For the third year in a row, FX’s Damages has led me on a mostly enjoyable ride only to leave off just short of being a satisfying season-long viewing experience. Each season Damages trades on a promise – by beginning each episode with fragments from the season finale, the series promises to add the pieces up to a satisfying conclusion. Yet again, however, I hit “delete” feeling that the finale was not nearly as enjoyable as it could have been.
The problem with Damages’s season finales is that they trade the slow-burn of the season’s first 12 episodes for a jarring, manic activity that simply does not feel like an organic part of the diegetic world that these characters inhabit. Where an entire season might be spent tracking down an important piece of evidence, or unraveling a messy financial scheme, the finale goes straight for the gut. Characters that have spent months talking start stabbing each other, engaging in bloody mayhem, and then committing suicide. I spend more of the finale feeling annoyed – at the drastic shift in characterization and tone – than satisfied at how everything finds it right place (as it does so perfectly in Lost). When pieced together, the scenes that have served as jagged, confusing punctuation marks throughout the season add up to, well, a bunch of characters running around engaging in behaviors that feel thoroughly unrealistic.
I guess it is best to just look at the Damages viewing experience as a jigsaw puzzle. We are given the pieces and allowed to watch as slowly their position in relation to one another starts to make sense. By the time the final pieces lock into place, we already know exactly what is going to happen. Like all puzzles, Damages is a hell of a lot of fun to put together. However, once all the pieces fit into place, what are you going to do with it? Crumble it back up, put it back in the box, and wait until the next time you feel like working a puzzle.
Unfortunately for Damages, which has yet to be renewed for a fourth season, people don’t do puzzles anymore. People watch Jersey Shore.