Another solid episode of Ray Donovan finally gets the entire crew to New York City while it focuses on three parallel arcs: how Ray is settling into his LA profession in the Big Apple; how poorly Daryll is handling the over-budget production of Mister Lucky in the same city; and how Mickey and Bunchy are going to get to that set and cause some trouble. Of course, it ends with a collision of all three.
The best episodes of Ray Donovan are often so because of a top-notch understanding of how to edit for television. This episode seamlessly hopped from one arc to another, but it’s easier for recap purposes to break them out and focus on what happened and what worked well in each individually. So let’s start with:
Ray Donovan is Back!
After two episodes in which Ray appeared to sink into his new buddy Mac’s couch for most of his time, our suave antihero returned this week to the routine he knew so well on the left coast. He calls Sam Winslow, who wants him to basically be a private fixer for her again, and tells her his needs: a decent car, an apartment, an office, and his most loyal confidant Lena brought to New York. After a unique-for-this-show montage intercutting Ray and Mickey’s arcs while Ray gets in shape, we cut to Ray’s stylish new NYC office. He’s back.
Ray’s first “case” involves shrinking the gap between mayoral candidate Anita Novak and her opponent, and he does so in his typical muck-raking style. It’s interesting to see how the writers here reveal the job to us slowly, showing us an old friend of Lena’s who has the tape needed to blackmail someone without it being clear at first who’s being blackmailed. It turns out that the tape is of the moderator of the next mayoral debate, and it’s used as leverage to get him to call on Cesar Martinez, a former driver who levies charges of extreme racism against Novak’s opponent before getting paid by Ray to leave the country. Novak later asks Ray if the charges were true. Does it really matter? In modern politics, truth rarely does.
More Like Mr. Unlucky
Daryll Donovan learns a hard, cynical lesson on the set of Mister Lucky this week: A producer’s job is more of an enabler than a friend, or even a businessman. His greatest duty is to keep the production moving, and so if that means bringing drugs to its deep-in-his-method leading man, Jay White, then so be it. Brian White, always a solid actor, does great work this week in the way he captures a diva on the fringe of sanity and addiction. He captures the kind of guy who will tell you he’s doing something extreme for his “art” but is also just a selfish, entitled lunatic.
For the bulk of the episode, Daryll tries to control Jay the way that most logical people would, reminding him of his duties and pushing him to get the film done. He even goes so far as trying to flush Jay’s drugs down a set toilet. It’s interesting to parallel Daryll and Ray as fixers to entitled, power-hungry freaks. Ray learned a long time ago that sometimes you just have to feed the problem to make it go away. He’s not afraid to lean into his client’s bad habits, or even enable them if it’s a means to an end. Daryll learns that on-set, although it may be a little too late.
At the end of the last episode, Bunchy broke Mickey out of custody, and the two hit the road. They add a third traveler this week when Bunch kidnaps his own child, and the trio eventually makes it to Long Island, where they bunk up with Aunt Sandy, Mickey’s sister-in-law. Sandy is a trash-talking NY lady who dresses like a nun and even dresses Bunch up like a priest in one scene, giving Dash Mihok a nice moment to sell the trauma such an outfit would produce for a character we know was abused by a clergyman. The fake religious identities are to get the now-quartet to Montreal.
Most of all, the Mickey/Bunchy arc this week was designed to get Jon Voight’s character directly back into the life of his other sons, Daryll and Ray. After watching someone on set who looks a lot like Mick get shot down by Jay White, Mickey appears to completely crack. The night that Daryll finally goes to Jay White’s trailer and “makes friends” with him, Mickey barges in. He asks him, “Are you my son? Is that the way a son behaves? You’re not my fucking son.” And then he hits both Daryll and Jay with his gun. Cut to Ray Donovan getting a call from his fugitive father and Voight’s great closing line: “Hello Ray Ray.”
• Let’s not forget about Terry Donovan, who hasn’t done much yet this season but is apparently joining an Underground Fight Club. That will undoubtedly end poorly.
• Bridget Donovan has also been a bit sidelined outside of her engagement, but Ray got her a job with Novak’s campaign this week, meaning she will almost certainly see something she doesn’t want to see or get involved in one of her dad’s jobs.
• One more subplot: The image of a bloody, depressed, cake-eating Mac at the end was foreboding. Mac is losing it over the control his ex-wife has over their son. I’m worried he’s gonna do something stupid to himself or someone else.
• The music for the extended “Ray Gets in Shape” montage was Nas’s excellent “N.Y. State of Mind,” off his brilliant 1994 album Illmatic. Great choice.
• Another great music cue this week: “Bionic Lover” by Ebony Cuts in Jay White’s trailer at the end.
• We learn that Brendan was “well-endowed for an infant.” Good to know.
• I’d like a GIF of Donald Faison yelling “Welcome to the entertainment industry!” Also Jay White’s “I’m the talent, muthafucka. Even when I’m wrong, I’m right.”
• Speaking of excellent work from supporting players, nice to see both Sandy Martin (as Aunt Sandy) and Alexandra Tushen (as Christine, Lena’s ex). You probably know the former from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The latter was great on Red Oaks and in an underrated horror flick called Body. Let’s hope they both show up more this season.