Tuesday's Damages finale walked a line between wrapping up the season's central mysteries and setting up a potential second season. Well, it didn't so much walk the line as paint it across the episode about two-thirds of the way through.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing. The show did a pretty good job of answering the big questions that the aforementioned line -- which showed up around the time Ellen got into a car with Hollis Nye -- didn't bother me all that much. Although I do count several loose ends.
(Spoilers about to start, and I promise not to flash back within a flashback.)
So what did we learn?
The Frobisher case: Resolved, at least as far as his jilted employees are concerned. By promising to bury Gregory's videotape, Patty extracts a settlement way, waaay over what Frobisher had been offering -- one of the employees quotes a $2 billion figure. (We also get the Florida fiasco laid out in detail: George Moore sat on an SEC report implicating Frobisher in Enron-style accounting fraud, and the zonked-out Katie got pulled into it because Moore was skittish about being found out, which led to the Katie/Ellen/David connection.)
Of course, you didn't think Patty would really leave well enough alone, didja? Nope, she turned over a copy to the Manhattan DA (filling in till Jack McCoy takes the office, presumably), with disavowals that he got it from her and a request to sit on it till the next election. (Oh, and Tom tampered with evidence to get the tape; Ellen and David's "hiding place" was the Statue of Liberty bookend used to kill David.)
Not that it will do her much good when the next round of suits come: Larry Popler, the Frobisher double agent whom the other employee reps cut out of the settlement, leaves Frobisher bleeding from a gut shot in the field where the tycoon plans to rebuild his fortune, saying "Now you don't owe me nothin'" as he walks away. And in a way, he might be right. Let's assume Frobisher dies: I know very little about the law, but I'm guessing it might be a lot harder to extract a giant settlement from a dead man's estate than from a living man who'd agreed to sell off nearly all his assets to cover the cost.
Ellen: Patty's handing over of the tape, it turns out, was quid pro quo for the DA dropping the charges against Ellen for David's murder. Our protagonist was on the sidelines for most of the first half of the episode, not really getting into the action until Hollis Nye pulled her into the car, where she meets the two guys (Episode 12 director Mario Van Peebles and Damages co-creator Glenn Kessler) who've been following her. They're not hired goons, but rather FBI agents building a case against Patty.
In a well-edited final scene, we see Ellen on Patty's dock, accepting an offer to come back to work, intercut with her agreeing to dig up dirt on Patty for the FBI (capped by the rather obvious music cue of James Brown's "Payback"). Ellen says she knows it was Patty who tried to have her killed.
And, by gosh, she's right. If you've been wondering just what Uncle Pete does for Patty, wonder no more: Apparently, in addition to overseeing the redoing of her office, he orders hits. I suppose, given that he took out Katie's dog in the pilot, we shouldn't be all that surprised. But it was Pete, we see in one of the episode's many flashbacks, who let the assassin into Patty's apartment, and Pete who placed the call to Patty at the beach that led to her freakout (and here we thought it was just about Ray Fiske). We'd previously seen Patty fiddling with her phone as she sat in the beach chair, but until now we hadn't known who was calling.
The cause of Patty's meltdown was, to me, one of the bigger revelations of the finale, if only because we'd seen that scene several times before and been led to different conclusions about what caused it each time. It's nice to see, finally, what really happened, and it also gives an extra level of meaning to Patty's confession to Ellen that she does, in fact, regret what she's done.
That takes care of two of the biggest mysteries, but we still have some fairly significant things still unresolved. Like:
David's killer: The bearded man on Frobisher's payroll is also a cop -- which explains how he was able to stroll into Ellen's apartment to retrieve something he and his partner left behind (the flashlight from last week, maybe?). He's still at large and figures to play into season two, as Patty has promised Ellen she can use the firm's resources to track down the murderer.
Patty's cemetery visit: After the beach-house breakdown, Patty drove upstate (or wherever) to visit a gravesite -- revealed Tuesday to be that of the child she lost 35 years ago. I was kind of waiting for some kind of connection to Frobisher -- maybe this was the answer to his "Why do you hate me?" question, that his company made something that caused her child to be stillborn. Alas, no such explanation was forthcoming, so I guess Patty was just feeling a lot of guilt over the Ellen plot.
Hollis Nye: Why, exactly, is he working with the FBI? Surely it's not just because he warned Ellen not to go to work for Patty; maybe he has a beef against her too.
Lila the stalker: Apparently just a giant red herring. I'm sort of glad for that; had she been connected to the larger plot, it might have been one twist too many.
FX hasn't said yet whether Damages will return next season, but I'd be a little surprised if it didn't. Its ratings haven't been stellar, but they've hardly been bad. The show clearly has a path in mind for season two that will keep most of the principals around and which doesn't seem like too big a logical leap for the audience to take.
I'm guessing you all would like to see that happen, right? Share your thoughts on the season finale of Damages.