'Damages' Season 4: Glenn Close and Rose Byrne remain TV's strongest female duo

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To the millions of TV viewers who think "Rizzoli & Isles" is the height of platonic female chemistry, I ask that you briefly consider "Damages" -- even though the legal thriller recently became much harder to track down.

After not getting a pick-up from FX it moved to DirecTV's Audience Network, where, unlike other DirecTV rescued series "Friday Night Lights," it will air exclusively until its DVD release.

But for anyone with DirecTV, "Damages" is essentially required viewing. Like recent seasons, the latest (premiering July 13) picks up with a bit of a convoluted case and a new group of high profile actors -- John Goodman, Dylan Baker, Chris Messina -- cast as nefarious and/or tortured players. But it continues to boast two of the medium's greatest assets: Glenn Close and Rose Byrne.

Since the series' 2007 debut, the duo have nurtured the characters of Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons, respectively, watching them drift in and out of favor with one another and never making it clear which is really holding the cards. For Close, it's been a role she's admitted may define her career. For Byrne, it's solidified her status as one of the most talented young actresses working today.

And this new season sees them delving into the unfamiliar. Their first shared scene in the premiere finds them meeting in a diner, as equals, each obviously exploiting the other for some personal gain -- but with an unspoken mutual acknowledgment of the game they're playing.

What "Damages" has brought to the table for this season's case takes the series into international matters, when Ellen pursues a wrongful death suit against a Blackwater-esque military contractor that's hiding shady District connections and illegal operations in Afghanistan.

Ellen's key witness happens to be an old high school friend and new romantic interest (Messina), who's suffering from more than just post-traumatic stress disorder after losing three men during the questionable operation. The company's CEO, Howard Erickson (Goodman), and his particularly creepy henchman (Baker) seem bent on silencing him.

All three men seem poised for knock-out performance during the season, but it's the tortured Messina who takes the title of greatest Y-chromosome contribution in the first episode back.

Which makes me worry... the men who win Ellen's affection don't tend to do so well in the living-through-the-season department.

In fact, the opener ends with a quintessentially "Damages" time jump and bloody non-reveal. It seems obvious what they're getting at, but if it is as straightforward as it looks, it would be far too familiar territory for a series that's constantly been able to surprise.

So keep your disbelief suspended for the time being.
Photo/Video credit: DirecTV
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