Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Damages: Season 1, Episode 1 – Pilot

Before we get started, a couple of quick notes.

First, if you’re a fan of Damages, that’s excellent. I hope you’ll read through these as a little refresher before the new season begins at the end of January.

However, if you’re new to the show, that’s all right too. The first season of the show is already out on DVD, and also available to watch for free on Hulu. I’ll link each episode as we cover and converse about the show.

Secondly, while I’m going to talk about each episode, I mostly plan to hit highlights and talking points – I’ll leave the full-on recaps to Television Without Pity, which I’ll also link up at the start of each blog.

So, without further adieu:

Damages 1:1 on Hulu

Damages 1:1 on Television Without Pity

I give the show credit for starting off in a truly eerie way – and one I suspect was planned. Watching the opening of the show, with all the shots of the harsh city, I couldn’t help but notice that things seem to be running backward. The smoke in particular seemed to be going the “wrong” direction.

And then we’re at an elevator, and a brunette woman covered in blood, barely dressed, comes out of the elevator and races out into the city street.

Later, she’s on one side of what is almost certainly one-way glass, and on the other side of it three law-type folks are trying to figure out who she is. They have a name, from what looks like a beat-up business card, but they don’t know if it’s her, or the person who beat her up… or anything, really.

And then a burn-in: Six Months Earlier.

Our sad little lady on the other side of the glass is named Ellen, and she’s moments from joining a law firm.

Except for one thing: She has an interview with Patty Hewes.

Elsewhere, Patty is in the middle of a high-stakes lawyerly negotiation, and to say that she’s an extremely cool customer is to underplay her by chill factor by about 50 degrees.

There’s some banter, but the brass tacks are these – Patty convinces the lawyer she’s butting heads with to settle for 150 million dollars, when he was originally offering 25. She does this by a) tricking him into thinking the verdict is coming down in her favor, and b) never once blinking in the face of adversity.

And then the legend of Patty grows a little more. Ellen heads to a bar to celebrate the fact that she turned down the job, and she runs into one of the men at the firm she’s not working for. He warns her that there’s no room for anyone in Patty’s life, except Patty.

He has her sign a business card, and then writes at the top, “I was warned.”

And we move along again. Now Patty is being interviewed on Fox News as she discusses Arthur Frobisher, a man who did, in her words, a classic “pump and dump” with his stock, and cost his employees their life savings.

After the interview, Patty talks to the people she’s representing against Arthur – they’re getting smeared in the press, and they don’t like it. Patty reminds them that they’re in a battle, and she warned them things could get ugly.

The next morning, Ellen is out for a run with her boyfriend and his sister, when she gets the call: Her interview has been moved up.

Suited up and ready for action, Ellen is in the lobby when Patty walks past, and they share an awkward moment. At which point Tom, one of Patty’s workers, arrives, and starts giving Ellen a tour of the firm. Then he fills her in on the fact that Patty is a VERY tough interview.

Ellen says she’s ready, and Tom tells her the interview will be “sometimes on Saturday,” and to leave the whole day open. Ellen protests that her sister’s wedding is on Saturday. Tom replies, “All day?”

At the dog park, Patty allows her self-proclaimed mutt to scamper around as Arthur’s lawyer, Ray, steps up next to her and tells her that she can’t win. She clearly doesn’t want to engage, noting that she’s at the dog park.

Ray asks for “a number,” as his client has already lost three years of his life, and Ray doesn’t want him to lose another three.

Patty whistles for her dog, bringing the conversation to an end.

And then we’re back with Ellen, at her sister’s wedding. She skipped the interview – but as it turns out, Patty wants to meet the only person who ever skipped an interview with her, and she meets Ellen in the restroom, much to Ellen’s shock.

They converse for a while, and Patty lays it out on the table – Ellen had to be at the wedding, because her family needed to know they were important to her. Ellen asks if she can still have an interview.

Patty says she doesn’t see the point: Ellen is hired.

Across a couple of cell phones, Arthur and Ray debate what to do about the fact that Patty doesn’t seem to have a price.

And then, Ellen is at work, relating what details she knows about Arthur’s case – in short, the government went after him, but couldn’t nail him, at which point Patty took on the case.

They fill her in on what needs to happen – they need to prove that Arthur and his broker talked on a certain day, but they haven’t managed it. Then Ellen gets shown to her office, and told to write a summary of the case…

And hey! We’re back at the beginning of the episode, six months have gone by, and Ellen is the girl covered in blood. The card they found belongs to the fellow who threw down the “you were warned” gauntlet, and he sends them to Ellen’s apartment, where she lives with her fiancé.

They bust in, and find an engagement ring on the floor.

Back to six months ago, Ellen has been clothed by a store that clearly knows what Patty likes, and her boyfriend becomes her fiancé.

And we learn that Arthur has a hand in Ellen’s fiancé’s sister’s restaurant.

Arthur, meanwhile, sits down with one of his former workers and tries to convince him that his company really did go out of business with no immoral implications. And that perhaps, working together, they can convince the other employees that there was no wrongdoing.

Arthur concludes by stating that he’s looking for a “number that you think is fair.”

The number, 100 million dollars, is taken to Patty, and to the employees.

Patty points out that this is less than 5% of what Arthur is worth. Arthur’s ringer speaks up, and says some time ago they all voted to accept a settlement for 100 million dollars. He forces a vote… and we’re left hanging.

Until the next scene, anyway.

Points begin to converge. Tom gets fired for not knowing that Arthur’s ex-workers would drop the case for 100 million dollars. And Katie, Ellen’s sister-in-law-to-be, realizes she’s being watched, and that Arthur, her silent partner about whom she has signed a confidentiality agreement, is part of Ellen’s case.

Katie, as it turns out, was also in Florida, catering for Arthur, during the weekend the case hinges on.

Ellen has to decide whether to tell Patty about this fact, since it means Katie will lose her eatery.

In the meantime, Ellen has to bring some papers to Patty. Because of some timing issues, Ellen must take them to Patty’s son’s school – wherein we learn that Patty thinks, or knows, she hasn’t been a good mother.

Ellen returns home, convinced that she got hired because Patty wanted to use her to get to Katie.

And now: The Present! The cops go through Ellen’s apartment.

The Past! Ellen goes to Tom and asks if she got hired because of her Katie connection. Tom says he tries not to guess what Patty does or doesn’t know – but he claims Patty never heard of Ellen before Tom briefed her.

Ray and Arthur learn that Katie and Ellen are connected, and Arthur tells Ray to take care of it.

Ellen is unsure what to do about Katie – until Katie discovers that her dog has been killed, and the word “Quiet” has been pinned to Katie’s bulletin board with a knife.

Katie wants to talk to Patty about the case. Patty tells Ellen that she knows that what Ellen is going through is tough… and then, more surprises.

Tom takes a late-night visit from “Uncle Pete,” who works at Patty’s firm. It turns out he’s not really fired. And that, yep, Patty hired Ellen because of her Katie connection.

Tom asks Patty if she’s going to hire a new associate. Patty says no. “I think she’s going to have a brilliant future.”

And then, a couple of short scenes and we’re out – but these are key:

Patty throws Katie’s dog’s collar into the water at what I assume is her ocean-side home.

We learn that Ellen’s fiancé is dead in the tub that Ellen’s apartment.

And that Ellen wants a lawyer.

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