For diehard fans of FX’s Emmy-winning legal drama “Damages,” last summer’s news that the network was dropping the twisty series after three seasons due to high costs and low viewership was like a punch in the gut. After what seemed like a pretty bleak situation, satellite-only provider DirecTV swooped in and came to the rescue, ordering two additional seasons.
The thriller — which returns tonight at 10 p.m. — stars Glenn Close as ruthless litigator Patty Hewes and Rose Byrne as her protege, Ellen Parsons. After viewing the first two episodes, it’s clear that fans won’t be disappointed.
Here are five good reasons to desperately seek out Season 4 of this still-exceptional drama.
1. It’s as timely as ever
Yes, other legal dramas base their scripts on what’s going on in the world, but none do it quite as masterfully as “Damages,” which has the luxury of basing each season on only one case. In the past, we’ve seen the show’s interpretation of both the Enron and Madoff scandals. This season — the darkest yet — centers on the controversial subject of private military contractors in Afghanistan.
2. There’s never a courtroom
Let’s face it: Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of the law knows that not every case lands in front of a gavel-wielding judge. Unlike other legal dramas, “Damages” has never set foot into a courtroom. Instead, the show focuses on the characters’ lives and the behind-the-scenes manuvering of cases.
3. The Patty-Ellen interplay
The complex tension between the two lead characters — some say it’s sexual at times — is still alive in Season 4, despite the fact that the two seem to be pals of sorts. Although Patty and Ellen are no longer at the same firm, the first two episodes set us up for the inevitable: Ellen will need Patty’s help in pursuing a dicey case.
4. The guest actors
Each season of “Damages” has attracted a roster of talented actors to face off against Close’s character, including Ted Danson, Zeljko Ivanek, Martin Short, Lily Tomlin and Marcia Gay Harden. This season, John Goodman plays an imposing military contractor who becomes a defendant in a wrongful-death suit. The season also features a brilliantly creepy Dylan Baker as a shady opportunist with ties to the Middle East, and Chris Messina as a jittery, paranoid soldier suffering from PTSD.
5. Nonlinear storytelling
Something that sets the show apart is its nonlinear narrative structure. The series jumps around in time, so often we know what’s going to happen but we don’t know how it’s going to happen. Season 4 sticks to this device, letting us know that things will get ugly for certain characters and telling us only later how and why.
The fourth season of “Damages” premeries Wednesday night on DirecTV’s Audience Network at 10.