Release date: July 16th, 2012
Running time: 480 minutes (10 episodes)
Created and executive produced by Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman and Glenn Kessler
Cast: Glenn Close, Rose Byrne, Dylan Baker, John Goodman
In most cases, Evil is mundane. It can sneak up on you with silent baby steps, and before you know it all you’ve ever been lies scattered at the bottom of an abyss — and never there’s just black and white. Evil comes in all shades of grey, for the perpetrators and the victims.
Damages is like a 101 on Evil. Its characters – first of all, of course, Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) — are like incarnations of those shades of grey, always substantial and involving, in turns lovable and repulsive, extremely simple and complicated.
In its fourth season, the show hasn’t lost a bit of its appeal. Despite the first two episodes being rather slow and seemingly directionless, the rest of the case powers up quickly and is attention-demanding as usual. Like in the previous three seasons, skipping a scene of Damages can break the experience.
As a legal thriller with a strong psychological foundation, Damages delivers the kind of intelligent entertainment that doesn’t shy away from catching the big fish of political and societal madness and thereby tackling themes that are not often found on prime time television — very likely one of the reasons the show lost its place on FX and continued with season 4 on the smaller DirectTV network.
Again, it’s an off-the-headlines case that pervades the whole season. Patty’s former protégée Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) is zeroing in on a private military contractor (John Goodman). As the wrongful death suit against the corrupt security firm is dropped by Ellen’s new employer, she turns to Patty who soon realises the live-and-let-die case might reach far beyond Ellen’s moral scope and make or break her career.
The more so as the matter involves a merciless mercenary (Dylan Baker) who not only turns out to be the originator of the case but also stops at nothing to protect his corporate and government connections.
At its core, the 10-episode story again revolves mainly around the psychological drama of the characters and is carried by the excellence of the actors. It’s not so much about legal damages but rather about the human damages suffered by the participants — on whatever side of the porous fence they stand.
Patty and Ellen, for once, are like the yin and yang of litigation. Ellen’s question at the end of the previous season, “Was it worth it?”, seems to be the starting point for their reluctantly new-found partnership. The story flashes back and forth in time as always which connects the dots but can also be misleading. Things are not what they appear to be, on neither side and not within the story as it unfolds.
The narrative strength of Damages lies in those mental dislocations its characters have to cope with, and pulls suspense mostly from the agony the good and the evil get themselves into. This becomes clear when the main and the side stories skim the private lives of those involved.
On one side, there’s Patty, who raises her granddaughter without maternal dedication. She is as disconnected from her son as she can be and treats her therapy sessions almost like depositions, more or less ignoring that it is really about her. It seems she feels punished for being a successful woman-lawyer who made it in a man’s world.
On the other side, there is the villain, CEO Erickson, who raises his sons with a kind of religious zeal and seems to struggle with the lack of conscience his military business entails. His attitude is the epitome of living in denial, and seeing how much influence men like him can have makes the clockwork of politics look almost demonic, albeit on a banal level.
Ellen Parsons, the still-young lawyer, is caught between the lines. Though up to tackling a dangerous case, she doesn’t seem to have what it takes to go all the way. When she turns to her ex-mentor Patty it’s like she makes a pact with the devil, only to withstand the manipulative force of the grand dame and her wicked moves.
Damages is an extremely compelling character study that tells an absorbing story with all the ingredients of a crime thriller. It is TV noir at its best, down to the lethal double-cross at the end of its fourth season.
One of the Editors in Chief and our webmaster, Jonahh is a photographer and journalist who has been working in the media industry for over 15 years, mainly in television, design and art. As a boy, he made his first short film with an 8mm camera and the help of his father. His obsession with (moving) images and stories hasn’t faded since.
His passion for intricate stories and the ‘seven basic plots’ (ask him!) often times makes his friends and family put him in the doghouse for "predicting" too many twists and endings.