Damages review – 5×07: ‘The Storm’s Moving in’

Courtesy of DirecTV

With only a few episodes of Damages left ever, we got everything but the kitchen sink thrown into this week’s offering. Even with every conceivable plot element crammed in all at once, the episode still took its time when it came to Patty (Glenn Close) vs. Ellen (Rose Byrne) in a highly-anticipated confrontation.

Let’s bitch it out…

First let’s address everything but the inevitable showdown between Patty and Ellen in the episode’s final sequence because, well…let’s face it, it was the juiciest moment of night:

  1. The whole Chris Sanchez (Chris Messina) government conspiracy business: My my! What a convenient way to tie together the (somewhat) boring domestic plot line of Chris and Ellen with the headlining McClaren (Ryan Philippe) case. Although it’s great to see more of Chris, the introduction of the potential military/PTSD/drug scandal is completely out of left field and yet again derails us for the numerous loose threads that have already been presented thus far (i.e.: Patty’s father, Ellen’s fate in the flash-forwards, the true role of Janet McTeer’s Kate in Patty’s history, the custody battle, the true killer of Jenna Elfman’s Naomi Walling… just to name a few). Next we’ll find out that Ellen’s mum (Debra Monk) is actually having an affair with Judge Gearheart (Michael Kostroff). Sure! Why not? Note to Damages: Stop juggling! There are far too many balls in the air as is. Maybe this plot twist makes way for a Damages movie in the future?
  2. Apparently everyone already knew about Samurai Seven’s (Bill Camp) murder except McClaren, as they all seem to be focusing on McClaren’s unhinged rage rather than addressing their role in a murder. It was the first time where I felt McClaren was the only normal one of the bunch.
  3. Despite all the hoopla, we do get some advancement of the central case: We find out the head honcho of Princefield, Bennett Herreshoff (Victor Garber) was actually the puppet master behind the insider trading scheme and ultimately sold everyone out to the SEC in order to cover his own butt. We also find out that McClaren’s mysterious benefactor (William Sadler) is actually playing both sides! Presumably hired by Herreshoff, Helmut Torben (his true name revealed) was actually the one feeding Davies (David Gautreaux) the stock tips. McClaren finds all of this out as he thumbs through the purchased Samurai Seven info, which everyone else (Team Patty included) failed to do. Again, more points to McClaren who finally illustrates his usefulness. We can presume that Torben was the one who killed Samurai and will likely go after Davies for exposing him. Who knows who else is on his hitlist? My bet is he was the blurred figure looking down on Ellen’s (dead?) body in the flashforwards. Although it was great to get all of this info, having it take place in less than 20 minutes means the potential for confusion is astronomical. Rolling out this info over a couple of episodes would have made it far more digestible. Nevertheless, progress means fewer questions come finale time, so I’m a fan.
  4. Rutger (John Hannah) triples his collective screen time thus far with a divergent, yet interesting subplot. We learn that he has a beautiful daughter (Emily Beechman), and has been the mentor and sage to McClaren for many years. He’s also frequently relegated to the sidelines and drunkenly resents it. Could the entire Naomi Walling biz-nass be a Rutger-induced mutiny so that he can reclaim some of that untapped glory? My money is on Rutger being the head villain of this entire season.

Which bring us to the headlining event: Ellen finally confronting Patty about the hit her mentor ordered on her back in S1. This was likely a polarizing scene among viewers; it definitely wasn’t what I was expected, but I was impressed nonetheless. What was most striking about the scene was the way it was filmed (which is a definite nod to Tom Shayes himself, Tate Donovan, who directed this episode). I absolutely loved the simplicity of the scene. An airport gate sets the scene as Ellen and Patty get progressively closer and closer, with no one else around (occasional interruption of the pilot notwithstanding). The build up to the confrontation was brilliant- Ellen taking pains to separate herself from Patty, yet consistently being unable resist her (i.e. the private jet, the cheese crackers).

The confrontation wasn’t overly explosive, but there was plenty of tension and engagement to be had. No raised voices, no grand gestures – it was just good old fashioned acting. The women calmly address one another while sipping bourbon in a superbly controlled and equal exchange, which only served to make it even more unnerving.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen S1 & S2, so the details of Ellen’s attack and her hotel room confrontation with Patty were, much like Ellen’s recollection, pretty hazy. I was adamant that Patty had ordered Ellen’s attack, but during this scene, like Ellen, I started questioning myself after listening to Patty’s logic. Was it all just a misunderstanding? Why would Ellen even continue to associate with Patty if Ellen truly believed she had tried to kill her? These new questions bubbled up and all of a sudden I felt an uncontrollable need to re-watch the first two seasons. I also appreciated how the scene didn’t involve any cumbersome jumps in time via flashbacks, dream sequences or flashforwards – this was just a straightforward, shot-reverse-shot conversation. And so, Patty’s ominous words from Failure is Failure echoed in my head:

“All the facts of the case are in question. So if the facts won’t win it or lose it, what will?”

I’m extremely impressed how this scene alluded to that very statement: an overarching theme of the series as a whole. Bravo Damages, bravo.

So readers, what did you think of the “big” confrontation? It was quieter than I anticipated, but it was as effective as I’d hoped. Have you started to question whether or not Patty ordered the hit on Ellen? Anyone have the desire to re-watch S1 & 2 to get the facts “straight”? What did you think of all the plot lines thrown into this week’s episode? Anyone care to quash my theory of Rutger as the big S5 villain? Think Frobisher (Ted Danson) will pop up in a cameo? Sound off in our Comments section below!

Damages airs Wednesdays at 9:00pm EST on DirecTV’s Audience Network and on Netflix in Canada

About tvangie

Angie is a TV addict currently pursuing a PhD in media studies. A freelance researcher and writer on the side – she really misses talking about her favourite shows because none of her friends watch them. Help her out.

4 thoughts on “Damages review – 5×07: ‘The Storm’s Moving in’

  1. First let me say that I loved the slow confrontation between Ellen and Patty. As you imply, Ellen slowly, ever so slowly, moves across the airport lounge, from one seat to another, until she is finally sitting near Patty. That choreography was lovely to watch.

    And for all your griping about sticking too much into this episode. I thought it crammed a LOT without feeling crammed. At last we’re getting to know Rutger who confuses me a bit. Is he hot for the the female asst or for McClaren? Maybe both? And my eyes say it is his head looking down from the top of the building in the flash forwards. More to come, I’m sure.

    Chris is finally more than just a romance for Ellen. We’ve found his place in this plot. And we get to see a sympathetic look at what McClaren’s organization is trying to facilitate.

    Every week, we get to know McClaren a bit more. I thought his reaction to Samuri-7’s murder was very revealing. He is not willing to just let this go. And his anger with his two closest associates reflects more than a temper tantrum. Is he going to take the bull by the horns and run with the entire investigation?

    And finally, what happened in the airport. Patty has obviously decided to work on her next case. The custody hearing. She’s going for full denial on the attempted murder. But Ellen isn’t buying it. I was right with her when she asked Patty if she’s crazy. But meanwhile we get Patty being cute and as close to endearing as we’ll ever get.

    I love the way each episode is allowed to breath. But never really meanders. I hope next week gives us more Kate. I have to think that will be her week.

  2. The overarching premise of Damages from its first episode until now is that it is best to “trust no one.” Everything Patty does is based on this belief, which stems from her relationship with her father, carries through her cheating husband and is passed to her slimy son. I believe the purpose of the show from episode one until now is to show how Ellen observes how this world view has impacted Patti’s life and struggles (both conscious and unconscious) with whether she can be as good a lawyer as Patti while still trusting those close to her. What’s interesting is that trusting no one has made Patti a great lawyer and wildly wealthy, but a lonely soul in her personal life; whereas, trusting those close to her has saved Ellen’s life (think Timothy Oliphant’s character’s decision to refuse to kill Ellen and then saving her from Frobisher’s rogue cop/hit man) but left her to watch Patti take the credit and spoils of victory. The most intriguing question left is, while Ellen consciously claims that she doesn’t want to be like Patti, she is slowing and subconsciously morphing into her. Will this continue, allowing Ellen to defeat Patti at her own game of manipulation? Or will Ellen somehow turn away, a la Luke Skywalker?

    Because I believe this is the moral struggle at the center of the show, I also believe Ellen can’t be dead in the flash forward. It doesn’t complete the arc.

  3. I can’t believe that now some people really think that Patty’s innocent. This makes absolutely no sense and I’d be really pissed at the writers for rewriting something that has been the core of Patty’s and Ellen’s relationship.
    But I just guess it’s one of Patty’s mindgames, because that’s the only thing that makes sense…why would Patty admit she tried to have Ellen killed? Why would she have visions of Ray Fiske telling her to admit to Ellen what she has done? Why would she rush to her daughter’s grave? No… it’s just another way to mess with Ellen and I hope Ellen will come back at her.

  4. Kimsari is right. Patty is messing with Ellen. We can be sure of this (even if Ellen can’t 100%), because we saw Patty have those flashbacks in seasons 1 & 2 of Pete calling her on the phone saying he took care of Ellen (“It’s done”). And she knows that Ellen suspects Pete’s involvement, because Ellen revealed Pete’s folder (with Ellen’s name on the file) in the hotel room at the end of season 2. But it was never clear what was inside the folder. So Patty covers herself now, by suggesting that Pete may have been responsible for trying to have Ellen killed, but acting on his own. But we know she’s lying. And yes, there were also Patty’s visions of Ray telling her to fess up to Ellen.

    It is a brilliant scene, because Patty has nothing to lose by pulling this last-ditch attempt to mess with Ellen. Damages has always been about the divide between perception and reality, and even if we as the audience can be certain of the reality on this point, Ellen will probably have at least have a small doubt — especially since Patty threw her the bone of Pete.