This year, for Ellen Parsons and Patty Hewes, it’s personal. That was made clear in the first episode of the season, where the stakes were perfectly set up for one hell of a final story. Inspired by the ongoing real life drama surrounding Wikileaks, Patty and Ellen are, for the first time ever, rivals on a case. With all their baggage*, and with the standard Damages flash forwards showing Ellen maybe-sorta-kinda-could-be deadish, episode two works as a starting gun for all involved.
Bang! The episode begins with Ellen attending the Digital World Conference with where her client, Channing McClaren is a guest speaker. It’s a great character moment, McClaren being presented as champion of truth. Even though he was warned not to speak about the Walling case, he goes off book anyway and apologizes that someone’s death resulted from the “accidental” leaking of personal Naomi Walling’s personal information. The crowd eats it up. My own personal red flags started going off. Since Walling’s death was revealed to the audience to be a murder (and not a suicide like everyone else believes), there’s still a question as to who had her killed. Did he want to have this information go to through a court system? That remains to be seen. Mid-speech, Patty has him served with her wrongful death lawsuit.
So, finally, Patty and Ellen face off in court with Judge Timothy Haring, who gives Patty one week to find personal connection between McClaren and Walling and has McClaren’s passport revoked. Ellen later spies Patty and Haring speaking in a casual manner, making Ellen believe that the two have a relationship that will leave the judge biased in Patty’s favor.
When McClaren finds out he can’t leave the States, he is disappointed in Ellen. She decides to set him straight about just how Patty Hewes operates telling him, “She wants you on your feet so she can keep throwing punches, over and over and over, until your reputation is nothing but an unrecognizable, bloody pulp.”
…Yeah, sounds about right. McClaren asserts that he has had no contact with Naomi Walling. Doth the gentleman protest too much? Patty seems to think so, and her investigators find surveillance video of a hotel Walling stayed at the night McClaren arrived in town. Many people are shown wandering the hallways, and it’s not clear whether or not McClaren is one of them. Another investigator, who turns out to be working for Ellen and tasked with following McClaren, brings her pictures of McClaren wearing a wig to maneuver past cameras without being detected, including the surveillance video. So, evidence points to McClaren and Walling having personal contact after all.
More on McClaren’s side of things, the “master of secrets” meets with his team and demands to know how the Walling emails were leaked with the rest of the insider trading info. When “shit happens” is the actual answer he gets, McClaren hulks out a bit. One team member asks the obvious question — as the final eyes to see the information leak, did McClaren know what was being posted? McClaren later meets with someone who claims he has more information on the insider trading case that Walling leaked, but he wants a payoff. McClaren isn’t interested in paying, but is clearly interested in finding out how deep the rabbit hole goes.
As Ellen tries to find out more about the connection between Patty and Judge Haring, she takes time to interview new associates, including a woman named Kate Franklin. Interestingly, Kate and Patty used to work together. Ellen sends Kate to Patty and has her try to get Patty to double her employment offer in order to test Kate’s loyalty, which she passes with flying colors. While at Patty’s office, Kate hears that Patty is taking personal phone calls from Judge Haring, fueling Ellen’s desire to find a way to prove he’s an unfit judge for this case.
After a little digging and some evidence supplied by McClaren’s main associate, Ellen manages to blackmail Haring into recusing himself from the case. Ellen’s victory is short lived, though. In what may be one of the better scenes of the series (in a long, long list of amazing scenes), Patty calls Ellen to her she’s proud of what Ellen did. As Ellen plays dumb, Patty slowly drops the bomb, pointing out that Ellen’s paranoia got the best of her. Judge Haring actually hates Patty, and all the circumstantial evidence Ellen witnessed or worried about was cleverly orchestrated by Patty.
The new judge? He’s totally Patty Friendly. Whoops.
The Flash Forwards: As usual, the episode featured some flash forwards to “3 Months Later”. Included were scenes of Patty sitting cool as cucumber in the interrogation room, where she makes one phone call. Turns out, she’s calling Ellen. There are more shots of Ellen lying on the ground, apparently bleeding from a head wound as she stared unblinkingly upwards. It’s still not clear if she’s alive or dead. As the camera takes on Ellen’s point of view and looks up to the rooftop she may have just fallen from, a figure can be seen leaning over the edge.
This episode was slick. It’s conspiracy after conspiracy, plot twists inside secrets, questions with no answers. Damages season 5 is shaping up to be a great ride. We’re barely into the story and Patty already has Ellen against the ropes. Ellen always leans on the fact that she knows Patty better than anyone, but she always forgets the more important fact: Patty is aware of this weakness, and plans accordingly.
So, what are your thoughts on McClaren? What’s his game?
*Baggage in this case refers to attempted murder.