sat 21/09/2019

Damages, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

Damages, BBC Two

Damages, BBC Two

A dangerously enjoyable liaison between Patty Hewes and Bernie Madoff

Now, I think Glenn Close is probably a bit of a pussycat in real life – she’s certainly always describing herself as a bag of insecurities who’d be too shy to speak to any of the monsters she has played on screen, such as her bunny-boiling Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction, the heartless Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons and the puppy-pelt-wearing Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmatians. Patty Hewes seems to have a vulnerable side, especially concerning her pretty young protégée Ellen Parsons (Australian actress Rose Byrne), who has now wisely departed Hewes & Associates for a new job as a criminal prosecutor in the narcotics division of the District Attorney's office.

Patty keeps Ellen’s office empty, partly as a shrine and partly in the hope of her eventual return (I wouldn’t rule it out), and is given to mooning around dreamily in its doorway. Was this Sapphic undercurrent intentional? If not, then it’s unintentionally comic. Let’s hope things don’t turn sour, because Patty is capable of much worse than dispatching a pet bunny. Actually, in the first series, she had a pet dog killed in order to anger a witness into testifying – and when last night a drug-dealer had his cherished Harley trashed by a couple of goons so that he was angered into cooperating with the DA’s office, Ellen suspected that this might be a billet-doux from her ex-boss.

The new season-long plot involves a Bernie Madoff-sized Ponzi scheme, with Hewes & Associates as the court-appointed trustees responsible for tracking down the tens of billions swindled from investors – and "When Patty Met Bernie" is a stroke of pure TV matchmaking genius. Len Cariou, last seen as Roosevelt in the Winston Churchill drama Into the Storm, plays Louis Tobin, an old rogue who has salted away his ill-gotten billions, while Campbell Scott plays his son Joe, caught between clearing his own name and keeping his family in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

Joe began by helping Patty with her enquiries, hoping to cut some sort of deal when he passed on the number that his father had so urgently phoned moments after revealing to his family that the exposure of his Ponzi scheme was imminent. When Patty rings the number however, a tramp answered the phone – the same down-and-out who, we see in flash-forward, is in possession of Ellen’s blood-stained Chanel handbag (another gift from Patty). With such audacious plot twists does Damages sink its hooks into us.

Apparently some people watching Season One were confused by these flash-forwards, which is perhaps why they are so heavily signposted, but most half-awake viewers might find themselves snapping testily “We get it” as the “six months later” caption lights up yet again, especially as these scenes are shot so differently. And anyway, the flash-forwards have become such a Damages trademark, that it’s a bit like someone asking why a clock keeps appearing in 24.

The final flash-forward of last night’s opening episode was the most shocking, or at least it would have been if I hadn’t already kind of guessed that the deceased inhabitant of the wheelie bin was going to be Tom Shayes, the latest associate in Hewes & Associates, and the go-between twixt Patty and Ellen. But who killed him? And who is the “sort of architect” who hit on Patty in a bar, and, and, and... and so many questions. But whether I satisfy them now, or simply buy the box-set, that is the most pressing question of all.


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