SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains plot details from Damages Season 3 premiere as well as coming episodes.
For Damages' Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan), the Season 3 premiere was the best of times and the worst of times.
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After making Tom a partner in Season 1, Patty (Glenn Close) finally puts Tom's name on the door. But just as the new Hewes & Shayes sign is being installed, one of the show's trademark flash-forwards reveals that in six months Tom will be murdered.
Donovan, who last season laughed off the notion that Tom might someday be bumped off, tells TVGuide.com he has mixed feelings about the twist. "[Co-creator and executive producer Todd Kessler] called me up and told me the story and asked me what I thought," Donovan recalls. "And I said, 'Man, that is a great story. I just wish I wasn't playing the character of Tom Shayes.' I love this job. It's a great, well-written show and I get to direct. It's the best gig ever. So, it's a bummer."
Damages has never been afraid of killing off beloved characters. (See also: Ray Fiske, Uncle Pete.) Kessler says Tom's death was just a necessary storytelling device.
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"We always knew the price of success in the world of Patty Hewes meant someone near to her could lose their life," Kessler says. "There's always the questioning whether this is the right moment to tell that story, but it's also an approach to storytelling that ... allows the audience to realize that you need to sit forward as you watch this show because anything can happen. It's very important that the audience has the sense to expect the unexpected. For Patty to lose her right hand, we believe that to be a great story."
The next episode reveals that, before his death, Tom learned that he was one of the ever-growing list of victims caught up in the Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Louis Tobin (Len Cariou) — the same fraud Patty & Co. are trying to uncover.
"Tom's demise and the whole Tobin case are intimately linked," Donovan says. "Tom has certain things he wants to get done, and in the midst of them he gets into some pretty dangerous, treacherous waters. He's willing to risk it because he's in a pretty desperate situation."
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But because it's Damages, there's more than one possible motive. Another will be revealed in Episode 2's closing moments, and co-creator and executive producer Daniel Zelman says it makes everybody a suspect.
"When we reveal that Tom is caught up in the scheme ... it immediately poses many questions about how deeply Tom gets involved in this and how far will it push him," Zelman says. "It creates a pure level of mystery and any number of suspects who may have been responsible for his death. We feel it complicates the picture of Tom's death in a good way and fun way for the audience because it creates lots of potential avenues for his demise."
Zelman acknowledges that fans may be upset at Tom's termination, but he also hopes fans will appreciate that they will still get to see his journey play out.
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"When you tune in to see Episode 2, there's Tom, alive and in the real world and doing his thing," Zelman says. "It creates a sense of mystery and destiny and wondering, 'How did this all go wrong for Tom?' We take big risks. We've embraced that in our show, and we hope that our audience will embrace it as well. We're confident that they will enjoy this Tom story throughout the season and where it ends up."
Donovan, meanwhile, is just enjoying the ride of his final season on the show. "It's sort of like life. We know not the hour, right?" he says. "I just take each moment and try to make it as real and good as possible."