Damages: "The Next One's Gonna Go in Your Throat"
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Damages: "The Next One's Gonna Go in Your Throat"

It must be a tricky endeavor to write the maybe-season/maybe-series finale of a television show. At the end of season one of Damages, viewership was anemic and renewal was far from certain, despite a rapturous critical reception. But rather than sew everything up neatly, the writers decided that if the show was going down, they were content to write a finale that left multiple cliffhangers in its wake. Not so with “The Next One’s Gonna Go in Your Throat,” which was designed to serve as a proper goodbye if this is, as all signs are indicating, the final episode of Damages.

To that end, “The Next One’s Gonna Go in Your Throat” was bursting at the seams with just about everything needed to properly settle not only this season’s mysteries, but the dangling threads from seasons past, as well as to bring some semblance of closure to Patty and Ellen’s character arcs. But not all of it worked, just because so much of it seemed perfunctory. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t much care about whether Frobisher was ultimately linked to David’s murder, and while I’m sure there are some viewers who do, those of us who don’t can’t help but feel like a nice-sized chunk of this episode, as well as any part of the season that dealt with Frobisher, was wasted.

The Frobisher thread did, however, reintroduce Wes Krulik, who finally shed some light on how he wound up under Detective Messer’s thumb throughout season two. While I accepted that there was so much that had to fit in this episode there wouldn’t be much time for foreplay, the scene between Wes and Ellen was super-concentrated, essentially Ellen sticking her finger in Wes’s throat and him vomiting exposition. The exchange was so brisk and business-like that Ellen pausing to ask them if their romantic relationship seemed irrelevant and misplaced. After all, Wes only blew into the frame to offer to take down Frobisher. Ellen declined his offer though, because exposing Frobisher would expose Wes, which she’s not in favor of despite his deception. While I did like Ellen finally beginning to get past David’s death in a real way, I’d have preferred to see it in a way that didn’t relate to Frobisher and Krulik at all. As for Frobisher, the disparate storyline involving his silver-screen biography finally paid off in his being arrested for ordering David’s murder. Again, not quite my thing, but I’m curious about the reaction of the folks who have been itching for justice for David. Was this a satisfying conclusion?

The conclusion of the Tobin case and the mystery of Tom’s death yielded far more interesting results, but like Damages finales past, the pieces of the puzzle we’ve been teased with week after week come together in a way that is alternately exhilarating and frustrating. Characters suddenly start doing crazy crap as though they know it’s the season finale, pieces that seemed significant wind up being minor beats and vice-versa. But the shockers were genuinely shocking. I should have known, for example, that the body plummeting from the bridge wasn’t necessarily Tom’s, but of all the details I was skeptical about, the nature of Tom’s drowning death wasn’t one of them. Seeing Marilyn hurl herself into the river was an impressively tricky and fitting end for a wretch of a woman who destroyed everything and everyone around her, and even failed in her last ditch effort to do what she spent her life trying to do: keep Joe out of trouble.

Joe was finally undone by his hubris, and without his parents to try to smooth over his mistakes as they had always done – including, apparently, the shell game that wound up toppling the family – Joe finally had endure the consequences of his shoddy choices. It was clear the house of cards was crumbling as soon as Man in Overcoat discovered that “Mr. Zedeck” had dropped by the bank to make a withdrawal. All the real Zedeck could say is what Joe probably already knew, that cutting off a guy who knew everything about the missing money probably wasn’t so bright. Still, this snowball has been picking up speed for weeks now, so it wasn’t exactly an option to just see how things played out. Man in Overcoat was dispatched to find and silence Winstone. The culmination of this endeavor was wild and wacky, to say the least, a combination of coincidence and homicidal ineptitude that is probably pretty close to how clumsy, fumbling homicides actually happen, but still felt odd to watch. When the dust had settled, Tom was wandering the streets with pen knife wounds, Man in Overcoat was dead, Winstone was born again, and Homeless Man was stuck on clean-up duty.

What Tom and Patty share, other than a law firm, is an inability to correctly prioritize after being stabbed. Rather than call 911, Tom instead calls Deb and leaves a message for her to take the kids and leave the house, in case they’re in danger too. Then, he goes all the way home to…make sure she did? Only to find…Joe? Who’s been on the sauce and decided to take out his anger on Tom by…drowning him in the toilet? It was a sad and baffling end for Tom, and an even more baffling choice by Joe. At least now we see why it was so important that he not be drinking. He doesn’t think so good when he’s drinking.

As for Patty, she spent most of the episode dealing with the weight of the decisions she’s made in her relentless pursuit of her career. Jill made the awful mistake of not only stealing a half-million dollars from her, but taunting her with it, as if that was going to end well. Patty used the proof of Michael’s paternity to have her arrested for statutory rape, with the promise that she’d go to jail and have the baby taken from her. Getting me to hate Jill enough that I was happy about this was no easy feat, I’d like to think. But the result was unfulfilling for Patty. She realized how much she’d forfeited in her life in order to keep up the winning streak, how many people had died, how many had left her. She was so contrite that she even told Tom and Ellen to call off the deal with Winstone, success of the case be damned. The frantic call she made after learning of Tom’s death was to Ellen, and her horror and outrage were well-placed. She had seen the consequences of relentlessness before, and was only trying to avoid them this time. She failed.

Michael was behind the wheel of the car that blindsided her. Patty saw him limping away, but decided not to mention it to Detective Huntley. She’ll probably never see Michael again. He is, therefore, another child that Patty has essentially forfeited. The big Julian Decker reveal is that Julian Decker was never actually there at all, but rather was there when Patty made the conscious choice to induce a miscarriage so she could pursue her career without the burden of a child. Standing on the end of the pier they return to so often, Patty told Ellen the story of Julia’s death, but lied by omission, leaving out the important detail that she knows very well what caused the baby’s death. But Patty made up for lying to Ellen yet again on the pier by giving Ellen the most honest answer she’s ever mustered, a long stretch of indecisive silence when asked if it was all worth it.

Stray observations:

  • If this is the series finale, are you satisfied with it?
  • The return of Ghost Fiske was just more than I could bear, especially with the reveal of Ghost Decker in the same episode. I just don’t dig people talking to ghosts. I don’t dig it.
  • Do we care that Winstone got away? I did like that he made off with the money. Once a con man…
  • Lily Tomlin was amazing in this episode.
  • I thought we might get a hint at what ultimately happened to Carol, but apparently not.
  • Was the scene in the truck between Frobisher and Krulik supposed to be funny? Cause…
  • Arthur Wiggins looks like a Stuart Zedeck, but certainly not like a Jorge from maintenance.
  • Best episode title of the series, maybe.
  • Thanks for reading and commenting, folks! I had a great time.

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