Dynasty series premiere recap: 'I Hardly Recognized You'
"When the revolution happens, it’ll be your head they come for first."
Admittedly, I come to The CW’s Dynasty as a true newcomer to the title’s deep mythos, and perhaps you, too, know only as much about the legendary series as three decades of TV lore and gay culture have taught us about Joan Collins, catfights, and the power of the primetime guilty pleasure. Since the original went off the air in 1989, we’ve clung to dramas that have kept up Dynasty’s promise of soapy family scandal from slices of life we’ll never experience — on shows as varied as Empire, Riverdale, even arguable shavings of Game of Thrones — but while TV has proven that you don’t need a lavish mansion or an oil-sized estate to tell a good sinful story about interpersonal conflict between blood relatives, the fun of The CW’s reboot is how it brazenly just shrugs and says, “Yeah, but what if we still had those things?”
The central family is, once again, the buoyant billionaire clan known as the Carringtons, led by patriarch Blake (Grant Show), an industry magnate running the energy behemoth Carrington Atlantic. He’s not your typical womanizing TV tycoon — namely, he’s younger and says “fracking” a lot more. But despite the great promise of Blake’s silver-spoon-slash-silver-daddy antics, the reboot’s CW pedigree means this show is really all about the haute hotties in Blake’s life: His daughter, Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies), and fiancée, Cristal (Nathalie Kelley).
Fallon is exactly the kind of bitch you love to see on TV: whip-smart, razor-tongued, perennially underestimated, and always two steps ahead of hustlers and mansplainers, but still dipped in enough of a liquid gold sheen to render her horribly, deliciously impenetrable and unfathomable to lowly rabble like us. A brilliant exchange with Fallon’s brother Steven (James Mackay), who skews more Habitat for Humanity than House of Dereon, illustrates our elevated protagonist quite perfectly:
Fallon has a secret or two — she’s sleeping with her chauffeur and sometimes spy, Michael Culhane (Robert Christopher Riley) — but for now, she’s been growing increasingly impatient with her increasingly antiquated father’s increasingly aggravating delay in making her COO of Carrington Atlantic. Her brother Steven, meanwhile, left both home and the company, arguably because of his love of both homosexuality and renewable energy. He’s a little on the archetypal side of the sarcastic gay intellectual, a bleeding-heart liberal who seems to be the most levelheaded in the family until the writers decide he’s not.
Things lurch into motion for the Carrington kids in the pilot when Blake, having alienated both of his children as any classically manipulative mogul might, summons both back to their palatial estate. Fallon expects a promotion, and Steven, an apology, but neither is on the table; instead, Blake wants to introduce both children to his fiancé Cristal — for the first time ever. DRAMA!
Cristal, to be clear, is only slightly less abrasive than Fallon. She’s got seemingly down-to-earth girlfriends who know all of her secrets, and she seems to actually care for Blake and not just his ballrooms. She also plays an antagonistic role at Carrington Atlantic as a pragmatic publicist who’s probably going to tell Blake how to connect with millennials and, I predict, will absolutely set up his Twitter at some point. But to that end, she’s essentially the same age as Fallon, who is immediately furious about the abundance of stepmother content on her timeline and thus hatches a scheme to drive her new stepmother away from the Carrington crown molding. Cristal has a deep well of secrets for Fallon to tap, one of them being her not-quite-over relationship with a married guy named Matthew.
Any fan of Revenge will recognize that Nick Wechsler plays literally the exact same role here — a salt-of-the-earth field engineer at Carrington Atlantic, working for the 1 percent but going home to the 99. He’s very much in love with Cristal, but also won’t leave his amnesiac wife Claudia (Brianna Brown). Turns out, he doesn’t have to: Through Fallon and Culhane’s meddling, Blake is presented with photographic evidence of Cristal’s dalliance; rather than blowing up, he offers an overt gesture of friendliness to Matthew before sending him out on one last job where, oops, there’s a big explosion and Matthew’s dead. And not only that, but Blake doubles down by marrying Cristal at their engagement party to stick it back to Fallon for trying to sabotage their relationship. Emily Thorne could never!
We’re in for a doozy, folks. I haven’t even mentioned Fallon’s plan to launch her own company with Blake’s business rival, onetime employee turned wunderkind Jeff Colby (Sam Adegoke), who is also Fallon’s former classmate and very much a romantic rival for Culhane. There’s Anders the shady butler (Alan Dale), who runs a background check on Cristal so he can serve tea and spill it. There’s Cristal’s bad-boy nephew Sam (Rafael de la Fuente), who threatens to unravel all the dirty-laundry threads of Cristal’s Getty Images wardrobe — and who accidentally hooks up with (and steals money from) Steven before meeting him at the wedding and discovering the awful, awkward truth that he slept with his step-cousin.
And of course, there’s the first of potentially several catfights this season, coming in hot at the 28:00 minute mark after Fallon bites the head off of Cristal’s his-and-hers wedding cake topper. Is that even intimidating? Or edible? Find out next week on The Good Doctor, probably.