"Love is nothing. Love's easy. It's what you do after that, that's the hard part."
Damages: official site
Hewes Associates (a cool tie-in site, via Geeks of Doom)
A quick Googling told me that I wasn't the first to come up with a sentiment along the lines of, "It's like The Devil Wears Prada, but with lawyers." So I'm fresh out of cute opening lines and I guess I'll just get to the review.
Damages stars Glenn Close as Patty Hewes, a high-stakes litigator who never loses, and Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons, her newest wide-eyed young protege. Tate Donovan also appears, first as Glenn Close's trusted associate, and then -- well, things change. The first two episodes alternate between a present-day timeline and flashbacks in which the bulk of the story so far has taken place; we see Ellen fresh and idealistic, but we see it from the perspective of a very different situation six months later, when everything is ... hate to say it, but damaged. Ruined, actually, and to explain more would give too much away, even though you'll totally see it coming. There are double-crossings and lies and half-truths galore; everyone's hiding something, and every scene is loaded with subtext that as of yet I have no idea how to interpret. It's exhilarating.
Perhaps because this is only a thirteen-part series, Damages plays more like a long, very complicated movie than a TV show. Rather than having a sense that anything could happen and the story could expand forever, the way you normally feel when you watch a great pilot, I get the feeling that, like a season of 24, there are going to be answers and a tightly-plotted season arc. (Um, by "a season of 24," I obviously mean "an early season of 24"!)
The great thing about Damages is that the characters -- particularly Patty -- are so crafty and dishonest, and the show so well-written, that it's totally unclear what those answers will be. All morality is undercut by the world in which Ellen finds herself. Doing the right thing is almost irrelevant to most of the characters. But there's a certain ethos of strength and vision. Patty Hewes is power-hungry and thick-skinned, low on compassion and high in cold, calculating insight. (Though Glenn Close's performance has a lot of nuance and moments of great humanity, she does give the character a fantastically icy exterior.) But Hewes is great. Weaker, she'd be doomed to mediocrity; ruthless, she's an example of how greatness can coexist with moral ambiguity or even corruptness. That's what makes an interesting contrast with another character, Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), whose corruptness is self-serving and slimy, and whose moral qualms are puny and almost snivelling.
Rose Byrne is an okay actress, but her only interesting scenes are the ones in which she plays off Glenn Close. They have some really fantastic moments together, where there's a mentor-mentee vibe completely laced with distrust and tension. Ellen's character has a lot of potential for development since she's been thrown into a totally foreign environment, and I'm looking forward to how the show will show her changing -- whether for better or worse.
Oh, but Ellen's boyfriend, whose name I can't even recall right now? So. Boring. Bland-looking, bland-personality dude who's basically a cardboard stand-in for the Happiness and Security that Ellen Parson's life supposedly has at the beginning of the show -- we all know the type -- or possibly just a pawn of a plot that requires his sister to actually, you know, do things.
Damages is on FX, Tuesday nights at 10 PM, and about eighty other "encore" times during the week.
In Summary: Watch it! Hooray, strong female characters! Oh, and it's cable, so hooray extra-graphic violence!