DAMAGES: Hurts So Good

by Sarah Carbiener

“So you understand that men have their secrets.” —Mrs. Tobin

“But so do women, and I find that women are better at keeping them.”—Patty Hewes.

I usually loathe shows about lawyers. They’re either sanctimonious with soap boxes and young bucks who just want to make the system work the way it’s supposed to, or they’re about a group of hot, oversexed yet still brilliant legal minds whose inability to keep their pants on always gets them into trouble. In other words, I usually find them pat and boring.

But this is not the case with Damages, and for two reasons:  1) The show stays out of the courtroom, which is smart considering much, if not most, of the drama from being a lawyer happens outside the courtroom, and 2) it stars Glenn Close as Patty Hewes. When she’s on her game, she’s a powerhouse: unreadable, immovable, and so much fun to watch. When she’s coming apart at the seams, she’s unpredictable, manic, and so much fun to watch.

This season, like the two previous, begins with a mysterious, violent incident and then is intercut with events that took place in the six months leading up to the opening act. At the start of season one, Ellen (Rose Byrne), the young doe-eyed associate, wanders into a police station confused and covered in blood. This time it’s Patty in the hot seat. It’s going to be great to see Patty play the persecuted, somewhat clueless victim, even if it turns out she’s been playing her own game the whole time.

In addition to Patty and the absence of the courtroom, this show is highly entertaining for its cast and the guest stars it brings in to fill out the new case. (Hmm, that seems to be a running theme in my posts here.) This season’s case is all about figuring out where financier Bernie Madoff—I mean, Louis Tobin (Len Cariou)—stashed all the money he stole, and the Tobin bunch is played by fantastic actors. Lily Tomlin as Mrs. Tobin, the beleaguered wife who supposedly had no idea what hubby was up to, is brilliant, and her scenes with Patty promise to be consistently amazing. Martin Short as the Tobin lawyer is also great fun to watch. I’m not the only one who loves comedic actors nailing dramatic parts, am I?

My least favorite part of this show is Ellen, but even she is easier to take this season. Unlike the first season, when she’s so naïve that you’re just waiting for Patty to literally eat her alive; or the second, when she swings all the way to the other side as she seeks revenge, Ellen finally feels as complicated and nuanced as Patty. The student is finally a strong foil for the master.

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Christine
    January 28, 2010 at 9:53 am

    This a show I’ve not watched but will put the DVDs on my wish list. When I first heard about it, I was afraid it was going to be weak by relying on Glenn’s star power. I’ve always thought that Glenn Close is pretty strong in whatever role she plays.

    And I also love it when comedic actors successfully pull off their dramatic roles. I immediately think of Robin Williams in GOOD WILL HUNTING and AWAKENINGS.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      January 28, 2010 at 10:23 am

      I think watching it on DVD might be the better way to go. The show is very well-written and acted, but I got so frustrated with the cliffhanger endings every episode that I stopped watching halfway through last season. I wanted answers and the writers were taking too long doling them out.

      I thought Williams did a very nice job in Good Will Hunting and I usually can’t stand him when he does comedy.

      • Reply
        Sarah
        January 28, 2010 at 3:12 pm

        I actually think this is the one show that I can wait week to week for. LOST is just painful, but with this show, I feel like that’s half the fun. I read somewhere (I think in an interview with the creators on Alan Sepinwall’s blog) that they make it up as they go, and I think that’s the fun of the waiting, wondering how they’re going to make it all work out in the end while still twisting it in the middle.

  • Reply
    norma
    January 28, 2010 at 10:20 am

    HI PCNerds! About Glenn Close, in an interview she said, that when she thinks about a character in a scene she tries to feel the energy of the character, and projects that idea to the scene. That´s how she manages that power inside. I agree about the cast, is great: Lily Tomlin and Martin Short in the same show.

  • Reply
    Pop Culture Nerd
    January 28, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Hi norma!

    Glenn Close sounds like an “inside-out” kind of actor. Some actors start with the outside (what kind of clothes does my character wear? what kind of hair) to find their way into a character, others start with the inside first.

    The show always manages to get amazing people. Ted Danson (another actor who’s mostly known for comedy) did the best work I’ve ever seen him done in the first season, and last year Oscar winners William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden were on. Unbelievable.

  • Reply
    Poncho
    January 28, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I love Damages, and I love Glenn Close. Though, as PCN, I often find myself yelling my lungs out when each episode ends because I just want to see more. So, I’d also rather watch the DVDs.

    Thanks a lot Sarah, this is another great review, and now I’m looking forward for this series to come to Mexico (or perhaps I’ll catch it on Hulu…).

    • Reply
      Sarah
      January 28, 2010 at 3:13 pm

      It looks like they only have the first season on hulu. I also watch shows on casttv.com, but the quality is very hit or miss. The third season of Damages is there though if you can’t wait.

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    January 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed season one but somehow missed season two ~ not sure if it was buried in an odd timeslot or has moved to cable here. But I’d like to get back into it ~ I think Glenn Close does a scary-good job! I’ll be looking forward to seeing Martin Short in the new season. He looks quite intimidating in that still! Thanks for the informative review, Sarah!

  • Reply
    EIREGO
    January 29, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I have to say, I don’t like the show. It drags. Yes, there’s an incredible opening scene to each season, but then the rest of it moves like molasses in winter. Oh, I’m not saying the acting isn’t pretty good, I’m just saying the story takes so long to unfold that I get bored. And, as if to say “Wait, don’t change the channel! Remember that opening scene?” they keep teasing the viewer with yet another recap of what made you start watching in the first place.

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