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In Season 2 Of Damages, Patty Hewes Will Read You For Filth

And our Marathon Diarist loves every tawdry second of it!

What's that whirring sound? Oh, right. IT'S MY HEAD SPINNING. That's what I get for watching the second season of Damages in less than a week. This thing has so many double-crosses and secret meetings and hidden motives that it makes an Agatha Christie mystery seem like the instruction manual for an IKEA bookshelf. But I'm not mad about it. This is precisely my kind of sensationalized escapism.

And let's not mince words about that, because I don't care how many Emmys you win and how many highbrow cable networks you appear on: if your show involves a subplot where a wife publicly humiliates her unfaithful husband by leaking pictures of his affair to CNN, then you are tawdry as fudge. If your show features multiple episodes where Timothy Olyphant almost-but-not-quite shoots someone in the head, then sleeps with her instead, then you are rolling around in the mud like a sexy pig.

Which is FINE! Because in Season 2, the show balances its shock tactics with writing that actually hangs together. If you pay attention, you can follow the motivations behind Ellen's work with the FBI; the FBI's work with Pell (the shady government guy); and Pell's work fixing energy futures. I'm not saying it's all realistic or anything. I mean, only on Damages do people answer the phone every single time you call them, and only on Damages can you leave an expensive car parked on a random New York street for days and never get ticketed. I don't care how many codes you have to put in the navigation system; you still have to move it for street cleaning!

But within the world of the show, the logic tracks. And in an era of Empire and Ryan Murphy, where characters change every week to suit the whims of the narrative, I appreciate that kind of consistency. I'm glad that I can grasp every twist in Ellen's revenge plot, for instance, because when she finally gets Patty to admit that she put out a hit on Ellen's life, it's SO SATISFYING.

Really, though, my favorite moments this season are outside the main story. I especially love the flashes of comedy, like when Patty and Pell mock a business associate named Arsenault as he croons old standards at a dinner party. Arsenault's like...

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And Patty's like...

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And this is one reason the show works: it gives Patty multiple dimensions. She can be mortally wounded by her son's callous indifference. She can be genuinely hurt by her husband's infidelity. And she can read a bitch for filth.

Similarly, I love the side story about Frobisher becoming a spiritual guru! As ever, Ted Danson's performance is my favorite thing, veering perfectly between legitimate soul-searching and narcissistic back-patting over being so deep. When he's on the phone with his ex-wife in the series finale, he's obviously thrilled to be communicating with her, but he's just as obviously convinced that he's a guru now. It's so juicy!

One thing, though: the actors cast to play psychopaths and enforcers are not doing it for me. I loved David Costabile as lovably corrupt Gale Boetticher on Breaking Bad, but he just doesn't have the menace to play a ruthless, dirty cop. Even worse is Darrell Hammond as a remorseless hit man. Too many people have been too good with that archetype for me to be frightened of this waxy puss:

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And yet Martin Short arrives next season. I'm very curious to see if he's supposed to be frightening too. After that, maybe Howie Mandel!

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Episodes Watched
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Episodes Remaining
MVP
Patty reading Arsenault
LVP
Evil Darrell Hammond

For Must See TV Week we ask:

Beyond Cheers's Ted Danson, how could Damages have cast NBC's comedy stars in nefarious roles?

  • Friends's Jennifer Aniston as Martha Boxer, a ruthless bank president who steals from her customers to line her own pockets.
  • A Different World's Jasmine Guy as Mysterious Woman, a sleek assassin who may (or may not!) have been paid to run over Ellen with a minivan.
  • The Single Guy's Jonathan Silverman as Tim Shayes, Tom's arsonist older brother whose firebug skills MAY be useful in keeping some unflattering evidence in a big pharma case from coming to light. Pun intended.
  • Frasier's Moose the Dog as Toby, a lovable mutt who is always chasing Patty's dog at the park. What a rascal!