SOUND OFF: DAMAGES Season Four On DVD
Today we are taking a look at one of the most electrifying television series of all time just as Season Four hits DVD and we quickly approach the final season premiere tonight at 9 PM on DirecTV - the dark and spotted cat-and-mouse legal thriller DAMAGES, starring Glenn Close and Rose Byrne. By taking a closer look back at Season Four and its unforgettable guest starring performances by John Goodman, Chris Messina and Dylan Baker and the details of the season-long arc of Hewes & Associates becoming entangled with some Blackwater-esque military-mindEd Wheeler dealers and off-the-map mercenaries - and how Ellen Byrne, now working for the DA's office, enters into the mix - with, expectedly, it all culminating in copious bloodshed, perhaps we can uncover some clues as to where we will be heading in Season Five and the final ten episodes that begin airing tonight, with the series coming to its conclusion at their finish. If the promos that have been airing on DirecTV and around the internet are any indication as to the titillating and terrifying thrills that are in store for us with new featured guest stars Ryan Phillippe, Jenna Elfman and Janet McTeer and the returns of Season Four standouts Chris Messina, Judd Hirsch and Zachary Booth - as well as, one can assume, a spare ghost or two, too - we are evidently in for quite a satisfying conclusion to the series. Indeed, it has been a breathless and breathtaking trip so far on DAMAGES and it has been a revealing, rewarding and ultimately resplendently rich journey over the last six years or so to see the epic highs and lows of master attorney Patty Hewes, the mostly noble efforts of her attentive and intelligent protégé Ellen Parsons and the various figures who populate the cold and foreboding atmosphere of a hellish New York City that permeates nearly every frame of every episode of the relentless, but compulsively addictive mystery series - just as it always has; and, we can safely assume, always will. What darker depths shall we see? As the eerie theme song warns, "When I am through with you / There won't be anything left."
Note: While I shall eschew revealing all plot details, some spoilers unquestionably abound herein. You have been warned.
Black & Blue Christmas
How to match the propulsive power and poetic eloquence of the stories and themes presented in the labyrinth world created by Glenn Kessler, Todd Kessler and Daniel Zelman over the course of the first three seasons of DAMAGES? Even better than that, now - as of last year at this time - with a new home on censorship-free DirecTV, how to take DAMAGES from its basic cable-friendly roots and make it the full-blooded, corrosive HBO-esque series fans always secretly wished it eventually could blossom into being at some point? I mean, would the artistic world really be complete without the chance to hear one of TV's most deliciously vicious characters utter the F word? No, it most certainly would not - and, in Season Four, sooner rather than later, we got our foul-mouthed wish. Following the slimy billionaire who gambled away the futures of his thousands of employees as played with grit and actorly glee by Ted Danson in the role of Arthur Frobisher in Season One, to the shady and guilt-ridden plight of William Hurt's brilliant biologist Daniel Purcell who also happens to be the estranged father of Patty's only son, Michael and all the souls populating Season Two, all the way to the Bernie Madoff-like machinations of a ruthless banker and power-hungry lawyer gone guiltlessly greedy and ruthlessly bloodthirsty in exquisite, shaded renderings by Len Cariou and Martin Short, respectively - to say nothing of the effect of the illegal financial games enacted on the wife Lily Tomlin, son Campbell Scott and all of the many investors who put their future and fortunes on the line in the unseemly deal with the devil that forms the crux of Season Three - Season Four takes it all to the next level, plugs it in and turns it to 11, amping it up with jolts of juice all the adrenalized while.
Picking up three years after the events of Season Three - which in its final frames found Ellen at long last confronting Patty about her attempt to have her killed in the events of Season One, and with Ellen subsequently expelling Patty from her life or so she thought - Season Four of DAMAGES eventually finds Patty Hewes up against her most politically-allied, powerful, fearsome and repellant foe thus far - and that is certainly saying something given the anti-heros and humanized villains to come along in the three seasons prior, as mentioned above - Howard Erickson. John Goodman's titanic and emotive portrayal of Erickson is masterful - one for the record books and, hopefully, nomination books come August and awards season. Seeing two actors at the top of their game like Glenn Close and John Goodman is a rare treat and they visibly relish the chance to really go to the mat and attack their parts with vigor and make some reAl Sparks and fireworks in the process. Like many aspects of Season Four, it is positively electrifying to experience.
Speaking of electricity, somehow managing to come close to matching the magnificent emotional highs and all-too-human pathos of the tortured soul at the core of Goodman's army sergeant is the even more tortured, yet much more resourceful and resilient Chris Sanchez. Having played a part in Ellen's past, the army sergeant-cum-enslaved prisoner of war what war, you ask? knows things and has seen some horrifying, heinous acts some individuals desperately wish he did not - which is all given refined, full-dimensional life in a riveting, full-throttle, balls-to-the-wall performance by Chris Messina firing on all axels. Truly, acting does not get much more fearless, stark and nakedly revealing and stirringly effective than his work on this series - particularly the electrocution and beheading scenes and the events leading up to them both. Messina's confrontation with Goodman is something to marvel at - a haunting and hard-hitting duel on the same level of the Erickson/Hewes match-up to beat the band.
Then, as if those two additions to the already impossibly decadent mélange of expert acting, engaging storytelling and shocking twists were not enough, there is another notable entry to include in the ever-expanding list of what made Season Four of DAMAGES so supremely entertaining and among the finest television of the 21st century so far: the man with the supposed plan who assumedly makes it all happen, one way or the other, secret government agent Jerry Boorman virtually embodied and created anew before our very eyes by an almost uncomfortably devastating Dylan Baker in a career-defining performance. So, too, does Judd Hirsch make a solid impression in his role as a genius ex-lawyer who got caught up in the wrong deals and has spent the last several years drowning his sorrows - until his former mentee Patty Hewes shows up back in his life, that is. And, all of that manna without even mentioning the sordid, twisted story of an Afghani child lost and found and a love that died on the battlefield along with four innocent soldiers in some bombed-out village far, far away from Manhattan. Season Four of DAMAGES has it all - the most overtly theatrical and in-your-face acting on the series so far; the most revealing and explosive political and social themes ever presented and explored on the show; plus, more metaphors, mise en scene and ideally rendered moments to revel in than any other season of the show so far. DAMAGES demonstrates in Season Four time and time again - every time you return to it - why it is without a doubt one of the finest dramatic TV series ever with more shocks than an electrical socket.
Yes, Season Four of DAMAGES is adult dramatic television at its very best - and mystery/thriller-style storytelling at its most compelling and engrossing; with or without the F word. Following suit, Glenn Close continues to excel as the iconic lawyer Patty Hewes - a character who will no doubt be as remembered to the annals of fine TV performances as Tony Soprano himself, not only as a result of Close's indelible portrait of a villain delicately rendered relatable to us all but also because her character is one of the best-written and consistently riveting female characters of all time. Rose Byrne finds subtly shown layers and hidden meanings in the character, motivations and actions of Ellen Parsons, despite the occasionally uneven and confused plot points her character is given which usually work anyway when all is said and done. While Season Four had many memorable set-pieces, the overall Christmas/New Year's seasonal setting provided ample opportunities for layer cakes of irony and metaphors - particularly given the themes of season pertaining to the rights and expectations of parents to their children and vice-versa, especially as relating the to Patty/Michael storyline and Jerry Boorman's Afghani refugee being held captive in a Highstar-owned house in the USA. The repeat-worthiness of season after season of DAMAGES is astounding to note in itself, but, honestly, the multifacetedness and subtlety in so many moments of each and every season make it a prime candidate to be enjoyed again and again with full, alert attention - more so maybe Season Four than any other, as a matter of fact. You'll want to see some of these twists, turns and surprise reveals over and over and relive those dramatic flourishes only a stylish and anomalous enterprise like DAMAGES can provide more than once. And, anyway, how will all of the events of Season Four play into what comes to pass in Season Five and the final conclusion of the series? Will Patty really win out against Ellen in the end as the promos seem to be indicating, with Ellen strewn on the sidewalk in a pool of her own blood? Could it really ever be that pat? Not in this thorny, macabre and murky world where Patty is boss.
As Patty Hewes herself once posited, "You know what I'm in the mood for? A fight!" And, indeed, the same could be said for DAMAGES fans around the world right now, at this very moment in time - and we will finally at long last be satiated tonight as the final game begins. For those out there who have never had the pleasure to see the show, there is no time like the present to check out the first three seasons on DVD or Netflix and be sure to pick up the newly released Season Four while you're at it to get fully briefed on the addictive intrigue implicit in DAMAGES.
It's the world of Patty Hewes, we're all just living in it - that is, until she is finally through with us for good. Or bad. Or both.