By Michael Slezak
January 08, 2009 at 09:53 PM EST
  • TV Show

How thoroughly awesome is Glenn Close? I mean, yes, you already know that if you’ve seen Fatal Attraction or Jagged Edge or pretty much anything she’s ever done (ever), but last night’s second-season premiere of Damages drove the point home for me all over again. (Read Ken Tucker’s A- review here.) And while the story arcs that took center stage look like they’ll actually improve on the already quite good season 1, it was the smaller Patty Hewes moments that brought me the greatest joy. My three favorites? The way Patty glanced downward, like she was about to choke on her own bile, for just a millisecond, when Arsenault began his explanation for pulling funding from her charity with a puffed-up “let me tell you a story…” The way her eyes lit up with evil glee just a few minutes later, after discovering Arsenault’s daughter had earned herself a spot at Yale. “Well that’s quite an accomplishment,” Patty cooed, as the initial seeds of the girl’s downfall were sown. And then, of course, there were her completely insincere instructions to Uncle Pete that he quit spying on Ellen, which ended with my favorite line of the night. “Fine. Watch her. I’m concerned about her well-being.” (Ha!) Yes, Patty might be troubled by the memories of trying to have her young associate killed off, but since everyone’s still breathing and (semi-)functioning, might as well stay on top of their exact whereabouts and motivations.

addCredit(“Craig Blankenhorne/FX”)

Of course, if Ellen’s being followed, maybe she shouldn’t be holdingall her meetings with those federal agents in parked vehicles,sometimes in broad daylight. How long before Patty gets wind of herprotégé’s traitorous intentions? And what will she do to make her pay?Then again, given last night’s starting point of Ellen holding someone– Patty? Frobisher? One of the feds? The stalker dude from griefcounseling? — at gunpoint, and presumably bound and gagged (sincethere was no responding/struggling/escaping going on), it looks like ourlittle law associate might be gaining the upper hand as the seasonprogresses. And I was glad to see Rose Byrne, while alarmingly thin,seems to have exponentially increased the number of facial expressionsin her repertoire. I gave her grief for too many blank stares lastseason, but this episode, Byrne was able to hold her own alongsidethe rest of the heavyweight cast, particularly during that scene whereEllen passive aggressively questions Patty’s intentions for startingthe children’s hunger charity. That said, do power attorneys reallywear sleeveless blouses with giant bows at the neck (not the one pictured here, BTW)? Legalprofessionals, weigh in!

Speaking of the show’s all-star cast, I loved seeing Ted Danson’sFrobisher bed-bound and incapacitated, but still grotesquely scheming.(Asking his nurse to reinsert unnecessary nose tubes to garner sympathywith his wife? Day-um!) I was not as pleased, however, to see theterrific Zeljko Ivanek (who completely deserved his Emmy last season)return in a macabre and kinda silly flashback/daydream sequence. Ninety-nine percent ofthe time, I think it’s cheap and stuntish to bring back deceased TVcharacters, and seeing good ole’ Ray Fiske taunt Patty from the beyonddid nothing to change my mind. As far as newcomers go, William Hurt wasquietly effective in a role I expect will get bigger throughout theseason (given his wife’s brutal murder!), while Timothy Olyphant was creepy/sexy as Ellen’s stalker/loveinterest. If I have to quibble, though, if adude from your therapy group (the one for folks who’ve lost loved onesin violent ways) learned your last name and how to find you on anyrandom weeknight in Manhattan, wouldn’t you call the cops rather than engage him in a discussionon whether/how to purchase illegal firearms?

Anyhow, I leave it to you guys to discuss the remainder of theextremely packed premiere. But I do have to give a shout-out to Patty’sterse “Except for the vagina” as the episode’s best line. Also:  Dohospital doors have locks on the inside? And which made you giddier:Patty’s victorious appearance with Regis and Kelly or Ellen’s bloodyrevenge fantasy about Frobisher? Reveal all, people!

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