I have been a fan of the TV series Damages since it began in 2007 and it remains one of my favourite programmes. It was for this reason that I saved the final season five for over a year before finally watching it this week. Having reached the end of the series it occurred to me that there may be some out there who have never watched it, as let’s face it there is no shortage of TV shows to watch, especially with the increased availability through Netflix, Lovefilm and Blinkbox as well as satellite TV providers. Therefore I thought I’d take a moment to try and convince you to give it a try!
Damages is a legal drama centring on the formidable figure of successful high-stakes litigator Patty Hewes, played to perfection by Glenn Close, whose mission statement is to take on the big companies she believes are corrupt and each series features a different high profile case taken on by Patty. In the first episode we are also introduced to a young law graduate Ellen Parsons (played by Rose Byrne), keen to make a successful career for herself, who becomes the newest associate hired by Patty’s firm Hewes & Associates.
However Damages established itself as not just the usual type of legal drama through its structure. Rather than the story simply being told in a linear style, Damages makes effective use of flashbacks in order to give the audience more information than the characters without giving away the conclusion. Episode one of the first season opens with Ellen Parsons fleeing an apartment building covered in blood. Whose apartment is it? What has happened to her? These are questions the audience is immediately asking only for the story to jump back six months to when Ellen is hoping to join Patty Hewes. We therefore know where she is headed but still have no idea of the full picture or the circumstances. As the episodes progress, we are given flashes forward slowing moving backwards from the opening moments, as the timelines inch ever closer to each other, filling in more and more of the big picture, through many twists and turns.
By structuring the series in this way the creators gave the audience an exciting new show, with a plot where anything could happen at any time and that left you intrigued as to the final outcome. On top of this structure Damages always had strong characters, superbly acted. Tate Donovan is fantastic as Patty’s loyal associate, keen to make partner and prove himself out from her Patty’s shadow. Ted Danson was the central figure for the class action case Patty is fighting in season one and he proves to be a ruthless individual, very different to any character I had seen the actor portray before. Throughout its five seasons there have been a vast array of strong performances (John Goodman as a tough businessman and former soldier who will stop at nothing to secure the interests of his private security company, Ryan Philippe as a computer genius determined to leak secrets to the world in the mould of Julian Assange and Martin Short as a trusted lawyer and friend of a family under Patty’s scrutiny due to a fraudulent Ponzi scheme to name just a few).
However the key relationship in the show has always been that between Patty and Ellen, one which you had no idea as to the twists and turns it would take. Initially expected to be the usual mentor/protege relationship, it becomes very clear that there is much more to both women and the experiences they have during the series constantly shift the dynamic between them. Having two such strong female characters leading a legal drama certainly moved TV drama forward and Glenn Close has said herself that the strong female leads was something that set Damages apart from other shows. Look at the shows that have arrived since Damages – The Good Wife, and Homeland to name just two with strong female leads. It was also significant casting to see a successful, hugely respected film actress sign up for a television drama and was one of the finest programmes in what is now a long line of quality television drama attracting actors traditionally associated with films.
For me the character of Patty Hewes is one of the finest written for television and Glenn Close is simply stunning in the role. Patty is the best at what she does, a fierce lawyer and businesswomen, ruthless and manipulative, doing whatever it takes to win, which many a times takes your breath away. However no matter how devious her methods, you can’t help but admire her and at times even feel sympathy for her and I was always excited to see just what she would do next, right through until the final episode. She is certainly a character I will miss and I doubt television will ever see another character like her.
All five seasons of Damages are available on Netflix, Blinkbox and Amazon Prime Instant or the series can be purchased through all the usual retailers. If you have a spare hour and want to see quality television at its best then give episode one a try. I’m confident you’ll be hooked by the time the credits roll!