As he has done so many times before, Ray Donovan uses one problem to solve another in this week’s episode of the Showtime hit drama. The first problem is the angry Samoan with whom he shared a ride in a cop car in the season premiere; the second problem is the victim of the hottest new politician in New York, lying dead on his own fancy apartment floor. After learning that the man who beat him severely at the end of the last episode is about to ruin his new buddy Mac’s life, Ray basically frames him, getting him to come to the apartment in which mayoral candidate Anita Novak killed her blackmailer. Now it will just look like a drug deal gone wrong, and everybody will be happy. Sure.
While Ray Donovan is going through another long night of problem-solving and internal bleeding, shit is going down in Victorville, California, at the hospital where Mickey Donovan has been taken after giving himself a heart attack with his soon-to-be-patented Bedpan Tobacco Cocktail. At the end of the two-part “Staten Island,” Ray has a new contract to help Sam Winslow get Anita Novak into office, but the more urgent situation may be that Mickey and Bunchy are on the run, putting Daryll Donovan’s life at risk. Oh, and Bridget Donovan is engaged!
Directed by the great Allen Coulter again, “Staten Island, Part 2” lives up to its title and picks up immediately where the last episode ended, in the apartment of Anita Novak’s blackmailer. She says she came there to pay him and make it go away, but Ray asks the important question: Why did she bring a gun? It’s an unanswered query that’s meant to sow doubt as to how much Donovan can trust Novak, but he goes forward with covering up the murder anyway. He sends Anita away, and goes shopping for body disposal supplies before getting a call from Mac. Maybe there’s an easier way to handle this.
The cop who saved Ray’s life lays it down: The angry Samoan who is gonna destroy his career is a piece of garbage, someone who Mac interacted with on four domestic assault charges but the victim never pressed charges. Mac had enough. He planted drugs on him and drove him out to the middle of nowhere. And then Ray fell into his life. Ray calls Mac’s blackmailer and tells him to come to his apartment, which is really the place where Anita shot someone the night before. And then he kills him.
Which brings us to an interesting moral quandary in this episode of Ray Donovan. The writers are often very careful regarding the crime of murder on this show. They’re not afraid to rack up a body count, but they usually only allow our “heroes” to kill people who either arguably deserve it or to protect those they love or themselves. That’s why they set up Ray’s victim this week in the way they did, and it’s why the scene in which it appears that Bunchy kills his father’s prison guard is kind of a shocker. Maybe he’s not dead, but a hammer in the head often leads to such a diagnosis. It also strikes me as something that Bunchy is going to have trouble wiggling out of on a legal level. He basically broke his father out of custody and might have killed a man in the process. You ain’t getting your kid back that way, Bunchy.
And that brings us to Daryll. It’s fun to see Pooch Hall allowed to be charming in the scene in which he flirts with an actress he wants for a lead role in Mister Lucky, but he ends the episode in sheer panic. Don’t forget: Daryll turned on his father. He’s the reason Mickey went to jail. Will Mickey come after him for revenge? Daryll sure thinks so. He may have some trouble going back to work on his movie with always having to look over his shoulder to see if his dad is coming to take him out.
While Mickey’s escape and Ray’s “fixing” were the key plot points this week, a few other interesting developments occurred, including the engagement of Bridget Donovan! Smitty asks for her hand in marriage in the kind of dorky, awkward, insecure way that you’d expect Smitty to ask, and Bridget responds in a way you’d expect a Donovan to respond: “Are you fucking kidding me right now?!?!” She has one of the most interesting lines of the season so far when she says, “All the men I know are bad.” Is she scared of what Smitty will become, or how the Donovan boys will ruin him if he attaches to their family tree?
We also learn a bit about why Sam Winslow is backing Anita Novak. Winslow’s company is buying an uncreatively named streaming service called FeatureFlix and, for some reason, they need a very specific piece of property to move forward with the business. (The writers better explain this more in future episodes because it’s a little confusing now.) The property is 85 acres (that’s a lot of space for servers) that currently house a prison. Anita Novak will make that happen, so Sam Winslow needs her in office. And so Sam will pay Ray Donovan $100k a week from now till the election, and double that after she’s elected. After getting a terrified call from Daryll at the end of the episode, the two major issues of the start of the sixth season of Ray Donovan are clear: Stay in New York and, as Sam says, “Make a mayor,” or go back to California and save his family. Somehow Ray Donovan is probably going to find a way to do both.
• Lesson of the Week: Never eat the hospital chicken lasagna.
• There was some hinky chronology this week as Daryll left the meeting and then kind of just disappeared for a few hours before popping up again with Mick’s grandson. It almost felt like a scene was missing there or that they should have gotten to the hospital earlier.
• On that note, it also felt odd that there wasn’t a scene of someone calling Terry Donovan to tell him about dad’s heart attack. Just when you think they forgot about him, he does show up at the end in arguably the episode’s best scene, when he talks with Ray about if they should fly out to CA to say goodbye or risk having regrets. Both make clear they don’t have any about Mick. Maybe Daryll really will have to handle this on his own.
• How do you think the tone has changed in New York? Or has it? Many of the themes feel similar—corrupt cops, crooked politicians, even the movie industry—and I hope that the writers find a way to distinguish “NY Ray” from “LA Ray” in the coming weeks.