With just a handful of episodes left in Ray Donovan's fourth season, it's time to start tying up loose plot threads. In other words, the show's newest supporting characters are now expendable. While plenty of those stragglers have been endangered this season, "Goodbye, Beautiful" actually ends with a twist: A semi-major character is the one left at the edge of death. I'm very curious to see where the season goes in its final three episodes, even if this one felt unfocused compared to last week's consistent hour.
"Goodbye, Beautiful" essentially splits time between the "Ray and the Russians" narrative and the "Mickey Goes to Nevada" subplot, so I'll recap them separately. We also get a minor, welcome development in the saga of Terry Donovan (Eddie Marsan), who meets up with the officer he briefly flirted with in episode two — but only after a jilted Marisol (Lisa Bonet) nearly burns down his club. Terry seems more confident to ask the officer out this time, perhaps because of the success he's found as Hector's trainer. I really hope for the best for Terry.
Meanwhile, Mickey (Jon Voight), Bunchy (Dash Mihok), and Teresa (Alyssa Diaz) head out on a road trip to rescue Sylvie (Paula Jai Parker) and steal Bill Primm's (Ted Levine) money once and for all, allowing the Donovan patriarch to escape back to Boston with the latest love of his life. First, Mickey is looking at rings at a pawn shop, but he decides to go with something that's often more final than a wedding ring — a gun. He also picks up a guitar for his granddaughter, which seems like a bit of throwaway character development, but actually has a plot function later.
It turns out that Sylvie is sleeping with Bill, who's hooked up to a CPAP machine in bed as the Donovan boys creep in. Bunchy has the pawn-shop gun, and anyone familiar with Ray Donovan has to be a little concerned that Mickey will screw over one of his kids again. While Teresa sits in the car, Sylvie guides them to the safe. They start to crack it open as Mickey expresses his desire to move to Boston and leave everything behind. It's just the latest in a long line of paths to a "clean and happy future" that Mickey has seen over the course of the show, and yet another that he'll inevitably screw up.
The plan unravels when Mickey's safe-cracking machine shorts out and he has to resort to a poorly conceived backup plan, drawing Bunchy into a possibly violent end. Given the many times Mickey has screwed him over, that Teresa is still sick in the car, and that he's a new father, Bunch spits a well-deserved "fuck you, Mick" at dear old dad. And so, it's time for the backup plan: Point a gun at Bill, then force him to open the safe while Bunch holds a mute woman hostage in the backyard. The shot of Bunch set against the opulent setting of a sun-drenched pool waterfall is Ray Donovan at its finest — the brute force of Boston criminals against the backdrop of West Coast wealth.
As Mickey tries to get the combination out of Bill, security guard Larry (Chris Coppola) gets the drop on them. Words are exchanged and Larry shoots Sylvie. Teresa comes in with the guitar and smashes it over Larry's head a beat too late. A shocked Mickey plugs a few in Larry to make sure he's dead. He's in shock. Another door to a happy future has been closed forever. He's running out of time to find new doors. Bill gives him the safe combination, then asks for the same mercy he demonstrated when he didn't kill Mick and Ray on the freeway in episode five. He won't get it. Mickey is devastated on the way back to Los Angeles. Teresa tries to comfort him. He may have a fortune, but he lost love yet again.
Meanwhile, we learn that the Russians finally found the body of Belikov, the human slime that Ray shot two weeks ago. That's not all, either: The great character actor Raymond J. Barry is playing Dmitry, the muscle coming straight from the land of Putin for vengeance. Ray (Liev Schreiber) hears that the Russians are closing in, so he and Avi (Steven Bauer) begin destroying evidence. At the same time, Sonia (Embeth Davidtz) knows she's on the firing line, too, even if Dmitry is her uncle. After seeing security-camera footage of Ray at the scene of Belikov's murder, she panics and runs to the Donovan residence of all places for safety, making for a few awkward conversations with Abby (Paula Malcolmson).
While Ray is forced to decide what to do with Sonia and her daughter, Katia, Abby confronts her on a few things, like the fact that she slept with her husband. These scenes are Ray Donovan at its worst: They take the talented Paula Malcomson and reduce her to the clichéd, put-upon wife of a TV anti-hero. How many times has she had to spit lines like, "Are you in love with him?" It's just lazy writing. Malcomson and Davidtz deserve better. Most importantly, the Donovans are torn as to what to do with Sonia. She's a loose end who could get them in trouble. Avi suggests they do the smart thing and kill her after they whack Vlad and Waller, the only other two people who saw the security footage. Ray is softer, though, likely because Sonia's cancer diagnosis reminds him of Abby, as does the fact that Sonia is a mother.
In the end, they decide to help Sonia. First, Lena (Katherine Moennig) will dress up like her to lure away Vlad (Richard Brake) and kill him, a plan which goes off surprisingly well. Second, Avi will find Waller and take care of that loose end. That doesn't go nearly as well: While Ray drives Sonia and Katia to a private plane, Avi gets jumped by Dmitry and his entourage of evil. As Sonia flies off to safety, Ray gets a call: "Mr. Donovan, bring me my niece or I kill your Jew." Now what?
- Raymond J. Barry is one of those great "Hey, it's that guy!" actors. One of his most memorable TV roles was as Arlo Givens on Justified. Now, Ray Donovan has a habit of over-casting small parts with great actors who don't get much to do. Let's hope that doesn't happen here. Barry would make a terrific villain for the final three episodes of this season, if not longer.
- Speaking of bad habits: Ray Donovan tends to introduce a flood of new characters, which inevitably leads to a cluttered hour like tonight's. "Goodbye, Beautiful" feels like it's rushing to get us into the final quarter of the season. I vastly prefer the more character-driven, less-plot-heavy episodes.
- Having said that, there were a few memorable moments: Terry's flirtation, Mickey's broken heart, and the aforementioned shot of Bunchy by the pool.
- With only three episodes to go, I'm hearing more people talk about the season's lack of focus. Do you think the show can weave the Marisol, Russians, and Primm arcs into something cohesive? Will we get a conclusion to Abby's cancer arc anytime soon? Which new characters will stick around next season? Hector? Damon?
- And perhaps the most important question of all: Would the writers really kill off Avi? Although I would miss him, it's the kind of "big move" that Ray Donovan could use. It's time to shake this season up.