Damages Damages

After the first three mind-blowing seasons of Damages, nothing should come as a surprise. But all the backstabbing and mayhem we've seen still doesn't quite prepare us for the scene being shot today at the show's Brooklyn soundstages:  Glenn Close's Patty Hewes gazing tenderly into a child's eyes. OK, now we're shocked!

Turns out Patty is the guardian of her granddaughter. The hard-charging lawyer gained custody after ensuring the child's mother was jailed for statutory rape and her father, Patty's son, Michael (Zachary Booth), seemingly tried to run his mom down and went on the lam. Close hopes to see more revelations for her Machiavellian alter ego: "We've seen her survive horrendous things and bring down huge egos and powerful men, but we've never seen her deal with a child."

That new character shade is just one of many big changes in store for Damages. The show's July 13 premiere augurs not just a new season but a veritable reboot of the series. For one thing, it's got a new home. While its ratings were too low to garner renewal on FX, Damages is just the kind of critically favored, audience-challenging fare that appeals to a new player in the original-content game like DirecTV, which is where it will now air exclusively (unlike Friday Night Lights, which the satellite broadcaster shared with NBC). While that makes the show harder to find, it will make the content even more provocative. "You can go much further with violence and language and nudity," notes executive producer Todd A. Kessler. "This season's story line was somewhat chosen with that in mind."

"[The producers] wanted to push the boundaries now that they're able to," says Rose Byrne, who, along with Close, represents what's left of the show's core cast, after the death of Tate Donovan's Tom Shayes last season. The plots of Season 4 (which will pick up the action three years after the events of Season 3) will be both bigger and more personal. Among them will be scenes of Patty in anger-management therapy (with guest star Fisher Stevens), the court-ordered result of an altercation with a doorman. "She's not an ideal patient," says Close with a laugh.

And, of course, there's the show's longest-running drama, Patty and Ellen's relationship. While the young lawyer no longer works for Hewes & Associates, she still treats Patty as a kind of mentor. Or maybe it's a case of "keep your friends close and your enemies closer." "The richness of our history will come back to haunt us," says Byrne. "You know, like her trying to kill me." While Close terms their bond "cautious," Kessler promises, "We're planning to take it to the most explosive point that we've ever gone."

After dealing with investor fraud, environmental contamination and a Ponzi scheme, Season 4 will find Damages visiting Afghanistan and taking on the military-industrial complex, as a wrongful-death lawsuit involving Ellen's high school friend (Chris Messina) leads to a web of high-stakes treachery.

The show enters that world via a military-contracting firm called High Star, headed by charismatic ex-marine Howard T. Erickson (John Goodman). "They're a very slippery target," notes executive producer Daniel Zelman. As the proverbial layers of deceit are pulled off, he adds, "We realize that this company is performing tasks that are legal according to their contract, but that they're also in cahoots with various covert elements within our defense system."

One of those elements is an operator named Jerry Boorman, played by ace character actor Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 3). While Erickson believes he's working in the service of the United States, it's not entirely clear if that's the whole truth. So... does that make him the season's Big Bad? "Some of my methods would not be recognized by the dental-hygiene commission," Baker quips of one torture scene, "but I'm not sure if I'm a good guy or a bad guy yet." We'd expect nothing less from Damages.

Damages airs Wednesday at 10/9c on DirecTV

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