One side effect of the increasing critical centrality of television over the last ten years has been an aggressive and superficial 'eccentricity', often designed to reassure the viewer that what they're watching isn't mere television. It's extraordinary, then, to encounter a series like Damages, which - at least in its first season - embarks on a genre exercise with no eccentricity-laden apology, no knowing wink at the audience. It's even more extraordinary, given that Glenn Close plays the character that her whole career has been aiming for - ambivalent personal injury lawyer Patty Hewes - achieving a similar kind of apotheosis to Gabriel Byrne in In Treatment. Close's acting style has always been poised on the edge of a kind of plastic irrealism, as evinced in the Albert Knobbs project that bookends her career - an irrealism that can easily slip into self-parody if misdirected. Although Patty Hewes recalls various of Close's misanthropic creations, the clearest touchstone is Fatal Attraction, but with the critical difference that Adrian Lyne's clumsy and sudden transformation of Close from a figure of perverse, compelling entitlement into a figure of abject, ridiculous hysteria is removed, meaning that every questionable act Hewes performs seems justifiable by virtue of the same fascinating logic that convinced us how much Dan Gallagher actually owed Alex Forrest. In part, it's because Close is consistently directed more as a model than an actress, as series creators Daniel Zellman, Glenn Kessler and Todd A. Kessler - and a directorial team that includes Mario van Peebles - linger on her face to an almost unwatchable extent, drawing out its terrifying and sublime topographies, but without any hint of parody, disrespect or even real grotesquerie. It's this plasticity - one of the most memorable conversations is about make-up - that ensures that Hewes remains ambiguous right to the last episode, which should go down as a classic example of how to leave a narrative poised between resolution and irresolution. In fact, the greatest achievement of the series is the screenplay, which is equally watchable in a thirteen hour stretch, equally watchable on DVD as on television, as if television were repeating that moment in the history of the novel at which the extended narrative format transcended serial constrictions and considerations. It's a similar level of narrative integration to The Wire, artful enough to ensure that surprises and ninety-degree turns never need to be overly telegraphed as twists, and creating quite a fluid dynamic between the minor and major characters - Hewes, intern Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) and the billionaire they're prosecuting, Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) - that moves from the microscopic to the panoptic with the same fluency as David Simon, albeit within a smaller range. Ted Danson also deserves special mention - as a dyslexic and ambiguously evil corporate giant, he's perfectly cast to capture everything creepy and uncanny about his supposedly comic delivery - a gesture that will extend to Martin Short in the third season - part of a delicate moral certainty that's continually striving to denature the bland relativism of lawyers and criminals that the series could so easily indulge; an ethical and stylistic riposte to David E. Kelley's brand of legal picaresque, which gave way to the 00s fetish for eccentricity, just as The Practice inevitably spun off into Boston Legal. It's easily one of the most accomplished first seasons of the decade, but its accomplishment lies precisely in not insisting on that fact, in giving the viewer credit for simply watching, enjoying and thinking about television.