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TV Review: Damages - Season 2 Premiere

Damages - Season 2 premiere (episodes 1 and 2)

Starring: Glenn Close, Rose Byrne, Tate Donovan, Anastasia Griffith, William Hurt, Timothy Olyphant, Marcia Gay Harden, Ted Danson

Created By: Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler, Daniel Zelman

Premieres: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 10:00 PM ET on FX.

Legal thrillers are silly and boring. They just are. For the life of me I cannot figure out how so many people get enraptured by Law & Order. So when I first watched FX’s Damages way back in July of 2007 (has it really been so long?) I expected a decent performance by Glenn Close as class action lawyer Patty Hewes, and a bunch of petty storytelling with little soul. Not only was I mistaken in my snap judgment, but Damages has gone on to become one of the best shows on television.

By the time Damages hit the air The Shield was a bit trite. OK, so Vic is a bad dude on the good side of the law. Yippee. Damages came along and proved that FX has a winning formula for its dramas. Give the writers leeway to tell intelligent and adult stories, and then what you’ll end up with is an Emmy winning show. Perhaps the networks should pay attention because they are getting trounced by cable when it comes to original programming.

As season one came to a close it was difficult for me to understand how Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) could continue working for Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), even if she planned to work with the FBI to take her down. The season two premiere answers that quite nicely as we see Ellen one month later struggling to deal with her anger. Ellen’s naivety in season one stemmed from inexperience, not a lack of intelligence or ability. The show handled that deftly, and Rose Byrne held her own against Glenn Close. Now we’ve moved beyond that as Ellen is insistent on doing everything to take Patty down, even giving the FBI pause when she’s readily willing to perform any task asked.

Ellen is also attending anger management meetings, and it’s there she meets Wes Krulik (Timothy Olyphant). The casting of Olyphant alone for the part had me on edge on whether this man could be trusted, and while Ellen confides in him she does seem reserved. Perhaps it’s because she isn’t ready to move on from her fiancés death, or she suspects him as much as I do.

While the big case of the season doesn’t involve Frobisher (Ted Danson) –who, incidentally was shot when last we saw him– I was ecstatic to see him coming back for the second season. Time will only tell if what happened changed him, or if it’s all an act. One thing I know for sure is that Arthur Frobisher is one of the most likeable bad guys on television. I’d go so far as to say he’s not really a bad guy, just a man with power who suffers from some terrible flaws.

For her part Patty is the envy of the entire legal world after her multibillion dollar win against Arthur Frobisher. Clients are trying to get her to take cases, and Ellen is handed a fake case by the FBI to use to bring Patty down. But nothing sticks, no matter how hard Ellen tries. Or even Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan), Patty’s most trusted lawyer at the firm, who backs Ellen’s decision to convince Patty to head up the case. Then Daniel Purcell (William Hurt), an old friend of Patty’s, calls on her for help. What starts as a favor for a friend and a domestic violence case quickly escalates into something more.

Anyone who feared that the loss of Ray Fiske (Zeljko Ivanek) as Patty’s legal nemesis would hurt the show need not worry. In the second episode we’re introduced to Claire Maddox (Marcia Gay Harden) who goes to legal battle with Patty the moment she appears on screen. This is a woman who will never be afraid to confront Patty. Also, Marcia Gay Harden is a stunningly beautiful woman and her portrayal of Claire is so powerful and intense I can easily see her joining Glenn Close and Zeljko Ivanek as an Emmy winning cast member.

The style of storytelling in season two is similar to season one, but not identical. We do start off with something happening six months in the future, and then the bulk of the show is what happened to lead up to these moments. Instead of a bloodied Ellen stumbling down the street, this time we get an Ellen who is cold and calculating as she sits and discusses matters with…someone. The season two premiere ends in this time frame with a scene that is chilling. I didn’t see it coming, and that’s the point. Where Ellen was broken down by Patty in season one I think season two is going to showcase her crossing the breaking point.

Damages returns without skipping a single beat. New characters are as complex and interesting as returning favorites. The show delivers on a style that is intelligent and simultaneously easy to follow. You’ll never scratch your head wondering what is up with any character, as each choice and action made makes perfect sense as you watch it. The use of the flashback formula is where Damages shoehorns in its suspense and mystery. This is a must watch for anyone who enjoys television.

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.