There comes an episode in every season of Damages that overloads us with the personal lives of the accused Big Bads. It’s an important aspect, and I always appreciate knowing who these people are outside of the suits that almost always define them. In a show where the heroes are just as morally murky as its villains, I like getting a glimpse behind-the-scenes. It becomes a challenge of how sympathetic you may grow. Seeing Arthur Frobisher or Howard Erickson with their respective families certainly made you question what kind of a liar they were, and to whom they were better at fooling. And so it was that we were treated to the personal life of Channing McClaren, in an episode directed by Damages alum Tate Donovan, no less!
It turns out, there’s more wrong with Mr. McClaren than his public image. He has an illegitimate child whose life he wants to improve, a child with high-functioning autism. As we see McClaren meticulously organize his cigarette case, hack away once more, and defending his son’s skill sets with great hope for the future, it suddenly becomes clear that Ryan Phillippe’s understated and sometimes socially-awkward acting thus far has been more in control that it seemed. It’s a curious addition to McClaren’s plate, introducing his autism, but not an implausible one. There may not be enough time or interest in five more episodes to flesh out McClaren’s rekindling relationship with his son and ex-lover, but I do wonder how his condition will be incorporated into the case. Will it be manipulated for garnering sympathy in court, or merely just used to further develop him as a character? Either way, I’m very intrigued to study his nuances in earlier episodes upon repeat viewings — obviously his mannerisms weren’t as in-your-face as the cigarette reordering as this week’s hour, but it’d be interesting to note Phillippe’s acting techniques all the same.
This brings us to another outed secret, and one that will hopefully cut down on Patty and Kate’s vague conversations about Kate’s “client” (which reminded me of Lost, which also loved to employ vague conversations until the audience has learned the secret, then suddenly loosening people’s speech patterns). As expected, the client is Patty’s father, a figure whom Patty holds a great deal of animosity towards. Patty has dark secrets and very private moments, and we always have to dig far to unearth them, (I keep thinking back to the haunting image of her uncontrollable crying at the lake house in season one) and I am fascinated to see what revelations come out in these final episodes. Patty’s resolutions with her father may nicely compliment Ellen’s with her mother, as both fled from family lives to plunge into careers. Their similarities are further highlighted by their dreams, which are warning us of foreboding danger. In case that wasn’t already apparent enough.
But danger has a face, and that is the face of Jack Bristow. It’s always a delight seeing Victor Garber on screen, and Damages is a show that is molded for him. The head of Princefield’s turn from game-face public image to the man who leaves F-bomb filled voicemails with his mistress Naomi Walling was powerful, and it will be a continued delight to watch Bennett Herreshoff (I consistently love the names Damages gives its characters) square off against Patty Hewes. Now that we have met what seems to be the man behind the curtain, hopefully next week will resume with the (seemingly?) regularly-filled flashforwards, and find out what party is behind the attempted murder of Ellen. And now that these memories of Patty’s hit on Ellen from their days in the Frobisher case are back in full force, I would really appreciate more potential clues than more quick flashes at scenes we can recite in our sleep by now. That being said, I do want another dream sequence with a lot of the men of Patty’s past. But that just may be my desire to see Ted Danson, Tate Donovan, Željko Ivanek, and all the other greats back together just one more time.
Now that Ellen has the same Samurai Seven information as Patty, it would seem that they’re once more on even ground, but then Patty gained access to the information about Bennet and Naomi. She also gained a Tupperware filled with cookies that she would consider eating only in absolute solitude. Maybe she should bring them to the lake house.
It’s hard to believe only five episodes of Damages remain, but there’s a lot that needs to happen. Now that we’ve hit the halfway point, I’m hoping the rest of the season really kicks into gear. This was another slower episode, but we gained a lot of necessary information. I only wish there was a better way to propel the plot alongside with it. And while there are more twists to still emerge, the presence of our head adversary and some further fleshed-out details means that the pieces are certainly set. Now it’s just time to let them go to war.
Alternate Damages Episode Title of the Week: “You Can Get the Tupperware Back to Me Whenever.”