After five seasons of backstabbing and whodunits — not to mention a life-saving leap from FX to DirecTV — Damages adjourned for good Wednesday night with an episode that saw the epic feud between Patty and Ellen at last come to a head. [If you have yet to watch, this is your chance to hit the nearest exit.]
Now, TVLine is calling to the stand exec producers Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman to answer your burning questions about the swan song, reveal new details about the epilogue’s flash-forward and tell the story behind that final iconic image of leading lady Glenn Close.
TVLINE | So, did Patty put a hit out on Ellen or not? All the evidence pointed to the fact that she did — including Patty’s own confession to Patrick Scully — but then the scene on the dock with her and Ellen had me questioning it again.
ZELMAN | Yes, we can 100 percent confirm that she did.
KESSLER | That’s actually satisfying to hear. We’re not trying to confuse people. We feel like there’s a string of details and facts that line up to solidify the fact that it happened. But it’s satisfying that even after five seasons, Patty is still compelling enough of a liar that she still has credibility. People are still willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
TVLINE | The season — and the series — seemed to be building to this big courtroom showdown between Patty and Ellen, but then the trial lasted all of two minutes. What was the thinking there?
ZELMAN | We recognize that it was a risk. But the show was [never] about, “Ladies and gentleman of the jury… ” It was never about what actually happens in a courtroom. It was always about the power maneuvers outside of the courtroom, and we wanted to stay true to that until the very end. In our mind, the case this season was never about the case. It was about a battle between these two women.
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TVLINE | One of my favorite scenes in the finale was Patty confronting her father. Glenn Close was mesmerizing.
KESSLER | I directed the episode and it was remarkable. We actually did something in the editing of it that we may never have done before, which is it was all just one take. The camera is just on her for one minute and 40 seconds, which is somewhat unusual in television to let a scene play out like that. But [given her] performance, we didn’t want to touch it. In its own way it was perfection. To tamper with it would’ve lessened it. Obviously Glenn has been spectacular throughout, but to have a scene like that in the finale and just let her go to town… it’s just a testament to everything she brought to the show for five seasons. It’s one of our favorite scenes as well.
TVLINE | In the epilogue, why didn’t you specify how many years you were flashing forward?
KESSLER | For a long time we did have a specific number attached to it, but then [we determined that] that the number of years that have passed is not the point. When one talks of a fairytale or tells a joke, the details have the potential to get in the way of the meaning…. Also, there’s a number that’s inherent in it because obviously Ellen’s child has been born. You’re given a framework that it was probably around five years based on the age of the child.
ZELMAN | There were several factual, expositional details that we left out. We wanted the epilogue to feel much more emotional and psychological, and not feel like we were wrapping things up by giving the audience a lot of facts. There are two other areas where we did that. One has to do with Ellen and her relationship with Chris. In our mind, Ellen is together with Chris. And there is one line in there that references it, but it’s subtle. The other example is that we never referenced specifically whether Patty is on the Supreme Court or not. But again, there was a subtle thing that we did with the fantasy Patty had where Ellen comes to that window. Prior to that, Patty asks her driver to take her home. And then after the fantasy she says, “I’ve changed my mind; take me to the office.” The main thing that meant for us is that all Patty has left is her work. And whether she is on the Supreme Court or not, it doesn’t really matter.
TVLINE | What was going on in Patty’s subconscious that led to the fantasy? Why did she need Ellen to thank her?
KESSLER | By the time the series is over, Patty has lost everybody of meaning in her life. Her son. Tom Shayes. Her husband. As someone said to her, “Everyone in your life either leaves you or dies.” And that fully comes to fruition once Ellen is out of her life. The redemption in her life would be that if it was worthwhile. If that, some number of years from now Ellen actually recognized that what Patty brought to Ellen’s life and what she was trying to do for Ellen was not just ruin her but in fact build her up to be a potentially powerful attorney. So a “thank you” makes it all worthwhile. It means that Patty still has a human connection to someone.
ZELMAN | Also, when someone comes up to you and says thank you — and, in essence, the subtext there is, “I owe you so much” — there is a sense that you still have sway over their life.
TVLINE | The final close-up on Patty’s face — did you always plan to hold on that shot that long?
ZTLMAN | We wanted to end it with a shot that let the audience really watch her. Just to sit and watch her in a private moment we thought would be a pretty interesting thing. We’ve seen her in her private life before when she’s doing things. But we haven’t really ever seen her in her private life where she’s simply alone, sitting. And she really is alone in the world.
TVLINE | What was going through her mind in those final moments?
ZELMAN | We tried a lot of things when we were filming it. And, obviously, Glenn has the potential within one shot to have many different things wash over her face. We tried her thinking about loss. We tried her thinking about feeling justified and okay with the success that she’s had. Another version [was about her having] no one anymore. All she has left is her work. And then ultimately we came up with the version we used, which is uninflected as to what an audience is supposed to think. There’s a lot of room to read into things.