At the end of the fifth season of Ray Donovan, our hero has nothing left to do. He has buried his wife. He has redeemed himself in the eyes of his daughter. He has signed his son up to fight. He has murdered an evil man at the behest of an evil woman. He has given away his bar to his brother and sent his father to jail for the rest of his life. His own business is falling apart under the scrutiny of the Hollywood press. He has even finished his court-ordered therapy, unable to heed the advice that he has to forgive himself. Honestly, we should have seen the final moments of this season coming. Ray Donovan needed to hit rock bottom to find his way out again, and that’s exactly where he is at the end of this dark, tragic season of television. The just-announced sixth season, which will relocate to New York City, should be an interesting climb out of the darkness.
The imagery of suicide opens the episode as Ray has a dream of Abby on a hill overlooking Los Angeles. It’s a great shot of the city in the background and Ray’s dead wife’s hair blowing in the wind. She falls back and we cut to the funeral of Natalie James, another woman Ray has lost this season. Sam Winslow and Doug Landry are there, and it feels like Ray has a plan. He tells Winslow about the doctor whom Bridget tried to intimidate at gunpoint. They need her to drop the charges and do the surgery on Smitty. Sam is going to help. But she’ll need something in return.
Everybody needs something on this show. Mickey Donovan needs to do whatever it takes to get out of jail. He speaks with Holt, the cop investigating the murder of Frank Barnes, claiming he has information, and it’s not long before Mickey is trying to sell Ray down the river. He tells the cops that Frank was on Ray’s payroll for years, and even starts with the truth about the Sokolov case and Avi. Then he spins off into fantasy, claiming that Ray killed Frank to protect Avi. He even mentions the specific parking lot where Frank was killed. Holt doesn’t have the gun, so this kind of testimony could be enough to switch the blame from him to Ray.
So it all hinges on what Daryll does with the gun that killed Frank Barnes. Ray wants him to turn it into the police. Daryll considers confessing. Bunchy tells him to just throw it in the river and be done with it. Option three probably makes the most sense, but Daryll eventually turns it into the police and even testifies that Mickey used it. He puts the nail in Mickey’s coffin, taking the office with Jay White and moving on with his life. Is this the end for Daryll Donovan? Most likely not, but it will be interesting to see how they get him involved in the New York–set sixth season as he seems pretty entrenched in Hollywood now. For his part, Mickey Donovan seems trapped more than ever in a future of incarceration — and that’s if he doesn’t get the death penalty.
Before he gets to New York, Ray has four interesting scenes in Los Angeles. First, he helps Connor sign up for the Marines, learning afterward that his kid is only really doing it to prove a point to his father, which is precisely the wrong reason to do, well, anything really. (When Connor said, “After the Marines, you’ll see what I am,” I winced.) My guess is that Connor will come back traumatized, if he comes back at all. Second, Ray is back with his doctor, finishing therapy. The doctor tells him that he’s “severely traumatized” and that he blames himself for trauma caused by others. He has to forgive himself. Of course, we know that he can’t. Third, Ray is with Lena, watching footage of the end of his company. The L.A. reporter calls Ray a thug and Lena mentions how many clients have quit in the wake of Natalie’s death. The business is dissolving. Finally, Ray gives Bunchy his bar and his dog — and that’s when you probably knew what was coming, if you didn’t already. When people start giving their things away, it’s a sign that they’re planning something awful.
In New York, Smitty is on death’s door and Terry Donovan is helping take care of him. Does this kid have no other friends in the city? Anyway, the Donovans are going to save him. Ray pressures the doctor via Winslow by getting her program defunded. She correctly calls him an “amoral piece of shit,” but she’s forced now to do the surgery. Saving the boy he almost killed is the last good thing Ray Donovan plans to do. But he’ll have to commit a murder to save a life. Sam makes that very clear: It’s Doug for Smitty. While Terry and Bridget are waiting for the surgery to end, Ray goes to Doug’s suite, strangling him and hanging him from the ceiling. It will look like a suicide. But Ray will know.
In the season’s effective final moments, Ray follows a ghost again. He is dazed and lost, sitting on a bench by the river, when he sees Abby on the bench next to him. She stands and walks. He follows. They climb a beautiful staircase, getting to the roof, where she stands on the edge in a shot that mimics the opening of the episode, only with New York in the background instead of L.A. He touches her face. She falls back, off the building. He stands there for a beat before he falls forward. He hits the water as David Bowie sings, “Gimme your hands, ‘cause you’re wonderful,” from “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.” The camera closes in on Ray’s face as his body sinks. His eyes stay closed. Fade to black.
• Bunchy wants to put games like foosball and pinball in Abby’s. He talks with his bartender about The Addams Family pinball machine, which happens to be the best-selling pinball machine of all time.
• Music choices are always very purposeful on this show and this season was filled with great ones. The episode opens with “For the Damaged Coda” by Blonde Redhead, a song that was used memorably in Rick and Morty and the band was used earlier this season as well. And it closes with Bowie, of course.
• This was Pooch Hall’s best season. Daryll has always felt like an underdeveloped character, but Hall did a lot this year and I’m eager to see where he goes next as an actor. After Schreiber and Voight, I’d say he was the season’s MVP. Who was yours?
• What did you think of season five? Are you happy to see it still going or do you think the saga of the Donovans should have ended?
• What do you think about the move to New York next year? Will they get the other Donovans there, or will Ray be largely alone with the rest still in L.A.?
• Thanks so much for reading this season. See you next year!