‘Damages’ – “It All Came Down To This” — A Series Review

I don’t think this is really going to be a series finale, or really even a season five review, but more of a series review and my feelings on this show as a whole. I feel obligated to write about this show since I love it so much, have stuck with it since the beginning through thick and thin, and, well because no one else really talks about it anymore (or ever). I don’t even know where to begin with ‘Damages’, I’m not even sure why I started watching it in the first place. Up here in Canada, the first few season were on Showcase, and since I was just getting into television seriously, this seemed like an “adult” show that would demand my attention and speak to me more strongly in the medium more than any other lazy network show I was programed to watch in the beginning ever would.

I kinda like shows and films that play with form and twists. Both of these things can be incredibly cheesy and gimmicky if used wrong, and surely throughout its time, ‘Damages’ has been guilty a few times, but I love it anyways because I’m a sucker for smart writing and plotting, even if it is a bit outrageous and disingenuous to its previous ideas. I’m not even entirely sure if Kessler/Kessler/Zelman truly wanted this to be a great or heralded show. Of course, I know, like everybody they’d want their show to be great, but I really don’t think they focused too much on making a “classic” show, but one that they enjoyed taking people for a ride on. Just take a look at the episode titles from season one on, tongue-in-cheek all the way, show they were having a lot of fun.

I don’t entirely know why I like this so much, but I know that Rose Byrne and Glenn Close are the lynch pin. Like most, this was my first exposure to Rose Byrne, she was smart, wry, didn’t take much shit and uh, yeah, gorgeous. There was also this actress named, Glenn Close, ever heard of her? Whooooo boy, Can I just dedicate the rest of this article to how great Glenn Close is, like, c’mon. She’d been enjoying a terrific film career for over 20 years when she came to the show. Now, of course, by 2007 it was getting more common place for name actors to head-up a TV show, but even still. When she showed up on ‘The Shield’ in 2005 that was still before MOST people realized the turning tide in TV over film. I love Glenn Close in this role because she is such a diabolical, cold, and calculated person, but I’m pretty sure she is like the nicest person in real life. Like, I’ve seen her being interviewed and she is just incredibly nice, but in ‘Damages’, all these cliches like “tour-de-force” and “powerhouse” are grossly underrated, just incredible times a thousand. Glenn Close gave her goddamn all to ‘Damages’ for five years, surely sacrificed some quality film work, and while noticed early on in awards recognition, was slowly put aside for others. This woman was Cruela de Vil, for godssake, and I’m pretty sure in real life she’s nicer than your priest. Apply this contrast to ‘Damages’, and that’s acting, ladies and gentleman.

I understand how all the flash forwards, and their revelations and backtracking can frustrate a viewer, but this isn’t a Russian novel, people. Kessler/Kessler/Zelman weren’t trying to be ‘The Wire’ (even though they casted a few actors from such show), this is the type of stuff latter-day Aaron Sorkin wishes he could. Actually smart television that doesn’t buff up people into thinking they’re smarter than they actually are. I’m returning to this well, but I think Kesslerx2 and company maybe thought with the first season they were attempting to embark on television greatness, and indeed they were close. But, there ability to strive for this perfect greatness in order to tell compelling TV was good, but playing with form, twists and some dry humour, maybe tipped the hat towards good, not great television. They eventually didn’t give a shit and made the television show they wanted. Going from DirecTV was a challenge, and certainly below par from what they did on FX. But, nobody can accuse ‘Damages’ of being unfaithful or straying from its identity.

Lastly, I want to touch on something that not nearly enough people talk about with this show (if all). In a television landscape that is basically dominated by men, we get a show with two female leads, who are incredibly strong women, in their own rights, who handle shit on their own without a man or someone to guide them. Yes, Ellen and Patty are themselves, they just happen to be women and they are intellectually and mentally stronger than most goddamn men on television. This show is a breathe of fresh air, where, hey! Two women are the main characters! And will you get this, they aren’t physically or mentally weak, they aren’t reacted on, they are the product. These are strong women in television, and I don’t know if ‘Damages’ will have a true legacy, but if it does at all, I truly wish it is that strong women can carry a show and can be just as strong, sympathetic, unforgivable and bankable as men. Beautiful women anchor this show, tormented women anchor this show, strong women anchor this show, women anchor this show. In a world of anti-heroes on cable like Tony Soprano, Dexter Morgan, Vic Mackey, Tommy Gavin and others, ’Damage’s was a special show that dipped in and out of “hero” and “anti-hero” characteristics with these women. But, let’s not forget, it was women that drove not only the power and emotion of this show, but the show as a whole. Sure there was men, but they were almost always at the mercy of Patty or latter-series Ellen. Strong and powerful women at the head of a cable show, isn’t that something? Yes, it was something. It was ‘Damages’.