Damages: "We'll Just Have To Find Another Way To Cut The Balls Off Of This Thing"
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Damages: "We'll Just Have To Find Another Way To Cut The Balls Off Of This Thing"

I had an awkward conversation about Damages with a buddy of mine last week. I’d harassed him ages ago about watching the show, as it seemed like something he’d get a kick out of it. But he only got around to starting season one a couple weeks ago, having noticed it in Netflix’s instant library. “Are all the seasons this good?” he asked, and I didn’t know quite how to answer. Certainly every season has its merits, but watching Damages has never been as fun since the first season. Not only because it was the first time we saw the writers spill out their now-familiar bag of tricks, but also because, between the Frobisher case, the attempt on Ellen’s life, and David’s murder, the pace didn’t seem to lull quite as much. Season one wasn’t flawless (“A Regular Earl Anthony” is still a bit of a dud), but its plotting is more clever and more nimble than any other season. (As usual, I’m expecting some pushback from season two die-hards.)

Now it’s just sort of a given that a Damages season will sag in the middle, but I didn’t expect season four to sag to quite this degree. “We’ll Just Have To Find Another Way To Cut The Balls Off This Thing” wasn’t awful, but boy did it meander, and its major plot developments felt like contrivances. Even though the production value of the show hasn’t dropped considerably, there’s clearly not enough of a budget to attempt the massive scope that the show usually has. There aren’t as many characters or as many plots to propel it forward, so whereas before the detours felt interesting on their own (even Crazy Lila in season one), now it just feels like we’re stalling.

At this point, Boorman’s behavior is completely inscrutable. We start with him trying to hijack Ellen and Marwat’s cab, and given that he’s armed, and the fact that he didn’t get to it last week, it’s safe to assume he planned to do more than run up their fare. Alas, Patty’s private security team thwarts him, whisking them off to safety. I was pleased with this development, because they’ve sold Boorman as a loose cannon, a guy for whom the ends justify almost any means, whether that requires blowing up a psychiatrist’s office or kidnapping and torturing a stranger. It has never tracked for me that he wouldn’t come up with killing Ellen as the most expedient way of snuffing out the case against High Star.

There was a mite of suspense when it became clear he was planting a bomb on Ellen’s bus, but not only was it immediately discovered, it was revealed that Boorman had retrieved some hair from Marwat’s beard, and the plan from the beginning was to frame Marwat for planting the bomb to sink him as a witness. Erickson and Boorman’s agreement regarding Chris Sanchez made sense—Erickson is protective over his men and refuses to let Boorman deal with it his way. This just doesn’t make any sense. Boorman asks his bomb guy if he can detonate the device with a cell phone and is told that all he has to do is make sure the killswitch is disengaged. Was the purpose of putting the bomb on Ellen’s bus to threaten her and discredit Marwat in one fell swoop? I could sort of get on board with that, but I still don’t buy that Boorman wouldn’t be trying harder to kill one or both of them, given his tactics up to this point. To have Marwat framed and jailed is a most artificial roadblock.

This week’s Patty story, which dealt with her aversion to faith and her inability to deal with uncertainty because of it, was somewhat interesting. I'm always up for any story that delves further into Patty's psyche, and her parental panic over Katherine's mysterious illness was a good, if maybe a bit facile, way of getting into it. Patty hires a pediatric nurse to look after Katherine (one cut from the Magical Negro cloth), and is uncomfortable when the nurse says a goodnight prayer with Katherine and asks her to knock it off. The nurse, in a slightly judgmental tone, needles Patty on Katherine never having been baptized. It's so hard to find non-bitchy help these days, but at least Patty didn't fire her immediately. As the doctor eliminated less serious diagnoses, Patty grew more and more agitated, but she still can't bring herself to recognize a power greater than man. Her mother was religious, but powerless to stop her father's abuse. It's why she became the woman she is--when faced with a bully, you attack him and make him pay, you don't retire to a quiet place and ask an invisible entity to intervene. But what happens when the bully is leukemia, rather than a boorish billionaire? The scene of Patty drawing slips of paper to wrap her brain around Katherine's odds was quietly heartbreaking.

Still, this kind of character stuff, while interesting, isn't much consolation when I feel like the case is stalling out, which is definitely the case here. We're going into the back half of the season, so I can only hope things will ramp up soon.

Stray observations:

  • Longest. Title. Ever. 
  • Not surprisingly, in addition to kidnapping suspects, High Star is employing “enhanced interrogation” techniques.
  • I liked the scene between Patty and the psychiatrist for the most part, but it bugged me that he felt he had to explain to her that people turn to religion during uncertain times. I’m sure Patty knows that intellectually, even though she has no interest in it.
  • Huntley’s back! And he’s not investigating Michael anymore, so my favorite and least favorite minor character no longer come as a package.
  • The only thing more gross than sex with Boorman is sex with a flu-ridden Boorman. His paramour is a, what, SVR agent? 

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