Reasonable minds can prevail

Lost, when at its best, set the gold standard in television time jumps.  I say this because now seems like a good opportunity to reflect on the shortcomings of Damages’ time shifts.  I’ve harped on this issue every episode since the premiere and, hopefully, I can stop sounding like a broken record after this.  “Like a Regular Earl Anthony” provides an opportunity for an aside because not a whole lot happens in this episode.  Tom decides to leave Hewes and Associates and, after much waffling, comes back after Patty agrees to make him an unnamed partner.  Tom was starting to get more interesting but we’re not nearly invested enough in the character for him to carry an episode, particularly when the arc is about returning him to status quo.
Lack of movement is the fundamental problem with the flash forwards.  We learned last week that someone tried to kill Ellen.  This week we get the extended cut of the attack that ends with Ellen killing the guy.  Now, death might seem like significant plot progression, but we still have no idea who this guy was.  What’s more, when the police check Patty’s apartment they find no body and no signs of a struggle.  Ellen’s left in the same place she started the episode, in an interrogation room with nothing to prove her innocence.  We’re left with the same questions we had last week; who attacked her and why?

I half expected the attacker to be Tom, given that he was the focus of the episode, but there wasn’t even that level of tie in.  The events in the present don’t have anything to do with those in the past, at least as far as we can tell; which means, in terms of appreciating this hour of television, the stories really aren’t connected.  When two narratives don’t tie together they detract from, rather than support, each other.

Lost’s great strength was in tying past, present, and future events together both narratively and thematically.  What happened in one timeframe informed our understanding of what happened in the other.  Damages nailed this model in its premiere but has consistently committed Lost’s most frustrating sin since then; letting the mystery get in the way of the story.  We’ve received lots of little connections between the timelines, but few of those really help us understand what’s going on.  They’re cute Easter eggs rather than necessary plot points.  The lack of information may “keep you guessing,” but we were already guessing.  I don’t need to watch a scene that takes my time without giving me information.

Damages’ structure feels like a waste of time, which is unfortunate considering the rest of the show is so damn strong.  The premiere raised the fundamental question of “how did this happen?” and that’s still fascinating enough to keep us tuning in.  If the flashforwards aren’t going to answer/refine/expand upon that question then they need to be dropped so we can focus on all the goodness this series has to offer.

Final Thoughts

Other things that happened in this episode: Greg gets beaten up for trying to get in touch with Katie while Katie tells David how she was manipulated.  Oh, and Frobisher’s ego gets in the way of him making a settlement.  Such events were what we really cared about and should’ve been the focus while Tom’s life carried the background.

Drinking montages are not one of the many things this show does well.  The “Tom’s night out” sequence just felt out of place on this series.

Patty doesn’t make Tom a named partner because A) she’s a bitch, and B) once she does that she’ll have given him all the approval he so desperately craves, leaving her with no way to control him.

Ray proves (once again) that he’s no slouch, urging Frobisher to just take the settlement and be done with it.

The scene where Tom quits?  Awesomely awkward.  Patty really, really is a bitch.


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