'Damages' pays off — it's in the writing
By Hal Boedeker
McClatchy-Tribune News Services
By Hal Boedeker
Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) will not be denied. After defeating billionaire Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), the big-time litigator plunges into a new battle, weathers personal anguish and finds a vast conspiracy.
Happily, "Damages" shows no signs of a sophomore slump. The FX drama starts its second season at 8 p.m. tonight, and the series' creators have intensified their intricate thriller. The series quickly reveals what happened to despicable Frobisher, last seen gravely wounded.
Patty's protege Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) feels rage toward Frobisher, blaming him for her fiance's slaying. Ellen also has become an FBI informant to take down Patty, and no wonder: Patty put out a hit on Ellen.
Life seems good for Patty: She throws splashy events and visits "Live With Regis and Kelly." Yet Patty broods about that hit and about witnessing the suicide of Ray Fiske (Zeljko Ivanek).
The reappearance of Daniel Purcell (William Hurt) causes more turmoil for Patty. His legal troubles fascinate Patty, their shady history complicates her life, and his anger is frightening.
"Damages" is an actors' showcase. The first season pushed Close and Danson to career peaks.
Close remains a marvel as a woman who detests bullies but easily becomes the biggest one of all. As Ellen, Byrne makes a formidable yet subtle foe.
The series adds Timothy Olyphant ("Deadwood") as a mystery man infatuated with Ellen and Marcia Gay Harden as an attorney as conflicted as Patty.
First-rate writing makes the stellar performances possible. Series creators Daniel Zelman, Todd A. Kessler and Glenn Kessler retain the show's unusual style of jumping back and forth in time. They arrange twists that are doozies. They open by putting a gun in Ellen's hand; she'll fire it, all right, but why?
"Damages" hooks you from the very start. The verdict: terrific.