FX's new legal drama Damages has already set up a complicated storytelling dynamic. Bouncing back and forth between past and present, we see Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) take a job with Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) on a case against Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), then join a mystery in the future where a bloodied Parsons is investigated by police. Don't worry, the writers have it all figured out.
Show Writers Give Insight on Damages
"The idea between the time frames and the 'get me a lawyer' is that what we're trying to do storytelling-wise is basically fate and action," said Todd A Kessler. "We will get to that place and in the two time frames, one we refer to as the investigation which is Ellen Parsons running through the streets leading to the detectives, and then basically the main story begins six months earlier where Ellen gets the job. Over the course of roughly the first 11 episodes, that time gap of six months narrows. Roughly in the 11th episode, the main story has caught up to the investigation and those two time frames cross over and become one for the last two and a half episodes of the season."
Getting there is half the fun though, and the writers are completely open to modifying things along the way. "It's sort of a two pronged process," said Daniel Zelman. "We have tent pole moments that we're building to all the way through to the end and it's very clear to us where we want to end up. At the same time, we want to leave room for improvisation between those tent pole moments because we're doing the show very quickly and it's a new show and the actors themselves are teaching us more about who the characters are. When they actually start saying the lines and we start watching dailies and putting together edits of the episodes, we see there's a whole other dimension to that character we didn't even realize. So maybe we put aside this one little movement we were planning for the moment, explore this other thing and then we'll find another way to get that original idea in."
This also means that season one will have a definitive end, leaving things open for season two to explore new plots. "Plotting wise, there will be a resolution to the Arthur Frobisher case in the first season," said Glenn Kessler. "The murder of the fiancé, there will be a resolution to how those events came about and then there's a movement that begins in the pilot that will also conclude first season. A movement that begins in the pilot which is the young woman running in the streets, bloody. That's a piece of a mystery that certainly will continue, that moves into a second season."
Also, the plot is only part of the story. Damages is a character study first and foremost. "A huge part of what this series is is this relationship between Glenn's character and Rose's character," said Zelman. "One of the things that's going to launch us into the second season is that what Rose's character goes through in the first season is pretty significant. She becomes a different person. So part of what launches us into the second season is that character arc and how are these two women now going to negotiate this relationship both personally and professionally after all these very large events have happened in their lives?"