Editor's Note: The TV landscape is filled with male antiheroes, from Nicholas Brody to Walter White, but what about the women? This is part three of a series of five articles exploring flawed female protagonists and how their bad behavior makes them so interesting to watch. It's presented in partnership with Netflix and its new original series "Orange is the New Black" (all episodes available July 11th, only on Netflix).
When a woman is in a position of power and doesn't shy away from asserting herself, she's often labeled a "bitch." And Glenn Close's Patty Hewes of "Damages" has been called a bitch more than her fair share of times. An alpha female with her own law firm, Patty takes on high-profile clients, usually ones swindling the poorer masses at their feet. She doesn't balk at bending the law in her favor to get what she wants, as she calls in various nefarious favors, or resorts to blackmail -- even murder.
Like a contemporary Lady Macbeth, Patty is often at war with the fact that she was born a woman. Specifically, Patty has had to battle with both the biological and metaphorical effects of motherhood in opposition with her career. Patty's relationship with her son Michael (Zachary Booth), for instance, is one fraught with conflict, since Patty effectively chose her work over being a loving mother. As a result, her son grew to bitterly resent her, even carrying on an affair with -- and subsequently impregnating -- a much older woman. As evidenced by this affair, Michael clearly suffers from Patty-induced mommy issues.
It can be argued, however, that Michael is less Patty's victim than he is Patty's clone. Like his mother, he's manipulative and crafty and resorts to illegal activity to reach his goals. He can change his entire disposition on a dime to cater to what the public expects of him. After Michael tries to kill Patty via hitting her automobile, he flees to Boston with nothing but a car that he stole from a friend. By hocking it for drugs and wearing a suit, he becomes a successful drug dealer overnight. As occupations goes, it's decidedly not a good thing, but it is easy to make Michael's situation analogous to any of Patty's cases. She turns scraps of evidence into full-blown lawsuits, taking down powerful bigwigs. Patty and Michael continue to butt heads until Michael is murdered in the final season, an event that Patty mourns very deeply. Michael was her opponent, but also her only child. And despite her position and ambition, Patty nevertheless has deeply rooted maternal inclinations.
Patty's intricate relationship with Ellen is central to "Damages." Despite the fact that Patty tries to have Ellen killed in at one point, something Ellen finds out about, the two women still hold on to some semblance of a mentor/mentee relationship and have what's almost an air of camaraderie in their constant cat-and-mouse game. Their relationship is a complicated amalgamation of emotions and stealthy purposes.
Patty keeps Ellen around in season one, for instance, not because of her skills in the courtroom, but rather because her fiance's sister is a key witness to a major case. In season two, Ellen remains at Patty's firm even though she knows Patty tried to kill her, because she is an FBI informant working against her boss. Their dynamic ebbs and flows until the final season when the women are pitted against each other in court... which only happens because Patty wants to create a conflict of interest. Patty delights in this game with Ellen, especially as Ellen proves herself to be a worthy opponent.
And yet, Patty still finds ways to fit Ellen into the role of the daughter that she lost so many years ago -- even telling Ellen once, though perhaps not entirely on the level, that had the baby survived, Patty wishes she would have turned out like Ellen. In the final sequence of the series, for instance, Patty runs into Ellen and her young daughter in a pharmacy. Patty fantasizes about Ellen thanking her for her mentorship. But in reality, Ellen just ignores the woman who has become a reminder of many horrible things in the past.
Indiewire has partnered with Netflix and its new original series "Orange is the New Black" (all episodes available July 11th, only on Netflix). From the creator of "Weeds" comes a heartbreaking and hilarious new series set in a women's prison. Piper Chapman's wild past comes back to haunt her, resulting in her arrest and detention in a federal penitentiary. To pay her debt to society, Piper trades her comfortable New York life for an orange prison jumpsuit and finds unexpected conflict and camaraderie amidst an eccentric group of inmates. For more visit here.