Are we supposed to be paying much attention to Ray Donovan at all? The entire show feels designed to be watched by people on their phones, or in a bar where they can only half-hear the dialogue. Time and time again, it feels like we’re being led on a story that doesn’t really make much sense thematically, especially when it comes to the consequences of people’s actions.
Take Mickey, for example. His entire season’s been spent dealing with consequences. He stole money, he had it stolen back, then he stole it back again. He went to prison to protect his family, then got out immediately. Even this week, the trauma of losing Sylvie in his botched heist against Primm is reduced to a couple of lines of dialogue. There’s been no weight to Mickey’s hubris or Sylvie’s death, because the show really doesn’t indicate it gives much of a shit either way. I honestly don’t know if Mickey’s arc this season is going to be wrapped up with a slap on the wrist from Abby, or Bill Primm emerging from the grave and dragging Mickey into the cold earth with him. Ray Donovan acts like we can’t tell the difference between organic growth and repercussions, and just straight-up convenience writing.
Speaking of convenient, we skip the planning stages of Ray’s new scheme, which he’s devised between the end of the last episode and the beginning of this one. We dive right in, with Lena, Ray, and Daryl staking out the gallery, where Waller is loading up Dimitri’s priceless art. Ray distracts Waller and the guards while Lena and Daryl make off with the goods. In the space of five minutes (including the “previously on” segment), Ray has gone from a rat in a maze to having the bargaining chip against Dimitri of a lifetime. Never let it be said this show isn’t… propulsive. Also hey, at least Daryl finally gets to do something kinda fun. He’s been on the fringes for a while.
Also back off the bench: Bridget! She gets two whole scenes this week and both of them kind of matter! Firstly we get Ray with some one-on-one daughter time. He tells her to stay inside, and despite his absence, he loves her very much (this also might be the writers projecting a little). Bridget later is privy to a phone call between Abby and her doctor, who, flustered by her daughter’s presence, turns down what I presume is the mastectomy. The walls are inching closer on Abby, and by inching, I mean inching, in order to keep up with the pace of the rest of the storylines. These days, it takes a little bit of effort not to make cancer (much less matriarch breast cancer) seem like a boring, lazy plot device. There is not much evidence of this effort.
There’s also a weird pivot with Abby this time round when, before Ray goes to deal with Dimitri, she tells him he should have killed Sonia. This is entirely ad odds with last week, when she told him “don’t kill her, even if you should.” It was a great line that emphasized the union of Ray and Abby, while also highlighting a key difference. This week, not so much. Ray’s actions were ALWAYS about protecting the family. I don’t buy, or appreciate, Abby’s rapid shift.
At the very least, Terry gets to run the gauntlet of emotions this week, beginning with his successful date with the cop he asked out. In bed the next morning, he tells her all about his time in prison for armed robbery, and the time he got shot. He tells her he felt himself dying on the street, and as he bled out, he heard a voice speaking to him, saying “After pain, there’s love.” Lady cop is blown away by this outpouring of emotion, flatly telling Terry there’s coffee in the kitchen, before taking off for work. It can only get better from here, Terry.
Except it can’t.
I’ll tell ya, as soon as I heard that running water, I was afraid of what was going to happen to Marisol. Her death by his hand makes a lot of sense, considering Hector learning he’s losing his daughter, and Marisol showing no signs of slowing down her campaign against her brother. Still, it was drawn out wonderfully. The tension between the two as she undresses him for the bath (heightened both by what’s obviously about to happen and, y’know, the fact they’re siblings) is well-played, and the sudden burst of violence as Hector drowns her in the tub lasts exactly as long as it should.
Less well-balanced is the characterization of Dimitri, who, for all his reputation, doesn’t really sit with me as much of an imposing villain. His meeting with, and subsequent humiliation of Butch Kramer, feels soft, and really only acts as a way to remind us Ray’s still involved in the Hollywood fixer business, and that being menaced by various Eastern European mobsters is a side gig. Seriously, this Russians arc has been bloated, overlong, and ill-advised. Even Dimitri’s murder of Waller doesn’t change much, because, who cares about Waller? Dimitri tells Ray to get his art back, and that Ray owes him big time… so… just like before, then, only now it’s art instead of Sonia? Why did we even do any of this?
We at least end on a good, definitive note. Ray handles Marisol’ body, parking her car on a bridge, texting Hector’s phone, and throwing her into the water. I’m interested to see if Ray and Hector get any more time together to digest this. The Russians can beat on the doors all they want, but at the end of the day, the love, pain, and struggle of family is what drives Ray, and Ray Donovan.