FX's new series Damages, which aired its second episode this week, features Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons, a young legal associate at a firm run by Glenn Close's Patty Hewes.
The series takes place in two distinct time periods, six months apart (though presumably that distance will decrease as the season continues). In the earlier time period, Parsons has just started her new job at the law firm and is starting to find her footing after graduating from law school. In the later time period, Parsons has been taken into custody for questioning by the police as her boyfriend has been found murdered in their Manhattan apartment. It is certainly going to be an interesting season for Ellen Parsons. Speaking to reporters about her character, Byrne had this to say:
…she’s still kind of getting formed in a lot of ways. But she’s very instinctive. I think she’s really smart. I think she’s kind of a little naïve. You know, I mean, she graduates from law school and she’s applying all this stuff she’s learned into the real world. And it’s exhilarating, and the adrenaline is fantastic and amazing. But I don’t think she really realizes the sacrifices she’s going to have to make, and the world that she’s in now.
As her boyfriend is dead, there will, unquestionably, be sacrifices. The entire story is an interesting one, because we, the audience, get to see exactly where this poor girl is headed. We know she's going to go from a beautifully pressed, perfectly tailored outfit to drenched in her boyfriend's blood. Whether or not she did it, everyone knows that her character is going to change hugely from the beginning of the timeline to the end. Byrne tells us that we will start to see these things about halfway through, and tells us the changes will start small:
…her behavior is going to start changing little by little, and very subtly. It’s not going to be like a hammer in your face. But, I think, just little things that she starts to do that I’m not even sure she knows. Subconsciously, she starts to change … in little ways. And it’s going to be really interesting to see, you know, exactly who she is by the end.
Speaking of endings, Byrne was also asked a question about the (in)famous ending to The Sopranos (of which she was a great fan), specifically, did she like it:
Well, at first, I felt cheated, I think, like the rest of America, probably. I felt very… shocked, and like my reception had dropped out. But then, on reflection, I loved it. I thought it was very smart, and just in keeping with the whole show. You know, he never really did what you wanted him to do. He just took it the other way again. And, I don’t know. I thought it was really, really smart. I mean, it’s kind of the best show I ever saw. I really liked it.
Personally I am still on the fence about Damages as a whole; it has some interesting aspects to it, but I find some of it quite disconcerting. The difference in look and feel between the two time periods I find to be overly stylized, and it is serialized to such an extent that missing a single episode may prove to make it impossible to understand. Even so, the trip from one period to another may be worth it. Hopefully the writers and producers of Damages are able to replicate in their finale Byrne's wonder, amazement, and love of the conclusion to The Sopranos. Hopefully they're able to take “it the other way” and do something truly unexpected.
Damages airs Tuesday nights at 10pm on FX.