Ray Donovan: Season 1, Episode 4 – “Black Cadillac”

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After four episodes, I feel like the tagline above, “No one can ever know…Ray Donovan,” is disappointingly accurate. Not only is our central character still pretty mysterious, but the show is still sort of meandering. It’s probably too-harsh a criticism for a show this new, but I’m having trouble latching on to anything substantial within the series. That’s not to say I can’t find reasons for coming back each week, but, as The Killing has taught us, the existence of a mystery isn’t enough, it has to be interesting.

The more I think about it, the more interesting I find a comparison between Ray and The Killing to be. Maybe it’s just because I kind of feel the same way after watching both shows. They each (so far anyway) have a one-episode-equals-one-day pacing, with days coming consecutively. With The Killing (or more specifically, the first 2 seasons), we had a concrete mystery (the murder of Rosie Larson) that needed solving. We had cops, suspects and survivors. Some of them were interesting, many were not, detective work got shoddy, herrings were reddened, things got boring. Ray‘s central mystery is a little less concrete. It’s basically “What happened between Ray and Mickey (and Ezra, Sean and Lee)?” Though at this point it isn’t as cut-and-dried as “a girl has been murdered” (even if it seems like it’s kind of moving in exactly that direction), this hook is probably the show’s strongest.

Even with that, all of the things we see, people we meet and hoops we jump through over the course of the season have to be enough to make us care about the secrets of Ray Donovan by the time they are revealed. It might be too early to tell, but there’s a fear that like The Killing, the in-between won’t be enough to make the climax matter. Ray Donovan is a slow burn. Leaning on Jon Voight chewing the scenery and behaving crudely and Liev Schreiber being enigmatic works to some degree, particularly when things are moving so slowly, but the show needs to shift to another gear soon if it wants to reach the level of other cable dramas, or if it wants me to watch season 2.

I haven’t said anything about this episode in particular, and that’s mostly because I’m writing about it 2.5 weeks after it aired. I will say that for all the “complaining” I do about Voight being just too hammy in the role of Mickey he still might be the most interesting character on the show. His road trip to Palm Springs with Daryll and Bunchy reveals a little more about his past. We find out he “stole half a million” and “pissed off a lot of people” to save Claudette’s life and give her a head start. It seems like he really loves Claudette (Daryll’s mom). When he realizes she doesn’t want to leave Allen for him, he doesn’t fly off the handle as we might expect. Instead, he just just leaves. Of course, he winds up on the dance floor of a gay bar, whether he knows (or cares) or not. He’s a complex guy, Mickey.

As for the rest of the episode, the Donovan family goes to Bel Aire Academy’s “Family Day” in hopes of getting Bridget admitted. A cast-wearing and repentant Feldman is there, along with his popped-collar son Jamie. While Ray leaves the family day to attend to a situation at work (a woman and man we don’t know found the bug(s) Ray and Co. planted to spy on them having sex), Conor and Jamie become enemies. After making fun of Jamie’s relationship with movie star Tommy, Conor bashes Jamie with a football tee. So much for Bel Aire Academy.

Ray finds out that the priest murder case against Mickey has been dropped. This is no doubt because Mickey talked to Van and promised to deliver Ezra, Lee and Ray to the feds. Ray’s going to have to deal with Mickey some other way.

Terry has a date with Frances, his nurse. He gets Potato Pie, the older trainer at the gym, to make homemade spaghetti sauce. When Frances compliments Terry on the dinner, he invites Potato Pie to eat with them. It’s about what you’d expect from Terry on a date, but it’s still kind of sweet, even if it seems unrelated to much of what’s going on elsewhere.

“Black Cadillac” is a slight step down from last week, for me, though every episode of Ray Donovan has been in the same “B” range for me personally. At this point, it’s probably not worthwhile for me to keep commenting on how I don’t think things are changing or progressing enough, or how I don’t think things are particularly interesting. I do hope that the show’s slow burn begins to heat up and pay off soon. However, if it doesn’t, well, at least the show is consistent.

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