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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

'Damages' S5: Fictional WikiLeaks Story, Real Life Mental Health Charity Auction

The notable aspects of next Tuesday's DVD release of the "Damages" fifth and final season include both a season-long storyline that is very relevant to the Edward Snowden WikiLeaks controversy and a real-life online auction for a charity that "Damages" star Glenn "The Bunny Boiler" Close founded.

The homepage of  the website for Close's charity Bring Change 2 Mind states that that organization is working to "end the stigma and discrimination of mental illness."

The online event, which commences today, is putting designer duds from Close's "Damages" wardrobe on the virtual auction block. Although the coutre from the closet of America's favorite devilish attorney includes Prada (and Armani) among others from the who's who of the fashion world, it does not seem to have anything from the absolutely fabulous Christian Lacroix line darling. There is also no report of a fur coat made from the hides of 99 dalmatian puppies.

Close's series "Damages" began as a PG-13 legal thriller, as opposed to legal drama, on the basic cable channel FX and ended as a R-rated program on the satellite service Directv. The more colorful language and occasional exposed breasts and bare butts in the later seasons intensify the drama and add to the adult feel of the show.

Close's Emmy-winning character Patty Hewes is an extraordinarily ruthless New York City litigator who can be equally heartless regarding her personal life. Much of the series revolves around Hewes' incredibly complicated relationship with Ellen Parsons, who is played by Rose Byrne. Parsons is a brilliant young attorney fresh out of law school when we meet her in the pilot.

Hewes' ulterior motive for recruiting and hiring Parsons is revealed early in the first season, and the pair spends five seasons playing cat-and-mouse while enjoying a sometimes brutally violent live-action roadrunner-Wile E. Coyote relationship.

At the heart of all this, Hewes wants to create Parsons in her own image and teach her the hard realities of high-stakes litigation. That mentoring includes severely punishing Parsons for betrayals of Hewes with the exceptions of the times that meeting a larger objective requires temporarily giving Parsons more leeway.

Each of "Damages'" five seasons center around a large "ripped from the headlines" case in which Hewes' law firm participates and in which Parsons plays a role ranging from Hewes' completely untrusted associate to opposing counsel. Examples include the first season storyline regarding Hewes representing the victims of a corporate executive's insider trading activity and the fourth season depiction of controversy surrounding a Blackwater-style private firm that operates in Afghanistan.

The other consistent gimmick in "Damages" is a season-long set of flash-forward scenes that show an ultimate result of the season's events. Incidents throughout the episodes lead to the highly teased climax, which is fully played out at the end of the season.

The fifth season lawsuit involves the WikiLeaks-style escapades of famed cyber-hacker Channing McClaren, played by Ryan Phillippe. The apparent suicide of investments trader Naomi Walling, played by Jenna Elfman, leads to Patty representing Naomi's late-teens daughter in a wrongful death lawsuit against McClaren. Hewes' manipulation leads to Parsons, who has just opened her own law practice, representing McClaren.

Subplots include McClaren's legal liability for the leaks and the risk of jail associated with returning to the United States from his self-imposed European exile.

Hewes' motives for wanting Parsons on the other side of the McClaren lawsuit include a desire to prevent Parsons from testifying in another legal dispute in which Hewes and her dreamy son Michael are battling for custody of Michael's daughter.

Much of the entertainment from the fifth season relates to Hewes using Parsons' intense animosity regarding her former employer for benefits that include manipulating Parsons' trial strategy to Hewes' advantage and simply obtaining amusement watching Parsons get incredibly angry just by interacting with Hewes.

One of the more bizarre segments from the fifth season is a classic sitcom storyline. Being stranded together during a blizzard ultimately results in Hewes and Parsons having a heart-to-heart chat over purloined airport bar liquor.

Although the McClaren case is representative of the lawsuits from the prior four seasons and the elements of family turmoil and Hewes and Parsons out to get the other are nothing new, the fifth season seems to dig a bit deeper than the prior offerings.

Events from the first season play strong roles in the final season, and numerous actual and physical ghosts further relate to events from those episodes. Even the circumstances regarding Naomi's death trigger bad memories for Parsons.

One quasi-spoiler alert is that the fifth season wraps up the series well in a highly believable manner.

The only reason that these final generally dense episodes do not pass the "one more" test is that their intensity often requires a break in the form of much lighter fare. At the same time, watching the fifth season episodes evokes a strong desire to rewatch those from the first season if only to see the incredibly sharp contrast regarding the Hewes/Parsons relationship then and now.

Anyone with question or thoughts regarding "Damages" is welcome to email me. In the event that Close reads and dislikes my thoughts, I ask that she please spare my pets from the fate of becoming kitty al dente.