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When I Am Through With You, There Won't Be Anything Left...
A dark conspiracy thriller Drama Series with a legal theme starring Glenn Close as the ruthless lawyer Patty Hewes. Unusually for a legal series, each season follows a single case in detail rather than a Monster of the Week format. Damages is extremely dark, about as far on the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism as you can get - the "good guys" on this show, such as they are, would be villains in any other. The (Season 1 - anything beyond would contain spoilers) cast includes:
Patty Hewes (Glenn Close): A brilliant attorney who wins her high-stakes lawsuits by any means necessary. Hewes is a tempered-steel Iron Lady, but still manages to frequently surprise with the depths she'll sink to to Pay Evil Unto Evil. Her backstory and true motivations are slowly revealed as the series progresses. Could easily be the poster child for Amoral Attorney, and in any other show, would be the villain.
Ellen Parsons: A Naive Newcomer right out of law school hired by Hewes. Essentially the entire first season is one long Break the Cutie for her, as she slowly catches on to the rules of Patty's world and begins to manipulate them for her own ends. Serves as something of a Foil for Patty early on, before Taking a Level In Badass. The contrast and relationship between Ellen and Patty is a central theme of the show, and in fact the rest of the plot was constructed around it.
Tom Shayes: Patty's right-hand man and Ellen's mentor. Tom's morals are somewhat less flexible than Patty's, which in this show just makes him the Butt Monkey. Serves as Patty's Lancer, when she has something his morals can handle.
Arthur Frobisher: A Corrupt Corporate Executive on the receiving end of the Season 1 case. Selfish, arrogant, and ruthless in his attempts to defend himself. Already at a slow roll down the slippery slope at the series open and picks up speed over the course of the season.
Ray Fiske: Frobisher's lawyer and Patty's Worthy Opponent. Unusually for an antagonistic lawyer, he's fairly sympathetic and his legal ethics are if anything stricter than Patty's (not that that's saying much). Does his best to rein in Frobisher's bull-headed tendencies, and to keep the wolves at bay to win the case without bloodshed.
The show makes heavy use of Anachronic Order to create drama and tension, as the pieces of the Foregone Conclusion fall into place. Each episode reveals one piece of the puzzle in each the present and the future, and maintains a mix of events that a Genre Savvy viewer will catch on to just in time and Shocking Swerves that subvert such Genre Savvy to great effect. The political twists and turns are deep enough to make Tom Clancy blush, without becoming a Kudzu Plot.
Damages didn't maintain a strong viewership during its first season, and has continued to drop in ratings since, despite wide critical acclaim. The show went three seasons on F/X before being cancelled, and has been picked up by Direc TV for two more; the first two seasons are available on Netflix. Seasons 4 and 5 will each be ten episodes in length.
Now has a fledgling Character Sheet that needs some Wiki love.
- Aborted Arc: Wes's Krulik's past and motives for going after Ellen: it's implied in season two that he both has his own personal interest in hurting Frobisher, as well as his own past (implied to be a former cop for whom Rick Messler was blackmailing to get him to keep an eye on Ellen).
- Advertised Extra: Marcia Gay Harden as Claire Maddox in Season 2 only appears in 7 out of 13 episodes.
- Affably Evil: Arthur Frobisher and, to a lesser extent, his Dragon Ray Fiske.
- Amoral Attorney: Oh, God, yes!
- Anachronic Order: Every season. An interesting use - each episode reveals two sections of plot, months apart from each other, with the "past" segments telling How We Got Here and the future ones unfolding the story.
- Anti-Hero: Patty Hewes, full stop.
- Anti-Villain: Joe Tobin in Season 3. He starts off as a genuinely nice guy whose world falls apart when his father's corruption is revealed and he even considers cooperating with Patty. Ultimately, he breaks under the pressure, falls off the wagon back to being an alcoholic and does a lot of horrible things to try and protect his family.
- Ray Fiske may also apply. While he is guilty of insider trading he is a Boy Scout in comparison to Patty and resists Frobisher's attempts to resolve his problems through violence.
- Anyone Can Die: If your name isn't Ellen Parsons or Patty Hewes, keep your life insurance premiums current.
- Of the main cast members of the first three seasons, only Ellen, Patty, Wistone or Claire Maddox aren't dead or in prison.
- Arc Words: "Trust no one."
- Ate His Gun: Ray Fiske does this in front of Patty after she blackmails him near the end of Season 1.
- Bad Ass Lawyer: Say what you will about her methods but Patty Hewes will always get her job done.
- Beard of Evil: Rick Messer sports one of these.
- Be as Unhelpful as Possible
- Big Bad: Arthur Frobisher in Season 1. Pell and Tobin for Seasons 2 and 3 respectively.
- Bittersweet Ending: Season 3's finale for sure. Former Karma Houdini Arthur Frobisher finally gets arrested for some of his crimes, but at the cost of Wes turning himself in for his part in them. The main case is solved but only after Tobin has murdered Tom, Tobin's mother has committed suicide and Winstone has managed to escape with a lot of the Tobins' money. On top of all that Patty's son tries to kill her after she has his girlfriend sent to prison for statutory rape and its revealed through flashbacks that Patty's deceased daughter was killed in the womb via intentional miscarriage, due to Patty putting her career first over motherhood. Ellen asks Patty if everything she's done for her career is worth it to which Patty doesn't reply.
- Black and Grey Morality: At best. There's these people, see, and they go around blackmailing, burgling, bribing, and occasionally having people killed. And they're the good guys. The bad guys do all that stuff, but not for good reasons.
- Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: Patty gives one of these to Ray Fiske.
- Break the Cutie: The entire first season is one of these for Ellen Parsons.
- Season four has that for Chris, Ellen's love interest.
- Broken Bird: Ellen by the end of Season 1, and it's heavily hinted that Patty has this in her backstory.
- Bungled Suicide: (Season 2) Uncle Pete attempts to kill himself rather than help the FBI against Patty. Patrick finishes the job after Pete wakes from his coma.
- Bury Your Gays: Happens in Season 1 to Ray Fiske.
- Butt Monkey: Arguably Tom Shayes. He is one of the few characters in the series with black and white morals and he gets little to no respect for it. He even gets Killed Off for Real in Season 3!
- Chekhov's Gun: The phone calls one of the FBI agents in Season 2 keeps on getting and says are from his wife actually end up being important.
- Cleanup Crew: Uncle Pete calls one in to get rid of the evidence that someone attacked Ellen.
- Clear My Name: Arthur Frobisher's chief motivation. Subverted, in that he's actually guilty as sin, and does even worse things to win.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Implied to have happened to David before he was killed, fortunately off-screen. On screen for poor Tom in the Season 3 finale.
- Completely Missing the Point: Arthur Frobisher in the Season 1 finale. He tells his son that, "I made a very big mistake, and I'm going to be paying for it for the rest of my life." And just what was this big mistake? "I trusted too many people."
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Arthur Frobisher. Walter Kendrick. Dave Pell. George Moore was actually listed in the credits as "The Executive" for a while.
- Detective Mole: Rick Messer retrieves the one piece of incriminating evidence at the David Connor murder scene by flashing his badge and walking straight in the front door.
- Dirty Cop: The favored henchman of the show's villains. It makes cleaning up after a bit of Dirty Business much easier.
- Dramatic Irony: An enormous source of tension for the show, provided by the Anachronic Order.
- Driven to Suicide: Multiple characters. So far Once a Season.
- Season 1 — Ray Fiske after being blackmailed.
- Season 2 — Uncle Pete after being nabbed by the FBI.
- Season 3 — Both Marilyn and Louis Tobin. Louis by poison, Marilyn by drowning.
- Season 4 — Kinda sorta Gerald Boorman. More of a Suicide by Shell-shocked soldier whose men he killed.
- Dying Clue: Whoever Arthur Frobisher got to kill George Moore should have been fired. They didn't check his pockets for the key piece of evidence that ended up blowing the case wide open.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Ray Fiske, who doesn't have the stomach for what he's gotten into. He Ate His Gun for it. Initially, Arthur Frobisher as well.
- Everyone Is a Suspect
- Evil Versus Evil: Depending on your interpretation of Patty Hewes. If you see her as a very dark Anti-Hero, then it's Black and Gray Morality, but certainly her behavior would make her the villain in any other show.
- Evil Virtues: Frobisher's determination and ambition are constant, and he's quite proud of them.
- Family Values Villain: Frobisher, at first.
- Faux Affably Evil: Dave Pell.
- Flashback Effects: Used to show shifts between the present and future timelines. The removal of the effects is used to great effect, showing the present catching up to the future and the conclusion of the story.
- Foregone Conclusion: In Season 3, you know via a Flash Forward in the first episode that Tom Shayes is going to die. Doesn't make the scene itself any less heartbreaking though.
- Good Is Not Nice: Define "good".
- Guilt Ridden Accomplice: Arthur Frobisher's Achilles' heel.
- Heel Face Revolving Door: Frobisher.
- Heel Face Turn: Ray Fiske. Subverted. He decides to kill himself instead.
- Also Wes in Season 2.
- He Knows Too Much: Chris in Season Four.
- Hijacked by Ganon: In Season 1. The one behind the blackmail of Gregory Malina? Frobisher. The one who put a hits on George More and David respectively? Frobisher.
- Hitman with a Heart: Wes Krulick.
- How We Got Here: Each season had numerous flash forwards throughout, but you're not given the full context until the very end.
- Incompatible Orientation: Ray Fiske in regards to Gregory Malina.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode is named after a line of dialogue spoken by a character in said episode.
- Instant Mystery, Just Delete Scene: The show loves this trope.
- Insult Backfire: Walter Kendrick is being told to "Go to hell". His response?
I probably will. But while I'm here no one's gonna take away my goddamn company.
- Invisible to Gaydar: Ray Fiske.
- Ironic Echo: "Because I know Patty..."
- Iron Lady: Patty Hewes, oh so very much.
- It's All About Me: Both Patty and the show's villains are childish and hate to lose.
- Season Four takes the cake with Jerry Boorman; a corrupt CIA Agent who has gleefully broken EVERY law imaginable, all in the name of ensuring no one can out him for the laws he has broken part of the "War on Terror". Seven episodes into the season, pretty much EVERY act of murder or violence can be linked to Boorman, either directly or through him forcing his cohort, Howard Erickson, into doing it under threat that if he doesn't and Boorman gets busted, that he will take Erickson down with him.
- It Was Here, I Swear: When Ellen Parsons sends detectives to Patty's apartment looking for the man who attacked her, the body, the blood, and the broken window are all gone, and the place is (almost) spotless.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Marilyn Tobin murmurs something along those lines to herself in the Season 3 finale,right before she commits suicide.
- Jerkass: Arthur Frobisher, who continues to see himself as The Woobie. It apparently does not even enter his mind that he has actually done some very bad things, and has therefore earned the bad things that keep happening as a result.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Frobisher does so with gusto once he gets past his conscience. He starts out as a Family Values Villain and goes downhill rapidly.
- Justice by Other Legal Means: Patty Hewes steps in where law enforcement has failed.
- Killed Off for Real: Everyone the show kills off is actually dead, although some keep coming back in dreams and flashbacks.
- The Killer Becomes the Killed: The ultimate fate of Rick Messer.
- Mad Mathematician: Finn Garrity, the coked-up math whiz turned energy trader in Season 2. In the finale he goes nuts and stabs Patty.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: These were Rick Messer's exact words to Wes Krulick in Season 2.
- Also in Season 2, FBI Agent Harrison's murder is made to look like an overdose.
- Manipulative Bastard
- The Mole: Wes.
- Morality Pet: Frobisher and Patty's sons.
- Howard Erickson and his kids as well.
- Motive Misidentification
- Murder Is the Best Solution: This is Jerry Boorman's philosophy, as well as Rick Messer's.
- Naive Newcomer: Combined with Break the Cutie in Season 1 with Ellen Parsons.
- Never One Murder: Arthur Frobisher senses this truth. He decides to go ahead anyway.
- New Old Flame: Daniel Purcell is this for Patty.
- Season four Chris is this too for Ellen, introduced as her high school sweetheart.
- Nice Guy: Tom Shayes.
- No Name Given: Many, many characters, some important, some not. Most get names eventually, but even then, the credits continue to refer to them as "Bearded Man" or "Pockmarked Man".
- Not Quite Dead: At the end of Season 1, Ellen assumes that she killed the attacker in Patty's home, but he actually survived.
- Not So Stoic: Patty Hewes, just not in front of anybody else.
- Oh Crap: Rick Messer's last word, as he sees Wes in his rear-view mirror, hiding in the back of his car. With a gun.
- Older Sidekick: Uncle Pete.
- Once a Season: Somebody close to Ellen or Patty dying and every finale has ended with a scene of Patty and someone else (Ellen in Seasons 1 and 3, Tom in Season 2) at her lake house.
- Only Mostly Dead: In Season 2, Daniel Purcell assumes he killed his wife. She was actually still alive, barely, when Kendrick's henchman comes in and Kills Her For Real.
- Out, Damned Spot!: The spot of blood on Patty's shoe later revealed to be from Ray Fiske eating his gun.
- Pay Evil Unto Evil: SO. MUCH.
- Perfect Poison: Used by Louis Tobin and on Daniell Marchetti in Season 3.
- Pet the Dog: Patty genuinely loves her son. She truly sucks as expressing it, though.
- Most characters on the show get them. Frobisher has his son as a Morality Pet, Fisk has Gregory Malina, and so on.
- Photo Psychic: In Season 3, Ellen only learns that Carol Tobin visited Danielle Marchetti on the night she died because she happened to be in the picture that Ellen wanted a witness to identify Joe Tobin from.
- Pretty Little Headshots: Frequent.
- Put on a Bus: Wes in Season 3. He's Back for the Finale, though.
- The few supporting characters of any given season that don't get killed off usually end up getting put on buses at the end of their season.
- Reformed but Rejected: Frobisher plays at being this, but it's fairly obvious that, his claims of spiritual renewal aside, he's still every bit the selfish and egocentric bastard he was before.
- Retcon: According to a line spoken by Patty, Michael Hewes is 18 in Season 2 when he introduces Jill (his older girlfriend) to his mother and stepfather. The stories in Season 3 start 10 months after the end of Season 2. Jill is pregnant in Season 3. Michael uses a DNA test to prove to Patty that he's the father and that Jill isn't being deceptive. Patty uses the DNA test to get Jill arrested for statutory rape of a character stated to be 18 about a year before the sexual encounter she's charged with engaging in? They didn't even bother to mention Michael's mysteriously lower age before the arrest.
- Revolving Door Casting: With the exception of Arthur Frobisher who has a guest arc in Season 2 and 3, most of the supporting characters (especially the plaintiffs) of any given season usually ended up getting killed off or put on buses.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The season-spanning plots are made of this. The first two seasons split up the juicier details of Enron's collapse. With a company rife with accounting irregularities and professed ignorance of wrongdoing by subordinates, Frobisher is a take on Ken Lay; UNR's manipulation of the energy grid by traders to rack up huge profits fictionalizes Enron's role in the California electricity crisis of 2000-2001. In Season 3, Louis Tobin's ponzi scheme has many similarities to Bernie Madoff's while Season Four is pretty much Blackwater and Erik Prince vs Patty Hewes.
- Sacrificial Lion: Both David and Ray Fisk in Season 1.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections: Dave Pell's M.O. as well as Howard Erickson's.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money: Arthur Frobisher's M.O.
- Shoot the Dog
- Sickbed Slaying: The fate of Uncle Pete.
- Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism: Firmly leaning towards the cynical.
- Stalker with a Crush: Lila. Doubles as Clingy Jealous Girl, and subverts Ax Crazy.
- Stepford Smiler: Ellen became this after her fiance's murder in Season 1 in order to keep working for Patty. In fact this was noted by the FBI who persuaded her to help them bring Patty down.
- Strange Bedfellows: Frobisher helps Patty to start the case against Kendrick in Season 2.
- Strictly Formula: There's a White Collar Crime case, there's a 3 months later Flash Forward story usually involving one of our heroes in danger or possibly even dead, the audience follows the bread crumbs, there's twists, people die, Patty and Ellen win the case while losing something personal in the process, the season's film actor bad guys die or go to jail, roll credits.
- Stuffed Into the Fridge: David.
- Supporting Protagonist: Ellen is arguably this. While Patty is the central character most of the show is focused on Ellen's Character Development as a result of being involved in Patty's world.
- Suspect Existence Failure
- Suspiciously Idle Officers: Detective Rick Messer, big time. Does he even have any actual duties? In Season 2, this is justified for the FBI agent on Dave Pell's payroll, because it's explained that his supervisor is in on the conspiracy.
- Throwing the Fight: Patty occasionally does this, in order to get her opponents to tip their hand.
- Took a Level in Badass: Ellen.
- Twist Ending: Several plot threads seem to point to one solution then out of the blue will head for another, completely unexpected resolution. One of the reasons why critics loved it.
- The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: With inverted gender roles for Patty Hewes and her son.
- The Un-Reveal: The contents of David's wedding gift to Ellen.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Rick Messer's public image is that of an exemplary police officer. He's anything but.
- Wham! Episode: The use of Surprise Tropes is this show's trademark, though the heaviest hitters usually come towards the end of each season.
- White Collar Crime: How every one of Patty's cases starts. They never end that way.
- Worthy Opponent: Ray Fiske, during Season 1.
- Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Ellen apparently has some.
- You! Get Me Coffee!: Patty likes to do this to her employees, just to torture them.