Damages' Stylish Mind Game
The creators of Damages examine their Emmy-nominated season, and its vengeful, sometimes even murderous, lawyers.
Damages, the intelligent and provocative FX legal thriller, nominated for seven Emmy awards for its second season, including Best Drama, is a serpentine series overflowing with enigmatic and often deeply flawed characters, gutsy bait-and-switches, double-crosses, and a healthy heaping of noir attitude. Most of its scenes aren’t set in a courtroom but rather amid the boardrooms, bedrooms, and bars frequented both by Manhattan’s elite and the shadowy figures employed by those power brokers. Created by Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler–who are brothers—and Daniel Zelman, Damages is comprised of stolen moments, subtle foreshadowing, and intriguing flashbacks, and also happens to feature some of the best dramatic acting on television.
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Damages’ complex characters are frequently more concerned about blackmail and short-range weaponry than torts or legal precedent. In the hands of Glenn Close, the ruthless Patty Hewes views her employees and enemies with the sort of expendability that one might reserve for a fly. There’s no one that can’t be turned into a pawn in one of Patty’s dangerous schemes and it’s a testament to Close—who has already won the Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama for playing Patty in the show’s first season—that the character never becomes overwrought.
Throughout Damages’ second season, viewers saw Patty’s protégé Ellen Parsons, played by Rose Byrne, seize the reins of power from Patty and establish herself as a force to be reckoned with, looking not only for revenge on multiple fronts but also for an acknowledgement of guilt from her imperious employer. Their contentious relationship remains the beating heart of the show.
The result is a brilliant series that offers its devoted audience a complicated puzzle that, much like Close’s icy Patty Hewes, is meant to lure you in with its glittering sheen only to gut you.
Jace Lacob is the writer/editor of Televisionary, a Web site devoted to television news, criticism, and interviews. Jace resides in Los Angeles. He is a contributor to several entertainment Web sites and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.