Jarv in Spain. Part 3- TV
Or, more specifically, Damages Season 3.
Yesterday I looked at Damages Season 2, which I think is dreadful for a variety of reasons. However, it was still popular enough for FX to allow it one more season. Unfortunately, Season 3 is also uniquely dreadful, for entirely different reasons to Season 2, for the most part anyway. Rose Byrne still sucks, obviously, because she can’t help it, but on the whole the problems on Season 3 are due to some fundamentally odd decisions made at script level.
May contain Aussie actresses sucking and spoilers below.
Damages Season 3
When we left season 2, Ellen was hinting at a new job, and Patty and her bag carrier Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan) were discussing where the future would take them and whether they’d have any contact with Ellen again. Sadly, they do. Ellen now works for the District attorney, and is intimately involved in bringing the Tobin family to justice. The patriarch of the Tobin family (Louis , played by Len Cariou) was a high flying financier who organised a Ponzi scheme that ripped billions off American investors. Basically, think Bernie Madoff. He’s the head of a family of oddballs and is due to be sentenced for his crime, where he almost certainly will die in jail. Patty (Glenn Close) is the trustee for the victims and has to recover as much of the missing money as possible. She’s, despite there being no evidence whatsoever for this, fixated on the family (and particularly Joe, played by Campbell Scott) as having hid the billions abroad.
She’s right, Louis did, however the point she’s missing is that the family knew nothing about this, and it’s only her ruthlessness in pursuing Joe to the ends of the earth that forces him into crime.
This, potentially, is an incredibly interesting and topical set up. Sadly, they screw the pooch completely here and I’m about to go into why.
Basically, what it boils down to is Patty and Ellen behaving in increasingly appalling ways to the family and their lawyer Leonard Winstone (Martin Short, being annoying) while Joe goes further and further off the rails. Adding to the twists and turns are the events with Patty’s new employee, son (Zachary Booth, still douchey) and his girlfriend who is carrying his child, Ellen’s awful family, Tom’s bankruptcy at the hands of the Tobins, the return of Frobisher (Ted Danson) and Wes (Timothy Olyphant) and Leonard’s true identity. I may have missed a few, but it’s ludicrously over-elaborate, really.
Acting wise, aside from Byrne and one other exception that I’ll come to in a minute, this is first rate stuff. Close is electric again as Patty, and Donovan puts in his best shift so far as Shayes (who may possibly be the worst lawyer in history), Short is annoying as Leonard, and there’s some stunning supporting work from Lily Tomlin as Marilyn, the matriarch and Madchen Amick as Daniella Marchetti. Incidentally, Amick is still hot as hell, in fact she may even be hotter than her Twin Peaks days, so if Carla doesn’t want the role of Big Momma Astrodyke, I’d suggest her as a surrogate.
The exception is the truly horrible performance put in by Scott as Joe. Joe is a dreadfully overwrought character anyway, being a complicated mix of character flaws (he’s a recovering alcoholic for one), and his descent into villainy is atrociously handled. Scott, frankly, doesn’t have the chops for this part, being all sotto voice and annoying gestures with his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose. The character is a self-righteous dick, which doesn’t help matters, and his increasingly criminal activities don’t mesh properly with the words and actions of the man we’re introduced to.
The problem here is fully with the writing. There’s the continuing downright lazy research (the Antigua section is laughable), and some of the sloppy errors that they make are absolutely ludicrous (the explanation of IBAN numbers is particularly bad). This is meant to be a legal drama, and yet there’s absolute nonsense about Shayes “conflict of interest” implicating Patty, and that don’t get me started on Leonard’s past.
It’s also, again, horribly unfocused. The return of Frobisher in particular is an utterly pointless side plot and the resolution feels frankly vindictive and overly punitive. Then there’s the crap with Ellen’s family. Yes, her sister is dealing meth, but this is basically nothing but an annoying distraction from the story and actively detracts from the action. Byrne, by the way, puts in her worst shift of the series so far in her confrontation scenes with her sister, which is really saying something given how bad she is at the best of times.
Furthermore, to compound this, there are repeated, and uniformly odd, dream sequences laced through the episodes involving Patty and a horse (no, not Byrne). These, actually, feel almost Lynchian and I was expecting to see a backwards talking midget pop up to hand out clues to a bemused Federal Agent. Eventually, the dreams are explained, which I’ll come to in a moment, but really, including them was a monumental mistake.
As mentioned it’s unfocused and mostly bizarre, but there is a method to the madness. Unfortunately, it’s a particularly bad decision, and one that far too many films, particularly remakes, make. Basically, the focus, what there is, is on Patty’s background and personal life, and I don’t feel any need to see her motivations explained. It’s already well established that she is ruthless and flirts with the grey areas of the law, but the information given out in the dream sequences and particularly with her interactions with Michael don’t add depth, rather they remove sympathy. To make matters worse, her behaviour towards the characters, especially the Tobins and Frobisher basically shreds any goodwill towards the characters and moments of sheer spite (such as when she puts all the Tobin’s property up for auction) feel on the verge of bullying. Patty has never been a nice character, but she has always represented the “good” side. Here, I’m not so sure and I did let out a little cheer with Leonard’s resolution.
It’s very easy to see why FX dropped the axe on this. The cast must be inordinately expensive (Wallace Shawn makes a highly entertaining cameo appearance and almost every minor character is a recognisable face) and the series shed viewers by the episode. The reason being that it’s confusing and for the most part kind of boring. To hang on to see who killed Shayes took sheer willpower, and the mystery finally being unravelled was monumentally disappointing.
Overall, this series is terrible. It’s as bad as the second one, albeit in a different way, and if it had stopped here nobody would have shed a tear. I don’t recommend this, at all, but I am mildly curious about Season 4, as I’ve heard that’s dramatically better. While Close, Amick, Tomlin and Danson are great fun, that’s simply not enough to save the series from being a complete mess.
That’s the Spain entertainment caught up to date, and I’ll get back on to my usual shift of writing about little B-movies that nobody else cares about.