Friday, July 31, 2009

Damages or How 'iconic much?'

I just finished the first season of Damages (yes, I know! I know... I'm behind: I'll be catching up with season two as soon as I can) and I gotta say it's one of the most electrifying pieces of Television I have ever experienced. Not only is the acting top-notch (no surprise there since you have an Oscar-nominated actress headlining and Cheer-y TV royalty providing supporting work), but it is also one of the most tightly wound scripts I have encountered (especially considering it is - at its core a procedural, and those are usually so lazy). In a way, it is - if nothing else - a master class in "How to Use Flashbacks Effectively" mainly because instead of providing tiresome "and this is how it all happened", the use of flashbacks in every episode works to at once frame and reframe what we're watching. It is an editing and writing triumph that never lets you off the hook (it consciously rewards studious and attentive audience members rather than indulging your lack of attention by giving you answers).

But there was one thing I wanted to showcase and that's the use of iconic costumes/accessories. While contemporary TV shows may not consciously draw attention to their crafts (take as an example, how the costumes and production of design of Mad Men seem to become a character onto themselves whereas something like Law & Order... not so much. The clear exception here would be something like Sex and the City but that's a whole different ball game, y'know?) - Damages (in a mere 13 episode season) managed to create two iconic pieces: Patty Hewes' sunglasses and Ellen Parsons' green trench-coat:

This iconicity is not only because of their recurrent use (after all, Ellen is wearing the trench coat in the opening scene and therefore becomes the image we have of her as relives that dreadful night in Patty's apartment, whereas Patty just seems to stand outside a lot and therefore needs sunglasses) but because they so clearly embody and represent the characters they adorn.
Are not sunglasses and trench-coats the (albeit cliched) garbs reminiscent of secret rendezvous in alley ways and undercover meetings? This is the world that Patty and Ellen survive in, but we can also look at Ellen's done-up trench-coat and see how guarded and uninviting she's become, and Patty's sunglasses as another way in which Ms Hewes stays in control, never revealing more than she needs to. In a way, combined, these two iconic pieces embody the sole truism that the show advocates: "Trust No One."


Karen said...

I never got into this series but the way you put it has changed my mind! I gotta get season one to see what all the hype is about.

Anonymous said...

I saw both seasons of the show. I think that the first season is better.

When you watch the second season, get into Glenn Close, William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden's ample cleavage.

Dame James said...

I never thought much about the green trench coat, but I absolutely adore Glenn's tiny round sunglasses. They're so mid-90's it kills me, but I think she pulls them off like no one else could. Everytime she puts them on, I do a little cheer.

I am so glad that you are getting into this amazingly addictive show. Better late, than never (I should know, I spread the season out a whole year. How I did that, I still have no idea).

mB said...

@Karen: You really should do a favor and watch it!

@foolishblatherings: Yep, Marcia's cleavage (and LEGS!) have thus far been grabbing all my attention.

@James: You spread the first season through an ENTIRE YEAR?! I did it in a week and a half and that was because other things kept getting in the way! haha