Critics who already viewed the first four episodes of Ray Donovan (I purposefully abstained) swore to its greatness, but the pilot episode didn’t match the hype. The tropes, the editing, the pacing — there were many things that showed promise, but fell short in execution. Despite its flaws though, Ray Donovan was still entertaining, and had a quality to it that was fun without being phenomenal. This week though, in “A Mouth Is A Mouth,” the show settled into a better flow. There are a lot of old stories the mix in to the present day in Ray’s world, and the show’s odd mix of humor, family moments and violence makes it increasingly compelling. Hit the jump for why “he said breach again!”
Ray Donovan‘s initial weakness may be its eventual strength — the diversity of the storytelling (Ray’s job, his family, and all of the characters and stories that sprawl out from there) give the series plenty of places to go. It also doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get there. “A Mouth Is A Mouth” lacked some of the action of the first episode, but it was rich in character drama, even though the balance yet among its plots and elements still feels off.
It’s quickly becoming clear though that you have to really care about the Donovan family to make the show worthwhile. Ray doesn’t crack heads every week, and the insider L.A. stuff is obviously not the show’s focus (though it does have its moments). If you enjoyed the laid-back scenes of Mickey and the family in Malibu, or the brothers together at the gym, hugging and poking fun at their niece and nephew while Abby negotiated with Daryll about how to introduce them, then you’re on board with the show. If those scenes bored you stiff, I’m not sure there’s going to be much to recommend coming up.
Last week I said that Ray Donovan could be great once it found its footing, but that still seems to be in flux. The family stories are slow but compelling, while the work-related plots are fast-paced but largely fluff. The situation with the Disney star last week dragged, and though Ray’s interactions with Chloe were fairly interesting to watch, the tidy ending with Ray as Robin Hood felt off. Lee Drexler does little more than scream impotently at Ray and Ezra.
Still, one of the best things Ray Donovan did in the pilot was drop viewers directly into the action and drama in a way that requires thought and attention. Sean’s (Jonathan Schaech) story, for example, is presented without explanation (yet), besides that which we see in this episode. Why is he holed up? Because he’s afraid of Mickey. Why? Because (I believe) it was Sean who committed the crime Mickey was put away for (by, it would seem, Ray’s design). And how did Mickey “breach” Sean’s security? Through Daryll, who payed a heavy price for helping out.
The secrets and stories of the past are always there to haunt Ray and his brothers, and untangling them is part of the fun. Who Bernadette is, what she meant to Terry and how she died are teases — is she part of the feud with Mickey? Or just a sad chapter in Terry’s past? It’s amazing, really, that Ray Donovan has managed to already make us care about characters like Terry who have hardly gotten more than a few words in (though a good portion of that is thanks to Eddie Marsan – Ray Donovan‘s biggest triumph is its casting). Was his scene at the doctor with Ray to start the episode an integral one? Plot-wise, probably not. But character-wise, was it a great sweet and small moment that helped frame the episode? Absolutely.
Episode Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— The relationship between Mickey and Ray’s family is both creepy and endearing. It’s a fine line to walk, and Jon Voight is perfect. Is Mickey more of the man he shows himself to be to Abigail, or the one Ray has villainized?
— Liev Schreiber shirtless … “find out who his trainer is!”
— Tommy in rehab was funny and very typically L.A., but it didn’t match the rest of the episode’s tone. These are things the show needs to correct.
— The sound mixing is still terrible.
— Will someone please compile “Mickey’s Life Advice” into a Twitter or Tumblr, please?
— When Ray was giving Chloe advice about not sucking stranger’s dicks anymore, did anyone else feel like they were watching Dog the Bounty Hunter? You know how he always gave people life advice to turn their lives around?
— Why is Abigail so willing to let Mickey into their lives after everything Ray has said to her about him?
— “I love you, man. Smell her head” – Sean, being amazingly weird. Ray’s reactions to him were priceless. The arched eyebrow was such an understated and fantastic moment.
— Yikes, a staple gun, Avi? Well, it’s one way to get a message across.
— Was Ray’s smile at the end because he knows he can put Mickey away again for the murder of the priest? Or was it just a “you sonofabitch …”