Damages – A Review

Posted on October 26, 2007. Filed under: Reviews |

   Damages – A Review

An Anatomy of Innocence Destroyed

“I don’t believe in the law anymore.  But I do believe in justice.”  – Ellen Parsons

FX has added another slam-dunk to their repertoire.  Director Allen Coulter (Rome, Millenium),  executive producers and writers Glenn and Todd Kessler (Robbery Homicide Division) and Daniel Zelman (The Practice) have managed to put together another powerhouse of a TV drama about lawyers, lies and revenge.  From an all-star cast to a story that never quits to scripts with more twists and turns than an Olympic Luge event, this new show is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Glenn Close (The Shield, The Stepford Wives) plays Patty Hewes, a hard driven power attorney and she is a genius at making this character work.  She has brought to life probably the most complex character on television since Livia in I Claudius.  Her antagonist Arthur Frobisher, (Ted Danson, Cheers, Becker), is a billionaire who swindled his workers out of their retirement money and is willing to do anything to protect what he has left.  Joining them is Ellen Parsons, played by Rose Byrne (Troy, 28 Weeks Later…).  She is a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first time attorney given the opportunity of a lifetime by working for Hewes & Associates but who slowly loses her innocence as she learns what is at stake and what must be done to win a case against a determined foe.

                                                                                                                                                      

The first season begins with Ellen being accused of murdering her fiancée.  Then the show takes us back six months in the past and through each episode reveals to us the story of how everything came crashing down.  From there we are introduced to a character list that would have made Tolstoy proud.  The story arc is so sweeping and involves so much that at times it may be hard to keep up.  This is not a show you can watch while cooking dinner.  For instance, a character who was introduced in the first episode hardly makes an appearance until the season finale, but the VERY short scene he is in is integral to the entire story.

For as smart as this program is, its own intelligence may be its undoing.  The fall in the ratings may be indicative of people losing interest in following so many plot points and story lines.  Perhaps some couldn’t stand to watch seemingly good people get sucked into situations where the morally questionable side of their nature had to come out.  By the middle of the season there wasn’t one character I wasn’t ashamed of.  Although, I must say for me to think that, the characters have to be well written AND well acted; Damages comes through in spades with it.

As I watch these people destroy themselves and those they love, I can’t help but think of Patty Hewes as Jezebel (the shrewd Israelite queen who was willing to murder for her own gain) and Arthur Frobisher as Ahab (the king of Israel who cares for no one other than himself and allows himself to be swept up in evil misdeeds).  The way that the case is handled and the way that people are manipulated could be a modern day story of Naboth’s vineyard. 

Poor Naboth had a vineyard that Ahab wanted.  Ahab had offered him different deals to give up that piece of land because he’d wanted to turn it into a vegetable garden.  Needless to say, Naboth refused.  Jezebel had a plan though on how to get that vineyard.  She had a dinner celebration in his honor then put two scoundrels next to him.  During the celebration that evening, the two paid men falsely testified that Naboth was a traitor to both his God and his king.  Treason is of course a capital offense and when he was killed, Jezebel and Ahab took his familial vineyard.

These types of actions never go unnoticed and the consequences for all involved are disastrous.  For their dealings in this and other matters, Jezebel and Ahab paid a humiliating and ultimately destructive price.  The characters in the show play this out excellently as everyone’s life that is touched by this case is slowly destroyed.  It’s not the case that does it either!  It’s the actions of those people who are willing to do anything to win the case that start tearing people’s lives apart.  It’s amazing and disturbing to see how self-destructive people can be by trying to get the things that they believe they want most. 

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