Damages: The Complete Fourth Season

Damages: The Complete Fourth Season
A few things have changed on Damages since it moved from FX to DirecTV following the third season cancellation due to low ratings. Chiefly, there's an abundance of nudity and profanity, which actually suits the dark, cynical series and its unembellished, realist sensibilities. Less superficially, the framing device of the first three seasons, wherein the season ending cliffhanger is revealed through flash-forwards throughout the entire season, was dropped for a more traditional narrative structure. Initially, these changes, along with a grittier, less polished aesthetic, make the first couple of episodes of this fourth season mildly off-putting. Exacerbating this is the hot button, sensationalist topic of war as a driving force, as Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) looks to take on a case against private security firm High Star after high school sex buddy Chris Sanchez (Chris Messina) returns from Afghanistan with horrific tales of wrongful deaths and a botched mission. In the midst of this is a storyline that has Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) seeking out her estranged son, while a mysterious assassin (Dylan Baker) follows around Chris, when not having hushed conversations with High Star CEO Howard Erickson (John Goodman). But once the template is set for the season-long narrative arc and Ellen reluctantly turns to Patty for help on her career-defining case, the series once again finds its slick, consistently clever and surprising groove, examining Patty's motivations for helping Ellen while the two women continue to play endless mind games, employing manipulative tactics as a means to an end. The thematic trajectory of the series remains, featuring women exploiting male philosophies and politics inversely to beat egomaniacal male powerhouses and bullies at their own game ― this time a Republican warmonger ― but this season concentrates on the sacrifices of focusing on career. As Ellen ramps up her professional ambitions, taking many a page from her enemy and mentor, Patty assesses her ersatz maternal instincts, acknowledging the peculiar relationship she has with Ellen while dealing with her shortcomings as a mother to her son. As the season progresses, these storylines become increasingly complex and engaging, resulting in a climax true to form, leaving a keen viewer desperate for the next chapter. The DVD set is short on features, focusing on character development and the superficial storyline aspects of the season, which is fine, since the show works better without explanation. (Sony)