The CW’s “Dynasty” Exposes Life of the One Percent
by Aneesah Akbar
With the second season of the soap opera reboot “Dynasty” premiering this Friday, it seems appropriate to reflect on the drama, humor, and unconventional family dynamics that have contributed to the show’s success thus far.
The 2017 CW series is based on the 1980s soap of the same name. It follows two of America’s richest families, the Carringtons and the Colbys. The 2017 rendition focuses on the lives of a new generation of both families in addition to the main characters in the 1980 version.
“Dynasty” stars Elizabeth Gillies as Fallon Carrington, an astute, aspiring business woman in her twenties and heir to Carrington Atlantic, her father’s billion-dollar oil company. When her father, Blake Carrington (Grant Show), decides to appoint his new fiance, Cristal Flores, to be the COO of the company instead, Fallon is determined to shed all the benefits that come with her last name and begin her own energy company with her father’s rival, Jeff Colby (Sam Agedoke). The show follows Fallon as her plans are disrupted by everything from alleged murders to kidnappings to fake marriages.
Created by the same team as “Gossip Girl” and “The O.C.”, “Dynasty” features a committed and talented cast with seemingly natural chemistry. Millennials may recognize Gillies from their teenage days of tuning into the early 2010s sitcom “Victorious” on Nickelodeon. “The Vampire Diaries” actress Nathalie Kelley is another familiar face in the series. However, breakout stars such as Sam Agedoke (who portrays Jeff Colby), and James McKay (who plays Fallon’s brother Steven), aren’t overshadowed by their more seasoned counterparts.
At first glance, “Dynasty” seems to be your typical binge-worthy CW drama. While this is certainly true, the show also makes attempts to address relevant socio-political issues in America, including immigration, race, LGBTQ relationships, and women’s equality in the workplace. There are frequent references to Trump’s anti-immigration policies as Fallon bitterly jokes about “this country’s obsession with walls” when one character faces the possibility of deportation.
Political prejudices are boldly depicted when Steven Carrington’s gay relationship with his partner Sammy Jo deteriorates as he enters the public spectre as a candidate for city council. This authentic representation of public scrutiny towards LGBTQ politicians sheds light on how far society still has to progress before LGBTQ leaders are fully accepted.
While the lavish lifestyle of the Carringtons and Colbys is enviable, the show also depicts the corruption involved in maintaining a financial empire. On several occasions, Blake is caught committing manipulative or even illegal acts to keep Carrington Atlantic’s reputation, and, in effect, his family’s livelihood, intact. While it is clear that money grants him his power, that is not the lasting message. The audience watches as Blake loses his family’s respect and constantly scrambles to keep them united, all while projecting a flawless image to the public eye. After several such instances, viewers must wonder how much happiness money truly buys.
Unfortunately, some attempts at uncovering social injustice are lacking. In one scene, Cristal is challenged by one of Carrington Atlantic’s PR representatives named Kylie, who calls her out for only being promoted to COO because of her relationship with Blake. Kylie says brashly, “[Women] can’t even get mentors because guys like Mike Pence are too afraid to have dinner with us…and when your wedding ring comes with a promotion, it kind of feels like you proved them right.”
While the scene aims to address the glass ceiling women face in the workplace, certainly a pertinent issue, it may go too far by implying that men in power avoid professional settings with women because they cannot control themselves. Even more problematic is the fact that Cristal’s character is never granted the chance to prove her capability for COO position. She is given few chances to exercise her role, and even these seem either inconsequential, impulsive, or part of another character’s plan.
Amidst all the scandal and betrayal, however, there is no shortage of comic relief, most commonly through witty remarks and disapproving glares delivered by Anders (Alan Dale), the Carringtons’ majordomo. Dale delivers a compelling and endearing performance as the show’s father figure and, oftentimes, moral compass.
If there is one thing that “Dynasty” nails, it is communicating the overarching theme of family loyalty, which plays into the emotions of viewers as they watch both the Carringtons and the Colbys put everything on the line to help one of their own. Nearly every character makes flawed decisions to protect family. In this way, “Dynasty” uncovers the vulnerability and humanity of even the absurdly rich.
At the end of the day, “Dynasty” is a smart show full of scandal, candor, and charisma. Season 1 is available to view on Netflix and Season 2 is set to premiere on Friday, October 12 at 5 P.M. PST on the CW.