Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Damages" Recap & Review -

"Pilot Episode"
Original Air Date: 7/24/07

[Submitted by Tom R.]

Sometimes all you need is four minutes.

Last January, the FX network green-lighted the Courteney Cox vehicle Dirt, preceding the debut with endless promos that told potential viewers absolutely nothing about the plot or the characters. I think I watched about four minutes of the season, total.

By contrast, FX took the first four minutes of Damages and posted the clip to its website. The hope, apparently, was that four minutes would be enough to get potential viewers curious enough to see how things developed in the premiere hour.

So…Did the marketing ploy work? Probably. But more importantly, do they have more than four worthwhile minutes? Once you see the initial clip, is there more that the show can build on?

Hell yes. This is off to a great start.

The opening sequence starts with upbeat, positive music as we see New York City coming to life. The music fades away, leaving the dinging of a descending elevator in its place. The camera holds on the doors, finally opening to reveal Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) dressed in a trench coat and not much else. Stained with blood, she sneaks past the guard in the lobby and makes her way into the street, where the music and sounds have shifted to a darker, more disturbing take on the city. Ellen is taken into police custody, and the scene flashes back six months. I was not looking at my watch, but my guess was that this was the teaser on the web.

The story picks up in the past with Ellen, a promising young attorney, is about to be interviewed for a position at the law firm of Hollis Nye (Phillip Bosco). When she mentions that she has been contacted for an interview with Hewes and Associates, the lawyers close their files and thank Ellen for her time. When she meets Nye later in the show, she dismisses the Hewes interview as a mere possibility, since the interview is a few days away.

“Doesn’t matter,” Nye replies. “When she meets you, she’ll see what I see. And then she’ll own you.”

After an interview with a partner in the firm, Ellen is put in the position of having to choose between the interview with Patty Hewes herself and being bridesmaid for her sister’s wedding. As she is celebrating, she makes her way to the ladies room, where she is met by Patty (Glenn Close). After discussing the merits of family vs. career, Patty offers Ellen her view on her family:

“They put you on a pedestal,” she says. “They look up to you. Then they blame you for the crimp in their necks.”

Patty is in the midst of pursuing a class action suit against Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson, making a great villain). Frobisher encouraged his employes to pump their life savings into his company to inflate the stock value. He then sold off the company, ruining the employees. But the government’s case could not connect Frobisher to the deal’s broker, so he walked. Now he has one claimant in his pocket, pushing the other to settle. But Ellen’s sister-in-law may have a missing piece to this elaborate puzzle. The story flashes back and forth between past and present, unraveling two mysteries at the same time.

Cheers for the writing and the acting here (no surprises), but what sets the bar for this show is the art direction. The camera work adds just as many questions as the script. It’s very well thought out, especially the final shot of the episode, which makes you wonder why the vista we’re seeing is so important. The music also works in seamlessly, with key lyrical phrases pushing the right buttons.

Damages airs Tuesdays at 10 PM on FX. Get ready for a hell of a ride.

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