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Damages Season 2 debuts

In television, tv on 01/18/2009 at 9:09 am

“People like us have two options: forgiveness or revenge.”
Ellen Parsons hears these words about halfway through Sunday night’s return of the murder and legal drama series Damages (Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showcase).
Parsons (Rose Byrne) is the formerly wide-eyed, ambitious lawyer new to a powerful Manhattan law firm headed by Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), a woman whose own ambition and ego have forged a cold, cold master of manipulation and blackmail who is not above arranging even murder to win. Parsons is only formerly wide-eyed, because in the course of Season One’s action — Hewes’s firms legal pursuit of Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) — one of the victims is Parsons’s own fiance.
As in Season One, the flashback-heavy story begins at what appears to be the end of a long chain of events: Parsons threatening an unseen person with a weapon unless he or she confesses. Again, as in the first season when it began with Parsons covered in blood and nearly catatonic, it’s terrifying.

“People like us have two options: forgiveness or revenge.”
Parsons hears the words from Wes Krulik (Timothy Olyphant of Deadwood), who belongs to Parson’s therapy group for people who’ve lost loved ones to violent crime.
She asks if he’s chosen, but does not offer her own answer.
For storytelling purposes, forgiveness has its own dramatic potential. But Damages concerns itself with the dark meat, chewier and closer to the bone. Season One was all about ego, ambition and the pursuit of power by Hewes and Frobisher. This time out, it’s revenge.
But who is doing the seeking? As a point of pride, my discussions of TV shows rarely include spoilers, but even if I had no such standard, Damages is outside the law of predictability that governs most TV dramas or any other story format. Even casual Damage watchers will know that what appears obvious must be questioned closely and could end up being something entirely different. In other hands, this could cheapen the viewing experience, but by the use of the Damages’ flashback structure, it is a lesson in how to listen and watch. Season One was electrifying when each flashback revealed a sliver more context, answering some questions in the show’s main Frobisher-case storyline but raising others.
So it’s unwise to draw the conclusion, which viewers could do early on tonight, about which players are seeking revenge.
New faces this season — in addition to Olyphant, who at least appears to be Parsons’s only tether to the real world — include William Hurt as a man in possession of dangerous knowledge. Others to be added later include Marcia Gay Harden.
But one word of concern about the Season Two debut. Although Season One revealed signs of weakness in Close’s character in the first season, they were fleeting signs, like a knife blade catching the light. A preview of tonight’s episode shows a dangerously shaky Hewes. Could it be my blood lust that wants Hewes to be a monster and not human at all? Rather, I hope it’s my desire to see Damages continue to resist more mundane forms of TV drama, where everyone is nearly always redeemed. Don’t let Patty Hewes get soft! No redemption for her please!
And on that cold-hearted note, I wish you happy viewing. Check back Monday for a preview of the new Movie Network series The United States of Tara, which debuts Monday night.

For more on Damages, Showcase still has the last three Season One episodes online if you want to catch up before watching tonight.
And here is the show’s official website on FX in the U.S. but be careful: they are a week ahead of us so you might spoil Sunday night’s surprises.
Also, Montreal Gazette contributer Mark Lepage interviewed many of the actors on the New York set.
Finally, here are reviews by some more thoughtful individuals, courtesy of metacritic, which is a great site to check to see how top U.S. critics are reviewing television and film. But only after you stop here first, of course. I would miss you so.
— Denise Duguay

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  1. Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

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