“I Like Your Chair” S5 / E9
- B Community Grade
The final season of Damages has had its moments, and in particular, its exploration of the relationship between Patty and Ellen has been as good or better this season than it has ever been before. And yet there’s something that feels not quite right about the season, especially now, as it reaches the penultimate episode of the series. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy “I Like Your Chair.” I enjoyed quite a bit of it. But there is something weirdly inert about the pacing of this season. I’m excited for the finale, but “I Like Your Chair” didn’t leave me nearly as excited for the final episode as I expected to be.
This primarily has to do with the nature of the McClaren case, which I was skeptical about at first, then quite intrigued by, before returning to indifference once it was established that Patty and Ellen were more interested in the outcome than anybody else was. Since Rachel Walling and Channing McClaren had their sit down, hashed everything out and agreed to settle the whole damn thing for the sake of their sanity, the stakes have felt incredibly low. I’d imagine that for some people, the reveal that Helmut Torben is in bed with both Bennett Herreshoff and Rutger Simon gave the story some juice, but I can’t say that I care that much, honestly. I went into this episode curious as to why Torben would donate to McClaren’s site while providing stock tips for Fund 23, but was I especially curious? No, not really.
At this point in the game, I’m much more interested in what becomes of Ellen and how her relationship with Patty is resolved. I can’t blame Daniel Zelman and the Brothers Kessler for holding their powder until the season finale, but at the same time, my interest in “I Like Your Chair” peaked during the moments that concerned Patty and or Ellen outside of the case. Anything directly involved with McClaren made me a bit drowsy.
That said, the episode did finally shade in the bits of the story we’d been missing. In Rome, when Naomi first met with McClaren to tip him off to the insider trading at Princefield, Rutger stumbled onto Naomi and McClaren's sexual indiscretion and tore into McClaren about how he was endangering the organization. As is always the case with Damages, the most earth-shaking scandals are boiled down to small, pitiful moments of humans behaving humanly. Rutger, the former serious journalist who struck out on his own to try to reinvent muckraking, found a handsome face to brand the site, but McClaren became the superstar and Rutger the resentful second-in-command. To add insult to injury, McClaren can’t get out of bed without climbing over some lithe blonde, while Rutger is seemingly married to the job. Even Martin Short’s Ray Winstone got laid a few times in season three, but Rutger seems to have a borderline monastic devotion to McClaren Truth. He becomes so fed up with the situation, he approaches Herreshoff and tells him about the forthcoming leak, exchanging enough of a lead time for Herreshoff to insulate himself for funding to run the site on his own once McClaren is disgraced by the exposure of Naomi’s identity.
Unfortunately, none of this really established Rutger as the bad guy; Torben and, to a lesser degree, Herreshoff still hold that distinction. Rutger is absolutely responsible for exposing Naomi Walling’s identity in order to pull off his coup, but did he actually have her murdered? My money is on Torben for that part of it, and Torben’s involvement has been introduced a little too late for me to become invested in it. However, the discovery of Torben’s involvement did lead to the interesting development of Rutger switching sides after Patty brutally deposes him. There’s no way Rutger could have fully vetted Torben as an investor without knowing about his involvement with Princefield, and everyone can smell it, including McClaren who swiftly fires him. To make another comparison to Ray Winstone from season three, characters in Damages really don’t seem to have a grasp on when is the right time to fire a guy. Hint: It’s after the civil case is settled against you, not before.
The Ellen stuff was better this week, though there was no movement on the flash-forward front. She calls on Chris Partlow, Private Investigator (which is what I have to call him since I still have no idea what his name is) to track down Scully, and he’s finally tracked down to the roof atop Ellen’s office building where he’s trying to kill her for the third time. It’s a trap, though, as Ellen and CPPI both draw on him and interrogate him. Scully confirms what Ellen has known all along: It was, in fact, Patty who ordered the hit on her. And that was only one of two times Ellen got to draw her gun on someone this week, as she forcefully confronted her bully of a father who has followed Ellen’s mother to New York to verbally abuse her into returning to him. This episode was about Ellen completing her transition from victim to victor, as she got not one, but two, opportunities to stand up to the men who had once made her feel so scared and vulnerable.
That’s what made the final scene so satisfying. Ellen pops in to visit Patty, having no compelling reason to do so other than to screw with Patty the way Patty has been screwing with her since the first moment they spoke in the ladies’ restroom at Megan’s wedding. When Patty walks in, Ellen is casually sitting behind her desk, in her chair, much like she was in that surreal dream Patty was having when the season began. And Patty lets her sit there, taking the guest’s seat in her own domain and chatting casually with her protégé. It’s a terrific reversal of the power dynamic we saw in “I Need To Win,” when Patty was sitting behind the desk, asking Ellen if she was scared of her. In that scene, it seemed like Ellen was scared. That’s not the case anymore. But maybe she should be, when, as she leaves, Patty shares a premonition. “This is the last time you’ll ever set foot in this office,” she says. Whether or not it’s because Ellen ends up dead in that alley, I tend to think Patty’s premonition is correct.
- I loved the fleeting reference to Wes Krulik, as Ellen says she learned to shoot from “another guy” she used to know.
- I hated that they had Scully use that thermal-keypad-detector thing to figure out the security code. Either Scully is a low-level criminal who got roped in by Uncle Pete and Patty, or he’s some kind of masterful Bourne-esque hitman. But it can’t be both.
- It seems like they are setting up Ellen’s father as the one who might have actually shoved Ellen off the roof, but I sincerely hope that’s just a red herring.
- Potential alternate titles: “I Promise, I Won’t Miss,” “We’re Not Even,” “Legally Brunette’s On A Tear” (Herndon is good for at least one of these every week he’s on.)