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Damages: Season 3 - Review

Damages: Season 3

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

GLENN Close legal drama Damages has never been the easiest show to follow plot-wise thanks to the innumerable plot twists and shifting time frames it continually employs – but season 3 proved the most complex yet… while remaining every bit as brilliant.

Taking a story that could have been ripped straight from the headlines, Season 3 found Patty Hewes (Close) and her team taking on the Tobin family, after being appointed by the government to recover billions of dollars in stolen (and hidden) assets that have left a considerable amount of people facing financial ruin.

Heading up the family is its powerful patriarch Louis (Len Cariou)… but closer inspection reveals him to be only the tip of the iceberg, as his wife Marilyn (Lily Tomlin) clearly knows more than she’s letting on, and his son Joe (Campbell Scott) also has his own ruthless part to play.

Then there’s the family lawyer, Leonard Winstone (Martin Short), a wily customer with his own shady past, who remains fiercely loyal to the Tobin’s and their fortune.

Watching from the sidelines, meanwhile, is Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), who has long since turned her back on Hewes & Associates to work with the New York District Attorney, but who finds herself gradually pulled back into Patty’s world thanks to her friendship with Hewes’ senior partner, Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan).

As ever, this third season of Damages kept us gripped from beginning to end, thanks to countless betrayals, the murder of one much loved character, and the ongoing battle of wits between Hughes, Parsons and their various enemies.

And if the financial aspect of this particular storyline did sometimes confuse, then it’s credit to the writers that the human cost of the transactions and subsequent cover-ups never became lost, placing new and old characters in increasingly desperate situations that equally had viewers hooked.

As such, it provided a number of performances to savour – and not just from the series regulars such as the ever-excellent Close or the sympathetic Donovan.

Tomlin, for instance, proved an excellent adversary for Hewes as the despicable family matriarch, whose transition from apparent victim to evil manipulator was chillingly handled, as was Campbell Scott’s slow decline from holier-than-thou son to power-obsessed possible murderer.

But perhaps the pick of this season’s cast was Martin Short, who provided an incredible (and Emmy nominated) performance as conflicted lawyer Winstone in what must rate as one of the most career redefining roles I can remember.

Credit must also go to the show ‘s writers for the way in which they continued to draw from its rich past, allowing room for the return of key characters from the past, including Ted Danson’s wonderfully villainous Arthur Frobisher, and Timothy Olyphant’s bad boy cop. Both helped to tie up loose ends left over from the first and second seasons.

Hence, while demanding your complete attention throughout its 13 episodes, Damages ensured that the emotional investment was rewarded with a satisfying pay-off… and one that, crucially, could have brought the show to a premature end had it not been saved in the US by a rival channel and given a deserved fourth season. Find out more

Taken on its own merits, though, Season 3 provided yet more compelling proof of why this particular series deserves to take its place among the all-time greats of American TV for the way in which it mixes rich, multi-layered characters with intelligent plotting, clever twists and stories that always keep you guessing right up until the very last act.

TV doesn’t get too much better than this.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 550mins
UK DVD Release: October 18, 2010