Damages review – 5×09: ‘I Like Your Chair’

Courtesy of DirecTV

Well Damages fans – we’ve only got one episode left until the series says goodbye for good. How did the penultimate episode fare? Did we get enough answers to set up an exciting finale?

Let’s bitch it out.

Even though this episode manages to cover some significant ground in the central McClaren (Ryan Phillippe) case, the overall pacing was a bit off considering we have so little time left to tie-up loose ends. I was expecting more chase sequences and intrigue, but instead the episode opted for a quieter route.

The focus was primarily on Ellen (Rose Byrne) and how successfully she’s done a 180 from the terrified victim we saw in S1. I wouldn’t go so far as to say she’s morphed completely into Patty (Glenn Close), but the similarities between the two are plentiful throughout this particular episode. Although there are many balls in the air, I was impressed how Damages was able to have the various plotlines complement each other, rather than distract as it did in previous episodes of the season.

First we have the whole business with Ellen’s brute father, Gary (Gordon Clapp). Even though we’ve heard of his abusive ways via her mother Deniece (Debra Monk) I’ve never had the impression that Ellen ever feared her father. She exhibited a controlled animosity toward him, illustrated perfectly when she pulled a gun on him. Refusing to leave Ellen’s apartment without his wife, Ellen is forced to draw her purse pistol to get her father to leave the apartment. Although tears are flowing from her eyes, she’s clearly in control of the situation, spewing out legal jargon on top of it all. Compare this to Patty’s hatred of her father, where she’s palpably seething with rage and foaming at the mouth at the mere mention of him. It’s clear that when it comes to daddy issues, Ellen’s approach is far more controlled. Although I initially griped about this subplot as irrelevant, it’s significance paid-off during this confrontation. Ellen tells her mother “He doesn’t respect you and he never will unless you stand up to him,” a statement which clearly has implications for Ellen’s relationship with Patty. Now that we’ve seen how Ellen refuses to be a victim, Damages preemptively sets the stage for how Ellen can best Patty. In an episode filled episode with double meanings, this one hit the nail on the head.

Ellen’s progression continues when she confronts her S1 assailant, Patrick Scully (Jeff Binder). With the help of her PI (Gbenga Akinnagbe, who still hasn’t been given a character name) Ellen discovers that Scully is back in town and out to get her. Inevitably, Ellen (with the help of her PI) gets the leg up on him – setting up another exhibition of her refusal to devolve into the shrinking violet we saw years ago. It felt a bit clunky to see Scully literally back to his old ways, following Ellen into her apartment with choking rope, leather gloves, heat sensor and all. I love how this guy always attempts to murder people in broad daylight. Has he learned nothing? Cool as a cucumber, Ellen tells Scully she’s got his DNA and is one call away from turning him in for attempted murder. He has no choice but to spill the beans on Patty, confirming that she orchestrated the attack on Ellen in S1. Ellen’s nightmares of reliving the attack are somewhat resolved when we see how composed she is while face-to-face with Scully. The root of the nightmares has nothing to do with Scully: Patty is what Ellen fears most. We’re not privy to what follows after Scully confesses, but we know that less than a week later, Ellen will be unconscious in a pool of blood with Scully peering over the edge of the roof above her. He’ll also meet with Patty sometime during that week to discuss something. All we got last week was a snippet of dialogue: “Ms. Hewes”. I don’t think the resolution is as simplistic as Patty ordering another hit, but I predict that the nature of their conversation will be one of the finale’s biggest reveals.

The culmination of Ellen’s journey from Patty’s inferior to superior occurred at episode’s end as she playfully sat in Patty’s chair. If the double meanings weren’t obvious before, they’re out in spades during this sequence:

ELLEN: I like your chair. Thought I’d give it a try.

PATTY: Don’t get up. Sit. See how it feels.

And does it ever feel good! Ellen leaned back and became the master manipulator: instead of confronting Patty with the knowledge she had about Scully, Ellen visited Patty under the guise of wishing her luck in the impending trial. Since we know that Ellen’s (presumed) swan dive from the roof occurs just before she testifies in Patty’s custody hearing, she’s likely to want to play the “Scully card” in a public forum rather than confront Patty in closed quarters. Ellen’s visit to Patty is meant to assert her control and newfound power. It also gave us a nice nod back to Patty’s nightmares, and demonstrated how the two women have reconciled their subconscious fears. The pacing of this scene initially felt awkward with significant pauses and steely gazes between each of the actresses’ lines. But the effect quickly turned into an incredibly tense atmosphere, wrought with concealed intentions that echoed their confrontation in the Maine airport. The scene (and episode) ended perfectly as Patty slowly and smugly sat down on her throne, falsely believing she’s managed to manipulate Ellen once again. How all of this is resolved will no doubt be front and centre in next week’s finale.

Other observations:

  • As I mentioned we made significant headway in the McClaren trial, including the confirmation of my prediction that Rutger (John Hannah) was behind the leak of Naomi Walling’s (Jenna Elfman) personal correspondence as a ruse to dethrone and discredit McClaren. We get several hazy flashbacks as Rutger flipped and goes over to Team Patty after McClaren fires him. It’s painfully obvious that Rutger is lying when he points the finger at McClaren posting emails in an effort to paint Walling as a slut, and Patty likely knew this as well. We still don’t know exactly what went down in the Mont Clair hotel room, but I predict when we do get the “true” flashback, McClaren’s cigarettes will be organized meticulously.
  • Rutger will likely go down for what he’s done, since he’s in bed with both Torben (William Sadler) and Bennett Herreshoff (Victor Garber), both powerful men who can easily throw-out Rutger as the scapegoat. And since the flashforward takes place in under a week, I have a feeling Rutger will be exposed before the McClaren case goes to full trial.
  • Is it just me, or did Patty look much more concerned in this flashforward than she did in previous incarnations of it?
  • My heart truly melted when Ellen and Chris (Chris Messina) had a moment on the couch. Hearing Ellen girlishly giggle was worth the price of admission even if their little make-out session was cut short.
  • We got no word on whether or not Kate (Janet McTeer) and Patty’s father (M. Emmet Walsh) succumbed to his old age, but Kate was pretty austere throughout the episode. And what was up with all that cryptic talk surrounding the pigeon’s nest?
  • Joshua Alston mentions over on the A.V. club’s review that ominous last words of Ellen’s father “This isn’t ovah” sets up the possibility that Ellen might be pushed off that building’s ledge by daddy dearest. But since these words are said directly to Ellen’s mother, I don’t think Gary Parsons will be responsible for Ellen’s potential murder.

What did you think viewers? Did the episode set you up for the finale? Do you think that all or most of the loose ends will be tied up? Were you surprised that Rutger was the mastermind behind it all? Did you even care? And, the biggest question: Do you think Ellen will survive, or has her death foretold all this time? Sound off in our comments section below.

Damages airs its finale episode of the series next Wednesday, September 12 at 9pm EST on the Audience Network in the US 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.

6 thoughts on “Damages review – 5×09: ‘I Like Your Chair’

  1. You did not mention the contents of Ellen’s purse as she lies on the ground, blood spreading out behind her head. A sonogram. Aha!

    I am well pleased with the massive show of Ellen’s character development. My biggest gripe with Damages has been Ellen’s supposed trajectory into Patty.2. I think we’re seeing Ellen stepping into her own strength and seizing peace with what has happened to her. As you say, she seems less hateful and more in control than her role model. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?

    I miss McClaren’s cigarette case. It would be nice if we got a little more ciggy arrangement, but I’m so jealous of the the time left I’m willing to let it go. The finale will be 10 minutes longer than the other episodes. What will they do with the 10 minutes? That doesn’t sound like much, and I’d have loved 1-1/2 or 2 hours. But I’m sure they’ll use the time wisely.

    The creators have promised to leave no loose ends. That means a resolution of not only the McClaren case, but Ellen’s attempted murder, the custody case, and whatever is yet to happen. Let’s not forget Kate. We need more Kate.

    BTW, whatever happened to Rachel? I really like her and the actress who is playing her.

  2. Didn’t catch the sono either…but I don’t really know what to make out of it either :)

    I loved this episode. I think this season in general really shows why Patty and Ellen are drawn to each other. They are so similar in their pasts, theirs feirs, their parents, their tricks – it’s no wonder they are drawn to each other and repell at the same time. And I think the evolution of Ellen, especially this season, was really great written.

    As for the finale… I’m so excited. I still holding on to my idea of Ellen’s death being a trap, but ho knows…this episode really showed us suspects, who would want Ellen dead: the money guy (don’t know his name), Scully, her own Dad maybe in a fight, Patty, Michael, … there’s a long list of suspects, but Damages is never that easy. So I still think it will have a catch.

    Seriously, can anyone imagine Damages really to end next week? It’s horrible :(

  3. Ellen doesn’t die… it’s a trap for Patty. Definitely. But then why does Patrick Scully look over the edge?