'Damages' post-mortem: The season begins with an ending

tate-donovan-damages-320.jpgThe cast and producers of "Damages" will be doing weekly conference calls this season, offering their thoughts on the previous episode and what's to come. Zap2it is on the case with them.

(A rather large spoiler is coming in a couple sentences' time, so if you haven't watched the season premiere yet, best to click away now.)


"Damages" kicked off its third season Monday (Jan. 25) with a doozy of a "six months later" revelation. Police investigating a car that rammed into Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) uncover a body in a trash bin -- none other than that of Tom Shayes ( Tate Donovan). From the earliest evidence, it looks like his death may tie into the case Patty is litigating in the present day: a Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi scheme that lost billions of dollars of investors' money -- but this being "Damages," there are a lot of layers of story to be unpeeled before the concrete connection gets made.

Co-creator Todd Kessler and star Rose Byrne talked about the implications of Tom's death and what it means for the rest of the season.

How does killing Tom set up the rest of the season?
Kessler: We really had the idea when we were formulating the pilot and the series. With the theme of "what price success?," at some point one of the main characters should lose his or her life based on a case. ... Tom has been a character, as played by Tate Donovan, that we've just been thrilled with, and Tate's performance has been so strong, we felt like this was a great time to take this step and in a way take the risk of killing off a character.

It also seems like this incident sets a more clear path to point to in the "six months later" segments.
Kessler: I think that's an accurate depiction. The first season, at the end of the pilot, there was the reveal that Ellen's fiance, David, was dead in a bathtub, and Ellen was in an interrogation room being asked what happened and saying, "Get me a lawyer." ... In the second season, the endpoint wasn't as clear, except that Ellen was shooting a gun, and we didn't know who she was shooting at. I think in this third season -- we're trying to do something different each season and trying to create a thriller on television, which has its challenges. That's partly why we work in two different time frames. But having this endpoint of Tom being dead is very clear, and we feel like it's organic to our storytelling. The device of going with two different time frames allows for bigger moments to land at the beginning, then hopefully it's a great ride for the audience to get from the beginning of the season to six months later.

How did Tate Donovan take the news?
Kessler: I called Tate pesonally and told him that we were going to be pursuing this storyline and talked him through it, and his first response was it sounds like an amazing story and a great season, it just sucks that it has to be his character. He gets it -- he's been around and been on different series, and he understands that our desire is to give him great material and put his character at a center of the flash-forwards. So I think it is bittersweet, because it's going to be a great season for Tate.

What keeps Ellen going back into Patty's world? She doesn't quite seem able to make a clean break.
Byrne: It's something we're always exploring. It's very complicated, I think. They've been through so much together that Patty can understand Ellen in a way that nobody else can in her life. And I think it's vice versa too. Patty has revealed so many sides to Ellen that she probably hasn't to the closest people in her life. But what really brings them back together this season is the work [Ellen is now working with the Manhattan district attorney's office] and trying to get justice. ... They kind of reunite this season through work.

Kessler:
There's also some more thematic stuff that we're going to explore this season in terms of what attracts Ellen to Patty. ... For Ellen, to be around someone like Patty, who does not follow rules and really responds to things emotionally, is something we'll continue to explore this season, about why that affects Ellen. Not following the rules and not putting up with bullies are things that will come to resonate for Ellen.

Rose, have you gotten to work with the new cast members [Campbell Scott, Lily Tomlin, Len Cariou and Martin Short] much?
Byrne: So far I haven't. I've had just one scene with Martin Short and one scene with Campbell Scott. Most of my stuff has been in the district attorney's office, working with Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Ben Shenkman, who plays my boss. But in the second half I have a feeling I might be interacting with them a little more. I would like to -- Todd, can you write that in? I love Lily Tomlin, I'm such a fan of her and of Martin.

What can you tell us about the role the homeless man [Michael Laurence] plays in the season?
Kessler: Without giving away too much, clues are kind of set in the first episode and followed up in the second episode. The homeless man does play an integral role. In some ways it may be [a case of] the wrong place at the wrong time, or the right place at the right time, depending on who's looking at it. But the relationship between the homeless man and Tom is something that will continue to develop over the season, and eventually other characters get pulled into it. ... Tom and Patty start to pull at this thread, and in the flash-forwards the detectives are interviewing him, so his presence will become central as the season progresses.

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Photo credit: FX
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