'Dynasty' returns, eager to fight

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
From left, Elizabeth Gillies as Fallon and Nathalie Kelley as Cristal. (Photo: Mark Hill/The CW)

If you’re in the market for a nighttime soap with beautiful people behaving badly, Dynasty — an update of the 1980s camp classic — will serve your needs. But as cleverly reimagined as the original has been by producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (both vets of The O.C. and Gossip Girl), I couldn’t escape the feeling that the Kardashians and the Real Housewives franchise has made a Dynasty reboot irrelevant. After all, the initial appeal of the Aaron Spelling series was the then-novel opportunity to glimpse the rich and the even-richer being bratty and selfish. We also clucked our collective tongue in approval at the gowns being clothes-horsed by Joan Collins and Linda Evans. We were legit thrilled when their characters Krystle and Alexis engaged in cheek-slapping, hair-pulling tussles: catfights before that term became an unenlightened insult.

Now, the new Dynasty is all about inclusion and women’s agency over their own destinies. The central drama is still between female protagonists — in this case, Elizabeth Gillies’s Fallon Carrington and Nathalie Kelley’s Cristal Flores — but nearly as important is the way Fallon and Cristal (note the latter spelling change to remind you of bubbly champagne), each and independently of each other, assert their authority over lesser males.

At first I thought Gillies, most recently seen being husky-voiced in Denis Leary’s sitcom Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, was overdoing it with the eyelash-batting and the heavy breathing, but after 20 minutes or so I realized Gillies was tailoring her performance exactly to the specifications of what’s been written for her. This Fallon is an ambitious businessperson, shrewdly manipulative. She views Cristal — the new wife of her father — as primarily an obstacle in the way of her consolidation of personal empire-building. (Her dad, by the way, is a new Blake Carrington played by Grant Show, who looks minimally aged since his Melrose Place days.)

Many people forget that Joan Collins’s Alexis didn’t turn up until O.G. Dynasty’s second season — her character was essentially a fix for a show that wasn’t quite clicking yet. These days, a new series has to hit the ground running — if it’s not instantly understandable, with all its talking points packaged and delivered, it’s liable to get lost in the programming deluge. Sensing this, the CW’s Dynasty gets right to it, showcasing a Cristal-Fallon throw-down in the premiere. The show comes across like a pop-culture sensation anxious for an audience to show up. It’s ready to be consumed; are you hungry for its eye candy and Cristal?

Dynasty airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW.

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