I think it's pretty clear that FX is on to something big here. It didn't take much for Patty Hewes (Glenn Close as good as she's ever been) to be FX's new reigning female lead. Frankly, I'm terrified of her.
Patty Hewes. The beginning, middle, and end when it comes to law in this twisted tale of deception, lies, loyalty, and death. From the very beginning when I first meet a bloody Ellen Parsons right to the end when she calls for a lawyer, you're constantly asking how Patty fits into the whole mess. I was given plenty of clues. Some subtle and some not so much (Saffron's dog collar was about as in your face as you can get). But I truly loved the way the story unfolded, especially through the flashbacks.
Some shows use flashbacks only as it suits them. They're peppered erratically throughout the show, only used when it fills a hole in the story. Damages has a bit of a twist on this usage. The flashbacks are the true story, whereas the present day stuff (where the real mystery lies) feels almost like a flash-forward. It doesn't feel forced either. The difference is that rather than being quick blips on the radar, the flashbacks are the meat and the present day stuff is lacking.
Whenever a scene from the present day popped in, it was solely because something in the past triggered it. There was always something to tie it in. It was a nice touch and it made the entire episode flow much more smoothly despite the fact that we were moving back and forth from six months ago to present day. It felt seamless and a lot of shows (films, too) using that technique don't achieve that feel as often as you'd like.
OK, enough about the style of the show. The short answer is that it works and it works well. On to the characterization. Rather than dissect everyone, let's just look at Patty and Frobisher (Danson is about as far away from Cheers and Becker as you can get in this role). I feel like it's still a bit too early to take apart Ellen, suffice to say that I love how I was introduced to her as the victim only to find out immediately that she's actually an integral part to the entire story.
I love the connections between Patty and Arthur. They're almost the same person. Dedicated, successful, and extremely good at what they do. By the end of the hour I wasn't sure which side I was rooting for. They're both ruthless, but at the same time they both have families that they're trying to look out for and provide for. It's a dichotomy that just happens to be full of similarities. That sounds completely contradictory, but I hope you get what I'm trying to say.
The one thing I don't get is why try and paint those two so similarly? Frobisher is supposed to be the classic Enron-esque bad guy. Of course you want to introduce things that make him seem wronged and innocent. Why not play against stereotypes and actually make him the genuine good guy and Patty the legit bad girl? For a while I thought they were going this route until I found out that Patty was indeed married, had a son, and she was deeply troubled about her family. So she has a soft side. Fine. I just think it may have been better to save that tidbit for a few episodes. The longer she seemed completely heartless, the better. Although, the final few scenes did save some face in that regard.
Other stuff on my mind:
- Why is Frobisher trying to buy out a settlement if he truly says he did nothing? Well that's a dumb question. Obviously he did it. Or does he actually just want this behind him so he can get on with his life? You could make a good argument for either scenario.
- Again, with Frobisher. Why is he invested in Katie's restaurant? Sounds like a conspiracy to me. Something is being covered up. The question is what did she see or hear that fateful weekend in Florida?
- Did anyone actually believe that Patty really fired Tom? By doing so, she created a shoulder for Ellen to cry on. He would be too valuable to lose since Ellen trusts him.
- Finally, where does Hollis Nye play into Ellen's life? She turned down his job offer, but it appears that she kept in touch with him.
Damages... thoroughly impressive.