Charming, friendly, and completely amoral. The eldest son of Jock and Ellie, J.R. inherited all of his father's ambition, business acumen, and ruthlessness but none of his honor and compassion. Originally just the antagonist to his brother Bobby, J.R. became the breakout character and eventual Villain Protagonist (one of the first ever on TV). He has strange ways of showing it, but he does genuinely love his family, and always thinks his actions are in every Ewing's best interest.
Affably Evil: He'll completely destroy your life and that of everyone you love, but he'll do it with a smile, a friendly joke, and while handing you a drink.
Amicable Exes: It takes decades, but by the revival season he is this with Sue Ellen. It's very apparent that while they both moved on they still love each other very much.
Anti-Hero: Occasionally, in his nicer moments. Still, it's Type IV or V at best.
Anyone Can Die: At the end of the seventh episode in the revival series' second season, when two shots fatally wound him (offscreen). This was due to the death of J.R.'s actor Larry Hagman, who was able to last through two episodes after Hagman's death through previously unused stock footage. The remaining plot of the second season will revolve around the question left in the cliffhanger of the original show's third season.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: While he may compete with Bobby a lot, he shows plenty of shades of this in the new series. When John Ross wants to exploit Bobby's arrest for the shooting of Harris Ryland so they can gain greater control of Ewing Energies, J.R. is extremely angry and tells John Ross that when a Ewing is in trouble, they help each other out.
Casey: What, you don't think I'd double-cross you.
J.R.: Oh, of course I do! I'd be disappointed if that thought hadn't crossed your mind, already. You see, I wouldn't want to work with anybody who wouldn't turn a deal to their own advantage. I just want you to know I got my eye on you.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: A lot of the motivation behind J.R.'s "win at any cost" attitude and uber-competitiveness with Bobby is that he feels Jock preferred Bobby to him, which Jock flat-out admits to.
Xanatos Gambit: Very fond of letting his enemies think they've won...and using that to catch them off guard.
"Never be fooled when I'm down...because when I am, there's only one way to go.... And that's up!"
Robert James "Bobby" Ewing (Patrick Duffy)
"Be good to each other... be a family. I love you so much."
The youngest son of Jock and Ellie Ewing. Whereas J.R. inherited most of Jock's less positive qualities, Bobby inherited his good ones - honor, loyalty and love of family. Bobby tries very hard to do the right thing, but he has the same streak of ambition and need to prove his dominance that J.R. does which occasionally leads him to dark places. Still, he remains a good man, and while he loves his brother (a love which is returned - J.R.'s genuine affection for Bobby is one of his few Pet the Dog moments) he is unwilling to turn a blind eye to his evil deeds like his parents, and thus he often remains the only thing standing in J.R.'s way from complete unchecked power over all things Ewing. The yin and yang of J.R. and Bobby and their alternate views of the future of the family and the company is arguably the central premise of the show.
Badass: Bobby is never defeated in any remotely fair fight.
Now in his 60's, he could be considered Badass Grandpa, because he's still very capable in a fight.
Retcon: The show goes back and forth on whether his given name is actually 'Bobby' or whether it is 'Robert' and 'Bobby' is simply a (universally used) nickname. The revival seems to be running with 'Robert'.
Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval)
"I've been beaten before, but I have never lost. Understand the difference?"
The eldest child of Digger Barnes, Jock's best friend and business partner turned bitter rival, Cliff began as a scrappy idealistic underdog determined to avenge his father and take down the Ewings. His bitter fights with J.R. almost always ended in Cliff's defeat and embarassment, which only drove him to fight the Ewings even more ruthlessly. Cliff eventually succeeded in besting J.R., taking over Ewing Oil (which Cliff always believed should rightfully be his family's anyway) and having more money than the Ewings ever did - at the cost of the only woman who loved him, their daughter, and most of his family. Though greedy and self-centered, Cliff was never really evil in the way J.R. was and a lot of his antics were more comical than anything else.
Arch-Enemy: To J.R and to a lesser extent the whole Ewing clan.
Fallen Hero: He began the series as an idealistic up-and-coming crusader and champion against injustice and big bad corporations exploiting the little guy. He ended the series as a corrupt, greedy billionaire who was capable of almost anything in his quest to defeat his enemies. In current episodes, he skulks around in rich seclusion dressed in black watching people via strategically placed cameras and working on sinister behind the scenes plans. Though while definitely no hero he never exactly becomes an outright villain either, and he's generally seen as friendly and helpful to everyone who's not J.R. or on J.R.'s side. He and Bobby were good friends by the series' end.
Not So Different: Again to J.R.—several characters (including his own sister) called him out on his own love of power.
Not So Harmless: While Cliff did eventually beat J.R. in the original series, he has definitely taken a level in evil and ruthlessness in the revival. He's now willing to use his daughter in plot against the Ewings, cover up murder, and instruct his foster son to commit suicide to make up for betraying Cliff's plans.
Trademark Favorite Food: Chinese food. At first it was just an onscreen thing - empty cartons would be strewn around the apartment - but as the series went on characters drew attention to it. Christopher brought Rebecca Chinese food in the episode that revealed her identity as Cliff's daughter, possibly foreshadowing
Well-Intentioned Extremist: His basic reasoning for wanting to take down the Ewings is that Jock screwed over and ruined his father (he basically did) and that they're corrupt (they basically are) but over time Cliff has turned to extremely cut-throat Ewing-esque methods in order to take them down. There's no mistaking that Cliff is the good guy and J.R. the bad in the first seasons, but it gets murkier as time goes on.
Pamela Barnes Ewing (Victoria Principal)
"Power and money and wealth... they don't mean that much to me. I want a nice, ordinary life with my husband."
Cliff's younger sister and Bobby's first wife. The marriage of a Ewing to a Barnes set off the series, as the two struggled to retain their Romeo and Juliet-esque love in the face of their feuding families. Pam was initially envisioned as the lead of the series with her struggle to exist in both families, but focus shifted sharply towards J.R. by the second and third seasons, relegating Pam to smaller stories involving romantic drama with Bobby and trying to keep the peace between her two families. Still, Pam remained one of the stronger, more independent women of Dallas until her departure.
What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of Pam; when last seen on the show, Pam (played by a different actress than Principal) revealed that she was dying and that only her brother Cliff was made aware of her still being alive (though she purposely did not tell him that she had only a year left to live). This was never followed up on in the original series and since Principal will not return to the new series, her fate remains unknown.
Patrick Duffy considers Pam dead, which apparently led to an awkward moment when the writers of the new series pointed out that TECHNICALLY she was still alive since we never saw her death on camera and that we only had her doctor's word that she was dying. But baring a recast or Principal changing her mind and wanting to come back, the show will probably consider her dead.
To paraphrase a quote from executive producer Cynthia Cidre in one interview: "It sort of seemed like she maybe died, so we're just going to say she died." It's worth noting that onscreen there's been no explicit mention of Pam being dead, just that she's "gone."
And now in "J.R.'s Masterpiece" (the funeral episode) it's revealed that J.R. had been to Abu Dhabi pursuing a lead on Pam's current whereabouts, for reasons yet to be revealed.
And as of "Legacies" Pamela died of cancer in Abu Dhabi shortly she left the show and Cliff paid the plastic surgeon and a nurse to make it appear that she was still alive so he could control Pam's shares in Barnes Global.
Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray)
"Ah, love. That wonderful word. Of all the dumb things we do in its name."
Originally something of an afterthought for the JR character, Sue Ellen had little to do in the early episodes, though it wasn't long before their madly dysfunctional relationship became a focus of the series. She spent a lot of screen time agonizing over JR's affairs, vindictively having her own, plotting with or against JR, divorcing or remarrying JR, and generally feeling miserable enough to drink herself into oblivion. After a decade or so of this cycle, she got sober and left JR (and the show) for good, though she did return for the reunion movies and the currently airing revival series. So to this day, Sue Ellen continues her legacy as one of the more interesting and impactful female characters on early American television.
Mama Bear: Averted for the first few months of John Ross's life when Sue Ellen was so withdrawn she refused to even hold her baby. Played straight later when fighting with JR for custody.
And she still is in the revival, to the point of bribery. It eventually costs her the govemorship. She can be a successful Mama Bear, though, as she's willing to fight Elena for her stake of Ewing Energies because Elena broke up with John Ross, and Sue Ellen succeeds.
Masochism Tango: Counting the revival series, it's about 35 years of tangoing with JR.
Dumb Blonde: Subverted; at first she comes across as pretty ditzy, partly because she's Book Dumb compared to her doctor brother. She's actually pretty savvy and tries to act as voice of reason in Cliff's feud with the Ewings.
She also figured out what kind of person Katherine was a good year before everyone else did.
Gary was the second son of oil baron Jock Ewing and his wife Miss Ellie Ewing. He was often considered the black sheep of the family, as he would become an alcoholic, and was never treated as an equal by his father and elder brother J.R. However, Gary was loved by his mother and younger brother Bobby. As Jock was not with Miss Ellie during her pregnancy with Gary, she tended to view him as more hers than Jock's and he became her favorite son, while the relationship between Jock and Gary was always distant. Gary was married (three times) to Valene Ewing, and the couple's on-off relationship lead much of his story arc in the Dallas spin-off series, Knots Landing.
Valene is a sweet, naive woman, originally from a poor Tennessee family. Her storyline in the first season of Dallas focuses on the rebuilding of her former marriage to estranged ex-husband Gary. When Valene arrives in Texas to find her daughter, Lucy Ewing, she is brought back into the drama of the Ewing family. Upon arrival, she is reunited with Gary with whom she slowly falls back in love. Once Dallas became a hit, series creator David Jacobs proceeded to launch the spin-off series Knots Landing, which would feature Valene and Gary prominently.
Betty and Veronica: Male version. He is the Veronica to Elena, while Christopher is the Betty, although interestingly they actually have traits of both, with John Ross being very devoted to her while Christopher treats her badly at times.
Berserk Button: Don't ever, ever, ever dare say he's like his father (at least, in a negative way).
Sue Ellen: Once a cheater, always a cheater. I should have learned that lesson the first time around.
John Ross: You donít know what youíre talking about, Mama. Yeah, yeah, Candace was in my office and the crazy bitch was all over me. And I turned her down!
Sue Ellen: BULLSHIT! I know what I saw!
John Ross: You donít know, because youíre drunk! I am telling you the truth!
Sue Ellen: Even drunk, I know the sound of a lie, and you are an expert at it, just like your father.
John Ross: I AM NOT MY FATHER!!! Are you so hell-bent on punishing J.R. for his sins that youíre willing to destroy the relationship with your only son? Damn it, I need you Mom, and you sided with them. Iím your son. You remember that? Or are you too damn addled to remember who I am? [Reaches for the bottle, holds it up] Why are you doing this to yourself again, huh?
Sue Ellen: [Sobbing] Donít you get it? You did this to me. You and your father.
John Ross: No, Mama. You did this to yourself. Youíre so busy seeing the ghost of J.R. in me that you cannot stop to take a hard look in the damn mirror. You want me to take responsibility for my actions? Then you take responsibility for yours. [Walks away, leaves the house, slams the door behind him]
Timeshifted Actor: John Ross often appeared in the original series as a child (played by different actors, of course).
"Well Done, Son" Guy: Though J.R. makes sure to express his pride in him, when it becomes clear he's following in his dad's footstepts. It's even J.R.'s last words: "Just remember—I'm proud of you. You're my son...from tip to tail."
Christopher Ewing (Jesse Metcalfe)
Bobby's adopted son.
Happily Adopted: No matter how much John Ross tries to tell him he's "not a real Ewing."
Not So Different: He's much more willing than his father to fight dirty like his cousin and uncle.
Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster)
Daughter of one of the Southfork housekeepers, Christopher's ex-fiancee, dating John Ross at the start of the new series.
Spicy Latina: A subversion - she is a Latina and very beautiful but she's not sultry in the least.
Ann Ryland Ewing (Brenda Strong)
Bobby's third wife and current matriarch of Southfork.
Action Stepmom: More than once, her first reaction to a disturbance on the ranch has been to grab a gun and investigate. A conversation with a ranch security guard makes it clear she isn't afraid to shoot.
Domestic Abuse: her marriage to Harris Ryland turned into a nightmare. It's mentioned that she works with abused women nowadays.
He knows that at one point he did legitimately love Ann and still harbors some resentment towards his mother for the marriage going to hell. It's probable that without his mother's influence, Ryland would have been a much more decent guy.