This week on Damages it was all business as we focused primarily on the McClaren (Ryan Phillippe) case. Patty (Glenn Close) and Ellen (Rose Byrne) also put aside their differences and do the unthinkable: they work together.
Let’s bitch it out.
Clearly the big trend on Damages this season is the use of dream sequence. We’re averaging a minimum of one per episode, and although we’ve seen dream sequences before (I distinctly remember Ellen having dreams of Chris Messina’s Chris Sanchez last season) they’re factoring in much more significantly this time round. We’ve already seen Patty scolding granddaughter Catherine (Kiley Liddell) in her office twice now, and Ellen’s having her fair share of nightmares concerning the attack she endured in S1. Looks like Ellen’s repressed emotions are rapidly bubbling up to the surface.
The episode opens as Ellen turns up at Patty’s apartment where Patty forebodingly welcomes her. Patty’s tone is sinisterly sweet, which immediately identified this as a dream sequence. Close’s delivery reminded me of the witch in ‘Hansel and Gretel” as she coaxes Ellen to enter and “take a bath”. Completely random and utterly creepy (aka I loved it.)
Somehow Ellen is drawn into the bathroom, her reflection oscillating between S1 and S5 versions of herself before Noah Bean pops up as her murdered fiancé, David. Throughout the episode Ellen continues to have visions: seeing her bloodied S1 self wandering the street, as well as hallucinations (?) of her attacker (Jeff Binder). I’m not sure what to make of all these dream sequences, but I find them more refreshing than the flashforwards we saw in the first two episodes (and which I’m dreading the return of). At least these visions offer us additional information into Ellen’s psyche and tease an explosive standoff between her and Patty (it seems that inevitable confrontation about the attack will finally go down in next week’s episode). We’ve waited five seasons for this and I’m certain it’s going to be awesome. As it stands, all of these dreams/visions/illusions visually suggest that both Patty and Ellen aren’t magically “okay” after all the craziness they’ve experienced and this ensures they’re more accessible, realistic and nuanced as characters. I’m glad that Ellen is continually haunted by David’s murder and her attack, especially considering she hasn’t fully dealt with these traumas. It shines a light into her motivations and subsequent behaviour.
The dream sequences also play with our expectations. Take one of the final scenes of the episode: Patty and Ellen talk about how they’ve outsmarted their clients by preventing a settlement between them. This “real life” scene is a deliberate callback to the opening dream sequence. First, Patty offers Ellen a drink, almost word for word with the opening. Ellen politely declines in both scenarios as Patty smoothly invites Ellen to come out of the doorway and into her space. When Ellen declines again, Patty purrs, “You’re not afraid of me, are you?” with the same loaded sweetness she expressed in the opening. It had me wondering if this final scene was yet another dreamscape. Instead, the commentary of the opening scene on the closing one highlights the importance of Ellen’s subconscious and suggests that her increasing awareness of the former will factor more significantly in the latter in subsequent episodes (especially if Ellen can make the connection that Naomi were murdered in the bathtub based on her vision of David in the same position). It serves as an ingenious way to present Ellen’s character development.
We also spend time flashing back to the scene of Naomi and McClaren meeting in the Montclair hotel room. Back in 5×03 ‘Failure is Failure’, we got two versions of what went down in the room: in the first McClaren stated that Naomi had reservations about the leak, but that she ultimately delivered in the information. The result was a completely professional exchange. The second version, recounted by Naomi’s daughter Rachel (Alexandra Socha) suggested a different series of events: Naomi refused to provide the leaked information, which caused McClaren to violently assault her.
Now we’re presented with a third alternative, in which McClaren arranges a secret meeting with Rachel to tell “his side” of the story, and of course, it’s different from his original account to Ellen. This version is a blending of the two we’ve previously seen. In this account, Naomi still has reservations about the leak (this prompts the meeting), but ultimately she agrees to send McClaren the files. This time however, he admits that he did try to force himself on Naomi, but the assault doesn’t come off nearly as violently as in Rachel’s account.
I still don’t buy that this version is the true version. And the reason I come to this is another nagging motif we’ve seen over the last two episodes: a close-up of the cigarettes in his cigarette case. In this third version, the cigarettes are all lined up the same direction. Last week, we were shown two close-ups of McClaren’s meticulous positioning of cigarettes – three up, one down. Could the way in which the cigarettes are organized be a “tell” that reveals which version of this story is the truth? I won’t be convinced we’ve seen a true account of what went down in that hotel room until I get a close up of those ciggies in three up, one down formation.
Or perhaps I’m reading far too much into a pack of smokes. Nevertheless, I guarantee that we haven’t seen the last of that hotel room.
- ‘I Need To Win’ saw the return of Naomi’s boss, Bruce Davies (David Gautreaux). He publicly humiliated Rachel in a restaurant, calling her a greedy little b*tch just like her mother. I found it hilarious that Rachel’s friends (a party of at least eight people) all got up and left when Davies’ requested to speak to Rachel alone. Wouldn’t it have made more sense if Rachel had gotten up and talked to Davies, since – I don’t know – she’s ONE person as opposed to eight?!
- McClaren visited Rachel after her choir practice in church and, wow, Alexandra Socha has some beautiful sounding pipes. As one of the stars of Broadway’s Spring Awakening, it was nice to hear her flexing those musical muscles.
- We got more Chris Sanchez action as he seems to be a full-on boyfriend to Ellen. I still don’t buy these two as a couple, but some of their interactions are bordering on cute. I’m still hoping Byrne and Messina can rekindle some of the chemistry I saw from them last season.
- Poor John Hannah is given another two measly lines of the dialogue in the entire episode. I’m hoping that he’s going to get more action soon; he’s clearly up to the task.
- Interesting that there isn’t even a mention of the whereabouts of Samurai Seven. Doesn’t any one care that he’s been murdered? Also, no progression on the information he was selling. Are we to assume that the only juicy discovery in those files was Patty’s discovery that led her to the SEC? Why isn’t Ellen freaking out a bit more over losing half a million dollars? You’d think she’d want that investment to be worth a little more…
- The final, final scene is a quick flashforward to everyone in court two months after Patty and Ellen collude to keep the trial going. We know from previous flashforwards that Ellen is found unconscious in a pool of blood three months later, so the hearing will take at least a month. Mark this on your Damages calendar. Will the month-long difference be important? Who knows, but this is an interesting development in the future timeline nonetheless.
What did you think, viewers? Are McClaren’s cigarettes just a coincidence? How do you think the showdown between Patty and Ellen regarding Ellen’s attack will go down? What do you think really happened in that hotel room between Channing and Naomi? Let us know in the comments section below.
Damages airs Wednesdays at 9:00pm EST on DirecTV’s Audience Network and on Netflix in Canada