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Damages: The Final Season (2012)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/16/2013

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/4/2013

Hollywood has always been about buzz and it seems that if you want any buzz today, you need to be part of an hour-long drama on cable television. Everywhere I turn I see things about Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and to a lesser extent, True Blood. The custom t-shirt stores are overrun with clever artists who have managed to work Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones into their work. However, these shows aren't automatically granted entrance into the "word of mouth" club, even if they are good. Damages has been churning some of the most suspenseful drama on TV since its inception in 2007, but we rarely hear about it. Now, that the series is over, maybe it can finally get the respect which it deserves.

Damages focuses on two attorneys who work in New York City. Patty Hewes (Gleen Close) is a seasoned pro who loves to take on class action and civil suits and is seen as a champion of the little guy. However, Patty is also competitive and vindictive and will go to any extreme to get her way and to win a case. Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) went to work for Patty fresh out of law school, and quickly learn the harsh realities of high-stakes cases, as her life was put in jeopardy several times. While Ellen respects Patty's skills as a lawyer and her drive, she also knows that she's a very dangerous woman. The two parted ways, but they keep coming back together.

As Season Five opens, Ellen is in a good place, as she's opened her own practice and her relationship with Chris (Chris Messina) is fairly stable. Internet leak expert Channing McClaren (Ryan Phillippe), founder of McClarenTruth.org approaches Patty stating that due to his latest endeavor, he may need a lawyer. Patty declines, but recommends Ellen. As it turns out, Channing was right. He'd made arrangements to get evidence of insider trading from Wall St. investor Naomi Walling (Jenna Elfman), but when the documents were posted on-line, they were accompanied by Naomi's personal e-mails, which exposed her sexual relations with several colleagues. McClaren is sued (although, I won't say why) and hires Ellen, while Patty is hired by the plaintiff. As Ellen begins to research the case, she is quickly reminded of just how cunning Patty is. As if that's not bad enough, she realizes that the case is not as black-and-white as it seems, and that McClaren can't be trusted.

As proven with past seasons, Damages loves to rip stories from the headlines. We got a fictionalized version of the Bernie Madoff situation in Season 3, and Season 4 focused on military contractors in the Middle East. With the storyline in Season 5, the show has clearly created its own version of Wikileaks and Channing McClaren is meant to represent Julian Assange. Unlike the plotlines in the past two seasons, this is something about which we've heard, but we haven't been beaten over the head with it (at least not in the typical mainstream news report), so it has a somewhat fresh feel. And with McClaren, we get a very complex character. He presents himself as a sort of Robin Hood of information, as he wants to expose the truth about crime and corruption. And yet, he has many secrets and is often evasive with Ellen.

Of course, the real draw of Season 5 (and of any season of Damages) is to see Patty and Ellen go head-to-head. This confrontation is what the whole series has been leading up to -- the master and the student as opposing counsel in a trial -- and this aspect of the show doesn't disappoint. Ellen believes that the only reason that Patty took the case was to beat her in court, so Ellen is determined to match Patty at every turn. However, Patty is still the master strategist and manipulator, so it takes Ellen a while to catch up. Season 5 does a great job of drawing parallels between the two women. Ellen never becomes the sociopath that Patty is, but we see that she has become just as competitive and many of Patty's tricks have rubbed off on her. The show also introduces subplots with both women which seem extraneous at first, but we realize that they were brought in to show how similar their childhood's were.

The thing which I didn't like about this season was the very ending. I don't want to give anything away, but it didn't end the way in which I personally wanted it to. That may seem like an immature remark, but over five seasons, this show has elicited an emotional response in the viewer and we are look for a certain kind of release. One could argue that the resolution given here is realistic, but I don't care about realistic -- I wanted to see people reap what they sew.

That cloying issue aside, Damages remains an impressive show. As usual, Close is at the top of her game, and with Patty Hewes, she has indeed created one of the most memorable characters which we love to hate. Ellen Parsons has had an incredibly hard time over the years, and I think that Byrne played her even more humorless and dark than ever here. This season also brings in several recognizable actors in supporting roles. Still, one has to wonder why Damages doesn't get mentioned like other shows. Is it because it's about women? Is it because it's on a network which no one gets? Whatever the case, the show deserves attention and I certainly hope that the acting is recognized at awards time. This DVD release is a great chance to see how a memorable show climaxes.

Damages: The Final Season is overseen by a pigeon on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. All 10 episodes of Season 5 are collected on 3 DVDs. 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 notable grain or defects from the source material. The clarity of this transfer actually hurts the product, as it allows us to see when soft-focus is utilized (which is a lot), as it affects the level of detail. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. This certainly rivals digital broadcast quality. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get notable stereo and surround effects from the various noises of the street scenes and some of these are nicely detailed. The flashbacks and dream sequences offer well-timed subwoofer action.

The Damages: The Final Season DVD set contains only a few extras. Each DVD contains DELETED SCENES taken from various episodes -- Disc 1, 9 scenes (10 minutes); Disc 2, 9 scenes (13 minutes); and Disc 3, 13 scenes (18 minutes). Most of these are short moments where were trimmed from the beginning or the end of scenes from the finished show. But, we do get some new things here. We see that Ellen approached a company about providing their legal services as she needed clients for her new business. The opening arguments for the trial are presented here (which answered my question about whether or not it would be a jury trial). And the most important thing occurs in the scenes where Ellen asked the police to take a second look at a death. This bugged me throughout the season, as I kept wondering why Ellen didn't call Bones (or some equivalent). Disc 1 also contains a 4-minute reel of OUTTAKES.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.