What makes Ray Donovan Season Three different from all other seasons of Ray Donovan? Put another way: what are we all still doing here? In an age when prestige television is increasingly packaged in limited run series that offer fixed time commitments to platinum-grade actors and fully outlined stories to viewers, Ray needs to play it the old fashioned way: characters and stories that can be reshuffled basically intact season after season but still carry the whiff of appointment television.
That challenge is especially stark for this show, which, at its heart, is about the way that past trauma and present immorality have divided the members of the Donovan family. Except for the dictates of serialized television, Mickey and Ray could well have found a way to avoid or kill each other by now, Abby could have relocated to Boston permanently, and a jailyard stabbing could have taken Terry to the big moldy gym in the sky. In addition to their other problems, though, all these people have to deal with the centripetal needs of extended narrative, keeping them glued to the people who are ruining their lives. Can anyone slip their bonds this week? Don’t touch that dial…
THE MAIN EVENT
Governor Verona’s cell phone has been stolen by a college co-ed, and it falls to Ray to secure it and the presumably scandalous voicemails contained therein. At Generic University – Los Angeles Campus, Ray finds that she’s entrusted the phone to her academic advisor, and that they’ve conspired with Verona’s election challenger to take the whole sordid affair public. Ray retrieves the phone with an assist from former assistant Lena (returned to impersonate a college student, to place a bug and to trip a person!), only to find that the phone also contains a sordid message from one Paige Finney.
Although the full extent of Paige/Andrew beef has still yet to be revealed, Ray now stands squarely between the two. Paige, for her part, claims that Andrew wants the messages as blackmail material to leverage Paige’s NFL plans into the ground. Ray tells Andrew that he’s destroyed the phone and offers it to Paige in exchange for three points on the stadium deal.
Mickey has somehow gathered all the Donovans around the Kalamazoo for a cheerful pool party. Even Ray is their, raising a Heineken to toast his dad. Of course, it’s all just a daydream- Mickey’s waiting around to meet with a tech startup about a hookers and blow party. The party goes so well that, mid-soiree, Daryll authorizes an additional ten thousand dollars’ worth of cocaine, for which the nerds subsequently refuse to pay. Thus, Mickey and Daryll return to Vartan’s sister for another loan, but she would rather take a piece of their business and fold them into her criminal (and grill) empire.
Bunchy has another fraught sexual encounter with Teresa, which, combined with his plans to stage a Lucha Night at the gym, has raised Terry’s ire. Frankly, Terry’s entitled to an outlet for his stress. When he attacks Teresa’s brother and quashes everyone’s dreams of Lucha Night, Teresa and her crew decide to take their show on the road. Bunchy, heartbroken, is comforted in prayer by (Not-)Father Romero, ensuring that every aspect of his fragile psyche gets a full pounding.
Abby’s sojourn in Boston has reached a turning point: she wants to buy the family’s failing bar. She assures her sister that it’s all but a done deal, save the small formalities of Ray, Ray’s assent, and a fair-sized pile of Ray’s money. The episode ends as she arrives at the Donovan manse, returned to the bosom of her family and her beloved Dog.
Ray Donovan has never rushed to flip its hole cards, and only now after five episodes has Season Three begun to boil. From the beginning, Ray’s involvement with the Finneys pointed towards violence and strife, but here we begin to see how everyone else’s plans will crater this year. Mickey’s prostitution scheme has dropped him into the clutches of an Albanian crime family, Abby’s Boston adventure has set her interests against Ray’s, and Bunchy’s halting and halted romance seems to have opened the door Father Romero and whatever yet-undefined doom he brings.
As the stakes begin to rise, the show sees new opportunity for some satisfying structural business. The episode ends, for instance, with a series of scenes where a seeming emotional connection masks an ulterior motive. Mickey wants to make nice with Ray, due in no small part to the fact that gangsters are circling. Father Romero offers Bunchy a friendly ear in furtherance of a mysterious investigation. Abby returns to Ray and her family, not to make the house whole again, but rather to arrange her escape to the East Coast. The Donovans have each sunk so deep into crisis that it’s hard to see how they’d support each other if they wanted to.
RELEASE NOTES FOR KWIP VERSION 2.1.1
Conor has graduated from sex with his bed to sex with one of Mickey’s prostitutes. Nobody’s adolescence goes off without a hitch, but Conor seems to be having an especially hard time. He’s still several levels more surly than needs to be, though.
For her part, Bridget is blessed to have Emo Math Teacher Ken Cosgrove to confirm that, yes indeed, college essays are completely bogus.
How might Andrew blackmail Paige with evidence that she slept with Governor Verona? That story would do more to ruin his bought-and-paid for governor than it would a forward-leaning sports agent.
Kwip, the app that uses voice-to-text technology to post your notions to the internet hands-free? Seems like a naked ploy for a Twitter buyout, but it’s not for us to judge those men for the way they earn their hooker money.
Speaking of which, for a firm that runs on proprietary code, Kwip seems overly willing as an institution to allow a party to go full Wolf Of Wall Street in a shared workspace.
“Someone said [Los Angeles is] like a volcano, spewing out wreckage in all directions.” Said goth wordsmith failed to register that sentiment with the good folks at Google.
Lena has returned! Why did she leave? Why is she back? Given the smiley ardor that attends her reunion with Ray, the over/under for Lena scenes in next week’s episode is hereby set at an astronomical two.
And at Anonymous Los Angeles University, Ray is treated to a hallway discussion of Kant, Hume, and Point Break that irritates even the hardened Southie killer. If you’ve only got two tossed-off lines in which to skewer modern campus culture, you can’t go wrong with goddamn semiotics nerds.