- Buy the DVD
All photos © FX
Reviewed by Will Harris
f you’re a fan of “Damages,” then you’ll appreciate this: when I mentioned to my fellow Bullz-Eye TV critic Ross Ruediger that I was working on a review of the show’s second season, he hesitated for a moment, then admitted, “I have a hard time watching that show, man. It just makes me nervous.” Is there any regular viewer of this FX series that can’t relate to that comment? Of the series’ freshman season, Bullz-Eye wrote, “After the first hour, you’re thoroughly gripped and ready to watch more, but at the same time you can’t help wondering if they can possibly maintain this level of drama for the course of the entire season, let alone into a second year.” But they did – on both counts, amazingly enough.
The chronology of “Damages” follows the same approximate pattern in its second season as it did in its first, bouncing backwards and forward through the weeks, months, and years like Mr. Peabody and Sherman in the Wayback Machine. Once again, things kick off with an event which leaves us gasping for breath and wondering how events will unfold; in this case, it’s Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), offering a short but threatening soliloquy before firing a gun at some unspecified target. And, suddenly, it’s time to rewind and begin the process of figuring out exactly what the hell’s going on.
Given everything that happened to Ellen during the course of Season One, most notably the murder of her fiancée and her own near-death experience, you’d have to argue that we learned more about her than we did any other character. In Season Two, however, there’s a full-fledged trifecta at work. Ellen is further fleshed out as we watch her deal with the repercussions of the previous season, including her decision to team with the FBI to bring down Patty Hewes (Glenn Close). But in addition to leaning about Patty’s own emotional state, how it has affected her family, and getting a poignant look into the origins of her relationship with Uncle Pete (Tom Aldredge), we also see a side of last season’s villain, Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), that we never saw coming – and not just because we were semi-convinced that he was dead at the end of Season One.
Between Danson’s much-acclaimed work and the mere fact that Close deigned to venture into a full-fledged series role (her stint on “The Shield” was a guest star gig), the street cred for “Damages” was such that several other high profile actors agreed to come and play for Season Two: William Hurt plays Daniel Purcell, a mysterious man from Patty’s past who pleads with her to take his case, and Marcia Gay Harden appears as Claire Maddox, an attorney with enough tenacity to go head to head with Patty. Timothy Olyphant (“Deadwood”) is Wes Krulick, one of the members of Ellen’s grief counseling group who – no surprise here – may well not be what he seems, and there’s also a surprisingly dark turn from Darrell Hammond as a gentleman known only as The Deacon, who works for the season’s big bad, Walter Kendrick (John Doman), and handles the dirty work that Kendrick can’t be associated with.
It can’t have been easy to maintain the same level of drama and suspense that creators Daniel Zelman, Glenn Kessler, and Todd A. Kessler constructed during the first year, but by paying close attention to what had worked and building on the strengths that they’d already established (hell, they even found a way to bring Ray Fiske back for a couple of appearances, and lord knows he wasn’t in any position to return when we last saw him), they managed it. In its second season, the series remains a powerful and constantly-unraveling drama that keeps you stressing and guessing from start to finish. Yes, it makes you nervous, but rarely has television-induced anxiety paid off so handsomely.
Special Features: The set is fleshed out with a catch-up featurette for those who missed Season One, several commentaries from cast and crew, deleted scenes from many of the episodes, brief featurettes dedicated to each of the primary characters, and a post-game wrap-up of Season Two.