"Damages" nearly didn't get a fifth season, but DirecTV stepped up to make a 10-episode run happen. And while the former FX show had to engage in some creative nips and tucks to engineer its final run, based on the last few episodes -- which I've previewed, with the finale airing Sept. 12 -- it was worth the effort.
In some respects, narrowing the show's focus actually worked to its advantage, more intently zeroing in on its central relationship between Glenn Close's ruthless attorney, Patty Hewes, and her one-time protege Ellen (Rose Byrne). The series also stumbled into a bit of good fortune by introducing a plot line regarding a WikiLeaks-like hacker, featuring Ryan Phillippe, just as Julian Assange's legal troubles were exploding into the news.
No spoilers here, but the final installments again feature the show's time-twisting devices, and more than a little fudging to heighten the tension and jeopardy. To be honest, I could have also done with fewer fantasy/dream sequences, a heavy-handed device that was seriously over-used in season five.
Even such quibbles shouldn't detract from the fact "Damages" consistently functioned on an extremely high creative level, tackling complex issues pertaining to big business in an entertaining way. This was one of those shows that really required the audience's attention, not the kind you could watch while doing a crossword puzzle.
In addition, DirecTV -- which earlier helped keep "Friday Night Lights" alive -- made a shrewd acquisition to pair with the show, "Hit & Miss," one of the summer's most pleasant (if exceedingly grim) surprises.
All that adds up to a verdict in favor of "Damages" -- never perfect, but always interesting. And thanks to Close, that's not a close call.