If there was one thing Ray Donovan really needed to upgrade in its second season, it was humor. What keeps a dark and violent show from getting too dark are things like a well-placed look, or turn of phrase, or anything that lightens things just enough to make viewers want to keep exploring the world. In the past, it was Mickey who shouldered most of this burden, thanks to Jon Voight‘s wack-a-doodle portrayal (which has continued, and even been augmented, this year). But this season, it has run through each episode, and is better incorporated with the family drama. Hit the jump if it really bothers you to not be in control.
One of the best things about Ray Donovan‘s original fixer premise was that it was goofy and fun. That can’t be said for much else on the series. Ray Donovan is good, don’t get me wrong — it’s an excellent family drama. But rarely did those two parts of the show meet (which has been, as I have chronicled for a long time now, the show’s biggest problem). As the fixer plots dropped off last year, so did the fun. But in this second season, Ray’s fixing has been almost solely about his family, and the two parts are finally connecting.
No episode has done this so well so far as “Irish Spring,” which might be one of the show’s weirder, but most entertaining hours yet. It also, interestingly, played out as a kind of false finale; by the end of the episode, many of the larger plots felt sewn up. Kate has left L.A., and Ray and Mickey (and even Cochran) have come to an understanding. In fact, there may not have been a more unexpected moment on the show than when Ray took Kate into the room housing those three adversaries, if just for the timing of it. Though their polished story linked up well — well enough to send Kate packing, anyway — the wild card is the tape that Mickey’s friend slipped into her purse. That won’t be the last we see of Kate, and this evidence will also tear apart the alliance of lies that the unholy trio put together for themselves.
Elsewhere, though, what happened in “Irish Spring” was all a reflection of Ray. Cochran blamed Ray for bringing Sully to L.A., which is true. Sully’s return lead to the deaths of a number of individuals, several of them innocent, and the death count continues to rise even after his departure from this mortal realm, thanks to the fallout. But Ray’s influence is also extends to his family.
In the first season, Ray Donovan chronicled Ray and Mickey’s fight for power and control of the family, and unearthed Mickey’s many misdeeds as a father, which Ray was determined not to let affect the next generation. In this second season, Ray has gained power over the Donovan clan by (more or less) neutralizing Mickey. As a result, Terry and Bunchy’s stories have, for most of this season, fallen quietly away. They have been replaced with more time spent with Ray’s own clan, where history is not repeating itself exactly, but where the failings of the patriarch are keenly felt by every member of the household.
Abby has had one of the stranger but more interesting arcs so far this season, bouncing all over the map trying to reestablish a sense of both herself and her family. She thought a house in Truesdale would be the answer, but it’s been nothing but a bribe and a nightmare. When her neighbors come over to attempt to bond, Abby’s other troubles begin to eat away at her, and she snaps. She confronts them violently when they suggest Ray is a thug (oh, the irony), and then threatens to have Ray kill them. Later, she sexts with the detective she met at the shooting range, who she called for help (instead of Ray).
Abby has agency in her own life, absolutely. But she doesn’t seem to know how to access it, or how to be secure in her decisions. And, admittedly, most of this stems from Ray’s emotional unavailability and philandering. But Ray’s job has had other effects on his family, as well. Conor refuses to apologize to the kid he pushed down the stairs, and says it makes him a pussy (that, admittedly, came more from Mickey). But when the kid’s father called him a dick, and laid his hands on him, Ray later let off some steam by threatening to run him down. This all came back again, thematically, earlier in the episode when Conor called him and brought up how he had cold-cocked Mickey.
Bridget may have a cooler head on her shoulders than her brother, even going so far as to question Marvin’s association with the recent released Cookie. But she’s still a teenager with parents who don’t seem to care too much what she does (and are even surprised she’s done so well in school), so she is enjoying getting swept up in Marvin’s glitzy world. Her knowledge of Glocks, thanks to Ray, may have gotten her some points with Cookie, but Marvin’s guardian Recon wasn’t as impressed. He, like everyone in L.A. it seems, knows who Ray is and what he’s capable of (and he knows how Ray once threatened Marvin).
The final dinner scene was a lovely reminder of how fractured the Donovans are — both generations. And while many loose ends seemed to be tied up by the end of “Irish Spring,” it’s clear this is only the beginning.
Episode Rating: A
— I have a soft spot for opening scenes that involve unrelated characters finding a body.
— Kate is a good, strong female character. She’s a little lonely, and a little gullible, but she knows what she wants and is resourceful. I loved her escaping from Ari by boat, hilarious!
— I wish Ari and especially Lena would have more to their stories, though.
— I’m appreciating the focus on these recent episodes, but I do miss Bunchy and Terry and would like to see more of what they’re up to. (Daryll too!)
— I laughed out loud when Ezra told Kate all of the best writers are Jewish, and then rattled off a list. He was at just the right amount in “Irish Spring,” especially when he (of course) asked Ray to squeeze more money out of his friend Irving for the RGCC after they were already setting him up so he would do them a favor (which he claimed made him feel dirty).
— Cochran’s wife reminds me of Mellie from Scandal. She seems mousey at first, but she is a tiger who is deeply tied to the success of her husband.
— Is Cochran really sleeping with Volcheck’s wife, or Volcheck? (or either?)
— Abby: “Can we go to a hotel and have sex?” Halloran: “You’re emotional, and I don’t want to take advantage.” (This time!)
— I love how natural the dialogue is between Bridget and Conor, always snapping at each other and saying they look/act/are stupid.
— Cochran: “Ray paid $2 million for Sully to kill you.” Mickey: “It’s a complicated relationship.”