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'Damages' Season 3: TV's Best Serial (Dyke) Drama

'Damages' Season 3: TV's Best Serial (Dyke) Drama

Glenn Close and Rose Byrne adorn billboards all over promoting the Damages season 3 premiere on January 25th. They ooze sex appeal, and what lesbian isn't drawn to the two complex, powerful women who make bad guys pay. There are interesting new characters, such as Lily Tomlin as Tobin’s wife and Martin Short as Tobin’s attorney, and there is an all-new plotline, but the winning formula of Damages remains intact.

The P&A folks over at FX get why we watchDamages.  That’s why the made-up faces of the female lead characters played by Glenn Close and Rose Byrne adorn billboards all over LA, promoting Season 3, which premieres January 25, 10/9c.  It’s sex appeal, despite the fact the show features very little sex.  Still, there’s something extremely sexy about the two complex, powerful women, who intrigue and captivate us, each with her own set of mores and modus operandi to get things done and make bad guys pay for wrongdoing.

The latest season starts out promising more of the same excellent drama and suspense as previous seasons with smart and mysterious protagonists and a storyline that pits good against evil, but you can never be sure who represents which at what time.  All this in a riveting legal drama that rarely enters a court room.

In the same non-linear fashion of Season 1 and 2, the new season begins with a glimpse of a pivotal event that will occur six months after the opening scene.  Patty Hewes (Close) is happily cruising along in her car when she is blindsided by another car in a high-impact collision.  The mystery evolves as Patty stumbles out of her wrecked car to find the driver of the other vehicle missing.  From this point we flash between scenes from the crash investigation and events six months earlier.

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Meanwhile, still emotionally withdrawn a year after the murder of her fiancé, Ellen Parsons (Byrne) is now working an unglamorous job in the New York district attorney’s office in a cubicle, having left the stalwart firm of Hewes and Associates and the influence of her cutthroat former boss.  As destiny would have it, both the DA’s office and Hewes and Associates are working on the same case against Louis Tobin, a Bernie Maddoff-like character who masterminded a Ponzi scheme that bilked millions from unsuspecting investors.

Once again the rookie, Ellen struggles to prove herself with her new coworkers.  This time she is trying to seal a drug bust, but she needs the identity of a dealer’s source.  Ellen tells her former colleague Tom Shayles (Tate Donavan) about the case, and suddenly circumstances turn in her favor.  Ellen suspects that Tom and Patty are behind the bat-wielding thugs who attack the dealer’s prized motorcycle, pushing him to flip on his supplier.

Then Tom, recently rewarded by Patty for 10 years of slavery at the firm with his name on the door, comes to Ellen seeking her insider help on the Tobin case stating, “I’m not just asking as a friend.”  Ellen is confronted with an ethical dilemma.  Should she help her former colleague, to whom she is indebted, and help prosecute a bad guy, or should she refuse on principle?  This central quandary – of doing wrong to do right, continues to dog Ellen as it has throughout her short career.  She aspires to take the high road but keeps finding herself on the highway to hell. 

Intentional or not – or maybe it’s just wishful thinking, the subtle sexual tension between Patty and Ellen continues to play out in Season 3.  We see glimmers of these undertones as Patty finally clears out Ellen’s former office and sentimentally sifts through Ellen’s left-behind belongings.  Across town, Ellen receives a box from Patty, a gift.  When questioned about it, she tells her boss, “We don’t talk anymore.”  Sounds like a break up to me.

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I know I am not the only lesbian who wished Ellen was alluding to more than blackmail in Season 1, when the two women sat cozily on the couch in Patty’s apartment, and she asked Patty, “Did we go too far?” 

I can’t be the only one who thought the climatic scene in Season 2 was charged with erotic energy between the two women, when Ellen held a trembling Patty at gun point, urging her to come clean, saying, “It’s just the two of us.”  Ellen finally breaks Patty and gets her to confess her role in Ellen’s attempted murder, and she is satisfied.

And how about that final scene of Season 2 when Patty slyly proclaims, “She’ll be back.  Trust me.”

Luckily for us, Patty was right.  And it just can’t be coincidence that Patty and Ellen’s first encounter after a year of no contact is in the intimate setting of a swanky ladies room, when Patty is applying her lipstick.  Their conversation could be between ex lovers.  Patty: “I wasn’t sure I’d ever see you again.”  Ellen: “Why would you send me that gift?”  Patty:  “I thought you’d like it.” Ellen: What do you want from me?” Patty: “Nothing.  Well, did you like the bag?”  Ellen:  “It’s a $3,000 Channel.  Yeah, I liked it.”  Patty:  “It’s good to see you.”  Ellen:  “Patty, if you want to talk to me, don’t play games.  Just pick up the phone and call.”

The power play, or flirtation, as I like to think of it, between Patty and Ellen goes on, and the first two episodes leave us breathless for more.  There are interesting new characters, such as Lily Tomlin as Tobin’s wife and Martin Short as Tobin’s attorney, and there is an all-new plotline, but the winning formula of Damages remains intact.  We can anticipate being on the edge of our seats for the rest of the season, and we will not know exactly what really happened until the final moments of the last episode, but we can rest assured that the ending will be completely fulfilling.  

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K. Pearson Brown