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Required Viewing: "Damages" Season Three

Last season, FX’s highly serialized Damages was frustratingly Byzantine. The heavy reliance on contrivances – the non-linear narrative and especially the multitude of red-herrings – backfired.

By the conclusion of season two, I suffered from viewer fatigue brought on by the treadmill of twists and turns.  Daniel Purcell (William Hurt) appeared to be a whistle-blower…but, not really. He was secretly working on behalf of UNR, a corporation with a history of environmental violations.  When Purcell’s wife threatened to alert the EPA to UNR violations, he choked her to death, but…not really.  It was really UNR CEO Walter Kendrick (John Doman) who ordered Deacon (Darrell Hammond) to finish the deed.

Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), whose fiancé David Connor was murdered season one, met a sensitive stranger during grief counseling - Wes Krulik (Timothy Olyphant).  But Wes was not who he appeared to be. He was working with Rick Messer, the police detective who murdered David Connor.

Multiply this by 100, and arrrrrrghhhhhhhhhh!  Crazy-making!

Season three debuts Monday, Jan. 25 at 10 p.m.   FX distributed the first two  intriguing episodes. So far, Damages seems easier to digest while still retaining the signature time shift and complex plot lines.

Season two plot clutter didn’t slow down star Glenn Close one bit.  Close walked away with another Emmy for Oustanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of Patty Hewes, the ruthless, complicated super-lawyer.

Viewers can look forward to more classic Patty Hewes moments during s3.  One scene between Hewes and her ex-husband Phil is so quietly frosty, you will shiver in your chair.  In the space of  just a few seconds, Close shifts from warm (for Patty), nostalgic ex-wife to unforgiving scorpion.  And that’s why Close is winning Emmys.

Season three is ripped from the headlines. Patty Hewes takes on Bernie Madoff…well, Bernie Madoff barely disguised as swindler Louis Tobin.  The Tobin family is hiding assets and Hewes is the court-appointed trustee assigned to track down the money.

Ellen, once Patty’s protege, has escaped Patty’s clutches and is now working for the D.A.  But it’s not long before she’s entangled with Patty again - because Patty sends her a $3,000 Chanel bag, and Tom Shayes (now a partner in Patty’s law firm) tells her a sob story.  (Ellen, Ellen, Ellen – you are just too, too easy…)

Keith Carradine appears as a mysterious character named Julian Decker.  (“Sort of an architect,” he claims)  Decker lurks around Patty’s preferred watering hole and flirts with her.  Martin Short plays Leonard Winstone, the Tobin family’s long-time lawyer.

Another very, very good reason to tune into season three: Lily Tomlin, as Louis Tobin’s wife Marilyn, a recurring character.  In a deposition scene, Tomlin actually upstages Glenn Close.

Marilyn feigns the aggrieved, betrayed wife and then ups the ante by goading Patty.  Later, when her son Joe (Campbell Scott) asks how the deposition progressed, Marilyn replies, “Lenny thinks I did really well…she’s not particularly sharp, that woman.”

Oh, my!  It’s Marilyn Tobin vs. Patty Hewes.  This could be shaping up to be a championship bout.