A year and a few months ago I would have been shocked if you told me I would once again be seeing Damages (FX's critically acclaimed legal drama) back on the television scene. Despite airing a third season that showed a lot of ambition (although ultimately its execution couldn't match that ambition), FX cancelled the show due to low ratings. Fortunately, DirectTV came in at the last second to save the series and we would once again be seeing more adventures in the courtroom with Glenn Close's machiavellian Patty Hewes and Rose Byrne's determined Ellen Parsons. The fourth season of this show was a surprising return to form for this once amazing series.
Every season of Damages follows Patty Hewes and/or Ellen Parsons take on one court case (that normally resembles a real life event that was covered in the news a lot) through the entire season. This year followed Ellen taking on the CEO of a Blackwater type mercenary organization (John Goodman). This premise resulted in a perfect choice for the series. The military aspects of the plot allowed for a more intense plot as it was now common for the characters in the series to be carrying weapons (weapons that could be pulled out at any moment). It also doesn't hurt when you set a rogue CIA agent on the loose as well (especially one saw wonderfully played by Dylan Baker).
More importantly, the writers and directors (the show is run by Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler and Daniel Zelman) seemed to step up their game for this season. The directors made the wise decision to have their cameras focus on the characters instead of doing showy work with all of the plot twists (There was still enough showy work to go around. Especially, some superb editing such as in a scene that cuts between John Goodman making a grand speech in a church and his agents doing some bad things to someone that may be a threat to him.). The writers seemed to have planned out the entire season instead of just showing a plot twist and seeing where it leads. However, the biggest help to the creative side of this series was that DirecTV gave the show only 10 episodes instead of 13. The reduced order resulted in a much more tightly written season.
The only error made by the creative side this season was the execution of parts of the season finale. Not everything was resolved in a satisfying way. Damages has always had trouble with this, but it has at least improved over last season. Most of the plot resolutions at least made sense this time around, and the final scene perfectly set up the next season with an impending Patty vs. Ellen showdown. Speaking of Patty and Ellen, Glenn Close and Rose Byrne surprisingly didn't get much material this season. They owned the last 5 minutes, but seemed like filler the rest of the time as all of my attention was upon the supporting cast.
The casting crew assembled their best set of supporting characters since the first season for this one. Leading the way was Dylan Baker as the slimy, rogue CIA agent Boorman. He was hamming it up the entire time, but Baker can just play that style so perfectly. He has created one of the great TV villains. Another standout was Chris Messina. While he didn't get much to do in the second half of the season, he owned the first half by realistically portraying an emotionally unstable soldier that has to once again face his worst nightmare. The final big cast member for this season was John Goodman. To be honest, this is probably one of Goodman's weakest roles, but that's not saying much when it's John Goodman. I really loved how he could switch from a sympathetic boss to raging monster in a matter of seconds (just watch any of his scenes with Chris Messina).
The DirecTV move for Damages in hindsight seems like a brilliant move. It seems everyone stepped up their game for the move and now they have perfectly set up what could be the show's final season.