I caught up with the first season of Damages over Christmas after Dan's review brought it to my attention, the short version of my thought could be summed up as 'I really, really enjoyed it'. The longer version will be left for a later review of the rather excellent DVD set.
The first episode of the second season Premiered on Wednesday, unfortunately due to other commitments I'm not able to find the time to watch it until Friday. So this is when my Damages review will be out each week. Before we push into the episode itself I'd just like to mention that I've found myself being followed on Twitter by both Patty and Ellen, which is rather intimidating, but I'll try not to let the fear cloud my judgement.
To avoid major spoilers for those who've not watched the first season or this episode everything else will be kept behind the break.
Read about beards, guns and revenge beyond the link...
The end of the first season handed us the revelation that Patty had arranged an attempt on Ellen's life but failed, Ellen had realised this and was now working with the FBI to bring down Patty from the inside. Arthur was shot out on his land by Larry and Art's attorney Ray Fiske killed himself in Patty's office.
Naturally the second season picks up from this and moves the story forward; at the start of the season Ellen has agreed to work with the FBI by staying on at Hewes & Associates while Patty has decided to take a break from law in order to concentrate on some charitable work.
Now I have to get my one gripe out of the way before we move on. I was secretly hoping that the twin storyline past/present format of the first season was going to be a one off thing and then we'd move into a more present based storyline for the later seasons. Damages is sticking with the split time lines, that's fine, it's not what I wanted to see but I can accept that this is the medium they're using to tell the story with. This is the only time I'm going to complain about it, I'm moving on.
The episode opens with the teaser of a rather femme fatal looking Ellen talking directly to an off camera person. She chats a little to this person and then reveals a gun. The dialog seems to indicate that this person has told a lot of lies and seems to suggest it might be Patty, which of course I don't buy for a second. Unless Damages is going for a two season story (which feels unlikely, the show genuinely feels like it'll finish on an odd numbered season) it's not going to be Patty at the end. Still, I'm intrigued enough already and it's a good hook.
We push onto the past storyline, which is the one we'll spend most episodes following. As I mentioned above, Patty is now looking to start a charitable foundation while Ellen is working with the FBI to expose the truth about Patty. Glenn Close really gives a great performance in this show, my previous experience with Glenn's work is from the fourth season of The Shield, where she's very warm and human. But in Damages time and time again she manages to look completely dead behind her eyes, it's a fantastic performance.
Rose Bryne is also excellent as Ellen, she's already turned her character away from a quiet confused victim type into someone who's developed an edge and a taste for revenge. I did appreciate her not doing anything with Frobisher when she had the chance, it's better for her to not sink to murder. But this act of mercy or forgiveness was hard to accept in full because by the end of the episode we already know she gets herself a gun and starts monologuing at someone before shooting them.
The other big -- well I can't call it a surprise because it was talked about before the show returned -- moment is of course Arthur Frobisher's survival after being shot by Larry. Even when he was shot I wondered if they planned to keep him in the show because the shot was low and in an often non-fatal area. True enough Ted Danson does return, he spends the first episode stuck in bed after multiple surgeries. I can't help but wonder where they're going to go with Frobisher now, are we getting a montage of his gradual recovery? Will 'Eye of the Tiger' play as he learns to walk again?
Joking aside Danson is an exceptional actor and I'm happy he's remaining in some form, even if I'm not sure what he's there for right now. Same applies to Zeljko's guilt 'haunting' of Patty, it's very much in the frame of Six Feet Under and Rescue Me (...still typoing that as Rescume...) but it also fits in with the slightly dream driven nature of the show as well. The first season had quite a few dream sequences and I've liked Zeljko since I started watching Homicide.
In all I found it a gripping and exciting premiere, I'm interested to see where it leads. We have William Hunt's character Daniel and his work related problems leading to tragedy, we've got the superb Timothy Olyphant as Wes. Will he be a red herring, is he the man set to keep an eye on Ellen or is it something else? At this point I don't know where things will go and I'm very interested to find out.
• Ted Danson looks great with a beard, when is he going to do a Santa Claus type movie?
• I enjoyed the little hint at the end of the episode which suggested that Patty set Lily up in order to bring Arsenault back to support her charity. Not only did she stitch up the daughter of a friend without a second thought but she also milked him for more cash and got the name order on the charity flipped from Arsenault/Hewes to Hewes/Arsenault.
• Speaking of which, Arsenault? Oh boy that's going to keep me laughing for ages. I have no idea if it's intentional or not but here in the Queen's Isle that name is pretty hilarious.
• I wonder if Glenn took something away from her time spent with Michael Chiklis on The Shield, because she can really pull a full "Vic" when she wants to.
• Clarke Peters is apparently in episodes ahead. Chalk Damages up as another show who's taken on one of The Wire's allumni. I adore Clarke Peters as cool cat Lester Freamon, he's one of my favourite characters.
• I still love the opening sequence and title track, it's fast becoming one of my favourite opening sequences alongside Mad Men, Dexter and The Wire (season 1 and 5 ftr).
• I'll probably get more detailed in these reviews as time passes with this show, I always struggle to get the names of characters early on in a series. Especially newer ones introduced in with an existing cast, so if things seem a little light on detail here it's because I'm still trying to get a position on everything and organise who's who in my head.
• For an additional take from yours truly check here at Crimespree Cinema.