August 04, 2013

Damages: The Face of Evil?

This is the face of evil. Take a close look. Glenn Close plays super lawyer Patty Hewes in the series Damages and this is the final shot of the series finale which ended in 2012. The camera lingers on her face for a full 40 seconds, and it's quite fascinating to watch since those viewers of all five seasons of Damages know without a doubt that she really is the personification of evil.

Glenn Close has one of those scary faces that just screams "WITCH" don't you think? The hair and makeup and that mouth! Evil, for sure.

What else can you see in that face? Arrogance. Of course. During the course of 59 episodes, this character has done everything possible to win her court cases. Manipulate judges, have rivals murdered, lie whenever it benefited her case as well as pull off some slick manoeuvring that allowed her to always come out on top. Corruption at the highest level of the law. And yet, no one in authority ever takes action against her. In fact, during the fifth and last season she's asked to consider becoming a judge on the Supreme Court. What is even more scary is that she showed no genuine remorse or guilt for all her evil doing throughout the entire five seasons.

If there truly are people and lawyers in the world like this character, then all I can say is, no wonder the world we live in is so messed up.

Herein lies the main problem with Damages. The writers have created a really nasty villain, but there is never any truly strong character to oppose her. Patty's main rival is Ellen Parsons, played by Australian actress Rose Byrne. Ellen is supposed to be an ambitious, up and coming, hot shot lawyer, but she is so meek and almost ditzy when up against Patty Hewes, it plays out like one of those nature films that show a big, rambling lion taking down a frantic gazelle in the plains of Africa. This is especially true during the final season when Ellen and Patty go head to head in a court battle over a Wikileaks type of web site that accidently leaked personal information that lead to the (supposed) suicide of one of their whistleblowers.

Watching Ellen Parsons stumble through the season trying to outwit Patty Hewes was, at times, difficult to watch. Lack of a strong character to oppose such complete evil was so frustrating, I'm not sure why I bothered to watch to the very end. I guess I wanted to believe the writers would finally create a situation that allowed Ellen to shine, but the opposite eventually played out.

My initial attraction to Damages was the way the storylines throughout each season were based on real current events, from the Enron scandal to a Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme situation and so on. Unfortunately, the writing throughout was under par for the most part. The use of constant flashbacks as a device to manipulate and trick the viewer never really worked because the clues given were often totally misleading. This is especially true of the 5th season series finale, where the flashback implies something that is so sneaky, when the truth was revealed I wanted to throw my shoe at the TV screen.

Flashbacks can be a good device when handled with care, but this show used this technique in almost every episode to the point where it got to be a bore and it didn't take long to figure out after a season or two what was going on. When laying down clues, a good mystery plays fair with the audience. Not so with Damages.

Finally, I hate shows that seem to have scenes that do little to move the story forward. It's like the writer's are just killing time so they can fill the 42 minutes of each episode without having to work too hard. There were many scenes like this throughout Damages, where I thought, "Move on! I don't care about this sideshow!"

Is there anything positive to say about Damages? Yes, one season had a character played by Timothy Oliphant. I was so taken by him, that I started searching out other shows he's been on. This led to HBO's Deadwood, and his current show, Justified, both excellent dramas and Justified has quickly become one of my favorite shows of all time.

Damages (2007–2012 )
TV Series

Glenn Close  ...  Patty Hewes 
Rose Byrne  ...  Ellen Parsons


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