No matter what viewers may think of Ray Donovan (the man) week to week, “Housewarming” proved beyond any doubt that even the most outlying stories on the show always circle back to him, and do so in the most natural of ways. He is the center of this universe, but is he turning supernova? Ray mostly drove around this week, angrily confronting people and making terse phone calls (side note: has anyone ever driven around L.A. so quickly and easily to get so much done?) Ray is ruthlessly efficient at his job, but everything else is falling through the cracks. He can’t get rid of his father, and he can’t get rid of the FBI. To compound the issue (which affect both his personal and professional lives), the two are in cahoots. Hit the jump for more on why “it’s not that simple. He’s still my father.”
There was a lot of defiance in “Housewarming,” from Conor, Bridget and Abby all going against Ray’s wishes by going to Bunchy’s house, to Ezra’s defiance towards his surgery. Bunchy went against Ray’s orders and spent money on a shabby house, while G-man Van Miller refused to give in to Ray’s underhanded tactics to discredit him. Even Dionte Brown ignored Ray’s warnings to not have sex with the club girl. No one is listening to Ray at the moment, and his gravitational pull on them seems to be lessening.
For a man who is so good at his job as a fixer, Ray realized this week he has almost no agency within his own home. He couldn’t kill his father for a number of reasons (like his kids standing there watching him, terrified. Also, the issues of patricide). Ray loses his sense of self when he becomes impotent against his father — this is one thing he can’t seem to fix. The same goes for the result of the “go fuck yourself” conversation with Van Miller. Ray can’t stop the investigation, either. Broken, he goes to Ezra who has turned a corner: post-surgery, Ezra is back to his sharp self. He calmly and quickly rationalizes that if Ray can’t handle the Mickey problem, who can? “Housewarming” then ended with a shot of James Woods as the mentioned but not before seen Sully, the man from whom Mickey stole money from before his prison stint.
The show still has a strange tone as it waffles between Ray’s schemes (this week with Dionte as his Case of the Week, but also with Avi and Van Miller) and the quiet moments with family. Terry and Bridget talking about boyfriends and girlfriends, Bunchy’s realization that Mickey might really be a bad influence, even Ray and Ezra talking together on the bench: these are what make Ray Donovan so different, and so good. The fixer stuff is fun and fine, but only when it has some larger bearing on the story (like last week when the woman scratched Ray and asked him if he thought about what he did to people) does it really feel necessary.
There were many mind games this week, but so far, no winners. Ray is at a crossroads as everything begins spiraling out of control. But since we’re only halfway through the season, the pieces should start to come together soon for Ray to mount his comeback (and not destroy everything around him in his confusion and rage).
Episode Rating: A-
Musings and Miscellanea:
— That first scene with the old school cop show feel to it was pretty great.
— Van Miller being a fastidious loner is a cliche, but the show seems to be bringing things around. Hitting him with the drug trip so quickly was interesting timing, but it also showed that he can’t and won’t be stopped. The show used the same visual techniques as it did for Ezra’s hallucinations from the brain tumor, but this time, it was warranted. Plus, there was a monkey! (And apparently, the film Small Soldiers).
— I had forgotten that the police officer was in Ray’s employ. So brilliant.
— How many men were surprised / horrified to see the semen trick? “Every time the limo driver pulls up the girls hit the NBA lottery nine months later.”
— Bunchy: “I was a fighter. Why didn’t I try to stop him?” Abby: “That’s what monsters do.” They make you think you want something you don’t want. Poor Bunchy. Luckily, he didn’t burn his entire house down. Mickey does step in to calm Bunchy down when he needs it, but it is also partially Mickey’s fault that Bunchy is still stunted as a ten year old.
— Mickey is really racist. Which is worth noting, given how much he loves black women.
— Terry is such a good guy. I’m not surprised he avoided the confrontation with Frances, but I’m waiting to see what that whole situation ends up being about. Her dancing with Marvin was cute.