Posted July 17, 2012 by editor in Film Reviews

Damages Season 4 Review

Super serious legal drama Damages returns for a fourth season and we rejoin legal powerhouse Patti Hewes (Glenn Close) and dower whippersnapper Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) for another high-end litigation case. This time it’s Ellen who brings in the case, having met up with an old friend, Chris Sanchez, who worked as a mercenary in Afghanistan. It transpires that the private security firm who hired Sanchez, High Star, were involved in some extremely murky dealings in Afghanistan and, of course, Ellen smells a case….a case which will make her name should she succeed. But High Star owner, Howard Erickson (John Goodman), is an extremely powerful and well-connected man, with a lot of secrets and a psychotic mercenary, Jerry Boorman (the brilliant and underrated Dylan Baker), as his right-hand man. Not the easiest man to take down, legally or otherwise. With little in the way of evidence or resources it looks as though Ellen doesn’t stand a chance. Enter Ellen’s resentful former mentor, the very clever, very scary, super-lawyer Patti Hewes. Will Patti and Ellen unlock horns long enough to fight the case together? Will there even be a case to fight? Will Patti ever find her wayward and potentially homicidal son? Will Ellen or Patti ever crack a smile (probably not)? And what dark secrets does “war whore” Howard Erickson hide?


As always Damages throws out so many twists and turns that the audience isn’t even sure they’re meant to be rooting for the main protagonists. No one is without fault and every character has an agenda of their own and this is extremely refreshing. Along with the jumping timeline, this is one of the aspects of the show that sets it apart from the slew of other legal dramas. Patti, our hero, is so cold and ruthless she almost deserves the mantel of “anti-hero”. Patti may represent the wronged, but she always serves her own interests and this season is no different. While it’s clear that Patti’s career is stellar, her personal life is a disaster and the initial scenes involving Patti and her Granddaughter really highlight this. It’s a shame, then, that Ellen seems to be morphing into her mentor. The demise of Tom Shayes (Tate Donavan) in season 3 was unfortunate as he was the only character with a trace of humanity and it was his friendship with Ellen that made her seem accessible. Without Tom’s presence and influence the audience are left with two rather unlikeable women. But top lawyers do not tend to be the most likeable people, so a nod to the writers for refusing to make the female leads warm and relatable (The Good Wife take note).


This season of Damages is less engaging than previous seasons and is almost sluggish in parts. The main focus this season is private security firm High Star and because of this much of the story revolves around, or is set in, the Middle East. While there’s no doubt that this is an important issue, this reviewer is a little tired of seeing it tied into the plot of every show on television, from Homelands to The Killing and everything in between.  As always though, the villain is excellent and this time we are treated to John Goodman playing a man you don’t know whether to love or hate (much like Ted Danson’s character in the first two seasons). And it almost goes without saying that Glenn Close is excellent, she certainly has the cold withering stare nailed.


While season 4 may be somewhat lacking in comparison to the first three seasons, it still stands head and shoulders above most legal dramas, refusing to pad out the show with endless romantic storylines or to dumb down the law too much. Of course this can lead to some rather boring and heavy scenes, but this is offset by the unreasonable amount of homicide that seems to occur on every case Patti becomes involved with. Damages veers between the realistic and the ridiculous, the excitingly fast-paced and the sleep-inducingly slow. But it’s always well acted, it’s always intelligent and in this reviewer’s opinion, there’s no legal drama out there at the moment that even gets close to touching Damages.

Lindsay Emerson