jaybee65: (Patty)
[personal profile] jaybee65
Damages S3 finished on Monday, and only now am I ready to say anything!

This show! Oh, how I love it, I cannot even find enough words! What other TV programs gives us such tightly crafted (and both thematically and symbolically rich) story arcs that span *three* full seasons with (virtually) no seams showing? S3 even managed to rescue -- and render meaningful, in retrospect -- many of the more lackluster elements of S2. I am in awe of both the writing and acting talent involved here!

I could go on and on about so many things (and I see some other people have posted about a lot of the topics that struck me), but for now I will talk about what I love the most: Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons!

What other TV program has given us anything even *close* to this kind of complex female-female relationship? The show never truly commits to any single interpretation of what they are, exactly. Mother-daughter substitutes, mentor-mentee, a femslash pairing, mirror images, predecessor/successor, friends, rivals, enemies, colleagues, partners...the genius of this show is that they are -- or have been, or will be -- ALL of those things to each other.

In fandom, we often talk about how our OTPs are "fated" to be with each other. Patty and Ellen aren't exactly an OTP (or are they?), but there's a similar dynamic going on. In S1, Ellen is -- literally -- warned to stay away from Patty. And fails to take that advice. At the time, it appears to be more due to naivete than anything else, but the more we learn about Ellen (foreshadowed in the very first episode of S1 when Patty describes Ellen's role in and relationship with her own family *perfectly*, as we discover all too well in S3), the more we realize that there is *something* that just draws them to each other. They both resist it. Ellen leaves, but keeps coming back. In S3, Patty tries to "replace" Ellen, but finds it impossible. *No one else* will really do! (As Ellen points out in a rather self-satisfied way!) Patty respects Ellen for choosing her independence, but is devastated and hurt when she thinks Ellen has betrayed and used her. But then when Ellen explains *why* she chose to keep Tom's secrets from Patty, Patty understands immediately. Why? Because she probably would have made the same choice in Ellen's place.

Ellen doesn't want to be sucked into Patty's storm of destructiveness, and she doesn't want to repeat Patty's mistakes. But what draws her back again and again is that no one else really seems to share what they have in common -- that rage over injustice that Patty says makes her choose her cases, or what David's "ghost" (really Ellen's subconscious) calls "a hatred of bullies." Ellen tries to find something similar in the DA's office (a natural place for her to look, I think), but instead she simply finds politics there. Will she go back to work with Patty again? The show leaves this question unanswered -- but if she does, she will be working *with* Patty, not *for* her (the way Tom, a "partner" in name only did). Whatever her title, Ellen is no one's "trusty lieutenant", any more than Patty ever could be.

They're kindred spirits. And yet not. Drawn to each other and also repulsed. And while we (the audience) initially were led to believe that Patty was the sun and Ellen a hapless planet wheeling about in orbit, it turns out that's the wrong metaphor. They're binary stars, revolving around a common center of mass, simultaneously running away from and falling back toward each other in an endless circular dance.

April 2011


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