Posted by: Paul | April 12, 2010


Glenn Close and Rose Byrne in 'Damages'

With Damages not showing last week, in order to make way for some sort of election coverage or something equally dull, I thought I’d take the opportunity to review the series so far.

Damages is a complex, clever show. It’s sometimes a bit too complex and clever for it’s own good, and the fact that its format, by choice, drip feeds you only the tiniest bits of tantalising information at the start and bounces around in time like a tennis ball thrown by Doctor Who, I am certain has lost it viewers who would otherwise have enjoyed it. At times it’s not easy to follow, and the second and third series have demanded far more attention and long memories than any other show I can think of short of The Wire. For instance, series 3 has brought back a journalist who was in series 2 for, oh, about 5 minutes. And you’re expected to remember who he is, what he does, what happened to him the last time he was on, and why it’s significant to what’s happening now. Not easy for someone with virtually no short term memory…what was I saying again?

Anyway, complex time-shifting structure of the show aside, I love Damages for several reasons. Firstly, and most superficially, for lovely Australian actress Rose Byrne, who plays (sort of) goody two-shoes protagonist Ellen Parsons. Her sweet and innocent exterior hides darker depths. She’s basically a good person who wants to do the right thing, but if someone crosses her, for instance by having her fiancee murdered (oh, that little thing?), then they’d better watch out because she’s not afraid of doing very bad things to set the balance of the universe right.

Secondly, the excellent Glenn Close on Al Pacino-style scenery-chewing form as demoness litigator Patty Hewes. She’s brilliant in this. She tears the paint off the walls every time she’s on screen. I doubt Close has had a better character to play on the small or large screen – Hewes has the most complicated of motivations. Part people’s champion, part vindictive, even murderous tyrant, Hewes is Damages reason for being – Ellen is merely a foil for Patty (who desperately needs a mirror we sympathise with to reflect her deeds), and the show could survive without Parsons but crucially, not Hewes.

Thirdly, it has the best theme tune on TV, bar none, The VLA’s “When I Am Through With You”. I’ve scarcely heard anything more appropriate and it makes me want to leap around the living room every time I hear it, and turn the TV onto full blast.

There’s really no point in attempting to explain Damages’ plot, and besides it would take too long. Suffice to say that, in series 3 Patty is fighting a class action against the perpetrator of a Bernard Madoff-style ‘Ponzi’ scheme, and an important charcter has mysteriously been offed. Connections are slowly unfolding and we’ve yet to see clues about whether we’re in for quite such a dramatic climax in the vein of series 2, but we’re about half way and so far I’m gripped.


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