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"Because I Know Patty": Murder, Lies, and Videotape on the Season Finale of "Damages"

I'm finally able to breathe again after last night's suburb season closer of FX's serpentine legal thriller Damages. I say that as I spent the entire hour and change on the edge of my seat while holding my breath.

Last night's installment ("Because I Know Patty") was a brilliant and, yes, breathtaking conclusion to a series that has kept us guessing until the very last possible minute. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Tate Donovan wasn't kidding when he said that the writers had engineered a very intriguing set-up for a possible Season Two (oh come on, FX, and renew Damages already!) while tying up some of the mysteries that have sustained this series through its freshman season.

What we're left with as Damages sails into the televisionary sunset (only for a little while, one hopes), is a dazzling set-up for next season. I never would have anticipated that little Ellen would be approached by FBI agents who are currently investigating Patty for fraud and conspiracy; nor did I imagine that Hollis Nye's warning to Ellen in the pilot would be quite so literal. (He did tell her not to take the job and he wasn't referring to Patty's penchant for chewing up and spitting out her associates.) Ellen knows that Patty was behind the attempt on her life and Patty may even suspect that she knows, but in the end it is always better to keep your enemies close and that's what both of them intend to do...

I loved the fact that the season finale mirrored the pilot in so many ways: the repetition of that stunning opening scene (the steam, the billowing American flag, the ding of the elevator), the payoff of Nye's warning to Ellen, Frobisher's lesson to his son that he trusted too many people (an echo of Patty's advice to Ellen to "trust no one"), and the final shot of Patty alone on the dock. It was a perfect bookend (heh) to a series that dealt liberally with plants, payoffs, and double-crosses.

Ellen. I have definitely grown to love Rose Byrne's Ellen over the past few weeks. The former wallflower has developed gradually into a jaded lawyer who now sees the world through something akin to Patty's black-tinted sunglasses and her transformation from meek associate in over her head to a deadly strategist herself has been subtle and evocative. I loved her line to Patty that while she's lost faith with the law, she hasn't given up on justice, an important distinction especially from where she's standing. I was extremely impressed that Ellen got back into the car with Hollis and the FBI agents, especially as their "evidence" wasn't particularly, well, damaging. But Ellen's a smart cookie and she's known all along that Patty was the one who tried to kill her in order to silence her partner in crime. (It's never good when your former accomplice develops a conscience.) She's already pressured Patty to get the D.A. to drop the murder charges so she can attend David's funeral and get on with her life. But she wants justice and to do that, she'll have to accept Patty's job offer so she can (A) use her resources to find David's killer and (B) take down Patty from the inside. She's fighting a behemoth not afraid to commit a multitude of sins to protect herself but Ellen's done an amazing job of arming herself in preparation for the final battle. A battle I hope we get to see next season.

Patty. It would have been too easy to have her emotional breakdown at the beach house just be about Ray Fiske's suicide, though it was clear that it rattled her as well. No, Patty (Glenn Close, interviewed here) committed a far bigger crime, one she obviously did agonize over: the attempted murder of Ellen. It's a crime that has serious existential repercussions for Patty, who lost a daughter, Julia, in 1972 (it's her baby's grave that she visits during her flight). While the circumstances around Julia's death are still murky (we know that she was either a stillborn or died as a result of an accident that a pregnant Patty was involved in), it's clear that Patty feels a need to return to her daughter's grave 35 years later, because of what she did to Ellen, whom she did perhaps view as a surrogate daughter for the one she lost. Still, I couldn't believe the reveal of that climactic scene: the phone call to Uncle Pete, him casually unlocking the door for the killer, and the news that the job was done (sort of). Ellen's attempted murder had nothing to do with the taped confession nor David's murder. (I loved the shot of Beardy Weirdy and the Mystery Man outside Patty's apartment as Ellen, covered in blood, staggers out.)

Still, Patty wouldn't be Patty unless she gave that confession to the D.A. (it's how she bought his silence), even though Frobisher's lawyers made her sign a non-disclosure agreement. I loved that moment where she went to see the D.A. again and told him exactly what to do with the tape. Which makes me believe that there's still an unsolved mystery as to the connection between Patty and Frobisher. Her pursuit of Fro goes well beyond that of a litigator and a fat cat defendant; no, there's something deeply personal about her war against him. We see the briefest inkling of this when she calmly confronts him about Gregory Malina's confession and he asks her why she hates him so much. There is, of course, no reply from the silent Patty.

And offering Ellen her job back? Classic Patty maneuvering in order to keep an eye on Ellen. She knows that she botched the hit on her and that Ellen will be fighting back with everything she's got. Why not keep her right where she can see her?

Frobisher. I love that Fro (Ted Danson) was just as corrupt and venal as we thought he was and that, even after everything that's happened, he hasn't learned a single thing. Frobisher still clings to the notion that he can move past this case, move past the deaths of Fiske, Gregory Malina, David Connor, and George Moore as though they never happened, because he is strong enough and smart enough. He can rebuilt, he believes, as he struggles to keep his grasp on his land even as he gives up $2 billion in settlement for a crime to which he still has admitted no guilt. And even in the face of these overwhelming obstacles, he still has the gall to tell his snotty son that his crime was putting faith in too many people. And there we have his ultimate crime: hubris. But lest we confuse justice for vengeance, Frobisher may have received the ultimate punishment at the hands of the scorned and abused Larry (cut out both of the settlement and any payment by Frobisher). His shooting (and possible death) are far too simple and easy a sentence for this monster. Does Frobisher die bleeding out in that field of dreams? We're left uncertain of the outcome but I hope he does survive to find his life in ruins, crushed under the foot of Justice like those skulls in the opening credits.

Bookend. I absolutely loved the reveal that the Statue of Liberty bookends, which have been with us since the second episode, were not only the murder weapon with which David Connor was brutally slain but also the secret hiding place for the cassette (and, sadly, the wedding rings). Astonishing and brilliant. And another reason why Ellen picked it up when she stumbled into her apartment after her own attack.

Katie. I loved the scene at David's funeral when Katie (Anastasia Griffith, interviewed here) approached Ellen to tell her that she is trying to forgive her for what happened to her brother. It was a taut, emotional scene that was underplayed and made even more tense for the fact that both of them were afraid to really look at the other, each knowing their own role in the events leading to David's murder. Still, there was hope of reconciliation between them as Katie reached out to her former best friend, telling her to call her when she got back to New York. A good thing too as Katie is the only person who has ever seen Beardy Weirdy (remember when he was stalking her in the pilot?) and could perhaps even identify him. She correctly deduced that he works for Frobisher and he is the connection between David's death and Fro. Besides, somewhere there's a photo of the crime scene that shows that pink flashlight... which disappeared right after Beardy appeared in the apartment.

Michael. Michael was, in the end, just a red herring. There was no connection between him and Ellen's death save for the fact that it terrified Patty to think that he came back to the apartment the night before Ellen was supposed to be killed. She's already lost one child, after all. But there's still something about the apple-chopping bad seed that I don't like...

Beardy Weirdy. The creepy guy is a cop, as I surmised in last week's discussion, and his name is Rick. So it's clear that Frobisher had at least one cop under his payroll, which makes everything that we've seen Beardy do over the past season seem all the more fitting. I loved the fact that we didn't see Ellen's killer's face nor Beardy's accomplice until last night... when we realized that they were not one and the same. I loved the look of shock and surprise on both their faces when they see Ellen stagger out of Patty's apartment building.

Hollis Nye. I am so relieved that Hollis isn't a baddie after all and is in fact one of the only honest, true, upstanding individuals in this entire series. He was warning Ellen to stay far away from Patty in order to protect her and, even after her decision to hire Patty as her defense lawyer, still tries to shield his young charge. I have a feeling he'll stick around for Season Two as the government makes its case against Patty. We all know she's guilty of more than just conspiracy and fraud; her crimes extend to blackmail and murder by proxy. And I want Ellen and Hollis to try to take her down next season.

While I've finally caught my breath again, I'm already on tenterhooks for next season, should FX reward Damages' loyal fans with another chapter in this gripping legal thriller. Ultimately, I want to see Ellen bring the war to Patty's doorstep. Like her, I may have lost faith in the law, as embodied in the steely resolve of Patty Hewes, but the crimes of this past season call out for justice to be served. Let's just hope we get the chance to see it.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Kid Nation (CBS); Phenomenon (NBC); America's Next Top Model (CW); Pushing Daisies (ABC)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS);
Bionic Woman (NBC); Gossip Girl (CW); Private Practice (ABC)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Life
(NBC); Dirty Sexy Money (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Pushing Daisies.

ABC's groundbreaking new drama Pushing Daisies continues. On tonight's episode
("Pigeon"): Chuck, Ned, and Emerson investigate the crash of a plane into an apartment building and whether the pilot of said craft was attempting suicide; Chuck finds herself drawn to the sole survivor of the crash; Olive turns to Vivian and Lily for help when she discovers a wounded messenger pigeon.

8 pm: America's Next Top Model.

On tonight's episode ("The Girl Who Gets a Mango"), guest star Tyson Beckford gives the girls advice on being a spokesperson and the models are divided into groups where they must create their own public service announcement for a charity. One girl gets to star in a makeup photo shoot directed by Mary J. Blige and the girls participate in a photo shoot using green materials.

9 pm: Bionic Woman.

David Eick's reimagining of classic TV series Bionic Woman, starring Michelle Ryan, continues. On tonight's episode ("The Education of Jaime Sommers"), Jaime goes undercover as a college student in order to investigate a professor's possible terrorist ties but ends up falling for his teaching assistant.

10 pm: Dirty Sexy Money.

Primetime soap Dirty Sexy Money continues. On tonight's episode ("The Bridge"), Nick meets with the enigmatic Simon Elders, the billionaire rival of Tripp Darling, while Jeremy and Julie's ongoing feud cause them to have two separate birthday parties.


Sooz said…
Like you, I caught myself holding my breath several times last night. Even though the majority of the episode was wrapping up loose ends, it was still captivating. However, the final moments of the show I sat there with my mouth hanging open. It was, indeed, a truly satifying finale.

Jace - I have really enjoyed your take on this smart show. You have hooked me as a fan of Televisionary.
Anonymous said…
I am going to be so bummed when FX decides not to pick up the show.

I know, I know - think positively.

I hope Fro did die. I think it's perfect and absolutely fitting that a man with such hubris would be undone by a blue-collar nobody. A seemingly insignificant person. Someone he tried to use and totally underestimated (underestimated as far as his emotions, not his smarts). A flea he thought he'd successfully squashed.

Such a great finale. My head is still reeling....
Anonymous said…
I have been dying to read your blog all day, but didnt want to spoil anything for tonights viewing. WOW!! What an excellent season finale! As previously mentioned, the final few scenes where we see Ellens motives for going back to work for Patti were jaw droppingly amazing. It got me so excited for the next season, which MUST happen!!! HOW CAN IT NOT?? I hear it hasn't done too well with viewers in the US, but still, FX have to do a second season. They can't leave me hanging like this!!! I will be watching it all again when it airs in the UK next spring and hope that it gets the following and ratings it deserves!!

It was because of this blog that i discovered Damages and for that i am truely thankful!! And happy that i could of been assistance during your visit to London :)

Roll on Season 2 !!!
Anonymous said…

Thanks for another excellent Damages breakdown! I think the season ended on a perfect note and I will keep my fingers (and toes) crossed that they bring it back.

And I don't really have anything else to say because you said it all (quite eloquently too)!
Anonymous said…
I think Patty's baby "Julia" was Frobisher's love child. Patty must have been the young woman in the car with him when he had the wreck, (remember Moore leaked the info about the wreck that supposedly killed a young woman)she must have survived the accident but lost the baby. Fro settled the accident case by giving the girls family a bunch of land and paid them off, Patty was probably disfigured by the accident and had reconstructive surgery, thats why Fro doesn't recognize her, that's why she hates him so much and visited her baby's grave at this time because she is finally about to have closure. Also she was shrewed enough to play the sucker card (that poor guy that got screwed out of the settlement)she set him up, and knew he would take revenge on Fro (since she knows a thing or two about personal vendettas)
Also I think the guy that was killed in Patty's apt was either FBI or had something to do with Patty's son...I think he was in the wrong place, and they struggled and she killed him, but I don't think he was there to kill Ellen. Or he may have gone into the apt to plant bugs, since the FBI are trying to get info on Patty remember when Ellen's fiancee ran those two guys out of the apt, I think they were agents bugging the apt. I think the apt door man is also a FBI plant. He was there when Tate Donavan went back to the apt to try and find any blood evidence...seems only the FBI could have cleaned the crime scene so thoroughly!
Anonymous said…
seriously Susie, whatever you're sounds like it's some pretty damn good stuff
Anonymous said…
A late addition, just to say, wow, they really wrapped it up well. What the show has excelled at is the twists and turns and mystery, and the closure was stunningly executed. Frobisher's comeuppance was a treat (I don't think he dies), and some of the things that have sat uneasily over the past few episodes (such as the apparently exaggerated response of Patty to Ray's death) now all make sense.

Susie, you obviously blinked when Uncle Pete let the killer into the apartment. There may be some historic connection between Patty and Fro to justify her hatred (or maybe she is simply mysanthropic) but your explanation seems too stretched.

It wouldn't be me if there wasn't a 'but'. In most shows, take out the ads and the credits and you are down to about 40mins. In recent years, adding 'previously on ...' takes off about another minute of new material. In Damages it is almost as if they have cleverly worked out that they can engineer an extended 'previously...' right into the show and cut back the amount of new material each week down to less than 30 minutes. With the season over it almost feels as if it could have been a feature film (a modern-day Jagged Edge anyone?) rather than 13 episodes of a tv show. At least it was quality stuff.

I too discovered the show thanks to your blog, and your coverage has been excellent, thanks very much Jace.
Unknown said…
I was surprisingly disappointed in the finale. I can ignore the confusing "10 days later" and "3 days later" which made me wonder if it was 10 and 13 days after or 10 and 3 days. I can't ignore the rather chaotic tying up of (most) loose ends. For me, there wasn't enough of a sense of "fit"--the story lines were too separate. I don't expect everything in a neat little bow, but I would've liked more things to be related in some way.

And some were just too predictable. As soon as Arthur stood in his field, I said, "And now someone shoots him." Five seconds later, Larry shoots him. Boring. (And, yes, he's dead. No one survives being gut shot out in the middle of nowhere. It's prolonged and painful.)

Still, it's a good show, and I look forward to season 2 being a bit tighter.

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