Ray Donovan had an interesting inaugural season. After a lot of unevenness and missteps in what it seemed to want to be: a show about a fixer, but not every week, or a show about a family, but with a lot of ancillary and unimportant characters to start? Ultimately, Ray Donovan‘s world and focus became very narrow indeed — in the end, not even Lee or Ezra mattered, or had any bearing on the thrust of the story. Van, the FBI, Marvin Gaye Washington … none of them really mattered. What Ray Donovan ended up being was drawn-out and nuanced portrayal of systemic sexual abuse, an incredibly surprising fact given where the show started. Hit the jump for more.
“Same Exactly” felt, in many ways, like a series finale (though Showtime has renewed it for a second season). It had all of the elements of a great episode of Ray Donovan — humor, action, and heavy emotion. But it also closed the book on Sully, who was a kind of walking, chaotic manifestation of Ray’s problems with his father, and also finally revealed most, if not all, of the Donovan’s family secrets.
Ray’s family, who he began spiraling away from to start the series, became (mostly) reconciled in the end, with Abby forgiving him and accepting him for who he is, and even Bridget getting a talking to from Lena about what constitutes a good versus bad father. The Donovan boys (including Darryl) solidified themselves as a loyal unit, and even Mickey and Ray had it out as far as their history together and where that leaves them now.
But Ray Donovan‘s biggest emotional windfall was in regards to the abuse that all of the boys suffered at the hands of Father O’Connor, and Mickey’s refusal to do anything about it. Ray also brought up Mickey letting Terry take too many blows in his final fight, and his failures that led Bridget to drugs and suicide, Sean Walker to murder, and for their mother dying alone while Mickey was out having affairs. Even though Mickey said he had paid his time, Ray pointed out that Mickey was actually safer in jail after he had stolen money from Sully whose family he later ratted out. “There’s no forgiveness for you.”
Ultimately though it still came back to the abuse. Ray says he knew he wanted to kill Mickey since he was 10, and that Mickey has been dead to him since that day. Mickey not only ignoring the abuse but turning his back on Ray and his brothers and beating them for “lies” just compounded the horror of the situation. The moments that really stuck out in “Same Exactly” were Ray and Mickey’s argument about that, Bunchy’s decision to live as an adult and give up his past as best he could, and Terry saying “I didn’t know what to make of it. I broke his fingers and that was that. I didn’t have words for it.” The fact that he still doesn’t was haunting.
Even though Ray has wanted to kill his father for most of his life though, he couldn’t pull the trigger (as of last week), and the idea of it drove him a little mad. As I mentioned last week, to Ray Donovan‘s credit that it portrays that relationship as complicated as it is. Bunchy and Abby, Mickey’s two best allies, both cut him off in “Same Exactly,” but he’s not gone. He’s back in the gym, and on a cot. He’s in the fold, but not embraced as he once was. “A lot of bad shit’s been happening since you got here,” Bunchy admits, and maybe Mickey’s continued atonement will be a plot for next year.
Ray Donovan could have ended here, but it has a lot it could still explore next year in terms of Ray’s job and his fixing. The balance will have to be turned (because how much more of the Donovan’s family history is there left to uncover?), and it would leave us with a very strange trajectory overall, but it could work. The parting shots of this season showed Mickey and Ray, the two sides of the same coin, back with their families. They will continue to struggle against each other as the show goes on, but Ray’s main objective moving forward is to make sure his vengeance doesn’t make him too much like his father. The show’s main objective moving forward is to figure out how to keep us hooked through a balance between the emotions of Ray and the family, and the energy of the first few episodes.
Episode Rating: A
Season Rating: B
Musings and Miscellanea:
— The show really made us care about some of the characters, like Avi. I was genuinely devastated when Sully shot him (but glad he’s going to be ok).
— — Avi: “Have you called Abby?” Ray: “What are you, my fucking marriage counsellor?”
— Lena was underused all season, and I’m hoping next year if the show takes on more of that fixer angle, we’ll get to see her in action.
— Eddie and Tiny in this episode were hilarious, particularly the chase at Union Station and Tiny at the buffet.
— Sully carving up that homeless guy just to get a Ralph’s card was unfortunate.
– What was Ray’s plan had it not been for Mickey? That might have been the worst setup I’ve ever seen. He would have known Sully would bring guns, etc. What was there no backup? I knew Mickey would double-cross Sully, but didn’t Sully also see that? None of that made sense, though I’m glad Sully is finally out of the picture.
— I love that the boat used in the setup was called “Gotcha!”
— Bunchy letting that kid have the bike was a nice moment. As long as he wasn’t trying to creep on him.
— “It was different then, everybody got molested and everybody knew about it” – Mickey
— Tiny got lucky!
— Bridget and Conor were really unaffected by the fact their father could be dead in that beach chair, weren’t they?
— Strange that Terry felt bad for lying to Frances when she had initially lied about her entire situation. Also, I get that she’s a good person, but doesn’t she know that Terry is too, and that there was no way he was responsible for the priest’s death? I was surprised in a way by her reaction to him saying that they are all loyal — that that was a problem for her. Then again, it’s preventing her from being in an Abby position of always being in the dark.
— “Stomach ache? Maybe you need to fart!” – Mickey
— “I’ve asked Deb to marry me. A wife can’t testify against her husband!” – Ezra, such a romantic …
— “You’re my home, I need you, we all do. We don’t have to talk. Just come here. I love you so much” – Abby
— Mickey: “I love those kids.” Abby: “Love your own kids.”