Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Damages" Season Finale: "The Next One's Gonna Go in Your Throat"

I've just got a half hour before this week's episode of "Lost," but I wanted to take a brief moment to share my thoughts on the season (and possibly series) finale of FX's legal drama "Damages." Spoilers after the break -- don't click through if you don't want to know.

All in all, this was a pretty solid season, certainly better constructed and executed than season two. I felt focusing on a family  -- the Madoff-esque Tobins -- as opposed to a CEO, made the struggle faced by Patty (Glenn Close) and her group more personal and compelling. It helped that the family itself was impeccably cast, with Campbell Scott and Lily Tomlin playing a loving -- yet horrifically dysfunctional -- mother and son combo. Martin Short was also a delightful surprise as their con man-turned-lawyer, giving possibly his best performance ever. Dramatic performances by comics can feel gimmicky, but Short was sincere and convincing as the complex Lennie Winstone.
I also liked the decision to kill off Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan) -- though I'm not sure how this will play out should the show get a fourth season. But Tom's death raises the emotional stakes for both Patty and her foil/protegee/surrogate daughter Ellen (Rose Byrne). Before, it seemed the only casualties in Patty and Ellen's games of cat and mouse were corrupt businessmen and their associates. Yes, Ellen did lose her fiance and Patty's marriage ended. But now they've lost someone they both cared about, and that shared grief is going to resonate.
One thing I didn't like? The half-hearted exploration of Patty as a mother. Patty's personal life has always been the show's weak link, with her relationships with Ellen and Tom far more compelling than her marriage or her relationship with her son.We got a little more explanation of how Patty lost her first child (she made a conscious between career and motherhood -- which she seems to regret now), and we learned that it was her son Michael who hit her car, but that stuff wasn't nearly as interesting as the story with the Tobins.
Overall, though, a solid outing. Here are some more thoughts on "The Next One's Gonna Go in Your Throat."
* Poor Tom. We knew he died, but I can hardly thing of a more undignified way to go than being drowned in a toilet bowl. That Joe Tobin sure is nasty when he drinks!
* A tragic reveal that Louis Tobin defrauded his investors mainly to protect his son. He was, it turns out, a loving father to the end. And how fitting that Lily Tomlin's Marilyn joined him in suicide after her effort to save Joe by surrendering to Patty failed.
* Kind of liked that Lennie is the only one to emerge relatively unscathed. When he sat in the airport clutching the money, was anyone else reminded of Mr. Pink in "Reservoir Dogs," stepping around the dead bodies of his associates and making off with the loot?
* Believe this is the last we've seen of Arthur Frobisher, whether the show continues or not. A fitting end to the character -- brought down by his own ego and need to show off. Also nice to get another glimpse of Timothy Olyphant's Wes. Didn't much care for the character last season, but I liked him better this time out. Maybe I'm no so infatuated with Olyphant's work on FX's "Justified" that I'll follow him anywhere.
* OK, so, until reading interviews and recaps of the show this morning, I totally didn't get that the present-day version Keith Carradine's character was a guilt-induced hallucination by Patty. I thought that it was the same guy from the farm, stalking her. Maybe I'm just dense, but it seems that they could have explained that a little better.

1 comment:

Bill Scurry said...

At least it was Tom's own toilet he met his maker in. Home cookin'...

It was a nice bit of misdirection having Patty's jerky son hit and run, as opposed to some enemy agent. And on the topic of characters who got a short leash, Tom Noonan's detective was dropped unceremoniously out of the frame, after such compelling work early on.

And how shocking was it to find out that Raylan Givens shot down Doug from "Flight of the Conchords"?