'Damages': A twist too far

Williamhurt_damages_s2_240 So what did we learn on Damages this week? We learned Tom practices situational ethics, Wes may have some issues not dealt with in group therapy and Ellen's heart has really hardened.

Also, that last scene? Whazzat?

These spoilers are not in the pocket of Big Energy.

We open the episode where we ended last week, with Ellen leveling her gun at the off-camera party and pulling the trigger. (Oh, also, she's in room/suite/apartment 1910.) That tells us nothing we don't already know, so it's back to six months ago and a phone call from Patty to Ellen later on the night of the charity gala, telling Ellen to get to the office, like, now.

Patty is at Daniel Purcell's house, helping him deal with the police (as represented by Tom Noonan, whom I can't see without thinking of Manhunter) doing the preliminary work on the death of his wife. Daniel says he saw a guy with stringy blond hair run past him as he entered his house, and when he went to check on his wife, she was dead. He also lies to Detective Noonan, saying no one had threatened him recently.

And why would he do that? Because, he tells Patty eventually, it really wouldn't matter. His firm was analyzing an industrial compound, and he found it to be highly toxic. Whoever commissioned the report juked the results to make the compound look safe, but left his name on it. Whoever did that has already killed his wife, and he wants to protect his daughter so he refuses to go public.

Which, of course, doesn't really faze Patty. She takes Daniel's report to a guy at the EPA, who's all friendly-friendly but promptly turns around and feeds the documents to Wayne (you may know him as Goodwin), Daniel's shadowy boss. Daniel, unsurprisingly, is rather peeved at this. But think, Patty says: I wanted him to leak those plans, because now we know that mega-corporation Ultima Natural Resources commissioned the report, and the company's legal shark, Claire Maddox (Marcia Gay Harden, dressed a little sexier than we're used to seeing her) is on the case, having obtained a court order to seize the documents from Patty's office.

Rosebyrne_damages_s2_240_2Patty clearly smells a bully here, and she loves taking down bullies. But all the time she's spending on Daniel eats into her commitment to the infant-mortality case the FBI is running -- in fact, she hands it off to Tom to run. That's going to put a kink into the FBI's sting, but the agents are light on their feet, figuring they can nail Tom, then flip him to get to Patty. Go ahead, says Ellen -- if Tom wants to do something wrong then he deserves what he gets. Dang, that's cold.

It's here that we get a sense of the game the FBI is running. The lead plaintiff, who's taking orders from the bureau, solicits money from Tom, supposedly to stay solvent until the case gets settled. That's both unethical and illegal, but after the plaintiff pleads with Tom, he agrees to front her $60,000. (And I hope that plan was just an audible to get to Tom, because I really don't see something like that ensnaring Patty.)

At the meet, though, he gets a call, then cold feet, and walks away from the deal. Patty wants him on the Purcell case, and she shows a poker face to both Tom -- not letting on that she bugged the room where the plaintiff made the initial overture -- and Ellen, who tries ineffectually to rat Tom out. She's at least one move ahead of Ellen on this one.

All this was rolling along nicely, putting more building blocks in for this season's arc, and then we get to the last scene, which frankly felt more than a little bit silly. Daniel is sitting in his car in the rain when suddenly Claire Maddox hops in beside him. Yes, the same Claire Maddox whose job it is to represent the corporation that's trying to screw him. "Did you tell anyone about us?" she asks. Cut to Daniel digging a hole and then lighting something on fire.

Yeah, um, what? I suppose that scene is meant to cast doubt on the real cause of Christine Purcell's death -- maybe it wasn't the giant company after all, maybe it was a crime of passion! But to me it played like a plot twist for the sake of twisting, and worse, it felt kind of silly.

More thoughts from this week's show:

  • The episode provided nothing to convince me further nor to dissuade me from the idea that Ellen is talking to Timothy Olyphant's Wes in the framing scenes. But the guy is clearly not all there. We do learn that in the present day, he and Ellen are sleeping together, and that he's keenly, perhaps stalkerishly interested in where Ellen goes after she gets a phone call interrupting their lovemaking. And did we mention his equally keen interest in Frobisher? He figures out that Frobisher is the object of Ellen's revenge fantasies and tells her to back off. Perhaps so he can get more of the man to himself, because we cut to Wes clipping a newspaper story about Frobisher and pinning it to the door of a cabinet filled with Frobisher-related stories -- including one about David's murder. Yipe.
  • Daniel and Patty's son Michael happen to meet in Patty's office, and exchange meaningful, puzzled stares at one another. Let the that's-how-they-know-each-other speculation begin!
  • FBI Agent Werner is splitting up with his wife, wearing his wedding ring on a chain around his neck and generally annoying his partner with his troubles. I'm assuming that's not just to deepen Werner's character a little, since nearly everything on Damages seems to serve some purpose to the plot. Similarly, I doubt that the news of Tom's wife's pregnancy was thrown out just to make Ellen feel guilty about offering him up to the bureau. Or if it was, it didn't work very well.
  • Amusing little touch when Claire goes to the judge to get her document-seizure order. The judge, who's out playing handball, is all, Well I need to look this over -- until he hears Patty Hewes is the opposing counsel. Then it's, Give me the damn pen.

Your thoughts on this week's show? Did that final scene bother you, or is it just more Damages deliciousness for you to think about?