Damages: Was it Worth It?

Spoiler alert, obviously.

One of the most difficult tasks for any television showrunner is to write a season finale for a show that has no guarantee of renewal. Do you write it as a normal season finale and hope for the best? Do you offer elements of both a series finale and season finale, tying up loose ends yet leaving one good cliffhanger to kick-start the possible next season?

Or do you do what the writers of Damages did, assume it's a series finale, and simply wrap everything up? Because that's exactly what it seemed like happened last night.

Damages finished its third season (and probably series) like gangbusters, answering questions at every turn—and not only about the events of Season 3, but also about lingering uncertainties from Season 1. "The Next One's Gonna Go in Your Throat" was a perfect example of how a television show can go out on its own terms, even in the face of an uncertain future. And let's face it—the chances that Damages will get renewed are pretty slim.

I'm not saying the entire episode worked; I had plenty of problems with it. But in terms of getting satisfactory closure for one of the best shows on television, it did the trick for the most part.

Much of that closure came from Ellen Parson (Rose Byrne) learning that Arthur Fobrisher was indeed tied to David's murder, something that was never quite put on Ellen's table until last night. But it did seem shoehorned in there at the last minute, as if the writers realized they might not have another chance to confirm it.

But that's kind of how the whole episode felt, and that's Damages' lone downfall. By living off twists and turns, the writers crafted an unfolding story that couldn't possibly be cracked until final details began to emerge: Last night, for example, we found out that the driver of the car that crashed into Patty Hewes was her son. But when we were introduced to the crash (way back in the first episode of Season 3, I believe), there was no way to forecast the results; the accident always remained on our minds, and we spent the rest of the season futilely considering every character as a potential suspect. I'm still on the fence about whether that's a cheap tactic or the exact thing that draws me to the show, but whatever it is, it was all over the place in last night's episode.

Ahem: Tom Schayes' killer. The body that falls off the bridge. So much was crammed into that 90-minute finale that it was a bit much to take, no? In the moment, the big reveals elicited several "oohs" and "ahhhs," but looking back on it this morning, it's a tad frustrating that all the clues we gathered and dissected throughout the season are for naught. Misdirection is a such a trademark of the show; if we'd know this was how it would end, we could've watched a few "previously on" segments, turned to the last page of the book, and avoided all the diversions.

That pittance aside, Damages still enjoyed a great Season 3—and worthy rebound from a subpar second season. The new cast—particularly Campbell Scott—gave incredible performances, and the tension was as good as it's ever been.

The final line of dialogue uttered by Ellen was a question posed not only to Patty Hewes, but also to us: "Was it worth it?" I'm going to say yes, but not a resounding "yes." What's your take?


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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