Jarv in Spain. Part 2: TV
This time it’s TV, or more specifically, Damages.
Mrs Jarv is a big fan of the first series of Damages, and to be fair, she’s right, it is good. It’s nothing earth shattering, sure enough, but the story is compelling, the performances are good- with Ted Danson in particular acting against type and simply brilliant. Glenn Close is on form as the ruthless Patty Hewes and the series simply rattled along.
However, as is always the way, one successful series spawned some sequels, and as Mrs. Jarv loved them so much, she took the box sets to Spain. I’d already seen some of season three, and hated it, so I knew this was going to be rocky.
Contains paperwork and spoilers below.
Damages basically deals with Super lawyer Patty Hewes (Close), her associate Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) and their high profile class action cases. There’s usually some serious corruption involved and the good guys win while the bad guys are punished. In Season one the bad guy was Squillionaire Arthur Frobisher (Danson) who’d been up to all sorts of naughtiness.
Structurally, most episodes close with a foreshadowing of the end, revealing a bit more of the climactic scene as the story comes to fruition. What’s interesting about the series, aside from Close and Danson, is the morally ambiguous nature of proceedings- even Ellen is a cut-throat bitch, while Patty frequently dabbles in a bit of her own light corruption.
Season one ended with Ellen joining the FBI to entrap Patty for corruption and bring her down.
Brief plot synopsis coming. Ellen is undercover for the FBI at Hewes and Associates to entrap Patty. She’s got her own reasons for it (not least of which is that Patty tried to have her killed in season 1). In the meantime, an old flame of Patty’s Purcell (William Hurt) is in trouble because he’s being threatened by a shady power company. She’s also having problems with her son Michael (Zachary Booth), and her husband who has succumbed to the oily charm of power broker Dick Pell (Clarke Peters).
Representing the defendant is Claire Maddox (Marcia Gay Harden), and the big bad bossman is Walter Kendrick (John Doman), who has more to hide than anyone could realistically hope for. Also making appearances are Mario Van Peebles, Danson, and more importantly Timothy Olyphant.
OK- I’m not sure where to go with this, because it is clearly shit. While Close and Hurt are good, while Harden flirts with brilliance, there are so many problems here that I think I’ll just bullet point them.
- The Villains
Frobisher was a great villain. He was oily, charming, ruthless, and an equal match for Patty. Here, however, Kendrick and Pell are little more than obnoxious bullies, while Maddox (as good as Harden is, which is excellent) doesn’t have the screen time that Ray in the first series had. Therefore, the series doesn’t have the adversarial nature that the first one had, instead trying to focus more on human drama and intrigue. This doesn’t work, because Patty is such a strong character that she needs to face off against an equally powerful villain or the series doesn’t work.
As in: it has none. In all honesty, the series is all over the fecking place. Ellen in therapy (yawn), the shite with the FBI (eventually tied in), the domestic crap with Patty’s family, Tom’s wife giving birth, Frobisher returning, the security consultant from the first series, Hurt’s storyline, and on and on and on. You get the idea- there’s no central thrust to the storyline, and if anything it switches focus half way through from Purcell’s problem to the stock market manipulation. It’s a fucking mess if I’m honest.
It’s ridiculously and ludicrously complicated. The storyline is so so saturated with sub plots and extraneous detail that laying out that synopsis above gave me a bit of a headache. Furthermore, by moving it away from the law (huge mistake), the series feels like a standard conspiracy thriller with the so-called emotional touches not helping matters at all. Mostly because they’re meant to heavily involve Byrne, who can’t act.
- Rose Byrne
As in: she sucks. She’s a bleeding terrible monotone talking actress with the emotional range of a wet teabag. Sadly, in Series 2 because of the time spent tying up the loose ends from Season 1 and the entire FBI sub plot (resolved through a very, very shitty deus ex machina) huge amounts of screen time are devoted to the awful whining cow.
- Timothy Olyphant
As in: Wasted. He’s the wrong actor for this part, to begin with, and his eventual transformation at Byrne’s dubious charms stretches credibility more than a little bit. Still, the point is, don’t cast Olyphant if you’re not going to use him properly.
The lack of research into this got on my nerves. This is repeated in the third series, but there’s a load of bollocks passed off as true that could have been sorted with 10 minutes on Google. Typically, I now can’t think of specific examples, but I did comment on it more than once. Furthermore, the resolution of the story in the final episode is ludicrously convenient.
Basically, it’s rubbish, and if you took Close out of it, then it would be utter mince. I think the plot is overly contrived, and they’ve overegged the pudding to such a ludicrous extent that it feels both bloated and unsatisfactory. Needless to say, I do not recommend Damages Series 2.
Next up, is Season 3, which makes Season 2 look like genius.