After watching "I've Done Too Much For This Girl," I feel like I might've been slightly harsh in my review of the premiere. Damages is still very much guilty of deploying the same tricks every season, and often in an identical way. Maybe by the end of this season I'll end up back at that assessment, but for right now, at least as far as the flashforward story is concerned, I may have jumped the gun.
I can say with near certainty that this is the soonest we've ever gotten a flashback-free episode in the season. Yes, there was that quick flash of Maybe Chris being tortured, but it served as a reminder of that element, rather than advancing it in any way. (I also think it might have been a more affecting choice to end on Erickson's grimace.) The point is, it seems as though maybe this is going to be a twist on the formula that we haven't seen before. Considering the relatively short span of time the parallel stories cover, and the fact Chris Messina is being billed as a guest star rather than a regular, I'd guess we could be heading into a season in which the flash story concludes as early as two-thirds of the way through. But there's no sense in guessing, and as much as I still do enjoy the show, I wish I didn't feel like I have to try to stay ahead of the writing.
That said, I am enjoying the case this season much more than in past seasons. As a season two agnostic, I feel like the High Star case is engaging me in a way the Ultima National case should have, but never quite did. It's both ripped from the headlines, and has a grand scope that makes it feel scarier and more complex than Frobisher and the Tobins, fascinating cases that at the end of the day amount to one or two deeply flawed, awfully greedy people. High Star is a real threat, if Jerry Boorman is any indicator. We still don't know much about him, and it seems like "supercreepy" is the only note Dylan Baker was given, but for some reason, the character is working for me, despite knowing almost nothing about him at this point. I hope I'm satisfied with whatever reveal is in store, seeing as how they've not explained detail one about his background and why he's so invested in all of this. The story of his stalking, kidnapping and torturing a random Afghani who was smoking the wrong cigarette at the wrong time, was stomach-churning in a good way. Boorman enjoys his wet work a little too much.
I'm still adoring the delicate dance Patty and Ellen are doing. Neither is capable of admitting that they have genuine love and respect for each other, so they have to convince themselves theirs is a relationship of convenience. It's an abusive relationship though, of which psychological warfare is an inextricable component. In the lunch conversation where Ellen mentions taking the High Star case to her firm, Patty immediately cuts in with her stern, motherly warnings about them saying no. Instead of simply telling Patty the partners already said yes, Ellen pressed her for an explanation, then blithely mentioned that none of it mattered. Later, after her "chickenshit" superiors back out of the case, Ellen tries to bait Patty by saying she'd still try the case if she had access to the resources it would require to do so. Patty thinks it over and bluntly denies her. I initially thought it was just Patty being Patty, but when she finally starts to open up to her therapist, she admits that she's not just trying to make Ellen grovel. For some reason, she genuinely doesn't want to help Ellen, even though doing so could potentially benefit her. In a breathtaking moment, she confesses her motherly resentment towards Ellen. She sees Ellen as a leech who takes and takes, and like her biological child, still finds a way to despise her. When she tried to have Ellen killed in season one, that was supposed to have closed that chapter. But the hit didn't go off as planned, Ellen found out the truth, and now Patty's in a lifelong relationship with this person that she's not even sure she likes that much. It's just like parenthood, except instead of feeling obligated to someone for having brought them into the world, Patty feels obligated for having tried to take Ellen out of it.
Glenn Close played the scene with her therapist, an effective Fisher Stevens, beautifully. As much fuss is made over the shiny objects Damages tries to distract you with, it's really about the acting with this show, not so much the plotting. The duets in this episode were phenomenal, particularly Close's with Stevens, Rose Byrne and Tom Noonan. The scene with Noonan was so fun to watch because it’s clear that Patty actually respects Huntley, which is rare for her. He doesn’t take her bullshit at face value, and she respects him for it. He’s the Patty Hewes of soft-spoken private investigators. Close also had great stuff to work with in the scenes that showcased the show's bone-dry humor. I laughed out loud during the therapy session where she spat out of Cliff's Notes version of the Michael saga, and then offered a curt "There's not," when he suggested there might be a bit to unpack. I wasn't quite as tickled by the stuff with the doorman, though I do like the story, as it offers another window into the rage that fuels Patty to success, but also destroys all her relationships.
I'm nervous about the flash story, as always, but there's some really good stuff here so far.
- I’m really enjoying Baker’s performance, but I need to know more about Boorman sooner than later.
- How fascinating to see the torturing of an Afghani prisoner in which the intent was to get the prisoner to proffer false information.
- Ellen is watching her niece while her sister is Christmas shopping…so apparently she’s not in jail. Maybe she’s clean?