone she can ask about that. Jeff doesn’t get a chance to answer this rather vague question before the police chief shows up. Fallon casually refers to him as “my dad’s pocket cop,” which is pretty funny, only to be shocked when he asks to speak to Jeff.
Back at the Estate, Blake finds Cristal rummaging through his extremely well-appointed watch drawer. It’s unclear what exactly she’s looking for—presumably something like a note from a hitman saying, “I finished murdering Matthew just like you asked.” Blake is reasonably chill about it at first, then asks what she’s looking for. Cristal comes up with probably the dumbest lie ever, which is that she was looking for the cufflinks she gave him to lend to Sammy Joe. Blake snarks, “I didn’t realize tank tops required cufflinks.” Touche. Anyway, he doesn’t seem too fussed about it (he thinks the search was because she was thinking of Matthew, which is kind of correct) it turns out he’s visiting Claudia. Cristal insists on going with him.
That evening, Steven finds Sammy Joe swimming in the pool and asks what he meant by Cristal being the black sheep. Sammy Joe gives him a very bland, very obvious lie, and then, after jumping out of the pool completely naked, invites him to the hot tub. Steven says they should press pause, since they’re practically family. “What’s a little incest between friends?” asks Sammy Joe. There’s really no answer to that, so Steven resists the obvious sexual tension and hands him a towel.
Claudia answers the door to Blake and Cristal, and Cristal is surprised to find Willie there, but Willie plays it totally cool. Blake sits in their living room and slimes all over Claudia about how much he’s cooperating with the investigation and how sorry he is about Matthew. Claudia isn’t buying it, and neither is Willie. But Blake presses on, undaunted: he wants to keep Claudia on the health insurance and pay for Matthew’s funeral. He hands her a check for half a million dollars. That’s gonna be a hell of a funeral.
Claudia, stone-faced, says Matthew used to call Blake “filthy rich and squeaky clean.” But Blake insists that it’s not hush money, it’s money he promised Matthew for going to China. Willie points out that Matthew hadn’t accepted yet, but Blake comes up with a comforting little lie about how he wanted to stay to be with Claudia. Blake grabs Cristal’s hand, and then drives the knife in: he gives Claudia a box full of all the Matthew memories that Cristal cleaned out of her apartment.
Outside the house, Cristal yells at Blake, rather unwisely, for humiliating her that way. Blake plays the victim, acting all butthurt that Cristal kept this stuff of Matthew’s. Jeez, it’s almost like sometimes when you’ve only been with someone for four months, they haven’t necessarily had time to purge all their ex-boyfriends’ stuff from their house? Then he claims to be all about protecting the family (uh-huh, I’m sure) and says that when tears come into her eyes he can’t tell if she’s mourning Matthew “or the fact that you married me.” I love how at no point does it enter his mind to consider that she’s crying because he’s being a dick.
Jeff calls Fallon to update her on the interrogation, complaining that Blake came up with a “CSI: Atlanta episode,” like, oh good, another oh so timely reference. Fallon, who is wearing a shirt printed with vertical black and white stripes in what has to be a wink to the murder investigation, promises they’ll fix it. Jeff’s sister, who is wearing an even cooler outfit than Jeff (a sequin-covered turtleneck sheath dress), is alarmed by the revelation that he’s gotten mixed up with the cops and Carringtons at once. As they argue about whether to trust Fallon, they stroll right by a giant line to get into a club without waiting. Ugh, rich people, amirite?
Meanwhile, Fallon’s giving a little oral treat to Michael in the back of his car to make up for ditching him earlier. He offers to reciprocate, but she has to go, and it turns out they are literally at Matthew’s funeral. It’s 2017, so back-of-car BJs aren’t shocking anymore, but this show found a new way to look really naughty—have Fallon and Michael getting down in full view of a funeral.
Fallon emerges from the limo in a deliciously absurd funeral outfit: black satin hot pants and a giant black hat. Everyone else is respectfully bowing their heads while wearing ostentatiously stylish sunglasses. Cristal remembers crying when she found out Matthew was lying; the flashback includes some exquisitely stupid dialogue from Matthew about lying and how easy it is. She has to leave to cry, which leaves her vulnerable to another little confrontation with Fallon and her giant black hat, who points out that Cristal isn’t supposed to be the star of today’s spectacle. “Back off, Fallon,” says the ever-outmatched Cristal. Fallon ups her own tackiness by about a thousand when she asks if Claudia’s brain damage means that they’ll have to remind her every day that she’s a widow now. I feel like Fallon is basically what you’d get if you crossed Kim Kardashian’s mom with Blair Waldorf. She has Kris Jenner’s total lack of class and empathy (judging by the one episode I’ve seen of the Kardashians), but with an actual sense of wit. And I do not mean this as a complaint; I’m getting more and more attached to Fallon and her villainously red-lipsticked pout.
Anyway, Cristal tries to get back at Fallon by telling her she’s sheltered and doesn’t understand life. Fallon, unbothered, calls her damaged goods. So Cristal shoves her into the open grave. “You BITCH!” snarls Fallon loudly from out of sight. Worst funeral guest ever.
The funeral spread—back at the Carrington estate, of course—is even better than this morning’s breakfast spread. I spy a cheese plate… yum. Uh, I mean, it’s very sad. Some lady shows up who clearly makes Cristal nervous, but we don’t really get enough of this to care about her, so whatever. Her name is Marla and she’s from some kind of magazine. Scene over.
Meanwhile, Fallon strolls in in a red dress. “Bold choice,” Steven says. “I didn’t die,” Fallon answers. Hee! She turns to Blake and scolds him for siccing the cops on Jeff when she (Fallon) was trying to protect Cristal by deleting that photo, and that she never should have trusted him.
Stansfield informs Blake that he’s going to be free to go soon, because the FBI is getting involved and they’ve got a new suspect—presumably Jeff. Uhoh.
Sammy Joe finds Cristal standing pensively at the upstairs balcony and complains that he thought the funeral would be more fun. Cristal points out that it’s a funeral, and Sammy Joe says, “I just thought it’d be different with the Carringtons.” Heh. Although, to be fair, he does know she was in love with the guy, so it’s not exactly the right time for quipping, now is it? I guess he fits right in with the rest of the family. Cristal complains about Blake turning this into a PR event and doing everything just to protect his family. Sammy Joe points out that Cristal has crossed lines to protect her family, including him. This is supposed to pique our curiosity, presumably, about what exactly Cristal did that Cranky Butler is holding over her head. I would rather get more shots of everyone’s fabulous funeral headwear, personally.
Fallon meets Jeff (who’s Bringing It with the outfits again, this time in a patterned suit with contrast piping on the lapel). He gives her a flash drive that will supposedly tell her all about him, to prove that he trusts her or something. She pulls him off, presumably towards the pool house for some more private funtimes.
Back in the main house, a drunk Willie’s freaking out, and Blake’s trying to calm him down. He accuses Blake of silencing Claudia with money and then of lying to her that Matthew was going to stay with her. When Cristal arrives, Willie says, “You really slept your way to the top, didn’t you?” But Cristal gets fierce and says coldly that Matthew was in love with her, but it was totally one-sided, and that Willie’s a pathetic drunk. AND he’s fired. She kicks him out of the house, and poor Willie, drunk, has to go. Cristal just barely holds back tears as she walks away.
Blake finds her back in his study and asks if she’s OK. Cristal asks if he knows how hard this all is for her, and says accusingly that she lied to protect the family. She made the story about Willie getting drunk and fired instead of Blake threatening Matthew. Blake offers a sort of nonsensical denial and declares that he can’t imagine his life without her. “It’s my life, too, now,” she says, and pulls his hand off her. Then she locks the door and they start making out, the funeral still going on outside. I guess Cristal does belong in this family.
The funeral guests process out while Steven plinks adorably at the piano. Sammy Joe leans on the piano and says, “Assuming we’re still on a break?” Steven does a “womp womp” chord on the piano, which is hilarious. But as soon as Sammy Joe starts to walk away, Steven starts spewing semi-confessional babble at him: he’s not the person Sammy Joe thinks he is, he’s not a sexaholic, blah blah blah. “You are literally the most buttoned-up person I know,” Sammy Joe says coolly. He admits he already knew Steven was a Carrington and that he targeted him to get a foot in the door with the Carringtons. “I’m glad it worked,” says Steven, who then admits that he kind of knew. (Clearly Steven’s insanely forgiving attitude is the only way he survives being part of this family.) Then suddenly Steven is like, “Let’s make out, it’s not too complicated at all,” which is the exact opposite of what he said thirty seconds ago. He’s forgiving and a little forgetful, I guess.
Cranky Butler finds Cristal signing the guest book—admittedly an odd thing for the hostess of the event and the bereaved mistress to do, no?—and calls her “Cecilia Machado.” Which I guess is part of her Big Secret That We All Totally Care About.
Jeff and Fallon emerge with the flash drive and Fallon tells Blake that Jeff gave it to them to “erase our digital tracks.” That’s quite a handy little device. Fallon promises she hasn’t “put his stick in” yet, fully emphasizing the double entendre because apparently she’s forgotten she’s speaking to her own father.
Just then, Cranky Butler interrupts to tell them they have a situation: namely, a dozen FBI agents have arrived in the foyer to arrest none other than poor, innocent Steven. Now, this will be a tough one to forgive. Fallon and the other actual actors on the set look horrified, but the most Blake can manage is a look of mild absent-mindedness.
After the pilot, which was awkward and forced as all but the most extraordinary pilots tend to be, this episode felt much more settled and fun—frothy, sarcastic, twisty, well-dressed, with just a hint of heart from a few characters to keep things somewhat human.
And I think this show is evidence of how much society has changed even since Gossip Girl came xoxo-ing onto the scene. The well-dressed, champagne-guzzling characters are no longer slightly ruthless people whom you can desire to emulate even as you watch them fuck up. They’re actual villains, and their wealth itself is both proof of their guilt and, as Steven points out when he complains in the pilot about Fallon’s carbon-heavy use of a private plane, inherently part of it.
One issue, though, is that Blake Carrington is being played by an actor, Grant Show (what a name), who is painfully miscast; he’s the middle-aged equivalent of the vacuous pretty boys the CW loves to cast as their romantic heroes. He can’t really bear the weight of all of the moral turpitude that is being imputed to him, nor bring the kind of complication and mystery to his role that is necessary for him to be the sinister-yet-appealing villain of a show.
Like, this is his face when Fallon says she never should have trusted him:
I look more disappointed than that when I find out the daily cookie at my work cafeteria doesn’t have chocolate chips in it.
In contrast, Elizabeth Gillies effortlessly makes Fallon both nasty and charming, ruthless yet capable of affection and loyalty; she is completely believable as the spoiled but ambitious princess of a corrupt empire. And while her scenes with Cristal are well balanced, Blake is this blank-faced black hole into which verisimilitude and conflict basically disappears. Let’s hope that he’s progressively marginalized as the show runners figure out where the strengths of their cast lie.