Much as it did a few years ago with NBC's neglected jewel "Friday Night Lights," DirecTV rescued FX's superb drama "Damages" from the scrap heap last year, promising the show's fans two more seasons of Patty Hewes' mind-bending machinations.
The fourth season of that acclaimed Glenn Close series -- its first on DirecTV -- premieres tomorrow night at 10pm.
Season 4's legal plot involves a lawsuit against a powerful military security contractor, à la Blackwater, with John Goodman playing the Erik Prince role (in a fairly obvious nod, Goodman's character is named Howard Erickson). Chris Messina ("Julie and Julia") plays an Iraq war vet who took a job in Afghanistan with Erickson's High Star Security Corporation. He just happens to be an old high school friend of Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), who is trying to bring about the lawsuit on behalf of families of those killed during questionable High Star missions.
Judging from the first two episodes, it'll be Dylan Baker's character, a sort of "fixer" for Erickson and High Star, who perhaps figures more powerful and more menacing than CEO Erickson. But this is "Damages," so perhaps not.
Tonight's action opens about three years after Season 3 with Ellen out of the DA's office and working in a private firm -- not Patty's -- and still maintaining a relationship (I hesitate to use the word "friendship") with her former boss. The High Star lawsuit is Ellen's baby, but Patty becomes involved after a series of events that will leave you wondering just who's zoomin' who.
The show's move from FX to DirecTV means longer episodes (no commercials), but also, according to DirecTV, that the show can be "executed without restrictions, allowing the creators to present the show the way it was truly meant to be." FX is known for giving shows an incredibly long leash when it comes to mature subject matter, so perhaps DirecTV is hinting at some kind of previous corporate-artisistic clash?
I've only watched two episodes of the new season, so it's hard to say if the tone is very much different from previous seasons of "Damages." I do feel that even though previous seasons of "Damages" have been plenty violent, the first two episodes of Season 4 seem to up the violence ante a bit with some pretty graphic torture scenes. I'm not a fan of watching torture scenes in any context, and even though the scenes depicted here are not gratuitous in the style of say, "24," it's still hard to watch sometimes.
Also, an important distinction in this particular DirecTV rescue is that unlike their deal with "Friday Night Lights," which later aired episodes on NBC, "Damages" will not air later on FX. If you don't have DirecTV, you'll have to wait for the DVDs (or make friends with a DirecTV person).
(Note: Season 3 of "Damages" on DVD went on sale this week, and what a great season that was...)
"Damages" will air on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on DirecTV's Audience channel (239).