Damages – Pilot (01×01)

Damages’ writers Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler, and Daniel Zelman put together one of the year’s most sharply written, well acted, and generally engrossing drama series that hides under the veil of being a litigation-like series instead borrowing heavily from series like Prison Break with a lightning fast story that throws enough twists and turns at the viewer to make them think twice, trust no one, and question everything. It’s almost as if The X-Files were reincarnated into Law & Order.

The overall story arch of the season concerns an Enron-like white collar business man, Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) having his employees invest heavily the company before the bottom drops out, with him selling all his shares prior. The employees of the company hire Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) to represent them, and along with new associate Ellen Parsons (Rose Bynre) things start off clean and smooth and eventually flip you so upside down by the end of the first hour you’re clamoring for more.


The show is actually told in flashback; with the present day events the big mystery of the show as Ellen appears in a police station bloodied and not talking (this is all provided in the on-air promos, so no spoiler warnings here). Still, there’s so much to the series, and its serialized nature that the viewer will be coming back week after week for extra servings.

While the story is the aspect of the pilot that may get the most attention, the acting is top-notch as well, providing a memorable canvas to bring the written word to the screen. Glenn Close brings her A-game once again to the small screen after her Emmy-nominated portrayal of Captain Monica Rawlings on fellow FX series The Shield in 2005.

Rounding out the top billed cast is a sliver-haired Ted Danson who has come a long way from Three Men and a Baby. Danson really sinks into the roll of the corrupt business man doing what ever it takes to avoid a trial and huge settlement with Frobisher and his lawyer Ray Fiske (Zeljko Ivanek) in a game of words and actions with Hewes, with the viewer left guessing who has the upper hand at any given time.

The rest of the line-up in no way plays second fiddle to Close’s Hewes, but it’s so hard to escape from the shadow of the character. Rose Bynre, late of theatrical 28 Weeks Later, shows that she has the cockles to stand up to Hewes by turning down her initial interview, only to have Hewes show up, at a wedding she wasn’t invited to, with a glass of bourbon and a purpose.

The series itself is deadly serious, but there are times of laugh out loud bickering between characters, one happens early in the pilot on the courthouse steps, that certainly shows aspects of Hewes’ character. She can go from happy-go-lucky to firing an employee back to asking if you like sushi in ten seconds flat, and that makes her a character to watch, because her unpredictability makes her more than some cliché “strong-woman-bitch” character you see spread around the industry. She has everyone in the palm of her hand, and a plan for everything that she does.

Damages is easily one of, if not the best drama premiere this year, cable or otherwise. Even after only seeing the pilot the potential of the series and its intricate network of characters and their interaction leaves the door wide open for more than a few twists and viewers guessing which way is up.

Written by Erich Becker
Thirty-something with a love of everything we cover here, and a few things we don't. Erich has run Entertainmentopia since the site's inception in 1999, countless redesigns, a few crashes, and a lot of media later, here you have it!