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Series / Damages

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Margaret Thatcher has nothing on this Iron Lady.

"When I am through with you, there won't be anything left..."

A dark conspiracy/thriller/drama series with a legal theme, starring Glenn Close as the ruthless lawyer Patty Hewes and Rose Byrne as her protégé Ellen Parsons. Unusually for a legal series, each season follows a single case in detail rather than a Monster of the Week format.

Damages is extremely dark, about as far on the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism as you can get - the "good guys" on this show, such as they are, would be villains in any other. The (Season 1 - anything beyond would contain spoilers) cast includes:

  • Patty Hewes: A brilliant attorney who wins her high-stakes lawsuits by any means necessary. Hewes is a tempered-steel Iron Lady, but still manages to frequently surprise with the depths she'll sink to to Pay Evil unto Evil. Her backstory and true motivations are slowly revealed as the series progresses. Could easily be the poster child for Amoral Attorney, and in any other show, would be the villain.
  • Ellen Parsons: A Naïve Newcomer right out of law school hired by Hewes. Essentially the entire first season is one long Break the Cutie for her, as she slowly catches on to the rules of Patty's world and begins to manipulate them for her own ends. Serves as something of a Foil for Patty early on, before Taking a Level in Badass. The contrast and relationship between Ellen and Patty is a central theme of the show, and in fact the rest of the plot was constructed around it.
  • Tom Shayes: Patty's right-hand man and Ellen's mentor. Tom's morals are somewhat less flexible than Patty's, which in this show just makes him the Butt-Monkey. Serves as Patty's Lancer, when she has something his morals can handle.
  • Arthur Frobisher: A Corrupt Corporate Executive on the receiving end of the Season 1 case. Selfish, arrogant, and ruthless in his attempts to defend himself. Already at a slow roll down the slippery slope at the series open and picks up speed over the course of the season.
  • Ray Fiske: Frobisher's lawyer and Patty's Worthy Opponent. Unusually for an antagonistic lawyer, he's fairly sympathetic and his legal ethics are if anything stricter than Patty's (not that that's saying much). Does his best to rein in Frobisher's bull-headed tendencies, and to keep the wolves at bay to win the case without bloodshed.

The show makes heavy use of Anachronic Order to create drama and tension, as the pieces of the Foregone Conclusion fall into place. Each episode reveals one piece of the puzzle in each the present and the future, and maintains a mix of events that a Genre Savvy viewer will catch on to just in time and twists that subvert such Genre Savvy to great effect. The political twists and turns are deep enough to make Tom Clancy blush, without becoming a Kudzu Plot.

Premiering on FX in 2007, Damages didn't maintain a strong viewership during its first season, and continued to drop in ratings afterward despite wide critical acclaim. The show was dropped by FX after three seasons and picked up DirecTV's Audience Network for two more, finally ending in 2012.

Now has a fledgling Character Sheet that needs some Wiki love.


  • Aborted Arc: Wes's Krulik's past and motives for going after Ellen: it's implied in season two that he both has his own personal interest in hurting Frobisher, as well as his own past (implied to be a former cop for whom Rick Messler was blackmailing to get him to keep an eye on Ellen.
  • Advertised Extra: Marcia Gay Harden as Claire Maddox in season 2 only appears in 7 out of 13 episodes.
  • Affably Evil: Arthur Frobisher starts off this way before his self-denial peels away and he becomes Faux Affably Evil. To a lesser extent, his Dragon Ray Fiske is largely less evil and more affable, but definitely still falls under this.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The ending theme for the Japanese release is "Perfect Me". The ending theme for the second season is "Rain" by Michi.
  • Amoral Attorney: Everybody, both villains and heroes. Patty is arguably even more amoral than some of her opponents.
  • Anachronic Order: Every season. An interesting use - each episode reveals two sections of plot, months apart from each other, with the "past" segments telling How We Got Here and the future ones unfolding the story.
  • Anyone Can Die: If your name isn't Ellen Parsons or Patty Hewes, keep your life insurance premiums current.
    • Of the main cast members of the first three seasons only Ellen, Patty, Wistone or Claire Maddox aren't dead or in prison.
  • Anti-Villain: Joe Tobin in season 3. He starts off as a genuinely nice guy whose world falls apart when his father's corruption is revealed and he even considers cooperating with Patty. Ultimately, he breaks under the pressure, falls off the wagon back to being an alcoholic and does a lot of horrible things to try and protect his family.
    • Ray Fiske may also apply. While he is guilty of insider trading he is a Boy Scout in comparison to Patty and resists Frobisher's attempts to resolve his problems through violence.
  • Arc Words: "Trust no one."
  • Ate His Gun: Ray Fiske does this in front of Patty after she blackmails him near the end of season 1.
  • Beard of Evil: Rick Messer sports one of these.
  • Big Bad: Arthur Frobisher in season 1. Pell and Tobin for seasons 2 and 3 respectively.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Season 3's finale for sure. Former Karma Houdini Arthur Frobisher finally gets arrested for some of his crimes, but at the cost of Wes turning himself in for his part in them. The main case is solved but only after Tobin has murdered Tom, Tobin's mother has committed suicide and Winstone has managed to escape with a lot of the Tobins' money. On top of all that Patty's son tries to kill her after she has his girlfriend sent to prison for statutory rape and its revealed through flashbacks that Patty's deceased daughter was killed in the womb via intentional miscarriage, due to Patty putting her career first over motherhood. Ellen asks Patty if everything she's done for her career is worth it to which Patty doesn't reply.
    • The series as a whole ends with Ellen quitting the law to raise her daughter with Chris, implicitly because she realized that she could never truly beat Patty without becoming her. Though Patty doesn't get away unscathed either as her son Patrick ends up murdered, inadvertently due to her machinations.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: At best. There's these people, see, and they go around blackmailing, burgling, bribing, and occasionally having people killed. And they're the good guys. The bad guys do all that stuff, but not for good reasons.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Patty gives one of these to Ray Fiske.
  • Break the Cutie: The heart of the series is largely about Ellen time and again having to choose between the comforts of family versus the thrill of her job. By the end of the first season Ellen has burned virtually every relationship she had to her friends and family for the sake of her job.
    • Season four has that for Chris, Ellen's love interest.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: But You Don't Do That Anymore, with Patty's actions ending up getting her son Michael killed.
  • Bungled Suicide: (Season 2) Uncle Pete attempts to kill himself rather than help the FBI against Patty. Patrick finishes the job after Pete wakes from his coma.
  • Butt-Monkey: Tom Shayes. He is one of the few characters in the series with black and white morals and he gets little to no respect for it. He even gets Killed Off for Real in Season 3!
  • Broken Bird: Ellen by the end of season 1, and it's heavily hinted that Patty has this in her backstory.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Kendrick in season 2 is about as cartoonishly evil as it gets. Hiring hit men, destroying the environment and slowly killing wildlife and residents, ruining the lives of friends he's know for decades, all while chuckling and smoking a cigar while boasting how he'll happily go to Hell as long as he dies a rich man.
  • Career Versus Man: One of the largest underlying themes in the show is Ellen currently battling over how much of herself she's willing to give up in order to further her career, and how Patty seemingly gave up any real ambition for a domestic life long ago. This is brought home further with the revelation that Patty induced a miscarriage when she was younger so that a baby wouldn't interfere with her new job. And in the season 5 finale, Ellen chooses to give up her career once and for all in order to be a wife and mother, after getting multiple people dead directly because of her, nearly killing herself and her unborn child from the stress of work.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: While the show was always dark, the first three seasons had the characters going up against white collar criminals and business men. The fourth season opens up with Ellen picking a fight with the largest privatized army in the world, getting them tangled in the grizzly underbelly of illegal war crimes.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The phone calls one of the FBI agents in season 2 keeps on getting and says are from his wife actually end up being important.
    • Possibly the most important one in the whole series is Hollis Nye's business card from the first episode, which gets stained with Patrick Scully's blood when he tries to kill Ellen, allowing her to identify him from his DNA in Season 5.
  • Cleanup Crew: Uncle Pete calls one in to get rid of the evidence that someone attacked Ellen.
  • Clear My Name: Arthur Frobisher's chief motivation. Subverted, in that he's actually guilty as sin, and does even worse things to win.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: implied to have happened to David before he was killed, fortunately off-screen. On screen for poor Tom in the S3 finale.
  • Convenient Photograph: In Season 3, Ellen makes the connection between Tessa, Louis's illegitimate daughter — or, as the end of the season reveals, Joe's — and the Tobins as the person money laundering for them when Tessa is caught in the background of a photograph taken at their house on Thanksgiving.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Arthur Frobisher. Walter Kendrick. Dave Pell. George Moore was actually listed in the credits as "The Executive" for a while.
    • The main villains in season 5 apart from Rutger are this.
  • Detective Mole: Rick Messer retrieves the one piece of incriminating evidence at the David Connor murder scene by flashing his badge and walking straight in the front door.
  • Dirty Cop: The favored henchman of the show's villains. It makes cleaning up after a bit of Dirty Business much easier.
  • Dramatic Irony: An enormous source of tension for the show, provided by the Anachronic Order.
  • Driven to Suicide: Multiple characters. So far Once a Season.
    • Season 1 — Ray Fiske after being blackmailed.
    • Season 2 — Uncle Pete after being nabbed by the FBI.
    • Season 3 — Both Marilyn and Louis Tobin. Louis by poison, Marilyn by drowning.
    • Season 4 — Kinda sorta Gerald Boorman. More of a Suicide by Shell-shocked soldier whose men he killed.
    • Subverted in season 5, where Naomi Walling's murder is set-up to look like she was Driven to Suicide. And so far, nobody suspects otherwise.
  • Dying Clue: Whoever Arthur Frobisher got to kill George Moore should have been fired. They didn't check his pockets for the key piece of evidence that ended up blowing the case wide open.
  • Enemy Mine: Frobisher helps Patty to start the case against Kendrick in season 2.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Ray Fiske, who doesn't have the stomach for what he's gotten into. He Ate His Gun for it. Initially, Arthur Frobisher as well.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect
  • Evil Versus Evil: Depending on your interpretation of Patty Hewes. If you see her as a very dark Anti-Hero, then it's Black-and-Gray Morality, but certainly her behavior would make her the villain in any other show.
  • Evil Virtues: Frobisher's determination and ambition are constant, and he's quite proud of them.
  • Family-Values Villain: Frobisher, at first.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Dave Pell.
  • Foregone Conclusion: In Season 3, you know via a Flash Forward in the first episode that Tom Shayes is going to die. Doesn't make the scene itself any less heartbreaking though.
  • Flashback Effects: Used to show shifts between the present and future timelines. The removal of the effects is used to great effect, showing the present catching up to the future and the conclusion of the story.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: In season 1. The one behind the blackmail of Gregory Malina? Frobisher. The one who put a hits on George More and David respectively? Frobisher.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Wes Krulick.
  • How We Got Here: Each season had numerous flash forwards throughout, but you're not given the full context until the very end.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode is named after a line of dialogue spoken by a character in said episode.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Ray Fiske in regards to Gregory Malina.
  • Instant Mystery, Just Delete Scene: The show loves this trope.
  • Insult Backfire: Walter Kendrick is being told to "Go to hell". His response?
    I probably will. But while I'm here no one's gonna take away my goddamn company.
  • Ironic Echo: "Because I know Patty..."
  • Iron Lady: Patty Hewes, oh so very much.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: When Ellen Parsons sends detectives to Patty's apartment looking for the man who attacked her, the body, the blood, and the broken window are all gone, and the place is (almost) spotless.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Marilyn Tobin murmurs something along those lines to herself in the season 3 finale,right before she commits suicide.
  • Jerkass: Arthur Frobisher, who continues to see himself as The Woobie. It apparently does not even enter his mind that he has actually done some very bad things, and has therefore earned the bad things that keep happening as a result.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: Patty Hewes steps in where law enforcement has failed.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Frobisher does so with gusto once he gets past his conscience. He starts out as a Family-Values Villain and goes downhill rapidly.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: The ultimate fate of Rick Messer.
  • Lotsa People Try to Dun It: Tom Shayes turns out to have escaped torture and attempted murder by gangsters, but then to have been killed by another person after he arrived home.
  • Mad Mathematician: Finn Garrity, the coked-up math whiz turned energy trader in season 2. In the finale he goes nuts and stabs Patty.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: These were Rick Messer's exact words to Wes Krulick in Season 2.
    • Also in season 2, FBI Agent Harrison's murder is made to look like an overdose.
    • Naomi's murder in the season 5 premiere is made to look like a suicide.
  • No Name Given: Many, many characters, some important, some not. Most get names eventually, but even then, the credits continue to refer to them as "Bearded Man" or "Pockmarked Man."
  • Not So Stoic: Patty Hewes, just not in front of anybody else.
  • Not Quite Dead: At the end of season 1, Ellen assumes that she killed the attacker in Patty's home, but he actually survived.
  • Oh, Crap!: Rick Messer's last word, as he sees Wes in his rearview mirror, hiding in the back of his car. With a gun.
    Messer: ...shit.
    • Patty has a non-verbal one at the very end of Season 4, when she sees that Ellen is Michael's sole witness in the custody case.
  • Older Sidekick: Uncle Pete.
  • Once a Season: Somebody close to Ellen or Patty dying and every finale has ended with a scene of Patty and someone else (Ellen in seasons 1 & 3, Tom in season 2) at her lake house.
    • Once every other season, a main character is found dead at the end of the season premiere and the why and the how of his or her death is revealed throughout the season. It started with David in season 1, then Tom Shayes in season 3, and Ellen in the last season, season 5. Though that was fake...
  • Only Mostly Dead: In season 2, Daniel Purcell assumes he killed his wife. She was actually still alive, barely, when Kendrick's henchman comes in and Kills Her For Real.
  • Out of Focus: Patty herself takes a bit of a step back during the middle of season one, where the focus is put more on the rest of her firm while she mostly serves as backdrop to their day.
  • Perfect Poison: Used by Louis Tobin and on Danielle Marchetti in Season 3.
  • Pet the Dog: Patty genuinely loves her son. She truly sucks as expressing it, though.
    • Most characters on the show get them. Frobisher has his son as a Morality Pet, Fisk has Gregory Malina, and so on.
    • There's also a lot of screen time dedicated to petting actual dogs and showing responsible dog ownership.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Frequent.
  • Put on a Bus: Wes in Season 3. He's Back for the Finale, though.
    • The few supporting characters of any given season that don't get killed off usually end up getting put on buses at the end of their season.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Frobisher plays at being this, but it's fairly obvious that, his claims of spiritual renewal aside, he's still every bit the selfish and egocentric bastard he was before.
  • Retcon: According to a line spoken by Patty, Michael Hewes is 18 season 2 when he introduces Jill (his older girlfriend) to his mother and stepfather. The stories in season 3 start 10 months after the end of season 2. Jill is pregnant in season 3. Michael uses a DNA test to prove to Patty that he's the father and that Jill isn't being deceptive. Patty uses the DNA test to get Jill arrested for statutory rape of a character stated to be 18 about a year before the sexual encounter she's charged with engaging in? They didn't even bother to mention Michael's mysteriously lower age before the arrest.
  • Revolving Door Casting: With the exception of Arthur Frobisher who has a guest arc in season 2 and 3 most of the supporting characters (especially the plaintiffs) of any given season usually ended up getting killed off or put on buses.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The season-spanning plots are made of this. The first two seasons split up the juicier details of Enron's collapse. With a company rife with accounting irregularities and professed ignorance of wrongdoing by subordinates, Frobisher is a take on Ken Lay; UNR's manipulation of the energy grid by traders to rack up huge profits fictionalizes Enron's role in the California electricity crisis of 2000-2001. In season 3, Louis Tobin's ponzi scheme has many similarities to Bernie Madoff's while season four is pretty much Blackwater and Erik Prince vs Patty Hewes. Season 5's case is inspired by Julien Assange, who's the basis for the character of Channing McLaren, and Wikileaks.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Both David and Ray Fisk in season 1.
    • Apparently Ellen in season 5.
    • Actually it ends up being Michael.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Dave Pell's M.O. as well as Howard Erickson's.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Arthur Frobisher's M.O.
  • Series Fauxnale: While the producers have denied this, the season 3 finale works remarkably well as one of these complete with Back for the Finale for a number of season 1 & 2 characters and a Bittersweet Ending that's least cliffhangerish of any season thus far. Ultimately, the show Un-Cancelled by Direct TV and picked up for two more seasons.
  • Suspiciously Idle Officers: Detective Rick Messer, big time. Does he even have any actual duties? In Season 2, this is justified for the FBI agent on Dave Pell's payroll, because it's explained that his supervisor is in on the conspiracy.
    • They actually reveal his background in season two: he's a police detective who spent most of his time in Internal Affairs, where he abused his position helping renegade cops beat any police brutality complaints filed against them and that he left IA in order to become a regular detective, due to policy saying that IA cops couldn't freelance (which is how Messer hooked up with Frobisher.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Ellen is arguably this. While Patty is the central character most of the show is focused on Ellen's Character Development as a result of being involved in Patty's world.
  • Throwing the Fight: Patty occasionally does this, in order to get her opponents to tip their hand.