After posting my mostly-positive thoughts about the over-stuffed and under-focused pilot episode of the new Showtime series Ray Donovan, I decided I’d stick it out for another few episodes, if not the entire first season. The previous post was mostly just a few thoughts and then a list of how the show was really piling on the character quirks and the bad vibes. I’m going to leave the list behind this time in favor of a more recap/review style, though I’m going to try not to spend as much time on this as I’ve spent on The Walking Dead in the past.
[NOTE: An earlier version of this article improperly used the word “transvestite” to describe Chloe, while “transgender” is the correct term.The post has been edited.]
Episode 2 opens the morning after episode 1. Ray wakes up bloody from his batting practice with the green-dyed pervert. Ray takes Terry to a checkup where Terry tells his nurse about Bernadette, his girlfriend who apparently died some time ago. The nurse compliments Terry’s “guns” and Ray tells Terry he should ask her out. Then we get into Ray’s fixes-of-the-week.
First, Lee (the lawyer who is partners with Elliott Gould’s Ezra) is pissed because Ray broke Feldman’s hand in the pool table last week (and in every promo for the show leading up to the premiere). Ezra shows up and tells Ray that he’s worried about Sean (Jonathan Schaech) not leaving his house because someone “breached his security.” Also, Tommy, the transgender-trouble actor from last week gets a video message (while he’s at rehab) showing him going down on the guy/girl. Her/his name is Chloe (Alex Saxon) and she wants $1 million for a sex change operation.
With Avi’s help, Ray talks to Chloe and records her blackmail threat. The two then bust into Chloe’s place and take every computer, phone, flash drive or device that may contain a copy of the Tommy/Chloe video. Ray takes a time out to tell a crying Chloe that she needs to stop prostituting herself and stop doing drugs. This moment really isn’t as silly as it might be if we didn’t know about Ray’s sister getting into drugs and jumping off of a building. Of course, if you didn’t watch the first episode of the show, you don’t know about Ray’s sister. It’s still a little silly, but in keeping with the character so far.
Ray shows Feldman (who is producing Tommy’s movie) the video and shakes him down for an unnamed amount of money. Oh Ray, you’re tricky. Ashley is there too, with her guitar. She sings a bit of “Private Eyes.” Although I don’t think she needed to be in the scene, I’m wondering why we didn’t see any more of her after everything that happened last week. Maybe seeing Ray beat a guy (to death?) with a bat turned her off a little. Anyway, that’s two problems fixed.
As for the rest of Ray’s family, they take a trip to Malibu with grandpa Mickey, who throws cash at them like nobody’s business and charms them all to think he’s a great (and reformed) guy. Mickey gives the episode its title by asking Conor if he’s gay and then giving him some advice he learned in prison: “A mouth is a mouth, but don’t let anyone f*** you in the ass. That’s how you get sick.” Awesome! Thanks grandpa!
After Malibu, they head to the boxing gym. Bridget takes some more pictures for her family tree project. Abby introduces herself to Daryll and tells her that she wants to wait to tell the kids about him. Mickey eyes them suspiciously. When Abby and the kids leave, it’s kind of sad to see how much Terry and Bunchy (who’s still drinking) appear to miss these kids. Poor guys, stuck with their bad dad.
Ezra and Ray go to see Sean who has a picture of himself and Mickey (on the set of something called Black Mass) signed “Good Times.” Sean is upset that Ray hasn’t taken care of this apparent problem, then he drops this line on us, which he directs to Ray: “I shot your f***ing girlfriend in the head, high on your father’s coke and then we sent him to prison for 20 years. Good times?” So, Sean, Ray, Ezra and Mickey were all wrapped up in something which ended with Mickey in prison and everyone else out on the West Coast, living the dream. After he and Ezra smell Sean’s baby daughter (yep), Ray leaves. Later on, Ray confronts Mickey at the gym and threatens him, telling him to stay away from Abby and the kids. Surveillance footage from Sean’s house shows Daryll getting out of Mickey’s car and hopping the fence to leave the photo. Ray sends Avi to beat Daryll up and staple the photo to his chest. It’s this week’s bat moment. Ray promises Sean that nobody will break into his house again.
We’re treated to a little montage near the episode’s end that lets us check in with most of our characters. We see Bridget happily working on her family tree. Ezra sits Shiva for his wife. Terry checks out his biceps in the mirror. Mickey and Bunchy get high. Tommy sits in rehab, sending texts to…Conor, who must be telling him all about grandpa Mickey’s good advice (Conor also smiled on the way to Malibu upon seeing a bus ad for Tommy’s movie, hmmmmm). Ray’s press agent (thanks wikipedia) Lena (Katharine Moennig) drops off some sex-change money at Chloe’s place. Ray puts the rest of the money in his safe, then gets a printout of a dead priest and said priest’s drivers’ licence. Michael O’Connor is the priest’s name. Ray smiles.
I’m glad to see them continuing and perhaps finishing up some storylines started in episode one. Tommy’s transgender problem has gone away (for now) and Feldman (and Ashley) might be less involved from here out. Also, it’s nice to get just a little more on the whole Mickey/Ray feud backstory, but you have to listen closely to catch some of it. That’s one problem, we don’t really get enough of these characters talking openly about their issues. The show makes Ezra seem important, but only gives us enough of him to think he’s a kook. They’re keeping the mystery from us. Bunchy and Terry hardly factor in (though Terry gets his nurse scene). They’re tragic and sad characters with the potential to break the audience’s heart, so why not let us see more of them? Also, apart from two short, snappy phone conversations, and a quick call to Conor, Ray doesn’t talk to his family at all. Malcolmson’s accent aside, I’d rather have a little more of Ray’s family drama and a little less of him helping out unsympathetic Hollywood types like Tommy and Feldman.
Maybe I’m protesting too much considering this episode only covered another single day in the life of Ray Donovan. I think the show needs to do a little shifting of priorities as it continues. Sure, the focus is going to be on Mickey and Ray and the mystery surrounding them, but give the more interesting characters like Terry and Bunchy some story in which to shine and give us a little less of some others like Tommy and Feldman/Lee/Ezra (unless, of course, you’re going to make them interesting too). To be fair, it’s nice to see Ray take money from Feldman, and Lee is mostly just functional to connect Ray to his clients, but my trouble with Ezra still stands. You’ve got Elliott Gould, use him!
This all sounds more negative than last week, but I don’t mean it to be. I’d say my feeling is about the same. The show has thinned things out a little bit and is not burdened with introducing everyone, but it still hasn’t gone into much greater depth or to any really exciting places. It’s only episode two, so I can’t be too critical, but here’s hoping things pick up a little bit.