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Damages: The Complete Fourth Season
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 6/26/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/20/2012
As with many audiences, I am very fickle. I say that I want to see things which are different or take chances, but I don't like change. So, if a new project wants to be edgy, that's fine, but don't go messing with a franchise which I like. This must be viewed from the artist's perspective as well. Changing something which has worked in the past may seem non-sensical, but you can understand they don't want to remain stagnant. These thoughts occurred to me while watching Damages: The Complete Fourth Season, which offers episodes that try to take the series in a new direction.
Season 4 of Damages opens about three years after the conclusion of Season 3. Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) is still hard at work in her law firm, taking on class-action lawsuits. She is also busy raising her granddaughter. Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) has taken a position at a law firm and is doing well for herself. She has been looking into Highstar, a private firm which contracts with the U.S. government to provide security to personnel in Afghanistan, and, more specifically, the company's CEO, Howard Erickson (John Goodman). Ellen re-connects with Chris Sanchez (Chris Messina), an old high-school flame who had done some work with Highstar. Chris tells Ellen that Highstar has been involved in some illegal activities in Afghanistan, which lead to the deaths of its employees. Ellen takes this case to her boss, who balks at it, so she's forced to seek help from Patty. News of this gets to Jerry Boorman (Dylan Baker), a shadowy figure who begins to tail Ellen. Ellen begins to build her case, but Erickson and Boorman will do whatever they can, both legal and illegal, to stop her.
In its first three seasons, Damages created a tight-knit world of characters and an elaborate web of deceit and back-stabbing. Patty Hewes was drawn as an incredibly determined woman who always got what she wanted and hated to be told no. She would even resort to assassination to make sure that she got her way. In the beginning, Ellen Parsons was a young go-getter fresh out of law school who couldn't believe that she got a position at Hewes & Associates. And while Patty was well-known for taking on class-action cases and helping the little guy, Ellen soon learned that Patty could be very cold, callous, and self-centered. More than once, Patty and Ellen found themselves as adversaries, as Patty showed that friendship would always take a backseat to winning. In each of the first three seasons, Patty would pull a massive double-cross on someone (usually Ellen) and reveal her true colors, often leaving dead bodies in her wake. Ellen would always find herself between fear of and loyalty to Patty.
With Season 4, the powers that be at the show decided to make some changes to the show and these changes diminished the quality of the series. First and foremost, Patty isn't scary or intimidating. Sure, she's intense and determined, but she never wigs out as she has in the past. We keep waiting for the old Patty to rear her ugly head and do something crazy, but it never happens. In the last episode, Patty acts like her old self, but it's too little, too late. Akin to this is the fact that the action shifts back and forth between New York and Afghanistan, with Boorman and Erickson dividing their attention between the two. In previous seasons, we also felt as if Ellen was in danger. With Season 4, these threats aren't there, so there's little suspense. The Bernie Madoff-esque story in Season 3 felt very fresh, while the Afghan war stories told here feel as if something which has been recycled from the news. The show retains the story-telling device of having flash forwards which are intercut with the main story. In Season 3, the flash forwards provided a great head-fake and twist. Here, we aren't the least bit surprised when the big "twist" is revealed.
In the end, Damages is still a gripping drama, but something is certainly missing here. Season 4 doesn't have the intensity that we've come to know from Damages, but the characters are still interesting and the show is the epitome of the courtroom drama which never actually makes it to the courtroom. The finale is predictable, but it does set up a nice plot for Season 5.
Damages: The Complete Fourth Season should give top-billing to Rose Byrnes' bangs on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The three-disc set contains all ten episodes of the show's fourth season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear showing no distracting grain (save for when it's added for dramatic effect) or defects from the source material. This show has always leaned towards a cold, monochromatic look, but the occasional splashes of color look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. For a DVD, the level of detail is good, but when the show goes for a soft focus look, the blooming effect is very notable. The level of artifacting is minimal. This more than matches HD broadcast quality. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are notable during street scenes and we get good separation. The Afghanistan battle sequences mark a departure for the show and provide a smattering of surround sound. Other than the show's theme song, I didn't not any substantial bass effects.
The extras on the Damages: The Complete Fourth Season DVD are spread out across all three discs. Disc One is kicked off by "A Case for War: The Cast and Crew Discuss the Fourth Season" (14 minutes) is exactly what it sounds like. Close, Byrne, and Series Creators Glenn Kessler, Todd Kessler, and Daniel Zleman, along with various cast members talk about the plots and themes of Season Four, as well as what the production was like. This places specific emphasis on the relationship between Patty and Ellen. Disc One also contains two DELETED SCENES which run about 2 minutes. Disc Two offers "The Evolution of Patty Hewes", which is a 7-minute featurette that allows Close to analyze the character and discuss how she's changed over the years. Disc Two also has two DELETED SCENES which run about 4 minutes. Disc Three brings us a 4-minute reel of OUTTAKES. (It seems weird to see Close blow a line.) The extras on Disc Three finish off with five DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long