After an astounding first outing in 2008, I couldn’t help but be dubious that Damages would be able to continue on course and maintain the quality established. I was sucked in by Ellen’s (Rose Byrne) struggle to stand up to Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), all while being fascinated by the machinations of billion-dollar litigation. Season two of Damages continues exactly in that vein, with Ellen as an FBI informant to bring Patty down and a new case involving an old Hewes friend and evil corporate empire. The damages of the show’s title have less to do with the monetary compensation of a court case than the actions of the characters toward each other. This sophomore season establishes the show as one of the best things to come to television in recent years.
9 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed rating
After an astounding first outing in 2008, I couldn’t help but be dubious that Damages would be able to continue on course and maintain the quality established. I was sucked in by Ellen’s (Rose Byrne) struggle to stand up to Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), all while being fascinated by the machinations of billion-dollar litigation. Season two of Damages continues exactly in that vein, with Ellen as an FBI informant to bring Patty down and a new case involving an old Hewes friend and evil corporate empire. The damages of the show’s title have less to do with the monetary compensation of a court case than the actions of the characters toward each other. This sophomore season establishes the show as one of the best things to come to television in recent years.

Part of Damages' storytelling brilliance is that the show’s main storyline, a court case against energy corporation Ultima National Resources (UNR), is simple and straightforward. The show uses a non-linear narrative, often jumping multiple times per episode between different timelines, slowly revealing truths about the things we care about. Daniel Purcell (William Hurt) is a scientist who has information on UNR's shady environmental practices, practices that if brought to light could do serious damage to UNR's bottom line. What starts as a simple revamp of season one's model -- the big bad corporation hurting the little man -- quickly shifts focus when it’s revealed that Purcell is not all that honest with Patty about his intentions. Purcell gets rid of the damning evidence, receives copious compensation from UNR, and the case appears to be dead. This all happens in the first few episodes of the season, because the show quickly moves into its true strength: character conflict.

This is where Damages other courtroom dramas. Where personal conflicts are often an afterthought on other shows, it’s within these stories that the true strength of FX’s drama shines. All of this happens within the framework of a litigation story that will keep even ardent lawyer-show fans happy, because everything is interwoven together into a cohesive and engaging storyline. Season two is more about the petulant child lashing out at her parent. It just happens to be that the child in this case is the formerly naïve lawyer Ellen Parsons, and she has just cause to be pissed at her mother figure, Patty Hewes.

Every nuance of plot, each twist in the story, and each moment of Damages is leading not to a courtroom showdown, but to a quiet confrontation between Patty and Ellen. Focus is put on Glenn Close’s portrayal of Hewes in the lead role, but season two’s dance between these women begins to move the focus onto Ellen. We’re watching this woman grow up in the real world of being a high-profile lawyer. She’s learning everything from Patty, and while there’s clearly a breach of trust between the two, there’s also a sense that season two shows Ellen’s continued naiveté in regards to how things are done. The girl from season one’s beginning became a lawyer by that story’s end, and now that lawyer is becoming a powerful woman in her own right.

Damages remains Patty Hewes’ show, for now. Season one gave us glimpses of her ability to manipulate in minor ways. And while she did some horrible things to Ellen, which continue to haunt her throughout season two, what we see in the final minutes of the season is just how powerful and manipulative Patty can be. Even Ellen now understands to a degree she previously thought impossible that what Patty can do is vital to keeping balance in the world. Because sometimes you don’t need a hero to stand up for justice, you need a cold calculating bitch to get the job done.
6 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed rating
Damages isn’t a show with unanswered questions or complicated plotlines in the same way as Lost, which means it isn’t really necessary to have overly detailed extra features to explain everything. Instead, the features focus on a few select commentaries for key episodes, including the season premiere and finale. There isn’t much for fans to delve deep into aside from the usual deleted scenes, trailers, previously mentioned commentaries, and a post mortem for the season.

“Season Two: Post Mortem” has creators Daniel Zelman, Todd A. Kessler, and Glenn Kessler discussing the unique format of Damages. The feature is only a few minutes long, but the creators take a moment to explain that by using the non-linear method of storytelling they were able to drop in scenes meant for later at other moments in order to clear up character questions. There’s nothing of vital interest to fans, but at the very least the discussion does ensure viewers that the format has a narrative purpose.

The Character Profiles give a brief insight into the characters and show how some of the actors joined the cast. They play like video versions of a press release, to be honest. We’ve already seen and heard how the principal actors came to the show, and most of what we learn about people like William Hurt or Timothy Olyphant follows the traditional Hollywood casting model. Some people prove themselves, some the creators want, and some are friends with current cast members. For a show all about character interactions, it makes sense to take the time for these Profiles. But anyone actually watching the show, not just leaving it on as background noise while cleaning the house, should be able to pick up on the nuances that are discussed in the featurettes.

There are four commentaries for the season: “I Lied, Too” (season premiere), “They Had to Tweeze That Out of My Kidney,” “Look What He Dug Up This Time,” and “Trust Me” (season finale). These are your typical television commentaries that fall into the same trappings these things always seem to, with actors and writers not quite able to get into all of the details of a lengthy season. Not to mention the typical actor shenanigans that sidetrack the writer’s discussion of the development of the show. At least Timothy Olyphant is funny to listen to, even if he interrupts what might be an insightful point with questions about making out with Rose Byrne and Ted Danson.

I wish the deleted scenes found on the final disc were interspersed throughout, with the scenes attached to the episodes from which they came. I’m more likely to watch the deleted scenes if they’re right there with the episode, rather than a large montage at the end of the entire set. It’s a feature that very few shows utilize properly, but the Damages disc does offer a nice little recap option before watching each episode. When you go to watch the show on the DVD, you’re given the ability to start watching straight away, or include a brief recap. This helps for those times you need to take a lengthy break from the show and want a refresher before getting back into things.

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