Damages, Season 3 (4): “See, now we’re co-operating”

Len Cariou as fraudster Louis Tobin

Like a well-cooked Mexican meal, which requires 27 ingredients and five different kinds of chillies, Damages really works best when all of its story elements have been prepared, ground up and are cooking away in one big pot of intrigue.

Damages has everything simmering along nicely now – Patty getting her teeth into both scamming Tobins, Tobin junior necking back the vodka like he’s heard Smirnoff’s are folding, Tobin senior now distrusting his son for that reason, Tommy’s cash flushed away in the Ponzi scheme, our main witness barely recovering in hospital, Ellen being sucked back in to Hewes and Associates with her sister on drugs, Martin Short’s shyster-lawyering still always one step behind …

And through all of this, Glenn Close as Patty seems to be the one wearing the toque and planning the feast. She doesn’t just play both sides off against the middle, she plays the top, bottom, front, back – probably even the north and south poles if they had an angle she could manipulate.

But, like mother like son, Patty’s son Michael turns out to be able to lie to mummy just as well as she does to everyone else. Successful businessman having now dumped former girlfriend, old enough to have been his high school teacher? Nope – still struggling artist, only now with pregnant older girlfriend. Michael is Patty’s only blind spot that I can see: she never even trusted her husband and could happily exploit her dog if need be.

However, coming up on the rails is Detective Huntley (played with looming menace by Tom Noonan) – who so far appears only in the flash forward denouement scenes. He might just be able to get the rush on Patty. Realising she doesn’t yet know Tommy’s been dumpstered, he says to sidekick: “We need to handle this delicately”. Pauses, smiling: “We need to tell her”.

Given that the episode ends with Patty now out of control and running up some stairs screaming to unknown minion “I thought I’d told you to stop” in her mobile, he may just have got the edge on her. I’d still put my money on Patty coming out on top in the end.

Admittedly, he seems to be playing Patty when she is at her weakest – in police custody and having just been in hit and run car crash. There may also something about the flash forward music that seems to drain her of her powers. She plays these scenes with a wild manic stare that’s plain scary. I think she does this to show another acting facet: her eyes can play two characters independently – with one blue and one black. Swear to God. Yet again, like the back of the head mirror acting from episode one, it works beautifully.

Spoiler alert: seems very odd to have a spoiler alert when reviewing a show which prides itself on showing its endings from the very start. But the best and most unexpected scene here is the suicide of old man Tobin (Len Cariou). I’d actually wiped it from my mind until sitting down to write this. It was strangely moving – this scamming self-centred conman, delicately lifting the poisoned cup of tea to his lips, pausing, looking into the distance and then taking the sip of death. Best suicide scene since Ray Fisk topped himself in Patty’s office in season one.

Main complaint: the vast measures of bourbon Patty and Ellen apparently consume in their evening chat – they’d be as slumped on the floor as post-poison Tobin if they really drank at that volume.

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Posted by arialbold

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