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Damages: Season 2 - I Lied, Too (Season opener review)

Damages, Season 2

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from our favourite television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the second season opening episode of acclaimed legal drama Damages, entitled I Lied, Too.

What’s the story? Following the Frobisher settlement Patty (Glenn Close) is concentrating on establishing a charitable foundation when an old friend, Daniel Purcell (William Hurt) contacts her for help. Ellen (Rose Byrne) continues working with the FBI to destroy Patty, while Frobisher (Ted Danson) recovers from being shot in a private hospital.

Why so good? Legal drama Damages was among the best American imports of 2008 when it aired last year on the BBC, thanks to its sharp plotting, brilliant acting and flair for throwing in plenty of twists.

The second season opener I Lied, Too proved that it still has that ability to enthrall and keep you guessing and was both thrilling and puzzling from the outset.

The creators seem to have upped the stakes, too, surrounding returning cast members Close and Byrne with an even better cast of newcomers. Hence, William Hurt gets to play a shady former friend of Patty’s (possibly an ex-lover?), while Timothy Olyphant – of Deadwood and Die Hard 4 fame – is a man trying to come to terms with the death of a loved one. In typical Damages fashion, however, neither man is probably who they seem.

The format, however, remains the same. Season 1 began with Byrne’s Ellen fleeing from an attempted murder and finding her fiancee dead in the bath-tub, before following the events leading up to those incidents.

Season 2 found Ellen chatting with an unknown adversary, probing for answers to her questions, before revealing that she had a gun. Who that person is remains a mystery, as viewers were invited back six months earlier to find out how she got there…

Needless to say, very few of season two’s cards have been revealed as yet. We have the players, who are split into two distinct categories: the returning cast members, all bearing the scars (or psychological damages) from the past season, and the newcomers, who are set to become key pawns in the latest game.

Patty, for her part, is struggling to cope with her guilt over Ray Fiske’s suicide, as well as the memory of a still-born child. Yet she’s as devious as ever, undoubtedly masterminding a drugs revelation that ensured the funding for her charity foundation remained in place.

It’s a measure of Close’s immense talent that she can make Patty evil and loathe-worthy one minute, and sympathetic and almost vulnerable the next. We really shouldn’t give her the time of day, yet somehow we’re drawn to her like a moth to the flame.

Ellen, meanwhile, is attempting to gain revenge for the events of season one, which culminated in her fiancee’s murder and an attempt on her own life. For the former, she blames the injured Frobisher, while for the latter she has Patty in her sights.

Byrne remains, arguably, the show’s weak link. She continues to lack the really killer instinct that makes her seem quite such a credible opponent for a woman of Patty’s skills. Perhaps this is deliberate… but Ellen could benefit from a little more charisma and a little more deviousness. She remains a little too weak.

Of the other significant returning character, Ted Danson’s Frobisher is a broken man, haunted by the public perception of him and the repercussions of his legal case. Hooked up on life support, and unable to eat solid food, he is very much a shell of his former self… although there are glimpses that he hasn’t quite learned his lessons. His request not to be shaved and to have tubes re-inserted into his nose for the visit of his wife showed that he still possessed a devious streak.

Of the new characters, William Hurt’s Daniel Purcell poses the most obvious interest, not least because of his mysterious past relationship with Patty. She clearly wants nothing to do with him, or his case (involving a corporation and a health scam?), but found herself drawn back into his world by the end of the episode when she was called to his home to find his wife murdered. The question, of course, will be who’s responsible…

Timothy Olyphant, meanwhile, is an intriguing presence as a man in therapy who is attempting to come to terms with the death of his wife in a drink-related car crash. Clearly driven by revenge, he offered Ellen the number of a man who could supply her with a gun, should she wish to deal with Frobisher in a similar fashion. But is he who he claims to be? And did he ultimately supply the weapon used by Ellen at the beginning and end of the episode?

Which brings us to the show-stopping final seconds, when Ellen was seen to shoot whoever she had hostage. The safe, obvious assumption is that she had Patty held captive? But then that’s too easy for a show of Damages quality.

So, who else could be there? Frobisher, perhaps? Maybe even Olyphant’s character. Or how about members of the FBI? Are they who they appear to be?

Two things are for sure with Damages… we’re going to have immense fun finding out, and no one can be trusted.

What did you think?