Damages - 202 - Burn It, Shred It, I Don't Care

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Damages continues this week with a deepening of it's plot and the trademark twist-revelations which both make the show entertaining to watch and sometimes frustrating to follow. Ellen and the FBI continue to try and hook Patty with the infant mortality case while Patty's interest in the circumstances around Daniel's life and his wife's murder grows.

Read about pay offs, sinister cupboards and marital problems beyond the link...

I sometimes feel like Damages resides in the 'uncanny valley' of television, I'm sure you're familiar with the concept; which applies to realism in human like objects, robots and computer game graphics for example. The closer you get to human in appearance the more attractive the object is to the human eye, but as you get very close to human there's this dip in attractiveness where the thing looks too human without being human enough.

Well I judge shows on a similar scale. Here's an approximation of it and where Damages resides:

I've put a few sample shows on here so you can judge roughly where it stands, now just because Damages is down in the uncanny valley doesn't mean it's a bad show, far from it indeed. It just means I'm comparing and holding it up to a standard which is much higher than the one I judge shows like My Name is Earl or Sledge Hammer with. I find myself judging this show on a expected deliverance around the level of The Wire and The Shield. Everything seems to add up to an amazing show, the cast are superb and the new Ellen is at least two hundred percent more exciting than first season Ellen. But then it pulls some daft stunt and annoys me by breaking my immersion in show's storylines.

Like the moment which occurred when Wes (unsurprisingly) turns out to have this cupboard filled with clippings about last season's Frobisher case and then the camera peels back to reveal that he has guns, lots of guns in it. At this point I'm not feeling surprised because I've already realised there's always going to be some 'big' twists and turns, but this scene isn't the thing which annoyed me, it's the music played over the top. There's some big distorted guitar chords that herald "DUN DUN DAAA. EPIC TWIST!" But I found myself thinking both, "Ugh there's no need to hammer this point home, understated would be best. " and "I'm not really convinced I need to worry about Wes yet because the story is going to twist and turn another four or five times over him before it finally settles on who he is and what he's up to."

Even in the episode itself twisted around on his character by having him getting it on with Ellen in a rather dysfunctional manner. Showing that whatever he did up until then wasn't huge enough to warrant the "super-evil" music he got and it seems to jar with Ellen's personality as well. So either he's deceiving her in the future still (in which case we have some confrontation between them in the final episode), she's flown off the rails and become a cartoon villain (which I just cannot see happening) or the writers haven't made their mind up yet and they're going to make it up later or just use it as a red herring.

If it sounds like I'm being harsh and that I disliked the episode, I am, but I didn't. I did enjoy watching 'Burn It, Shred It, I Don't Care' a lot. A LOT. There were so many great moments, but there are also things like this closet moment which just feel engineered to add more mystery for no reason other than this.

OK, OK. Enough negative Nancy now, let's be positive about things. We've found out who Marcia Gay Harden will be playing, she's Claire Maddox and as such part of the company/conspiracy thing which caused Christine's demise (if she knows about that connection or not remains to be seen) and she's also having an affair with Daniel. That is an interesting development and we're now left wondering if Christine's death is related to Daniel's work or to his personal life. Additionally we're shown Daniel burning something after digging a hole in the present timeline, I'm not sure what it is at this point.

Ellen is still obsessed with going after Frobisher, given Wes's still undetermined interest in Frobisher as well it seems like his crossing paths with her is not something which happened by accident. But it's also not looking likely that he's the person who she fires at.

Patty's involvement with Daniel has allowed her to dodge the FBI bullet case which was aimed at her through the infant mortality, first she palms it off to Tom but then she manages to pull him out of the fire as well just before he handed over the pay off and brought future charges over his head. You have to wonder if she's already aware that the infant mortality case is a Trojan horse or not because that's a double whammy escape she's engineered there. Either she has her suspicions (remember she is having Ellen followed) or she's the luckiest woman alive.

Overall, once I got past my annoyance with the music sting I found the episode quite enjoyable. I have to keep reminding myself that despite the amazing cast and brilliant performances this show isn't being written by George P. Pelecanos, David Simon, Shawn Ryan, Ed Burns or Adam Fierro. It feels like it should be in the biggest league, but actually it's one step behind them.

Close to greatness, but not there yet.

Short Thoughts:
• I assume Daniel meeting Michael Hewes is a moment which will pay off later.

• Likewise I expect the moment with the FBI agent and his marital problems will come to have bearing.

• No sign of Frobisher this week, but with the revelation about Wes it seems we have another tie which links him to Ellen's life.

• I do like Tom Aldredge as Patty's "enforcer" Uncle Pete. It's great the way he seems to float around the problems dealing with things without anyone really commenting on the amount of time he seems to spend with Patty.

• No Katie Conner yet, how is she going to get sucked back into this?


2 comments so far.

  1. Sean 17 January 2009 at 16:25
    Damages continues to keep me guessing.

    Just how much does Close know?

    The seizure of materials was nicely played.
  2. MysterLynch 17 January 2009 at 23:08
    Agreed. I should have known that Patty had planned that, but I was still surprised.

    And the ending...wow.

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