Tate Donovan and Rose Byrne by Barbara Nitke/FX
Before we get to the reasons why Tuesday night's finale of Damages should be a model for how a serialized show on the ropes should end a season - in high style, resolving many major plot points while cunningly setting up a second season (if there is a second season) - here are a few observations on some other positive TV news.

The full-season pickup for Pushing Daisies. Best news of the week. Ever since the pilot began to circulate last spring, the reaction has been a mix of delight and unease: first, amazement that something this fabulous was coming to TV; second, skepticism that the TV audience would embrace it; and lastly, whether it could sustain the same quality after the knockout first hour. The answer so far has been affirmative, especially (and to me, most critically) in the quality arena. Each episode has been a gas, a treat, a knockout. With great buzz and solid if not spectacular numbers, ABC did the right thing in giving Daisies even more room to grow.

The ouster of Mark Cuban from Dancing with the Stars. It's about time. Pleasant contestant, hard worker, but an awkward, hard-to-watch dancer (although I enjoyed the premise of this week's I Dream of Jeannie-meets- Revenge of the Nerds dance with Kym Johnson). This show is now getting to the point where each elimination is painful, because this is easily the best and most appealing group of dancing "stars" the show has yet assembled. Though I believe a woman is destined to win this season, I'm rooting for the charming Helio Castroneves to get his mojo back. Give the guy another fast dance. He's all about the speed, and the smile.

Now, on to Damages. This is how you wrap up a mystery series. Anyone who thought the final hour would be anticlimactic, given that we learned "whodunit" (the murder of David, anyway) the week before, should have been pleasantly surprised at the number of shocks and surprises still to come in this jam-packed hour. And it smartly, sharply introduced the premise to a second season (if FX so decrees) in which Damages will become a mouse-vs.-cat game, with Ellen (Rose Byrne) returning to work for Patty (Glenn Close), but secretly working for the FBI to take down the woman who we now know tried to have her killed. Turns out the thug who broke into Patty's apartment to attack Ellen (but was instead killed) wasn't one of Frobisher's goons, but someone hired by Patty and brought to the apartment by devious Uncle Pete. This revelation was just one of several juicy ones in the finale, which bounced around in time so often I nearly got whiplash.

Among other nifty reveals:

Hollis Nye (Philip Bosco), the lawyer Ellen should have listened to from the start, isn't a bad guy, as last week's finale suggested, but a collaborator with the FBI in taking down Patty Hewes. Good to know there's at least one decent soul in this show's dark universe.

Frobisher's ubiquitous hit man is a police detective. Didn't see that coming at all. Brilliant way to introduce the twist, with him poking his head into Ellen's apartment while a police search is on, pocketing a key piece of evidence.

The murder weapon that killed David, a bloody Statue of Liberty bookend, was the hiding place where David stored Gregory's fateful videotape that ultimately forced Frobisher (the brilliant Ted Danson) to settle the lawsuit. Patty betrayed her nemesis anyway, giving the tape to the DA to use later, in trade for dropping the murder charges against Ellen. What a master manipulator Patty is.

Not that it mattered, because the devilish writers had an even more shocking fate in store for the defeated Frobisher: a just-deserts shooting at the hands of down-and-out snitch Larry, who was cut out of his share of the settlement pie when Patty revealed his duplicity.

In the final scene between a smug Patty and a jaded Ellen, the sadder-but-wiser novice declares, "I don't believe in the law anymore, but I believe in justice." Ellen says she's coming back to Hewes & Associates to use the firm's resources to prove that Frobisher was behind David's murder. Old news, Ellen. Her real motivation is revenge against Patty, and just knowing that Patty the barracuda has a protégé-turned-predator on her tail gives me both closure and a reason to keep watching.

If FX decides to give us a second season of this absorbing, suspenseful legal thriller, I'm expecting great fireworks. But even if FX decides the ratings are too low or the production costs too high, among other complicated factors in determining Damages' fate, I am more than satisfied at how this show has played out. Job well done, time well spent.