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. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

Ray Donovan: Season 1, Episode 2 – “A Mouth is a Mouth”

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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.

SPOILERS ABOUND!

[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. Continue reading

Ray Donovan: Season 1, Episode 1 – “The Bag or the Bat”

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I just finished the pilot episode for Showtime’s new series Ray Donovan created by Ann Biderman (who created Southland and won an Emmy for NYPD Blue). It’s a quality episode directed by cable mainstay Allen Coulter written by Biderman. I’ve read very little critical response, but the show set a Showtime ratings record for a new series premiere (topping Homeland). That’s even more notable considering this episode was available to stream online a week before it actually aired.

In brief, Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) is a “fixer” (think Harvey Keitel’s Winston Wolf) in Hollywood who helps the rich and famous with certain problems, including stalkers, transvestite prostitutes, dead hookers, cheating mistresses and whatever else his clients might need. Ray has relocated to the west coast from South Boston and lives with his wife Abby (Deadwood‘s Paula Malcolmson) and the cable-requisite older daughter and younger son (see also: Mad Men, Homeland, Dexter, The Sopranos, The Americans). Ray is good at his job and makes a pretty nice living, but he has other family problems involving his brothers Terry and Bunchy (Eddie Marsan and Dash Mihok) and most importantly his dad Mickey (the hammy Jon Voight).

I liked Ray Donovan and I’m interested to see exactly where they go with it. The cast is pretty great all around and the story, apart from the return of Mickey (who has been in prison) seems sort of unfocused and could zip off in any number of interesting or weird directions, or it could just sputter and stagnate. That’s the reason for this post, the fact that this pilot is so jam-packed with character traits, flaws and reveals as well as supporting cast members and potential plot threads. I get that the first episode of a show needs to introduce us to this world and these characters, but my goodness, is there a lot of stuff here! Rather than give an in depth recap, I’m just going to list everything good, bad, cliché or otherwise that “The Bag or the Bat” throws at us and marvel at how coherent and interesting it remains.

SPOILERS ABOUND! Continue reading