The Return of Dynasty

Will the popular 'soap' live up to the fame of its original?

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Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

We live in an era of reboots, and obscure sequels. From Mad Max, to Blade Runner 2049, to edgy remakes (of questionable quality) of beloved shows from previous years, including Death Note, and Ghost in the Shell, it’s almost as if current social anxieties are pushing us to desperately seek comfort in the tried and true familiarity of the media we remember enjoying, only reimagined, adapted to our time, and made new again.

Dynasty is another title in a sequence of remakes, sequels and adaptations, and like all of them, it stands to the most important question of all – is it actually good?

The original show ran from 1981 to 1989, won multiple awards, including a Golden Globe for Best TV Drama Series, and was consistently in the top ten. After 1985, it was the number 1 TV series in the US. It carries a legacy from a time when television held a certain charm and glamour that current instant-gratification and an over-saturated market make it hard to match.

The CW has some big shoes to fill with the brave task of a remake. They have built their brand on current, on-trend shows with conventionally attractive casts, snappy dialogue and often convoluted plotlines, and in many ways their traditional approach can seem juvenile. With titles like Riverdale, Supernatural, and Supergirl under their belt, picking up a more “grown-up” series, particularly one with a serious legacy behind it, can prove a challenge.

It adds to the challenge that over summer articles hyping up the show have been positioning it as something “to fill the Gossip Girl-shaped hole in your life”.  Attempting to reconcile its legacy – which is still rather recent, considering it only ended in 2012, with that of Dynasty – which carries with it the heavier mantle of a prime time soap opera, the kind of which are rarely produced in a quality manner now might be setting the bar up a little high for the CW.

The first episode of Dynasty premiered on October 11, and was available for streaming on Netflix the day after. It was, in a word, breath-taking. Elizabeth Gillies has ditched the goth look that was a staple in her Victorious days for sleek, cutting-edge fashion, and beautiful luminous makeup. With a condescending smile, and a spring in her step, she descended the steps of her private jet, and stepped right into our hearts.

While the aesthetics of the show have been upgraded, to keep up with the 30 year gap from the original, from every single shot the audience can rest assured – this is indeed a series about the top 1%, and for at least an hour they will be enveloped in the safety net of trust funds and old money.

It is a pleasant surprise that as far as plot and characters are concerned, the CW hasn’t taken any liberties, maintaining a close relationship with the original. While fans were dissatisfied with the liberties taken to modernize Riverdale (which is an adaptation of Archie Comics), Dynasty seems to trust in the allure of the classic when it comes to interpretation.

In many ways that can be seen as an unfortunate critique on our modern time. Issues that were present in 1981 – such as Fallon’s gender preventing her from going as far as she wants to go in her career, and leading to her father’s mistrust of her skill, and Steven’s homosexuality still being a large issue in his relationship with his father – two huge plot points of the original – are the driving force behind the remake.

The story of the Carrington’s oil empire promises to be a fast-paced look ahead, full of the beautiful spaces of the rich, inhabited by the ever-present problems of all of us. Updated, but not disrespectfully so, full of nods to current pop-culture, but not in a way that is overt to the point of being obnoxious, and subtly critical of our time, maybe this is the remake we – and our parents – really need right now.