Ray Donovan: Season 1, Episode 3 – “Twerk”

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SPOILERS ABOUND!

“The Golem has arrived” an unsurprisingly paranoid/frightened Ezra tells Ray early in the episode. While it’s debatable just how much Jon Voight’s Mickey Donovan is really like a golem, his menacing presence is felt much more strongly this week than the past two. Add in some revelations (and thus more mysteries) about Mickey’s ties to the mob and the FBI, and you’ve got some groundwork for intriguing stories ahead.

“Twerk” didn’t blow me away, but I think it was the best episode of the young series so far. It comes as a bit of a surprise, but most of the good stuff this week directly involves or is caused by Mickey, who has been kind of scenery-chewingly over-the-top so far. It’s as if the episode is attempting to answer for the the grade Bridget got on her family tree assignment: “B- vague.” Mickey’s interactions with all of his sons tell us a little bit about who he was/is as a father and just why his boys are the way they are.

Mickey pushes a still-hurting Daryll to punch harder during his training session. He wants Daryll to fight through the pain and be a man. Of course, Mickey doesn’t really care that poor Terry is the one being beaten by Daryll, to the point where Terry’s bad arm locks up.

When Terry’s nurse comes to help him out, Mickey asks Terry if he is the cause of Terry’s Parkinson’s, because if he is, he claims he’ll kill himself right there. Considering how hard he was pushing Daryll, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mickey was somewhat to blame for Terry’s condition, but Terry will never say so. It’s a weird guilt-trip/threat and an example of the strange mind games Mickey likes to play.

Later, Mickey accompanies Bunchy to his group therapy meeting for men abused by priests. He tries to lighten the mood by telling a terrible joke and he’s insensitive to the point of being kicked out. Before he leaves, he tells the group that the men who did this to them should rot in hell. He’s ridiculously out of touch with the emotions of these men, yet he’s willing to say he’s on their side (after all, he did kill a priest).

Mickey talks briefly to Ray, who again threatens to kill his dad. Ray also tells Mickey that he actually killed the wrong priest, and instead murdered the brother of the priest who was abusing Bunchy. Mickey doesn’t seem that put off by his mistake, and would we expect him to be?

We’ve seen what Mickey does to his sons, but we also get to see the effect it has had on them. Terry acts like a jerk to his nurse, even though she seems to like him and he clearly likes her. He fails in his first attempt to ask her out by telling her he paid for his own therapy. When she calls him out for being a jerk, he tries again and asks her if she likes spaghetti. Apparently that’s a successful date proposal and he walks away smiling. It’s kind of cute, but it’s also sad to see Terry’s social struggles. These struggles are no surprise considering what his father is like. Also, we don’t know the full story of Bernadette, which I assume will come out at some point.

Bunchy’s settlement money has come in and Ray wants him to sign over power of attorney so he can help his brother. Bunchy refuses.

Terry and Bunchy’s decisions seem to have as much to do with Ray as they do with Mickey. Ray is probably the most like his father than any of the others. Ray pays for Terry’s nurse visit and he wants to help Bunchy with his finances. This makes both of the brothers angry. Ray isn’t their father. They’re grown men, after all. However, their real father appears to be a terrible person. Even though neither of them go crying back to Mickey, they don’t want to be controlled by Ray either.

Then there’s the central mystery surrounding Ray and Mickey. The former seems to be the “good guy” with the wife and family and the desire to help his brothers and protect everyone from Mickey, the “bad guy.” However, we still don’t know the entire story of how/why Ray (and Ezra and Sean?) “set up” Mickey, nor do we know exactly what they all might be involved in. While I don’t really see redemption in Mickey’s future, I do wonder if Ray isn’t a little bit (or a lot) darker than we’ve seen so far. Toss in Mickey’s meeting with an FBI agent played by Frank Whaley (who’s potentially prophetic first line is “The whale wins”) and Ray’s picture on Whaley’s “big wall of (bad?) guys I’m watching” and the mystery gets deeper.

There are also some less-interesting stories in the episode. After fighting with Ray again (at least they’re talking!), Abby decides to donate his expensive clothes to the church. She sees a picture that says “Jesus Forgives” and later breaks down during yoga (her self-proclaimed alternative to church), which prompts her to get Ray’s clothes back and then have “I’m still mad at you” make-up sex with him later. I’d really like for Ray and Abby to have an actual conversation, but something tells me that rarely happens in this family.

Also, Ray’s daughter Bridget starts a relationship with the budding hip-hop star next door, Marvin, the black Justin Bieber. After some hesitation Abby invites him to dinner. Ray doesn’t know about it yet. The more interesting side of this story is Ray “buying” Marvin from his junkie mother (in order to get him emancipated and under contract with Lee). It’s a sad moment that the show doesn’t really dwell on. It’s kind of this week’s Chloe story, although Chloe got the money and just might get herself out, while Marvin’s mom is just going to keep feeding the habit. These little bits of social consciousness are nice, and I’d like to see more of them, though I don’t know if the show is really interested in that.

Overall, an improvement over the first two episodes, with a little bit of “the plot thickens” livening things up.

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