Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 4 Episode 20

The Damage Done

Aired Friday 10:00 PM May 03, 1996 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
30 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

The Damage Done
Lewis and Kellerman investigate a series of homicides that put them into the middle of a drug war. Kellerman suspects that Lewis is seeing someone, but he doesn't "kiss and tell." As the red piles up on the board Gee gets edgy. Kellerman seeks comfort from the godmother of the daughter of the victim's family. Kellerman and "Drak" have a confrontation. At a "Peace on our Street" demonstration, the current drug war is ended.moreless

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  • Actually, there was more benefit than damage

    Homicide did not generally believe in villains. There were bad people, such as Gordon Pratt and Pamela Wilgis, who never acknowledged (or paid) for their crimes but for the most part criminals are ordinary people. There is no such thing as a Keyser Soze or Professor Moriarity, no supervillains out there. But sometimes, even in real life, there are people who come close. In David Simon’s second series for TV The Wire the structure of the show was built around a drug lord who was pretty close to untouchable. The model for these characters is present in ‘The Damage Done’ where we meet someone who will eventually turn out be the bane of the Homicide Unit—and nearly bring it down completely.

    None of this, of course, is obvious at first. At first, it seems like a normal case with Kellerman and Lewis investigating a series of drug related murders that were all committed with the same gun. In many ways this is Homicide getting back to its roots--- with all the serial killers running around its been quite some time since we investigated murders that are clearly drug-related. The inner-city turmoil and the devastating and violent effects of drugs was at the core of Simon’s book and for the first time in a long while, we get a cold, unflinching look at the heroin trade in Baltimore.

    This case would end up being the defining investigation of Mike Kellerman’s career in homicide. At first, he merely feels the burden of being the primary on six related murders. This pressure takes an unusual form because Giardello rather then being aggressive instead poetic and almost whimsical, which apparently with Gee is a clear sign of fury. It is added by the insinuations of Bayliss and Pembleton who (blessed with near perfect clearance rates) mock Kellermans problem.

    The burden becomes clearer when we learn who the opposing sides of the drug war. At one end is Alonso Fortunado, aka. Drac. Like many kingpins Drac doesn’t even have so much as a parking ticket. But he is different because he is clearly not as bloodthirsty as some of the other crimelords in the city (This leads to the one unbelievable scene in the episode where Drac gets the drop on Kellerman--- and allows him to live. I know they wouldn’t kill Kellerman off, but still…)

    At the other end is Luther Mahoney, an arch drug lord who uses his drug profits to become a good humanitarian. When Kellerman and Lewis meet him, he positively oozes smarminess but he stands completely unfazed and is even amused by the detectives insinuations. (One wonders if the writers named him for DC comics archvillain Lex Luthor, an evil man with a similar humanitarian false front.) Erik Todd Dellums is marvelous as the unctuous and slimy criminal and its small wonder why he was so popular.

    The killer is eventually caught, but refuses to implicate Mahoney. Kellerman and Lewis knows that they will never be able to prove it and this upset them. But something that may have bothered him more occurs in the last scene. An anti-drug vigil is held in front of the squad and Drac shows up with his wife and child. Suddenly a shot rings out and Drac is killed—while Mahoney stands just a few feet away. It is possible that Kellerman’s hatred of Mahoney originates from this murder.

    Reed Diamond gives one of his best performances. We see him at his most hardened, and also as his most compassionate and true-blue. Part of that compassion comes when he meets Amy Jennings, a woman related to one of the murder victims and has a flutter in his heart that dies before it can bloom. But his honesty comes through when he tells his partner he has never been tempted to take money found in a drug-related case--- and would shoot his partner if he tried. This is particularly poignant considering next season when he would be ensnared in a bribery scandal.

    ‘The Damage Done’ was a critical episode in many ways for the series. It would introduce a villain whose presence would enable the writers to delve deeper into aspects of the drug culture. It showed that even doing a standard ‘good guy versus bad guy’ kind of story could be handled with class. And it began the cycle of events that would eventually lead to the destruction of Mike Kellerman as a cop. Seen on its own merits, this is a good episode. Seen in relation to Homicide it is a vital part of the series history.

    My score:8.5

Kevin Thigpen

Kevin Thigpen

Alonzo "Drak" Fortunado

Guest Star

Ingrid Rogers

Ingrid Rogers

Amy Jennings

Guest Star

Sean Akil Wingate

Sean Akil Wingate

Forrest Pendell

Guest Star

Erik Todd Dellums

Erik Todd Dellums

Luther Mahoney

Recurring Role

Granville Adams

Granville Adams

Off. Jeff Westby

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Drak: I ain't innocent of a whole lot of things, yo, but I ain't guilty of what you're after.

    • Bayliss: Frank, what is this, some sort of smoking competition you're in?
      Pembleton: It helps me relax. It picks me up, calms me down.
      Bayliss: No, no. You smoke because you're an addict.
      Pembleton: Yes, I'm a junkie, Tim.
      Bayliss: No, you're no junkie. I don't think you'd kill anyone for a pack of cigarettes.
      Pembleton: (quietly) Wouldn't I?

    • Giardello: You know, I could never live in California, like my daughter Cherise. No seasons. I need seasons. I need change. You know what I mean, Mike? That warm, happy feeling that arrives when the May sun touches your face, lets you know that everything will be okay…You know that feeling, Mike?
      Kellerman: Yeah.
      Giardello: Good! That's good. (laughs, walking away)
      Lewis: Damn. I ain't never seen him that pissed off before.
      Kellerman: I know.

    • Kellerman (Preparing for an irate Giardello): Any advice?
      Lewis: Yeah. He tends to spit when he yells - just step back.

    • Kellerman: All this overtime - I'll never get shtupped.

    • " Happy hunting, guys." -- Luther Mahoney to Kellerman and Lewis

    • "It's pretty isn't it.... The way the board just stands here, a silent sentry to the dead and gone. I love the way the red and black meld together in harmony, a haiku of color and vengeance. Uh-oh. Look here. You're upsetting the balance. You see, Mike, you need just a *little* red. This is too much. I'd do something about that. Maybe some more black." -- Al Giardello to Mike Kellerman

  • NOTES (2)


    • The title is probably taken from Neil Young's song The Needle and the Damage Done from his 1972 Harvest album. Its theme is a band mate's decline and death from addiction. It is said to have been played by prison guards in Nebraska for death-row inmates on their way to lethal injection.

      The song has been given cover recording by Our Lady Peace, Green River, Duran Duran, Lior and The Pretenders.

      The lyrics include the lines:
      I've seen the needle
      and the damage done
      A little part of it in everyone
      But every junkie's
      like a settin' sun.

      The damage in this episode refers not only to the effects of the drugs, but also the violence of the drug trade.