Review: DAMAGES Season 2

damages season 2 patty hewes
By: Aleks Chan

DAMAGES, FX’s performance showcase in the gloss of a legal thriller, opens season 2 on a very similar note: Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), the camera tight in her face, mutters interrogative nothings at an off-screen hostage. She says something to the effect of: “I just want the truth,” or rather something similar to that. I was distracted by the gun she brandishes from beneath the screen – jarred by the “Look! I have a gun!” face Byrne makes.

But that’s what DAMAGES is: one giant farce, contingent on us buying that the halls of Hewes and Associates (where Ellen works for the eponymous Patty Hewes, played with icy fierceness by Glenn Close) and the streets of New York City are simply dripping with tension so that we won’t notice how silly it all is. It’s complicated and twisty simply for the sake of it, ultimately empty in it’s strides.

Case in point: the plot is once again told in long-form flashbacks (though the constant cuts to the “present” have welcomely been sedated since last season), to six months earlier, when Ellen had just begun working as an informant for the FBI, who, like her, are trying to take Patty down for her scheming, cutthroat ways. (Ellen believes Patty was the mastermind in a plot to kill her.) “I want to destroy her!” Ellen exclaims, unconvinced.

Meanwhile, Patty, fresh off from gutting billionaire Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson, back again in the show’s only worthy role) for screwing his employees, is off solving a mystery involving an ominous ruby ring and William Hurt’s scientist character, who has a history with Patty neither of them are willing to share. Though their relationship is played as if they were accomplices in some grand heist, their connection isn’t all that surprising given how obvious it is (though I won’t spoil it, because I’m not allowed). There’s big company suits having whispery meetings in penthouse-looking office buildings – apparently the chemical research he conducted for a Big Energy Company has been botched, and said company will doing anything to keep him quiet about his findings.

But everything in this massive machine pivots around a central gear: Patty Hewes, or by proxy, Glenn Close’s performance. Close admirably compensates for the meekness in both her character and story line with nuance: she can wink a smile to the camera on LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY, and turn right back around and shred someone into pieces in a single glance. That’s great and all, but DAMAGES tries to orchestrate an entire story around a character that the producers are unwilling to develop – they try to make up for that with a ostensibly taut John Grisham-style thriller that’s purposely made complicated to the point where it’s just dull.

Patty’s meant to be the most interesting thing about the show, when really she’s just the least-boring. Ellen, out for vengeance for her fiancé’s murder and traumatized by her attack, is attending group therapy sessions where she meets Wes (Timothy Olyphant), her brooding, has-a-deep-dark-secret new love interest. Olyphant, so commanding in DEADWOOD as Seth Bullock, is rendered a harmless puppy here, especially during his exchanges with Byrne, who’s trying so hard to make Ellen seemed hardened that she makes her even more flat. And that’s why DAMAGES flubs at being a thriller: there isn’t a single character worth attaching to. Were supposed to be piqued with twist and after overblown twist, but without any plausible emotional implications. So really, what’s the point?

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  • allie

    That’s a harsh review. I really enjoyed season 1 and am really looking forward to season 2.

  • lynn

    love the blog and check it daily…but, seriously, do you like anything anymore?

  • Dear Lynn,

    Just a heads up, you may have missed that I didn’t actually write this review! New contributer Aleks Chan did (see top of the article). I in fact loved the first two episodes of DAMAGES and can’t wait to see what happens next. And as for other things I love lately: SCRUBS, LIE TO ME, TRUST ME and PINKBERRY! I’m in LA right now and just downed my third pinkberry in as many days. Yum 🙂

    But seriously, thanks for visiting the web site and taking the time to comment. Have a great day

  • lynn

    oh no!…I totally missed that and do apologize…I’m really looking forward to Damages, and after the Dexter review (because, really– it was really good this season) I was getting a little scared. Glad to hear that you loved the Damages eps, and can’t wait to see them myself.

  • Theo

    A bit harsh, but I am so excited for tonight’s Premiere.
    The 1st season was Amazing.

  • Jenifer

    I am also thrilled to see the show… I just hope it is a good as last season….

  • Mike

    The worst review in internet history.

    “Hey look, I can be critical of something everyone loves and it makes me look like a smart reviewer, even though my writing is third grade level.”

    Shoot yourself and save us the pain.

  • alex

    absolutely horrible review. “aleks” is definitely going out of his way to insult completely ridiculous points here, probably just looking for controversy. please use someone else from now on.

    a) how exactly is purcell and hewes hinted to be involved in some great heist? do you even know what you’re talking about here? before the season started, hurt was supposed to be someone’s from patty’s past, so i had it narrowed down to the guy who slashed her years before, or a past lover or client. obviously we can rule out slasher, and it definitely seems personal, so i’ve got my theory lined up (and yes, it involves Julia).

    b) silly, twisty, and ultimately empty? laughable assertions. and i’d be slightly curious to see what exactly Aleks holds up as quality entertainment, but that would probably mean trying to get through more of his writing, and that just ain’t worth it.

    c) and all aleks’ credibility goes out the windown when he insults the acting of Close and Byrne, repeatedly. “there isnt a single character worth attaching to”? “no plausible emotional implications”? … definitely the worst piece of writing ive ever seen on this site.

    d) here’s an example of an incredibly stupid, unneccessary writing: “everything in this massive machine pivots around a central gear: Patty Hewes, or by proxy, Glenn Close’s performance”. yes, you did manage to use both pivots and proxy in this sentence, so your word-of-the-day calander is definitely getting some use, but when closely examined, it sounds smart at first until you see how awkward his language really is. why use 5 words when 1 will do? because your a bad writer aleks.

    and this isnt to say that you cant dislike damages or else you have no taste. I’ve got some of my friends hooked, but this kind of show obviously isnt for everyone. thats why crap like Momma’s Boys gets made.. something tells me that’s more Alek’s speed… no tricky flashbacks, complicated plotting, or nuanced dialogue to confuse his feeble mind 🙂

    anyway i humbly ask that someone else take over the reviews, someone who doesnt have such poor skills and obvious negative bias; obviously only fans will read the reviews, why not also have one write it instead of some hack to dump all over it.

  • brijit

    sounds like someone’s a gilted wanna be law student
    I absolutely love this show-I dvr it and watch both backtoback episodes
    my tuesday nights are not to be messed with
    but whatever to each his/her own

  • Bec

    I loved the first season, and after watching the first ep of season 2 – i have to say, there is no guts or urgency to the plot as with the first… I’ll keep watching and see where it goes, but season one was hard to beat! It seems like they have a new writer?


    Well! Glenn Close you are fantastic and to be wonderful in the season two of damages! You deserve win the price again because you are the my star and I follow the your light. Glenn Close I like you so much! You work very fine. Keep always shine for me with your light in the my way. So sorry for my english but I am try learning. You going to win the Emmy thiis years and you deserve win all the price. Your fan. Leniced

  • Andrew

    Aleks – superb review and agree completely. I suppose one can’t help it that there are people out there who thnk series two is decent – somone else must favor mindless drivel, otherwise this wouldn’t have been released.
    Damages one almost cracked it as a decent series, but any glimmer of that has now gone forever. It does seem as though the writers strike or something affected the ouput of S2, and certainly the direction is different and lacking. Glenn Close, William Hurt et al must be incredibly embarrassed by this nonsense, and entirely reticent of their involvement.
    The acting is indeed flat, the script is simple to the point of morose, and the story as interesting as a discarded, used colostomy bag on a packed commuter train.
    The Damages production team took the title a bit too literally and have ruined the format beyond recognition. If this was deliberate, they were probably forced into adapting the format to suit the dumber mass viewership, and thus it now appeals to the soap-opera loving bored housewife, and only the the soap-opera loving bored housewife.
    Loved the report, hope to see you back here soon Aleks Chan.

  • Mark

    Love this show-just found it by accident one night. I love the way Byrne interacts with Patti while secretly plotting against her, suppressing her fear that her cover may be blown-brilliant acting.


    it would be interesting to know what drivel you like. You probably love the View and have not missed one episode.

  • Ronda

    Damages is a great show and I wouldn’t miss an episode. You should watch the show again and re-write your article.

  • Sarah – UK

    The review almost put me off – but then I realised that the reviewer was just playing with us. Considering the amount of violence, murder, slease + more reality slease on TV, this slick tense drama makes TV a real pleasure. Bring it on

    Sarah (UK)

  • fruk

    Excellent Review.
    Series 1 was edgy and grainy.
    The direction, photography and editing made you forgive
    the gaping plot holes.
    And there were three great male characters and actors who
    they killed off – leaving us with two unbelievable females.
    Buy season 1 on DVD and watch it again, instead of
    the Season 2 dross.

  • paul

    I have to think the reviewer has either been watching the wrong program or he had his imagination surgically removed soon after birth.
    It is very easy to pick holes in just about any movie or TV drama if you are not prepared buy into the premise of the drama in the first place.
    If it were merely a case of things being far fetched, overly complex or silly then we would all be sitting home looking at the walls.
    So if you have not seen Damages 1 or 2 then ignore this reviewer he is a twat and make your own mind up. It would be my guess that you won’t be disappointed.

  • pakimbash akiz

    really harsh!!!!! i love damages, glenn close is just riveting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bill Nussbaumer

    I have to say after watching 10 episodes of season two I’m feeling what this review is saying. I watched hour 9 and 10 of the show yesterday and when I was done, I wanted that 2 hours of my life back. The show has reached a new level of boring for me. I run through a list of characters in my head and think of who’d I be sad to see get killed and the answer is none of them, not one character has generated an emotional attachment for me. (Ok I’d be sad if Ellen’s mom was killed.) I can’t even figure out why William Hurt’s character is important to the show. There’s no real development of his story as a father, husband or his extramarital relationship. His plot points could have been served equally well just introducing a fake toxicity report from some random faceless company. To top it off the environmental infractions seem like a tacked on addition to make UNR even “more bad”.

    The plot twists were mostly a strength in season one but by this point the twists have become so formulaic they themselves have become boring. While you don’t always know exactly what is going to happen, it’s a safe bet what you just saw is not the truth. You only saw 35 seconds of that event, the next 20 seconds will turn that on it’s head and then 3 weeks later you’ll see it from a different camera and it will once again be turned on its head. For example Ellen talks to the feds, says one thing and then gets out of the car. Later it turns out she got back in the car and decides to do exactly the opposite. While sudden revelatory plot twists (ala “The Usual Supects”) can be great fun, after awhile you get tired of being lied to just so the show can spring the truth on you at a later date.

    All in all the show has some strong actors that do what they can to put life into their characters but the quick pace of the convoluted plot leaves little room for true character devleopment or even proper treatment of the individual plot threads. It seems as the show moves along with the express purpose of setting you up to be suprised with a series of “reveals” with the biggest yet to come in the season finale.

    I’m glad there are still lots of fans for the show, I really wanted to like it but I guess it’s just not for me.

  • Adam

    Bill Nussbaumer’s review is the one that should be at the top of this page. The biggest thing Damages season 2 had going for it at the start was our desire to see Patty get what’s coming to her. I tuned in to see a showdown, and I fully expected Ellen to become as dark and heartless as Patty. Now all of a sudden I’m watching her battle Big Energy? It seems like an unnecessary distraction.

    Frobisher should have died in that field. It was a perfect, poetic end. And this season should have been about revenge.

    I also miss Ellen’s adorable late fiance and Frobisher’s lawyer.

  • BG

    As of November-December 2006,

    Aleks Chan is a young (16) writer living in San Antonio, and hopes to one day leave the homeland to be Gillian Flynn’s successor at Entertainment Weekly.

    Needs some time to grow up. In the meantime there is The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Scrubs, American Idol, lots of nonchallenging TV out there.

  • BG

    Here is the source url for the quoted material in my post:

  • Kim

    Just finish Season 2, love it! Satisfying ending! Will there be Season 3?

  • RobertC

    Whilst some may decry this show as overly convoluted and totally lacking the requisite emotional connection with the central characters, you have to remember that this is easily some of the best writing on TV at the moment. I can’t recall a recent show that has been as tightly written and scripted as Damages, let alone with the same star-powered cast.

    Some reviewers have compared the flashback/flashforward style to Lost, but the key difference they forget to mention is that Damages rewards viewers who stick around until the end, whereas Lost has become an entangled morass of unanswered questions and utter confusion.

    With Damages, there is always a sense that the answers will be revealed. But the fun, as the producers intimated, is how the answers are arrived at. I enjoy the twists and turns because it keeps you interested, even if they are occasionally tiresome or predictable. But that’s serialised TV. We all know the purpose of Season 2 was for Ellen and Patty to have some kind of showdown. However, it is ultimately the series of events in the intervening episodes that make the showdown all the more powerful. We find that a number of characters are slyly playing both sides and the contest of wit and cleverness between, say, Walter and Claire, or Patty and Ellen; is engrossing to watch on screen.

    The only character who I thought wasn’t used appropriately was that of William Hurt. On the one hand, he is unhappy about the egregious environmental damage being committed by UNR, but he is all the more happy to perjure himself on the back of a handsome UNR pay-off. This is justified with excuses about wanting to look after his daughter, yet his motives never seem that convincing because the script portrays him as being deeply haunted by the death of his wife (which he unsuccessfully instigated) whilst enjoying chummy sexual relations with Claire Maddox.

  • Holy Cheese

    Aleks you’re bang on. Your final paragraph sums it perfectly. The first series was great. But I just finished the second, if this series makes it to the completion of the six season deal of the main actors. I will be hugely surprised.

    “Alex”, you have nothing to be proud, of other than you can spell a four letter word, which happens to be your name. Like the use of a smiley, really added weight to your thoughts.

  • LJR

    What a bifurcated set of comments.

    What I notice is this: the negative comments are substantive and the positive comments are idolatrous. No one on the positive side seems to have any insightful reasons for liking the show other than they like Glen Close or they liked the first season or that it’s the best drivel out there in a wasteland.

    Aleks’ review was well written and, yes, damning too. But not the first to indicate that the writers missed the mark for this second season. Frankly, I was getting tired of the gimmicks toward the end of season one and I was hoping the plot lines would tighten and flashbacks diminish for the second season. Sadly this has not come to pass.

    Obviously a bunch of “Close” minded sycophants have dropped in here to protect the reputation of “her holiness.” Sad but predictable. Pathetic little creatures who feel that they have been attacked when someone criticizes their favorite show. It’s just a damned TV show produced for profit, not art.