The sixth season of Ray Donovan is bookended with suicide attempts, the first failed and the second successful. In the season premiere, Ray Donovan leapt into the Hudson River, only to be rescued by a Staten Island cop named Sean ‘Mac’ McGrath. In the penultimate episode, Mac pulls the trigger on himself in the parking lot of a seedy motel, and there’s no one there to stop him. One has to wonder how one attempt impacted the other. Would Mac still be alive if he had let Ray die that day? Given his propensity for messing things up and the forces that were coming down on him anyway, the answer is probably not, but it does seem like people who find their way into the Donovan sphere of influence often never make it out again.
Picking up exactly where “Baby” left off, the Donovans are searching for Bridget, whom Mac absconded with after the entire corrupt operation came tumbling down. It’s an intense, silent opening, with a shot of a car driving through the night full of worried Donovans. They found Bridget’s necklace at the stash house, but where do they go now? They drive by the cop bar while the worst of the trio of corrupt officers beats Mac’s wife looking for information, and he does so in front of his own kid. Don’t worry. He won’t be around much longer. After getting a jump on Daryll, Ray gets the jump on the bad guy, unloading a clip into him before racing down to O’Donoghue’s and blasting through the front door, pulling his piece on the owner there. He doesn’t know anything. They may be at a dead end. As the Mayor Ferrati news drops on live TV, Ray panics that this means Bridget will now be killed.
Ray has one play left: call the Mayor himself. A trio of phone calls takes place as Ray calls Ferrati, Ferrati calls Mac, and Mac calls Ray. “She’s fine. I had to move her,” he says. “We gotta meet.” The producers of Ray Donovan cleverly refuse to show us Bridget with Mac, leading us to question if Ray’s former buddy has done something truly horrible. For years, it felt like we always knew that the central characters on Ray Donovan were safe from lethal harm, but killing Abby Donovan and the increased violence of this season has left that in doubt. It wouldn’t feel as surprising as it once would to see a Donovan not make it through a season.
But Bridget survives this week. She’ll probably never be the same, but she’s safe and relatively unharmed. Mac takes Ray to the West Shore Motel, where he’s handcuffed Bridget in room 216. Mac tries to encourage himself, saying that he “saved her,” but the writing is on the wall for this character. As Mac calls his wife and tells her to tell their son that daddy loves him, it’s clear that Mac won’t make it out of that parking lot. As Ray and Bridget hug, we hear a gunshot and a horn honk. Mac is dead.
While the action is going down at the West Shore Motel, loose ends around New York City are tied up in pairs: Mickey & Daryll, Sandy & Smitty, and Terry & Bunchy.
First, Mickey goes back to the stash house with Daryll and finds the guy they shot last episode crawling through the backyard. Mickey braces him for info, but these two Donovans are largely useless this week other than for transporting bodies and singing along to Rick Astley. What will this entire adventure mean for Mickey Donovan? Does it bring him back into the family? Will he be upset that Ray didn’t even bother to call him when Bridget was safe?
Second, Smitty is sitting around with Aunt Sandy, guarding the bad guy who Ray nearly beat to death looking for the address of the stash house. There’s some chit-chat, but the real action comes after Bridget calls her future husband to tell him she’s safe. Sandy and Smitty don’t notice the beaten cop getting free from his tape until he tackles the poor lady. As his hands are around her throat, Smitty drives a poker through his chest. Well done, kid. Now you’re a murderer. It’s kind of like a Donovan rite of passage.
Finally, there’s the saga of Bunchy and Terry. Ignoring the odd timeline of it all—Bunchy is processed, interrogated, and visited by his brother while Bridget is being rescued, all in one night?!?!—Terry is faced with a decision that could impact the season finale and beyond. First, Bunchy is given an option: Turn on your dad or face three decades behind bars. Brendan can’t do that kind of time. But he’s loyal. He’ll never turn in Mick. Maybe Terry will? One of the final scenes is Terry speaking to the investigator before marching off as if he’s ready to bring Mickey in to take Bunchy’s place. But will Mickey go quietly?
• This episode was helmed by Joshua Marston, director of Sundance hits Maria Full of Grace and last year’s Come Sunday. He’s also directed several A-list shows, including American Crime, The Newsroom, In Treatment, and Six Feet Under.
• The trio of bad cops are DOA. Do you think anyone else is making it out of the season in a body bag? Mayor Ferrati? Maybe even Sam Winslow or Anita Novak? The way Ferrati spoke to the judge this week made me wonder if they might drag that plotline out into next season, with the dethroned politician wreaking vengeance on Sam.
• Speaking of Ferrati, he convinces the judge upon whom he took out a hit that the audio recording all over the news isn’t real, which made me more cognizant of an interesting motif this season. The way that Ray Donovan has been manipulating the MSM feels like a commentary on the era of #FakeNews and a leader who can deny something even when he’s caught on tape.
• I often write about the use of rock music on this show, but credit this week to composer Marcelos Zarvos, who added tension to the first half of this week’s hour with a pulsing score.
• They should use Aunt Sandy’s line for the marketing next year: “Donovans are a special breed.”
• Overall, the tone this year feels darker, more deliberate, and less prone to some of the ridiculous subplots of the Los Angeles years. It’s been more focused, and while it’s been somewhat predictable, I feel like it’s also been more grounded than recent years, allowing for the true asset of the show to shine: the ensemble.
• So where does it end? What do you expect or need from the season finale? And what have been your favorite parts of season six?