What I love most about Damages is its ability to create constant tension. The show’s history proves that it is capable of all sorts of shocks, so we know there are plenty of perilous situations that can arise. However, what also proves to be just as heart pounding are the building blocks along the way. There’s just a sense of foreboding dread with every week; things cannot possibly ever end well. It’s why a deposition scene at the end of “Failure is Failure” can be just as tense as Tom Shayes’s murder in season three. It’s why a job interview seems as sinister as Arthur Frobisher’s crooked cop hitman. Damages continues to make the legal world seem five stops past ruthless.
I read a review once that said everyone on this show is a power-hungry douchebag. While that reviewer had a hard time enjoying Damages for that reason, I think it makes it all the more interesting. We watch plenty of shows with characters doing unsympathetic things, and yet we still find ourselves invested. No one on Mad Men ever seems to be content, Walter White on Breaking Bad has pulled a Daniel Plainview in terms of corruption, and The Walking Dead’s Sheriff Rick Grimes has become just as ugly as the Walkers. Anti-heroes’ roles on television have made for some incredibly compelling hours, and as Damages comes to a close, it’s this battle of these wealthy power-hungry people trying outsmart each other that keeps their rehearsals just as exciting as the final performance.
This was a great episode for Patty’s emotions all around. Her resentment towards Ellen is dazzling, particularly during their deposition duration negotiations. In addition, Patty loved to swirl around Ellen, coyly trying to intimidate her with a poisonous, almost sweet nature. As more and more facts from the case were unveiled, Patty and Ellen had a self-reflexive conversation regarding the final season as a whole:
Patty: “You know why this is my favorite kind of lawsuit? All of the facts of the case are in question. So if the facts won’t win it or lose it, what will?”
Ellen: “One of us?”
Patty: “On a nice big stage.”
Last week, Patty bested Ellen with her sneaky plan to switch the case’s judge. This week, Ellen bested Patty in the deposition. And the ‘nice big stage’ is our DirectTV feed. This week, we learned that Channing had met with Naomi twice — including a sexual encounter in Rome. Channing initially hid this to avoid news leaking, as he claims. A he-said she-said battle of MacClaren and Rachel Walling debated whether or not he attacked Naomi. Once more with Damages, it will be unclear as far as who is in the right for another few weeks, as the deceptions and double-crosses stack up as quickly as the corpses.
Throughout Rachel’s deposition, Ellen grows tired of her constant source of secondary knowledge. After she tells her that almost none of Rachel’s information can be used, Rachel whips out the wildcard: Channing’s cigarette case. You can almost see Patty coaxing Rachel how and when to make the reveal. But in the second day, Patty’s high turns in upon itself. Despite her telling Ellen that she’s not attacking with enough force, and shouldn’t waste time with phone records, it’s those very records that do Rachel in. When a falsely claimed two second conversation with Naomi nullifies most of her reputation, we are treated to a Damages favorite: Drunk angry Patty who throws glasses. Smash cut to Patty in a party hat.
Though there were no flash-forwards to Dead(?) Ellen, we were given delightfully tense moments that tease at future revelations: Kate approaching Patty with news that someone wants to see her, Mrs. Parsons needing to stay at Ellen’s place, and the murkiness of what Channing is really capable of. Season four’s finale title taught us that “Failure is Lonely.” This year, “Failure is Failure.” We’ve got a whirlwind ahead of us.
Alternate Damages Episode Title of the Week: “That’s Because Channing Thinks with His Penis.”