Damages season three -- An early look
by Jonathan Toomey, posted Jan 21st 2010 2:00PM
When Damages burst on to the TV scene in the summer of 2007, it turned everything upside down. Creators Glenn and Todd A. Kessler and Daniel Zelman took a tired television genre and re-invented it so well that it became hard to pigeonhole Damages in the very category that spawned it. It was so much more than a legal thriller and the drama's tense plotting and unique time shifting storytelling technique made the show worthy of scholarly debate -- blink and you'll miss something important.
Now entering its third season, Damages is prepped to turn the legal world on its head again when FX's superb thriller returns this Monday night, January 25, at 10 p.m. ET. Based on the first two episodes, Glenn Close and the rest of the top-notch cast make the same case that they did the previous two seasons -- this is must see, can't miss television.
While season one focused almost exclusively on the relationship between Patty Hewes (Close), Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), and the landmark Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) case that brought the two of them together, season two veered away from that volatile pairing by doing something that many shows never figure out -- tying up loose ends. Questions were answered and confessions were made; simply put, some, but not all, of the bloodshed was spoken for.
(And yes, for those fans looking for more detail here, I'm being intentionally vague to avoid spoiling those readers new to the show. To those folks, go rent/buy seasons one and two now -- you won't be disappointed. The season two DVD hit stores this past Tuesday and it features a fantastic season one recap and season two post-mortem if you're looking to catch up quickly.)
Season two instead shifted its weight to Patty's latest case as she butt heads with Ultima National Resources, a mega-corporation ravaging the environment wherever it had a factory set up. The twists, turns, lying, cheating, killing, and deception remained, but once Ellen got what she came for from Patty (the truth), the two of them parted ways at the end of season.
Season two also received rave reviews because of its fantastic cast, arguably one of the best ever assembled for a TV drama. In addition to season one stalwarts Close, Byrne, Tate Donovan, and Danson, the sophomore year added big names like William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden. Season three has continued that trend by bringing in Martin Short, Lily Tomlin, Keith Carradine, and Campbell Scott to name a few. While not quite as impressive as season two, you're likely not going to find a better cast on TV right now.
In a sense, season three re-boots the story. For the most part, Patty and Ellen have buried the hatchet and the history they share has taken a backseat to their careers for the time being. Focusing on another massive case for Hewes & Associates, Patty has been tasked by the government to recover billions of dollars in stolen assets from the powerful Tobin family. The story is plotted very much in the vein of recent events involving Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme and while the ripped-from-the-headlines vibe may be a turn off to some viewers, fans of the show will agree -- this is a perfect fit for Patty Hewes.
While Ellen may have hoped that parting ways with Patty would be all she needed to do to escape her former mentor's orbit, it turns out that her new job at the DA's office wasn't nearly far enough -- Ellen's boss is also investigating the Tobin family and she's thrown right back into the fray. By the end of the season premiere, nothing is as it seems as viewers are left questioning the meaning behind a seemingly unintentional car accident to the ramifications of one character's close ties to the case.
It all leads up to a cliff-hanger so shocking, that it'll surely be the only thing people are talking about for days afterward. Especially since the way a story gets told on this show guarantees that you won't get answers for weeks -- just bits, pieces and more questions until that breaking point later in the season when the past and present, truth and lies, all collide.
One final plea, in case this glowing review hasn't been clear -- please watch this show. Currently, Damages doesn't have a fourth season renewal and unless ratings pick up, this very well could be the show's last. As FX prez John Landgraf pointed out at last week's TCA, Damages is one of the most time-shifted shows on TV and its viewership jumps by around 80% when DVRs are thrown into the mix. In that regard, Damages may be its own worst enemy as its plot-heavy episodes lend to DVR marathons. Breaking that trend may be tough, but it's worth a shot -- "can't miss television" is also the kind you will miss if it isn't there at all.
[Watch clips of Damages at SlashControl.]