DVDs in Review #113: Damages: The Complete Second Season

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For a review of the first season go here. Be warned there will be spoilers about events from the first season in this review.

Damages had a first season with an exceptionally unique style of show, I personally appreciated the ambiguity in characters, their goals and personalities not being a clear cut case of Good/Evil but having instead greyer shades. Yes, by the end of the season we had clearly defined villains and a heroine but the journey there was far from straightforward and the last episode of the season is one of my favourite episodes of all time.

The second season then needed to build on the original season's style by evolving its use of non-linear narrative and ambiguous characterisation without straying too far from the format. It's a tall order, because if the season just re-treads old ground you'd end up with something that doesn't engage and if you deviate from the established format you risk losing established viewers. Not an easy line to walk.

So, Damages brings in more big names capable of fantastic performances - joining the returning cast of Glenn Close, Rose Byrne, Tate Donovan, Anastasia Griffith and Ted Danson we get the fantastic selection of William Hurt (A History of Violence, Dark City and so much more), Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood), Marcia Gay Harden (Royal Pains), John Doman (The Wire) and Clarke Peters (The Wire, Treme). A huge wadge of quality talent descending onto our screens and promising great performances.

Following on from the fantastic season finale the second season sees Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) now cooperating with the FBI in an investigation into Patty Hewes (Glenn Close). Ellen naturally has good reason to be involved in this after Patty attempted to have Ellen murdered. Ellen is not only using her position to investigate Patty, she's also maneuvering to expose Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) as the man behind the murder of David Conner, Ellen's fiancé. Ellen has plenty of reasons to remain close to Patty at this time.

Just like the previous season the show is divided into a past storyline that builds up towards the shocking present 'teaser' storyline. The 'teaser' storyline in this case initially opens with Ellen pointing a gun at an unknown person or persons and talking before pulling the trigger twice. It's a marked change from the Ellen of the first season and the film noir undertones of the scene are nicely played. As before, the past storyline pushes forward towards the teaser while the teaser expands on events and gradually reveals more of the situation to raise more questions for the viewer. It was an exeptionally effective ploy in the first season, but if I'm honest it's not as well done here - the performances from the actors are superb, but the editing is very ham-fisted, in particular the music used for certain moments is completely mood breaking.

In all, despite the superb cast, the second season is not as strong as the first one - watching it on DVD was a superior experience to watching it 'live' (one episode per week), just like the first season Damages is a show better watched in bursts rather than one part at a time, but the second season shows a poor choice of direction by the editing and directing staff. It's rare that a superb cast cannot overcome technical and plotting issues, but in the case of the second season of Damages it has happened. Fortunately I'm now watching the third season on DVD and I can say that many of the problems and issues the second season has are resolved.

So Damages Season Two is something that needs to be taken at value, yes it has flaws, yes it is not as good as the first season, but it is an enjoyable experience and it is most certainly worth watching.


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