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Talk Back: "Damages" Season Two Premiere

"I lied too."

No truer words have better summed up the devious nature of FX's serpentine legal thriller Damages, which returned to the airwaves last night with its sophomore season debut ("I Lied Too"), which introduced new mysteries, new conspiracies, and new meaning to the words captive audience.

You've all had a chance to read my advance review of the first two episodes of Damages' second season but I'm excited to get my hands dirty talking specific plot points about the first episode and see what you all thought of the season premiere.

Let's discuss.

Ground rules: I've already seen Episodes Two and Three of this season, but I promise not to reveal anything below that occurs in those episodes. Deal?

First of all, I'm absolutely chuffed that the executive producers wisely decided to (A) set the events of Season Two only a month or so after the end of Season One and (B) continue to use non-linear storytelling in the sophomore season with the six month later time frame we see at the beginning of the episode. It's the twisted narrative that continues to intrigue me as it presents our characters in unfamiliar circumstances and then forces the audience to connect the dots on their own as it slowly unfolds over the course of the season.

The Chair. So who do we think Ellen is interrogating in the chair in her hotel room? The logical choices would be Patty, given Ellen's dialogue about finally telling the truth and all, or Arthur Frobisher, but Ellen DID choose forgiveness over revenge when she had the chance to snuff out Frobisher's life once and for all at the clinic... and chose not to. Then again, she also opted not to follow the advice of Wes (Deadwood's Timothy Olyphant) and obtain a gun though she clearly has one now. This being Damages, not everything is what it appears to be so I have a feeling that it's not Patty whom Ellen is confronting at gunpoint. Besides for the fact that their relationship is the central element of the series and Damages is already slated to return for a third season and wouldn't do so without Glenn Close. Any theories? Is it someone we know? Or a new character yet to be introduced?

Patty. I'm glad that Patty hasn't entirely compartmentalized what happened last season; clearly Ray Fiske's suicide and her decision to assassinate Ellen are weighing extremely heavily on her, what with the ghostly visitations from Fiske (how happy are we that Zeljko Ivanek is back, even if just acting as Patty's subconscious?) and the nightmares. And yet there was no way in hell that Patty would ever come clean to Ellen about the hit (really, how could she?) though she clearly does regret what she did.

I loved the fact that she first told Uncle Pete not to have Ellen followed anymore and then a split-second later changed her mind; you could see the gears turning behind her eyes. Patty's no dummy and she clearly wants to keep tabs on Ellen after everything that's happened. Which doesn't mean that she doesn't value Ellen or was lying when she said that if her daughter Julia--whom we learn died in childbirth--had grown up, she'd want her to be like Ellen. It was a huge step for Patty to tell Ellen about Julia, especially as she claims that no one--not even her husband (and perhaps not even Uncle Pete)--knows about Julia's existence. After all, ordering the hit on Ellen lead her to return to Julia's grave after a 30-year absence. Clearly, there's some Olympian-sized guilt going on here.

(Aside: given that Ellen is still being followed, how long before she gets caught
chatting with the FBI by Patty's spies?)

Ellen. In her second season on the series, Rose Byrne's Ellen seems all jangly nerves and protruding collarbones; it's clear that she's experienced some major trauma and hasn't recovered from David's murder, the attempt on her own life, or her betrayal at the hands of her mentor. While Season One Ellen was naive, this new Ellen Parsons has nerves of steel, able to lie directly to Patty's face, agree to secretly record conversations, and furtively meet up with FBI agents. She's out for revenge, despite whatever misgivings she had about murdering Frobisher in his sleep (or confronting him face-to-face). When she tells her FBI contacts Agent Werner (played, it's worth noting by creator Glenn Kessler) and Agent Harrison (Mario van Peebles) that she doesn't have time to wait around for them to make a move on Patty, we believe her. Perhaps Patty has trained her too well after all...

Arsenault. Absolutely loved the way Sam Arsenault (The Devil Wears Prada's James Naughton) blithely tried to finagle his way out of providing funding for Patty's foundation, thinking that she would just let him walk away, only to have her hurt him where it truly counts: his family. Learning from Michael that Lily was using cocaine, Patty actually arranged for Arsenault's daughter to be arrested and have it end up on the front page of the NY papers, then "unsuccessfully" acted as a go-between with the DA to try to get the charges dropped, and then managed to get Arsenault to double his donation to the foundation... and get his name placed AFTER Patty's. Not bad for a day's work.

Daniel Purcell. The producers were wise to cast someone as icy and vaguely malevolent as William Hurt in this role; it's clear that Daniel Purcell and Patty share a past together and not an altogether pleasant one, seeing from the way he forcibly grabbed her when she refused his request for help and the way that he said that he had promised not to ever see her again. Just what could that relationship be? Hmmm... Still, I did not suspect for a second that Purcell's wife Christine (Big Shots' Paige Turco) would be murdered by the end of the first episode, though it did provide just the right motivation for Patty to agree to take his case. Just what that case is and who could be behind Christine's murder, well, you'll have to wait for the next two episodes to find that out. But suffice it to say that Wayne Suttry (Lost's Brett Cullen) is definitely involved in a conspiracy that has ensnared Purcell and that those documents that Purcell left with Patty are very, very important.

Michael. Anyone else think that Michael's drastic about-face in behavior from Season One will be short-lived? He's suddenly very caring towards Patty and even attends her charity foundation fundraiser with her... AND is the one to tip her off about Lily Arsenault's drug habits. But methinks he's hiding something and it's only a matter of time before the truth comes out. After all, he's his mother's son and unlikely to ever truly forgive her for having him kidnapped and sent to a rehabilitation center. Just a thought.

All all in, a fantastic season premiere that kick started a new season of the deliciously complex legal drama we all know and love. But I am curious to know what you all thought of the episode. Who do you think is in the chair? What is the relationship between Patty and Daniel? Do we trust Wes? Talk back here.

Next week on Damages ("Burn It, Shred It, I Don't Care"), Patty believes there is more to the Daniel Purcell case than Christine's murder; Ellen assists the FBI in their attempts to flip Tom and enmesh him in the case against Patty.


Jo said…
Because I watched the first season of the series, I am more skeptical about every new character from the get-go. Gut feeling/conspiracy theory about who is in the chair facing Ellen in the end...Wes. I think he's a plant.

You were right, Jace. I loved it. Can't wait for more!
Anonymous said…
Great recap to follow up on a fantastic review, Jace. I am thinking that it is Purcell in the chair and that Ellen does kill him in the end as he's keeping things secret. I also wondered about Ellen meeting with the F.B.I. when Patty's people were following her around at all times. Happy that she moved out of the apartment where David waskilled. It would have been unrealistic if she stayed there.
Anonymous said…
I'm confused. why does Ellen think that Fro killed David????? I thought someone else killed him so why she is trying to kill Fro in the hospital? I think he's in the chair at the end because she did get the gun from Wes's friend and then shots him.
Jace Lacob said…
Anon, while Frobisher didn't pull the trigger himself, per se, the crooked cop in his employ bludgeoned David to death with the Statue of Liberty bookend last season at Frobisher's behest, so if anyone is ultimately to blame and hold responsible, it's him.
Anonymous said…
I love that, just as in last season, we have no idea who we can trust. At first Daniel Purcell seems like an innocent victim but, obviously, there is much more to him. And I don't trust Timothy Olyphant's character either. It seems a little too convenient that this man is in Ellen's therapy group. I can't wait to see how it all unfolds!
Sooz said…
I am also suspicious of all characters now because of last season. Of course Wes is a plant. And I immediately thought Daniel killed his wife just to get Patty involved. And are those FBI agents really FBI agents? I can hardly wait to find out who's who!
Anonymous said…
Thinking back to season one, when Patti brings Frobisher the CD of Malina's "testimony" , Ted Danson's question, "Why do you hate me so much?" struck me as very important. Has anyone else wondered if baby Julia is in some way connected to Frobisher? (I understand that he isn't the parent, but something...) Or,, is this the bond that Daniel has with Patti?
Anonymous said…
@barbara I definitely remember that scene and played it over and over in my head after. Could he be the father of her child? but wouldn't he know why she hated him then? He seems surprised by how much she does hate him.
Jace Lacob said…

The relationship between Patty and Daniel Purcell is definitely specific. You'll find out exactly what it is in Episode Three. As for your hunches, no comment... but it's not entirely on target.
Mazza said…
LOVED this ep. Was definitely lead to believe it was great by your review and it didn't disappoint at all. I think Daniel could be Patty's first husband. Could be wrong but it seems like there was something romantic between them.
Anonymous said…
Jace -

I was wondering when the Sam Arsenault character would be appearing again. Is he going to be in either of the next two episodes?

The reason why I'm asking is because I'm associated with a James Naughton appreciation club and it'd be nice to get a head's up on when he's going to be on again so I can inform the group. We've read that he's going to sing the next time so we don't want to miss that. Anyone who's seen him on Broadway or in his cabaret act can attest to his wonderful crooning abilities!


Anonymous said…
I loved this episode too, but kept thinking that Rose Byrne needs a damn good, full cooked english breakfast, with fried slices on the side!!
rockauteur said…
Great premiere, but I am too doubting Wes' true motivations... and I did also share a a thought with one of your other readers: "are the FBI agents really FBI agents?"

Ratings were atrocious for the premiere this week so lets hope that FX doesn't turn its back on the show for season 3.
Anonymous said…
I have a theory that Patty is entirely motivated by the death of baby Julia, and that everyone she targets is in some way connected to her death. Most particularly, I think Ellen is the daughter of someone who she blames for Julia's death, perhaps the doctor that we saw last season? I don't remember any back story on Ellen's parents, though. So for the past 30 years, Patty has been slowly plotting, manipulating, and waiting like a spider to catch the fly.
Jace Lacob said…

A good theory... BUT we do know that Ellen came from a blue-collar working class background, so it's unlikely that her father was a doctor.

But I like the way that you're thinking.

And just who was Julia's father? Hmmm...

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