The penultimate episode of Damages finds itself bookended with Patty giving haunting advice to Ellen. Both More chilling than any of the dream sequences that have thankfully been abandoned, Patty first warns Ellen of the taste of success, and then plays the role of soothsayer. After a long and silent sequence of Ellen soaking in the surroundings of Patty’s office, her former mentor tells her that she doesn’t believe Ellen will ever step foot there again. Regardless of what Ellen says, regardless of whether she lives or dies, the scene felt like it was saying goodbye for Ellen there as much as it did for us as viewers. It served as an appropriately eerie closing to set up the show’s final hour, which I now hope is longer than an hour in some capacity, only due to the sheer number of moments that need to happen. Remember that custody case?
I hold a special sort of reverence for penultimate episodes of shows at a pedestal almost as high as the finales themselves. Obviously the nature of the show itself depends on how much weight such episodes receive, and though Damages is serialized, its season-based cases do provide a sense of resetting a good deal of the stories year after year. Though aside from that, there are still five years worth of Patty/Ellen rivalries that need to come to fruition, and this episode did deliver on that front. I am incredibly excited to see the final showdown of Hewes and Parsons, but that would have been the case no matter what the episode contained. “I Like Your Chair” may not have served the appetite-whetting of Lost’s “What They Died For,” Six Feet Under’s “Static” or Big Love’s “Exorcism” as far as penultimates go, but it did introduce key information and throw some nice last-minute alliance changing into the mix. We should be in for a hopefully surprising closing argument.
As with all fifth acts in Damages, we have a spurned sidekick who changes sides. Rutger Simon, now feeling extreme animosity for Channing and his grievances, plans to testify against his former business partner. Hint: Don’t call McClaren a half-wit, regardless of how half-witted of a move it is to fire your partner a week before you go on trial. But humans do foolish things, a phrase which here could substitute for the name of the show. We also learned that Rutger provided Herreshoff the identity of Naomi Walling, and Rutger’s devotion to his company is such that he wants to be in charge — no McClaren figurehead — and he wants funding to keep it going. Herreshoff agreed. So did Patty. Though Rutger is one of the more likable characters this season, I can’t help but fear he ends up with an unpleasant outcome in some capacity.
A curious introduction was Ellen’s father. We’ve met him before, and we’ve heard of Mrs. Parsons’s struggles with him at scattering lengths throughout this season, but we’ve yet to see him until this eleventh hour. So why now? Why include him at all? A few possibilities:
- Thematic relevance: Since this season featured Patty’s disappointing father, we see Ellen’s side of the coin as well. Especially after Patty’s Joker-esque speech in the airport to the Batman that is Ellen about how important they are to each other, seeing as many of their similarities as possible is always welcome. Not to mention that the Mr. is to the Mrs. as Patty is to Ellen. Someone that they feel taunted by, but someone they remain drawn to time after time. He also proves himself as someone else Ellen is willing to stand up to at gunpoint, which is a great evolution for her, and one she has been working for ever since her first season attack.
- He pushed Ellen off the roof. Though it may be unbelievable to swallow, your child pointing a gun at you with the intention and determination to shoot is a haunting memory that will never fade. It would also be an appropriate rugpull, to go from assuming the cause of Ellen’s death was due to something in the case, then Scully, and finally a case of domestic struggles (another similarity to Big Love). It would still make sense if Scully was involved however, due to his presence in the flashforwards, not to mention Ellen revealing all of her chips to him. What’s that saying? Pride comes before the….something.
- Least interestingly, the need to wrap up plot threads that have been around from the show’s beginning. I’d like to think there’s more to it than just that, as Damages has been known to keep a tightly-wound season, with rare deviations in relevance ever occurring. If this is the case, than I expect a train compartment montage akin to The Darjeeling Limited, informing us of everyone’s whereabouts. Wes Krulik, Katie Connor, Leonard Winstone, Tom Shayes’s wife, Arthur Frobisher, I’m looking at all five of you.
I haven’t talked too much about the case at hand, but that’s largely due to the fact it certainly feels among the lowest of priorities at the given moment. I am very excited to see the trial itself, but that’s once again because I would be excited to see Patty and Ellen square off against each other regardless of the circumstances. The few last minute allegiance changes do add a nice garnish, of course. I still am baffled to comprehend how, when, and even if the custody case will ever be wrapped up, but it’s another plot of which I’m not too invested. Maybe Ellen falling from a building will help put that on hold. Guess we’ll see next week!
And then we have our lovely closing and foreboding scene. Now that Ellen knows for certain that Patty was most certainly involved in the hit, she brings Patty a naive misdirection of her own. The maddest of props, once more, to Glenn Close and Rose Byrne, who really are bringing their best games in their final moments. You can really tell that they’re nearing the end of five intense years of this journey, and it will be sad to let it go. Ellen leaves the office — possibly for the last time — and Patty regains her throne that Ellen sat on briefly. One hour remains.
Alternate Damages Episode Title of the Week: “This is the Last Time You’ll Ever Step Foot in This Office.”
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