Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Damages: Case closed?

I've explained in the past why I'm not a big fan of "Damages," but with the show wrapping up its third season last night - and with it looking like a fourth season won't be economically-viable - I was curious how people felt about the finale. Were you satisfied with it, either as a capper to the season, or to the series?


Erol said...

Hated it. I watched this show from the beginning, and stuck with it despite not even really like the timeline shifting crutch. I guess I just liked that FX was making daring choices. This last season, however, seemed absolutely pointless. It had such a good cast (and tons of people from The Wire!) but the story seemed to have no direction. Did anybody actually care about Frobisher after season 1? Did the stuff with the architect interest anybody? A large amount of the finale was spent closing those two plots which just seemed irrelevant. What about Ellen's sister being a drug dealer? And that adopted plotline a few weeks ago? It feels like they were just wasting time this season. I feel like I just got tricked into watching filler.

Brad East said...

Count me satisfied.

I actually left early in Season 2 before returning by the end, for many of your similar complaints, Alan. But I enjoyed the way that season brought together so many loose cords, and I thought from start to finish Season 3 was an incredibly strong showing for a very good show. "A very good show" is not a great show, but that was just fine for me. I treat it like the best possibly acted, very well written, exquisitely directed pulp crime/law/personal drama on option.

Douglas Campbell and Martin Short each brought their A game as the "guest regulars" this season, and the evolution of Rose Byrne's character and acting were remarkable, too; and I enjoyed Tate Donovan's complex work as well.

I think this would be a strong end to the series as a whole, but I actually think 1 or 2 more seasons could work. In the end, laudable work all around, and I'm happy I was there for the ride.

Bob Timmermann said...

I thought the season worked well until the final episode. Then the writers apparently ran across the word "denouement" in the dictionary and decided put everything in as fast as they could.

But none of the endings were satisfying. And there were way too many coincidences for everything to happen they way they did.

I believe the previous commenter got the name wrong of one of the actors. He's Campbell Scott, not Douglas Campbell.

Paul F said...

I thought it was a decent finale.

Could have done without the Frobisher plot, which seemed like something they forgot to put in last year's finale, but at least it meant we got Olyphant back.

The conclusion to the Tobins plot required a bit of suspension of disbelief (even by Damages standards), but it worked for me.

The Michael/Jill resolution was good too, but was Michael really 16 9 months ago? Huh.

Waste of Keith Carradine too. I do not like characters talking to ghosts. I didn't even like it on Six Feet Under.

Still, at least it was a hell of a lot better than Season Two.

floretbroccoli said...

Somebody please explain the Keith Carradine subplot to me!

Jim said...

I have followed this show from the beginning and was extremely disappointed with the finale. I also missed the resolution of the adoptiuon story line. Frobisher was nice to have around but I really didn't need to see him arrested. The final resolution of Tom's death was so unlikely that it became ridiculous. Come on Joe Tobin gave him the Swirly of Death?!

DonBoy said...

floretbroccoli: Carradine never existed in the present day. In the past, he really was there when Patty induced a miscarriage. (I though abortions were, to some extent, available to middle-class women in 1972, which is the year of Roe v Wade, but maybe only in a limited way.) In the present, he's a guilt-driven fantasy/hallucination/dream because, um, Patty realized that all of her life choices have come home to roost, I guess.

In general: liked this season a lot better than S2. Who didn't cheer when Winstone turned out not to be dead? He and Lily Tomlin really came through.

Anonymous said...

Damages is such a weird show. On one hand it's ineffably stupid with dumber-than-life characters making choices more insipid than teenagers in a Friday the 13th movie. On the other, it's thought-provoking and deals with grandiose questions in a contemporary fashion and has one hell of a cast, all storming the screen with A-level performances.

So on one hand you have Tom NOT calling 911 but instead deciding to bleed his way to home, only to encounter a homicidal Joe! But then you have some genuinely surprising and weighty revelations, such as the demise of the Tobin matriarch, and some very very solid acting all around.

So, I don't know. I think season 1 is a classic, both thrilling and emotionally affecting while perfecting an exquisite balance between plot and character. Season 1 Damages is one of the few dramas on air that let's it's characters do horrible, atrocious things and then let's them face the consequences of it. It's genuinely powerful and the flash-forwards are fresh - but most importantly, they are used appropriately.

Season 2 is a disaster, Season 3 is a half-empty, half-full affair. I don't regret watching it, but I don't believe I will have the heart to watch another great set of cast members getting squandered in a nonsensical story.

I love seeing Martin Short, Lilly Tomlin, Glenn Close, Campbell Scott, Tate Donovan on my television screen. But I think it's time I see them in a better show.

Mapeel said...

I loved this collection of actors so much that I looked past some of the plot holes. Except at the end, when Ellen doesn't realize she doesn't have her pocketbook. Maybe I didn't get one of the time shifts, but it seemed like Martin Short "borrowed" her bag, and she didn't realize it until the next day. What woman doesn't panic the minute the bag isn't nearby?

Other than that, loved Timothy Olyphant and Ted Dansen's scenes. TV at its best.

Anonymous said...

I liked it. Sure, the show had its faults with some continuity, realism, etc. But the acting was so damn good and the plots interesting enough to keep me as a viewer. As another poster said, not a great show but a good one. And one that entertained me for three seasons.

I think the finale would work fine as a series finale. It gives us a good reason for why Patty is the way she is. And, while seemingly ambiguous, I think it gives Ellen some resolution on whether she wants to be Patty Jr or go her own way.

I don't need another season but I am sure I would watch if Close and Byrne are part of it.

Rich, Denver

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court in Jan. 1973, and took a while to implement nationally. New York and Washington D.C. had good access to therapeutic abortion in the early 70's on the west coast, but in many places abortion was either illegal or only provided in cases where a few MDs and maybe a shrink had to sign on and say various things about the mom's physical or mental health. I'm not a fan of the Damages finale (or most of S3 except for Martin Short's acting)at all, but they did show that Patty's doctor was unlikely to have been cooperative and presumably she did not want to involve her family.

I hope this is the series finale. Glen Close was fun to watch but even she didn't get to do much this time.

DonBoy said...

Yes, sorry, 1973. So "1972" covers that plot point properly.

Kensington said...

I never saw a full episode of Damages from start to finish. Indeed, before the finale (which I saw perhaps 80-90% of, more or less by rewinding from the end toward the beginning and stopping every time an actor I enjoyed came on), I watched about half of two previous episodes this season.

So I had very little understanding of the details (although I picked up some by questioning a friend), but every bit I saw was enthralling, so much so that I'm hoping to give the whole show a proper watch as soon as I can find some means of enjoying the previous seasons.

In particular, I could not get enough of Martin Short and Rose Byrne, him because his dramatic turn was such a revelation and her because she's gorgeous.

The final scene felt like a series finale, and I wondered if it was intended to be.

Steve said...

This was my favorite of the three seasons, and I'll be sorry if it doesn't return, though all the major loose ends have now been tied up.

James Kang said...

The season finale was kind of awful. It's like the writers were running down a checklist of scenes and events they needed to get to by the end of the season. The finale was an hour and a half and it still felt too short, they were packing in so much into this episode.

I was a huge fan of season 1. Season 2 disappointed me so much I quit the show. I came back for season 3 because I remembered I still liked the show even when I was disappointed by it. Season 3 started pretty strong, but as the season moved forward, the show became humorless and the writing felt rote, like they lost interest in the major stories for the season.

The resolution to the Michael-Jill subplot was infuriating. I'm pretty sure Michael was 18 in season 1. Where is this nonsense coming from about Jill committing statutory rape? If she really was sleeping with a minor, wouldn't somebody have mentioned that before the season finale? That subplot's been going on for a season and a half!

There's a lot of great acting on the show, but also a lot of really awful acting, too. The Tobin patriarch, Joe Tobin's sister, and worst of all, Craig Bierko. I'm convinced the only reason they get so many talented actors on the show is because Todd Kessler mostly picks actors who have already been approved by other people with better taste than him (all those characters actors from film, alums from The Wire, The Sopranos, Deadwood and Oz).

The show is entirely too white for a story set in NYC. I think the only interesting role ever given to an ethnic minority on Damages was Clarke Peters as Dave Pell in Season 2. Mario Van Peebles and Michael Potts had significant roles, but I wouldn't call them interesting. I think Reiko Aylesworth's appearance in the season 3 premiere may have been the first time a non-black ethnic minority has ever appeared on the show. The black people who do appear on the show feel so lifeless and inconsequential. The show is racist.

I don't think the show is getting canceled yet. Isn't DirecTV trying to bring the show to their network next season?

I'm quitting the show again. I may come back if they do a proper series finale.

Kensington said...

Holy God, Damages is "racist" because there are too few ethnic minorities!?! Is that where the bar is now?

Is How I Met Your Mother racist, too? It's set in New York and features an overwhelmingly white cast.

How about MSNBC? Is it racist, too, because its prime time line-up is amongst the whitest on television?

This is insanity.

l.e.b. said...

I've also watched Damages since the beginning and even though Season 2 was flat I thought this season was really good. That is until last night. The season finale was SO BAD. I was shocked and disappointed with the way they tried to throw everything in at the last minute. The whole episode was awful. I guess if it ends now I'm OK with it because I'm not sure I'd tune in for another season.

Kenya said...

I watched all three seasons as well. I found the season three finale underwhelming. It was a bit rushed as if they needed to answer many of the questions just in case the season finale turns out to be the series finale. I wonder if months from now, the writers will explain that (like the writers for the BBC-HBO Rome series) they found out in production that the show would likely not be renewed by FX. The mad dash to wrap up story lines has not been a persistent failure of Damages and I would happily watch a fourth season.

Yes, there was something almost fantastical about the plot in the last episode. Nowhere to be seen for the entire season, but Wes decides he must now clear his conscience? As noted earlier Shayes goes all the way home with three knife wounds (including the gut and knee) and never seeks medical attention? Patty goes all the way to statutory rape charges when she had all the other dirt on Michael's girlfriend? Rarely are statutory rape charges with a 17-year old boy as victim prosecuted and almost never result in prison time. It was a little beneath what I've come to expect from the show.

The plot resolution problems overshadow where the season shined, character development. In the third season, we learned why Ellen is drawn to a woman who tried to have her killed and perhaps part of why Patty is so fascinated with Ellen.

tribalism said...

Despite some of the problems with the show this season (Ellen's erratic behaviour being number 1), I really hope that it comes back.

More than anything, I like these characters and the universe they occupy. I don't think that the medias is res storytelling is necessary to enjoy it.

Anyways, highlights of the finally:

-The return of Ray. I guess much like Julian, he's a spectre who will be haunting Arthur for some time.

-Arthur's pleas for mercy: I volunteer! I coach little league! I loved "An Inconvenient Truth"!

-Tom's toilet bowl death...because, no one deserves some sort of dignity when they die on this show.

More of my thoughts on the finale are available on my blog where I go into detail about Patty's confession session with Joe and how Wes and Arthur aren't so different. Click my username for the link.

James Kang said...

No, I shouldn't have said racist. I regretted writing that after I posted it. That's too easy. What I should have wrote was that Damages is uncomfortable in depicting non-whites. Really, think about it. New York is one of the top two most ethnically diverse cities in the world. Where are the ethnic minorities on the show (aside from the extras)? If a minority has speaking lines on that show, they still have no real personality (Reiko Aylesworth, the judge for the Tobin case, Winstone's lover).

You brought up HIMYM, but the fact that it's set in New York and almost everyone that appears on that show is white is a bit racist.

I'm not calling anybody who likes Damages racist. I think SNL can be very funny in spite of how cringe-worthy their depiction of blacks is. And liking sexist fiction doesn't make you sexist. Same goes for anything that is overtly or slightly racist.

Kensington, I think I know what you mean. Tokenism can go too far. That's how you get absurd casting like that one black guy on 7th Heaven. But on a show like Damages, where the main characters are constantly meeting strangers and new characters are added to the ensemble every episode, it's unforgivable to me if well over 90% of those characters are white and the few that aren't have nothing interesting to say.

Tom N. said...

Here's some info on the possibility of DirecTV partnering for a fourth season: http://ausiellofiles.ew.com/2010/04/02/directv-rescue-damages-fx/#more-7203

confused said...

I liked how they tied up most of the loose ends. The finale did feel a bit jam packed and rushed, though. I think they could have rolled some of these conclusions out in the last episodes, instead of saving it all until the end.

I am disappointed in the way that the Keith Carradine/Julian Decker thing played out. Firstly because Keith is an awesome actor and his role as the music playing sort-of an architect who has a thing for Patty seemed REALLY interesting. But to just drop that completely and to turn him into an old farmer from 1972 seemed ridiculous. If Patty is truly seeing someone from her past (like seeing Ray Fiske, David, etc.) then why change him into a totally different character? I just don't get it. Plus I swear that Julian Decker ordered two drinks from the bartender in the first episode of the season. I need to go back and watch that.

Craig Ranapia said...

The show is entirely too white for a story set in NYC

Considering the characters in Damages only vary in degrees of corrupt, venal douchebaggery I don't know if that's such a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Kenya, due to his starring role in FX's "Justified," actor Timothy Olyphant was unavailable this season for anything beyond the two scenes in which he appeared last night.

That also impacted what the writers could do with the Frobisher character, as Ted Danson's deal memo was already signed when it became known they wouldn't have "Wes" to pit against him. Thus the side story about the Frobisher bio-movie.

Paul said...

Any show that draws a zero rating in the 18-49 demo deserves to be canceled.

Unknown said...

I started watching this show in Season Two and I hope it comes back. It's not one of my Top Tier shows, but to me it's at least as interesting, entertaining and coherent as, say, Lost (but without all the cosmic hoo-hah). It's a smart, twisty, high class soap opera that knows it's a little bit ludicrous but plays it straight. Plus: a great cast, chewing some fine scenery, (including an evil Lily Tomlin and a tough guy Martin Short!) -- I mean, really, I don't see why this is considered a lesser show than, say, Justified or (egad) The United States of Tara...

Unknown said...

Re: the above, before somebody jumps on me about it...okay, maybe not as interesting as Lost. Lost is a whole other animal in terms of interesting. But Damages is definitely more coherent.

James said...

the season (series?) finale was terrible. as many people have already said, it seemed as though they found out late into production that this might be the series end and they rushed to wrap up storylines that normally would have stretched into future seasons. the frobisher storyline was dragged out for eight episodes only to be abruptly resolved with a few quick scenes. the carradine storyline made no sense. someone above suggested that he only existed in the 70s and in her memories, so I'll go with that. the last half of the episode seemed like they were trying to tie up so many ridiculous loose ends they just did away with continuity or story structure and just started editing together any scenes that could finish the story in the quickest way possible: Martin short is still alive; Martin Short gets on a plane; Tom is half dead; Tom is suddenly across town at his home for no reason; Campbell Scott is suddenly in Tom's bathroom for no reason; Campbell kills Tom; Tom is being thrown in dumpster; Lily Tomlin is upset; Lily Tomlin is jumping off a bridge. wow it was bad. sorry to see it end like this because the first season was great TV.

Matt S. said...

enjoyed a great deal of this season but this finale was pretty ridiculous---but honestly it wasn't any more ridiculous then the finale for season 2 which was borderline retarded in how things were resolved---so there you have it.

Still I honestly hope the show gets the renewal--maybe even the 2 year renewal that Friday Night Lights got because this show is effing addictive--even when its going aboslutely nowhere---i still very much savored the puzzle pieces being doled out on a weekly basis....and frankly i'd be lying if i said i didn't think the first half of this season was pretty awesome stuff...both in terms of acting and plot momentem....if only they could have a clear cut resolution in mind before they went into production----

you know what it doesn't even matter---its like a really good novel (or in this case a John Grisham novel) yes an ending would be nice--but you know as long as it keeps you turning the pages ever foward (and keeps your interest in seeing what's gonna happen with baited breath) you can forgive the ending being a botch...(which come to think of it Grisham's last novel totally had....The Associate i think it was---it was a non-ending--but i read that sucker in less then 48 hours cause the narrative/mix of characters had me wrapped up in it.)

I hope Damages lives to see another day--cause honestly with both Lost and 24 ending this year---it would seem a real blow for twisty yet unreal serial shows to lose this as well.

Eric said...

It's like FX called the showrunners just before they started shooting the 12th episode and said, 'Guys, this is it. Wrap it up as best you can.'

I liked:

- Tom. The only cast member I cared about at the end of this episode. His death was a grisly moment. In a toilet?? Really?? Donovan's acting made me feel for him.

- Martin Short. I liked seeing him as a bad guy. This guy can act. More please.

- Bill Raymond (Albert Wiggins). The stuff he got himself into, especially impersonating Zedeck, was great. I liked him in 'The Wire' where he did a lot with a little material.

I didn't like how convenient or unnecessary some plot points were:

-> Why tell about Ellen's almost-adoption and drug-dealing sister? She made no decisions or actions based on either of those things.

-> The Frobisher thread was a disaster and should have been a bridge between seasons 2 and 3. As soon as Wes showed up I knew they were both going to jail. Ugh.

-> Patty seemed to be hallucinating the architect but then it seemed like the writers tried to turn it into a commentary on the 'price of success' and it just did not resonate.

-> Every season ended at the lake house. Devices like that always seem trite to me.

-> Why even bother closing up David Connor's killer after Wes killed him? Ellen had already moved on, and we the viewers already knew the details, so again, why bother?

Damages would have been better as a series of novels rather than a show. So much of the characters is missing from the show that it makes everything seem like a hodge-podge. There was so much plot advancing that I stopped caring about the characters, from season 2 on.

As Patty and Ellen had their final scene, I thought they were waiting for an inspired and ambitious writing staff to give them top-notch material. By all accounts, the writing of this show was done consistently in a last-minute fashion by the seat of their pants. This can result in unusual creativity and excitement, but it can also fall flat. Unfortunately, we viewers experienced both results.

I often wonder, what might the writers and showrunners of The Shield have done with this show after Season 1??

genetta said...

When I read your post a few months back about why you don't watch "Damages" I felt a slight twinge of agreement, which I quickly ignored because of the great cast. I mean, Glenn Close? Seeing her every week while not paying $12.75 for a movie ticket? Incredible. So I didn't really want to give your post too much credence. Well, last night's episode completely validated your arguement. I sort of saw it coming when a few episodes back the writers abandoned that time shift gimmick in the opening sequence and began with Ellen having a weird dream. This lead to a completely useless storyline involving Ellen tracking down this woman who possible could have been her mother. W.T.EFF? That episode annoyed me through the last few episodes and gave me cause for concern about the finale. Well, I was right to be worried. The writers pulled plot points out of orifices I dare not name to try to tie up every loose end. They even threw in a lame plot point explaining how Patty's daughter died. I'm glad it's over. Glenn Close and Rose Byrne are too good for these hacks. I hope they can find shows worthy of their talents.

EB said...

The episode was edited like one of those "previously on Lost" clip shows but without the benefit of a narrator to smooth over the clumsy narrative structure. It was like bullet-point storytelling. And the convoluted explanation for how Tom's blood ended up on Ellen's purse was a howler. Almost as funny as last season when Darrell Hammond always seemed to be performing in some weird sideways version of Damages, by himself. God how I will miss this show.

Lizbeth said...

If this is the end of the show, so be it.

They kind of painted these characters into a corner when they had Patty try to kill Ellen season 1. Still not sure why Ellen keeps coming back for more evil abuse.

As for the finale -- what an incoherent narrative mess! It jumped all over the place with flashbacks and flashforwards and ghostly appearances...it tried to bring all the season-long teases together -- and in the end it was just really stupid (and predictably so).

As others have said, the actors are saving what is otherwise C-level material.

And dragging out another evil rich guy every year and turning him into a greedy killing machine is just dull in my opinion and shows a lack of imagination.

Anonymous said...

This indicates otherwise


Kenya said...

@Anonymous: My problem is not with Olyphant's availability, but rather with the use of his character. Knowing that he is only available for one episode, why would one give him such implausible actions.

@Eric: I read an interview elsewhere in which the producers said that they wanted to juxtapose the family dissension of Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons with the tight-knit family of the villain. So they had to introduce more problems for both. My perspective: From the beginning, Ellen was asked to make a choice about her family or the work. Initially, she chose family. However, I think the events of this season made her question her commitment to her family.

Apparitions. Multiple characters talked with apparitions--Patty Hewes with the architect Decker, Ellen Parsons with her deceased fiance David and Arthur Frobisher with his deceased attorney. As a device, it gave us more insight into the characters than we could have gotten simply from their interactions with other characters. My problem with the Decker apparition, is that there was so much of it in the season finale and it was so redundant. We see the scene with her doctor two or three times and the scene at the farm (?) three or four times. After two times, I got it, she induced a miscarriage. I didn't need to be beaten over the head with it.

Unknown said...

Well, I watched it because I heard Reiko Aylesworth was part of the cast. She played her roles well, but they didn't give her anything she was capable of. I hated that Joe turned bad. What happened to his sister. I didn't like the wow, bam, bang, ending they gave it. Too many important changes with too many twist and turns that it left my head spinning. I feel bad that they had to do that. Great actors and actresses though. I thought they all did well. Too bad they didn't get to finish it properly. You certainly were left feeling the dark side of Patty.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the finale sucked and basically the only good season was S1. I only kept watching for the acting chops. I can't figure out how this show has a reputation for writing because it's totally sloppy and the dialogue is terrible, full of clumsy exposition. (It would have to be since the thing is all plot.) Even Glenn Close didn't have much to do in S3. And ghosts? Really? At least put them in a dream sequence, I mean who really hallucinates dead people like that?

Unknown said...

I'm surprised nobody mentioned the preposterous plot twist of having Michael try killing Patty. And not just that. But that on a busy New York street during the DAY, no one was around.
Believe me, I live on a street where there have been car crashes and one minute later there is 50 people, 10 dogs and 5 cats rubbernecking!

Anonymous said...

The one thing that bugs me more than any other unbelievable plot point on this show is how in God's name it would be possible to drive toward an intersection and hit a particular car going by on a cross street at exactly the right moment. Maybe if Michael was a math genius and was able to plot the coordinates or whatever? But even then??

Anonymous said...

great show. great cast.

cgeye said...

I could excuse a poor ending to any other show, but this one should be better, especially since they foreshadow the end each and every season. Why *don't* they have decent finales? Why don't they take the time to set up the payoffs for the plotlines they knew both the beginning and endings of, by the first episode?

There was no call for them to rush the ending, especially when they had subplots they didn't need (e.g. all of Ellen's -- trash the leaking reporter, the phantom mother, the rest of her skanky family, the imagined walk in the snow with her fiance -- and leave only her trouble at work, and there'd be plenty of work to work out plots better toward the end).

Ellen's now the punching bag of choice, now that Tom's gone, and the situation's not going to get better. The fact that Patty fired the closest thing to her clone, for no reason, is not good. Even when she gets the amoral blonde of her dreams, Patty's not satisfied -- but who'd want to work for a firm where no other lawyer gets to bring in big cases, let alone work on them? Who else in Hewes' firms ever tells her no? Patty's on a course of destruction ever since she ordered the hit on Ellen, and unless we want to go the full SUNSET BOULEVARD route, there will be one more reason for Patty to interfere in Ellen's life, for the sake of a big win. It's close to that "why don't you have sex, and have done" space, but I don't think even FX would go there. It certainly would be more moving than the finale, I tell you what.

Danielle said...

I literally adored every moment of all three seasons of this show. The West Wing was my favourite show - until Damages came along. Perfect cast. Perfect writing. Perfect plots. Love everything about it. Dying for season 4 and 5.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone explained the Keith Carradine sub-plot. The only thing that I could come up with was that he was real character in the present and that they just needed someone to play a different minor character in the past, so got him to do it and thought that no one would notice. It was kind of a waste of a really good actor though.