Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"They said I spent twenty thousand dollars on shoes while your former employees are lining up for food stamps.":Damages


(I am filling in for David on Damages this week, while he's on vacation. -- J)

Previously on 'This show is complicated!': We got the setting of the show, new naive girl goes to work for shark-like mentor, girl is being used for her connections to key witnesses, girl ends up potentially murdering her fiance (in the future!), and girl's mentor is a really mean dog murderer.

'Damages' is sort of a strange show. While having a present and future timeline isn't anything new, rarely is one half of the show so much more interesting than the other half, yet at the same time that half that is more interesting is shown so much less. By my rough estimate, there was about a 20 to 1 ratio of screen time given to the present and future story lines this past episode, which is fairly disappointing to me, considering that the present feels like we're just going through the motions to find out how we get to the future scenes, which we've only seen so far in very short, carefully guarded glimpses. I guess you could level the same criticism against certain episodes of 'Lost', but with that show I don't feel like my time is being wasted as much, most likely because the characters are much, much more interesting. Although this show does borrow one thing directly from the other: the shocking! last! few! seconds! to end each episode. The last episode it was finding out that Glenn Close's character, Patty Hewes, was behind the murder of her key witnesses' dog, in order to motivate her to testify. The next one, well, read on if you like, but the first one I didn't find the least bit surprising while the second I only found mildly so.

There were two main plot lines this week, the first concerning the friend of newly hired Ellen (Rose Byrne), Katie (Anastasia Griffith), who was present in Florida back in the day to cater a dinner where defendant Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson, who is actually surpisingly not completely horrible so far) potentially told his stock broker to sell off the stock of his failing company before it crashed, in an Enron-like scenario where all his employees lost their savings. Katie will eventually tie Frobisher to the stock broker, because there is no other way for the show to proceed, so Ellen was hired specifically as a way to get her to testify against him. Having the law firm hire someone to kill her dog is a pretty good way to get her angry enough to testify too, as we found out the last episode. Anyway, there are a few scenes with Katie and Patty where they go back and forth a bit, Patty accusing Katie of lying and trying to get her admit what her real timeline was on the day she catered the event, and eventually, and predictably, succeeding, although not due to unforseen events. Anyway Katie eventually admits that her timeline was incorrect, she was late to the event, because she had a one night stand with someone named 'Greg', got pregnant, and had to have an abortion. One moment I found funny about these exchanges were that once she spills the bears to Patty she says, "no one has to find out, right?" Don't people in lawyer shows ever watch lawyer shows? Of course it has to come out. Now, my best guess right now is that this 'Greg' is the stock broker in question, or at least has a short connection to him, because, again, how else will the show proceed? I think Todd may have mentioned this in a previous article, but the show does suffer from revealing a lot of its twists through sheer process of elimination. Oh yeah, and she is still lying to Patty, because she goes to see 'Greg' towards the end of the episode, but I am guessing Patty already knows about this, because she knows about everything, as per her character's requirements.

The second main plotline involves Frobisher and how he is reacting to how events are transpiring in the case. It seems his family is falling apart, and he feels his wife may leave him, which would not only be bad for his personal life, but would also probably hurt his case pretty badly. At one point he discusses options with his scary minion who he has been using to follow Katie around. First the option of buying her off is discussed, which is dismissed because Frobisher thinks that if a judge found out about it that would be bad, because it is clear witness tampering. A more rational approach it seems, is witness murdering, which Frobisher agrees to after initial moral protest after 1) a tender moment looking at his family having fun, and 2) a not so tender moment of him snorting cocaine with a woman he's having sex with in a limo, probably a hooker. Everyone who has seen Scarface knows that rich men who like women and cocaine are like, evil. So the hit is out, and for a moment we think that a creepy hit-man with a creepy mustache might kill her, but again, she has to live, law of elimination, so she survives, and Frobisher calls off the hit because her encounter with the hit man leads Katie to agree to sign his lawyer's non-disclosure agreement. Speaking of the lawyer, he does a pretty awful southern accent, and anyone whose ever watched him on Law and Order or Oz before is probably fairly put off by it. Or at least I am.

Meanwhile, in the present, Ellen doesn't have much to do: a birthday party with a blatant product placement (hey, an Olive Garden gift certificate!), a couple arguments with her boss Patty, in which she seemed a little wooden frankly, and a scene where she is given a brand new, completely 'off the hook' (her words) apartment from Patty. Now I'm sure that this apartment will not, in any way, be used to set her up for murder later on in the show once she figures out how evil her boss really is. I mean, that couldn't possibly have anything to do with it, since Hewes & Co. probably has easy access to break into the apartment and cause some havoc, right? Of course not.

In the past, there isn't really much to talk about. The cops figure it isn't a robbery because the engagement ring is still present, there are a couple of very brief flashes for context (look, dead fiance! look, Ellen in jail!), and then finally at the very end, after an interrogator tells her that they believe she is innocent, there is a scene where she drops the murder weapon, a minature Statue of Liberty figure. Creative murder weapon, not so creative twist, because there's no way I'm buying that she actually did it.

So, while there are some good performances, and I suppose the show is worth watching, I am a little frustrated by the predictability of it all, and the misfocused attention of the story lines. I guess it gives Glenn Close a good opportunity to be awesome and get an Emmy nomination, which by me, is fine. If it also gets a writing nomination I'm probably going to have to vomit though.

2 comments:

Edward Copeland said...

I didn't even make it through the second episode for many of the reasons you spelled out. It's just a yawner to me. I find Saving Grace much more interesting.

watch Damages said...

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