Ray Donovan, great as it is, is still having trouble integrating Ray’s job in with the far more interesting and compelling tale of the Donovan family. “Black Cadillac,” though, was the best effort the show has made thus far. What was interesting about the surveillance bug being spotted was not that we even knew who the people were who Ray, via Lena, were spying on, or that there would really be any consequences for Ray. Instead, it was the cool efficiency in which Ray dealt with the situation (“Sit”), and more importantly, the final line that the woman in her lingerie said to him — essentially “I’m a person, too. Do you ever think about the things you do to people?” Hit the jump for why “she was mean as hell, but she cooked so good she got six men to marry her.”
In the premiere episode (and ever since), we’ve seen characters who respond to Ray with a look of both awe and fear. Ray’s name carries weight, and when Ray Donovan comes to see you, he’s either about to do you a huge solid, or fuck you up. There have been clues in Ezra’s breakdown that the things Ezra and Lee, and by extension Ray, have been involved in have been beyond spying on people for leverage in divorces. We saw Ray probably kill the stalker in an earlier episode, and we also saw what he did to his own half-brother to teach him a lesson about working with their father, as well as to Stu when he told Abby Ray had slept with Ashley. But for many, Ray Donovan and his ilk are a scourge, like for the FBI as well as those like the divorced man “running his mouth” at Bel Air Academy, who Ray let off.
Much of “Black Cadillac” was about acceptance, and Ray’s response to being called out and scratched was that maybe he does need to look at what he’s doing, particularly in how it affects his family. How many kids would have brained another kid with such cool precision (and thrown away the weapon so quickly) as Connor? Is Ray rubbing off on his kids? Worse, is he exposing them to danger through his enemies? Letting the dad at the Bel Air Academy off the hook in the bathroom was a kind of acknowledgement. Ray saw that the men he worked for had hurt this guy, and it seemed like he didn’t need to take it any further. His power is sometimes in his inaction.
In a fascinating subplot, Mickey took Daryll and Bunchy to Palm Springs to see Daryll’s mother Claudia, who is now married to a producer, Allen. It was interesting that while Allen was not necessarily warm to Mickey, he did offer to pay him his half a million back (that he apparently stole for Claudia back in Boston) and also left him alone with her with obvious faith in the strength of their own bond. Claudia did keep Mickey’s Cadillac in pristine condition, and even added a box full of booty porn in the trunk for him (appropriately), but when Mickey made a pass at her, to “get what was his” as he put it earlier, she checked him. He accepted the car and the fact that she had moved on, but it was something he had to know for himself.
Elsewhere, amends were made (temporarily) between Stu and Abby, with Stu promising to put in a good word for the kids (before Connor knocked his kid out, anyway). In some of the best moments of the hour, Daryll and Bunchy both acted like ten year old brothers, annoying each other, razzing each other, and finally bonding and having a legitimately good time. They are the two least mature people on the show (even more so than the Donovan kids), and they are wholly controlled by their father, making it even more difficult for Ray to turn them. How this will play out has been, and surely will continue to be, fascinating to watch.
Another excellent week for a show that keeps getting better, even though it still has some kinks in it.
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
— What the hell was that ending? Did Mickey go to the gay club because he assumed he could score coke there? I’m not sure which is more disturbing, seeing Jon Voight have sex with various women in Ray’s dream, or him dancing at the club.
— Mickey is a fascinating character. It was a nice twist to see how the FBI agent had the Boston case against Mickey dropped, believing him to be more valuable out of jail. It was a natural way to let that story progress, and there’s no way to know what Mickey might do for them in the future. His estranged from Ray, but he loves his grandchildren. Would he sacrifice his son for himself? We’ve seen plenty of evidence to suggest he would, but there’s also plenty there that could have him turning the tables and protecting his family at personal cost, even though he seems to know that Ezra, if not Ray, was involved in putting him wrongly in jail.
— Nice subversion when Connor boasted about having Tommy Wheeler as a friend, Stu’s little shit of a son (no surprise there) said Tommy’s a perv and Connor is being “groomed.” At the same time, it is a weird relationship (although Tommy seems like Bunchy and Daryll — very immature, and therefore probably does connect pretty well with a kid that age).
— “Great kids come from great fucks” – Mickey
— Terry giving Potato Pie the credit for the food and then Pie telling the date that Terry likes her was so cute. Terry dating is the highlight of the series for me.
— There are hints dropped about things from the past, but I like that they are still largely mysteries: who did Mickey steal from, and who did he rat out in jail? What exactly happened when Ray framed him for murder? etc
— Bunchy stealing the cognac was hilarious.
— There needs to be more Lena.
— Bel Air Academy, if you can’t afford the $33,000/yr tuition, there is $10 million in scholarships!
— “One of those Bel Air cougars” may be the best throwaway line of the series yet.
— Programming note: my screeners run out this week, so unless Showtime bestows some more upon me, the review will be going up Monday mornings from here on out.