Damages – The Next One’s On Me, Blondie

by deerinthexenonarclights

This weeks episode of Damages was, for the most part, a near-negligible experience, which is deep flaw given that it is usually such a thrill-ride of a show, albeit a cerebral one at that. Whereas over the past few weeks we have leapt forward through time and arcs at an exhilarating rate and compared to that Blondie was something of a boring breather; necessary perhaps for plotting and pacing purposes, but that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable.

The main problem with this is that as soon as the show slows down its flaws start to open up quite drastically. When your mind is rocketing along through all the intricate details and possible futures you are too involved to notice these things, but here the bluntness of the narrative structure and thematics hit you too hard to ignore.

While I praised the introduction of the military contractors storyline in my review of the pilot I’m starting to question just how valid a choice it was for this show, which stands apart from the rest of cable fare as much for its unique material as for its classy execution. Certainly the ethics of combat and the politics dictating those choices is a potent enough point, but here it feels a little too ham handed; as if the show were getting up and giving a speech to us like Goodman did to his congregation.

Previous seasons have dealt with much less ubiquitous themes and was thus able to deliver them without opinion, just as objective representation, but this simply isn’t possible when the stakes are this high and the material this relevant. If Damages has taught us anything over its first few years it may have been that ‘Litigation is like War’, but if this season is saying anything it is that the inverse isn’t also true, the piece doesn’t fit both ways.

So to did I praise the way that the show has been, for the most part, set in the present – the only flashes being those same, quick snippets of the captured soldier – though this too has now become problematic. While this linearity has allowed the storyline to move toward its destination at a much greater speed than we are usually accustomed too, it has also worked to atrophy the second storyline completely. Four episodes in of those same two men, in the same dark room, shot by the same clever camera angles that reveal to us nothing of the previous and these scenes stop being tense, or shocking, or revelatory and start becoming stale and even groan worthy. The original usage obviously also had its fair share of issue and detractors but at least they could be countee-balanced by a point, here I wonder why they even bother to include these scenes.

Thankfully though there were some redeeming features; after the premiere I praised the show for having such a magnificent cast of new and old character actors – probably the best on television – and Blondie added another esteemed member to that line-up in Judd Hirsch. It was only a guest-star spot, less than that only a plot device, but his rakish roustabout ruled over every scene he featured in. He played the role perfectly, oozing that old-school charm and still evoking all the necessary repulsion; he’s a man from another age – an extra from Mad Men maybe – that’s been trapped in this modern world and simply wants out and he was great to watch. It seems that his role is probably done now that he’s given his piece of exposition, but I hope this isn’t the case, I hope he’s back next week and most week’s after that.

Either way episode five should be something special, it’s a Christmas episode after all  -which is an interesting choice given that the season started airing in July – and if it’s not I may start to worry that DirecTV has done something to my Damages, otherwise I’m willing to just write this off as a singular slip-up and hope that I’ll be able to keep watching without seeing all the cracks that this episode so stupidly pointed out.

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