Glenn Close continues her steely reign as Machiavellian lawyer Patty Hewes in the compelling third season of the award-winning legal drama Damages. Here, as in previous seasons, the story arc hinges on a single, high-profile case that leaves everyone in the orbit of Hewes and her protégé/nemesis Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) reeling with physical and emotional war wounds. The case in question for season three is a Ponzi-scheme of Bernie Madoff proportions: Patty is assigned by the government to recover the millions of dollars scammed from investors by Louis Tobin (Len Cariou), the flinty patriarch of a wealthy but highly dysfunctional family. Ellen, now working at the district attorney's office, finds herself again drawn to Patty's side as she works the criminal angle on the Tobin case, while the family's faithful lawyer (Martin Short) attempts to parry their efforts to ferret out the truth. The joys of Damages lie not in courtroom fireworks--in fact, Patty and Co. never set foot in one throughout the season--but in the complexities of the investigation, which uncovers a network of secrets, deceptions, and outright lies on both sides of the case. Things are rarely what they seem in Damages, and that applies to season three as well: over the course of 13 episodes, Tobin's dutiful son (Campbell Scott), well-coiffured wife (Lily Tomlin), and especially Short's lawyer shed layers of identity and loyalty, while Patty and Ellen's relationship continues to deepen and darken as the stories of their own pasts come to the surface. The intricacies of the interweaving plot lines are expertly carried out by the regular cast and its stellar guests; Close, Byrne, Tomlin, Ted Danson, and Short, who is terrific in a rare non-comedic role, all received 2010 Emmy nominations, while Tate Donovan, as Patty's long-suffering majordomo, Tom Shayes, enjoys a meatier and more emotionally driven story arc this season. There's also quality support from Dominic Chianese (The Sopranos' Uncle Junior), Craig Bierko, Tom Noonan, Miriam Shor, Bill Raymond (the Greek on The Wire), and Keith Carradine, and longtime fans will be pleased to see Danson return to his career-redefining role as the morally conflicted Arthur Frobisher. The performances, along with the fine writing and direction (series co-creators Glenn Kessler, Daniel Zelman, and Todd Kessler all helm an episode, as does Donovan), help to smooth over the season's few wrong notes, which include Shayes's relationship with a seemingly ubiquitous homeless man.
Extras, which are spread across the three-disc set, include two commentary tracks with the Kesslers and Zelman, who are joined by Short on "You Haven't Replaced Me" and Donovan and Byrne on the season finale, "The Next One's Gonna Go in Your Throat." The co-creators/producers are front and center in short introductions to each episode, as well as a featurette on directing the series; a selection of deleted scenes and a blooper reel, dominated by Short and Tomlin, round out the set. --Paul Gaita