Tag Archives: Damages

Kick ass women: Glenn Close

Series 3 of Damages has just come to an end and I’m bereft. I love my weekly dose of the brilliant, evil genius lawyer that is Patty Hewes. Glenn Close plays cool, calculated manipulators better than anyone. Think back to Dangerous Liaisons and her portrayal of the gorgeous, wicked Marquise, deftly toying with the emotions, lives and loyalties of Michelle Pfeiffer and John Malkovich. She’s one of those villains you actually want to win out (well, I do).

Maybe her role as monochromatically haired Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmations was a bit over the top, but actually, I liked her in that too. Puppies, schmuppies. She’s the kind of woman I’d like to go drinking with.

Glenn Close can act the pants off anyone in her vicinity and she’s great at characters who have no moral centre. In the case of Patty Hewes, she’s happy to slaughter a pet to win a case or bribe/imprison her son’s girlfriend to get her own way. Kill someone who gets in the way if necessary. And as for Alex in Fatal Attraction? She gets a bad press in my view. Surely Michael Douglas and the bunny were asking for it.

You don’t mess with Glenn Close. She kicks ass. Maybe best not to leave her in charge of your pet though.

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Damages Series 3 (7): “You didn’t replace me”

Damages was unaccountably deferred for a week in the schedules.  (Maybe they worried we might think a conniving amoral lawyer resembled too closely one D Cameron – zing! Take that botoxed Etonman.  That’s worth another 4 points off your poll ratings.)

The fortnight has at least allowed my fevered brain to sift the tangled threads of narrative. Sadly for Mrs Bold it has merely made everything fade.  I spent most of the first 15 minutes in clarificatory mode.  And in Damages there is both back story and front story to get clear. Thank Zeus for iPlayer.

Now DA-based Ellen P is showing she has learned well from Patty the ancient skills of MindFuck.  Simulataneously a) setting up unwitting new laywer Alex for a fall in the eyes of Patty, b) strengthening her apparent friendship with Alex and c) showing Patty how she’d done it all in the same single move:  padewan no longer, she is clearly ready to be a Jedi Master.  As she herself says to the languid Glenn Close:  “You hired someone.  You didn’t replace me.” 

The frenetic plotting pace also let up a tad, allowing us to enjoy more reflective shots of fading lawyer Martin Short in crumpled deadpan mode. Watching him visit an old people’s home to find his intended visitee 5 months dead, then tracking down the person who’d sorted out the effects, you knew it had to be his long lost (and now dead) mom and down-at-heel  pop – but the bitter and vicious paternal rejection scene was cutting. 

Turns out Mr Short is not whom he seems to be (then again, who is in an average Damages episode).  He’s previously a petty grifter.  The Tobins to whom he is more like family won’t like that:  “A man with a criminal past? That’s our dad’s role in the plot – loser.  And dad managed to purloin billions:  petty grifting doesn’t cut it.”

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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”. Continue reading

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Damages: Season 3 (3): “Do you feel blessed?”

It’s a fun game to think of all the old films whose plots wouldn’t work in the era of mobile phones: Dial M for Murder, The Sting, Finding Nemo (allowing for fish mobiles).  By contrast nowadays they get routinely deployed as key plot device, notably The Wire which undermined its very name as Stringer Bell’s crew used and summarily tossed untraceable pay-as-you-go cells.

But I can’t recall a piece of TV where mobiles became a trope (critical theory term, mate) – meaning they signified something more than just being a means of saying “hi” while walking.  Damages episode three however pulled off this – so subtly though I’m not sure if I just imagined it. 

Each scene had – naturalistically and not artificially imposed – a mobile conversation, from bars, from offices, from airports, from streets.  And it mattered not which side you were on – DA and private lawyer, victim and villain, Hewes and Winstone – all played out the action on their cells.  Everyone except the estranged-from-Patty-Hewes-never-to-return Ellen Parsons, as she spent time away from NY with her hick family in the sticks.

The mobiles came to represent the sticky, tangled web of connections linking everyone together and which you can’t escape – with Patty as the spider pulling them all together.  And there, in the very last scene, what happens? As Ellen contemplates her broken family life with innocent old-technology VHS family movies playing in the background, she picks up her cell for the first time and calls Patty.  Cue music.  Ellen is back in the web.

Of course, I could be hopelessly deluded.  What makes me think they were trying something is that they had not one single Tommy’s-in-the-dumpster “flash forward to the end” scene, which is as much a signature of the programme as The Wire’s McNulty getting drunk in a bar or Vic getting eye-poppingly angry in The Shield.

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Damages: Season 3 (2): “Figure it out, Tommy”

Damages is taking a risk in season three, seemingly hinging its action around Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan), who has not been the brightest light in the Damages starry array.  Tommy is certainly the fulcrum around which episode two pivots.

The key moment is actually a great use of silence and stillness – set between rapid scenes where the dialogue never lets up for a second – as Tommy gazes shocked at a mystery file handed to him by a fellow Hewes associate.  The moment seems to last forever as he stares into the abyss.

Turns out that he has all his stock invested with a broker who then secretly placed that investment in Tobin’s now collapsed ponzi scheme.  His family’s future (and his cousins’ and his parents’ and his friends’ – as he angrily tells his wife) is wholly tied up in it.  Never heard of a balanced portfolio? For a smart lawyer he sure is dumb.

It shows the power of the scene that you empathise fully as you envisage his destroyed future stretching ahead of him – and only then remember, oh yes, he’s going to be found dead in the dumpster in 6 months anyway.  Such are the twisty-turny joys of Damages.

The acting coaches must have got to work on Tate Donovan since he now has way more than two facial expressions – somewhere upwards of six I counted in this scene alone.  Way to go.  By the end of the series he’ll be up to … oh wait.  He’ll just have the one.

Patty Hewes for once takes a bit of a back seat in this episode, but provides a diverting subplot romp with soon to be ex-husband Phil.  Toying with him mercilessly through the divorce proceedings, which is fun to watch.  And even stooping low enough to use their dog’s apparent illness as leverage.  Dumb employees and dumb animals, she’ll use anyone to get what she wants. Continue reading

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Damages – Season 3 (1): Who’s in the dumpster?

arialbold has been an excited quivering wreck since discovering the third season of Damages was upcoming on BBC. With Glenn Close as ice-queen who-will-she-get-next NY lawyer Patty Hewes, nothing is ever what it seems.

With Damages, practically the only things you seem to be able to rely on are the opening titles which have passed unscathed through into their third series.  I figured everyone would want to copy The Wire and have their opening music covered by a different cool artist each series – but maybe with Damages they need to leave you something that tells you which way is up.

The other now perennial feature – which gets a tad annoying at times – is that whenever they cut to what will be the denouement which gets slowly revealed episode by episode, everything goes slightly off kilter, with washed out colour and “eek eek” music.  It’s a useful signalling device in case you wonder why the person you have just seen bouncing happily round the office is now dead in the dumpster and oh he’s alive again.

And as a piece of TV rhetoric it’s great – constantly changing your perspective on what you’re seeing as the backstory unfolds.  In other hands it could be poor – and it verged on the hammer whack when you saw loyal and much put upon Hewes associate Tommy Shayes (who sadly only has two acting styles – happily stunned or unhappily annoyed – and wears that David Steel sartorial suicide note, the white collar and coloured shirt) watching his name going up on the door of the firm alongside Patty Hewes’, all the while you knew, you just knew, it was going to be him in the dumpster.

And this is clearly the show to be on if you want to make a strong left-field career move.  Dunno who their acting coach is but boy are they worth it.  Glenn Close had already made great TV with The Shield, but season one showed Ted Danson was not Sam Malone.  Season two had William Hurt doing his best stuff since way back.  And now season three – Martin Short! Continue reading


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