The second episode of the seventh season of Ray Donovan isn’t so much about the death of Mickey Donovan — it was pretty clear that this was a fake out, what with the broken door and four-leaf clovers last week — but what would happen to Ray Donovan if he thought his father was dead. First, it would send a recovering alcoholic hurtling off the wagon. Second, it would allow his angry, violent side to resurface, one that often led him to act before he really considered the entire dynamic of a situation. And most important, it would lead him to reconcile some of the feelings about his dad that he’s been discussing in therapy. Yes, Mickey Donovan is a legendarily awful human being, but he’s also Ray’s dad, and losing him kind of untethers our anti-hero. Well, for at least an episode.
Note to the writers: Please open each episode with a therapy session with Alan Alda. These have been wonderful tone-setters, such as this week’s, in which Ray tells a story about having to take care of his mother when she was dying of cancer. Ray caught his father, already shacked up with Claudette at the time, sneaking into their kitchen to steal money from the cookie jar while his son was forced to clean up a mother who had urinated on herself because she was in so much pain. The writers bookend the episode with this story, a reminder that Mickey Donovan is a horrible human being.
Ray still has a problem that goes well beyond dealing with his complex blend of rage and grief, though. While Bunchy and Daryl plan for a funeral, Ray has to figure out how to deal with the ballistics that are going to trace back to Mickey’s gun. They need a new patsy, and he turns to Mac’s widow. After all, Mac was the main reason his colleague’s head is in a bag in the first place. Why not take the fall? And Ray can help make it easier for Mac’s orphaned son by giving his mom the money that she needs to raise him.
The scenes between Ray and Jimmy, Mac’s son, are clearly designed to shed a different light on Ray’s relationship with his own father. What if Mickey Donovan had just been caught up in a bad deal when Ray was Jimmy’s age and died too? Ray might even be happier. And he sees some of himself in Jimmy now that they’ve both lost their dads. It feels like when Ray says to Jimmy, “You know your dad, he was a good guy. He loved you,” he’s trying to talk himself into believing that about Mickey, too.
The plan to frame Mac could use an alibi, which leads Bridget and Lena to go to the studio of the loathsome Jonathan Walker Hansen. The Bieber wannabe’s producer is Bridget’s boss, and appears to have a thing for her, so he doesn’t ask questions when Bridge wants four ticket stubs to the Madison Square Garden show by Hansen that happens to have been the same night as the shooting. It’s an alibi, but the crucial info in this scene may be on the way out, when Lena tells Bridget she’s moving to L.A. Hey writers, you better have a more fitting send-off for one of this show’s best characters than just writing her off with a line about moving.
Of course, the premiere set a couple of plates spinning in Ray’s life, and they don’t stop just because his dad blew up in a prison bus. First, Stu is still pissed that the stalker that Ray was paid to beat up is still walking. When Stu spots him literally following his ballet dancer, he calls Ray, very drunk by this point, and tells him to finish the job. Ray catches up to the guy outside of the dancer’s apartment and beats him viciously — more than the anger-management, sober Ray would — and then learns that this guy isn’t a stalker. It’s Stu who’s the problem. Damn, awful Stu. Ray also has a brief scene in which it appears that Kevin Sullivan isn’t going to go away easily. He offers Ray $1.5 million for the pictures, and then gets threatening when Ray doesn’t accept.
Bunchy and Daryl get hints of subplots for season seven this episode as well. First, Bunchy literally stops a robbery at his drug store. Three armed guys are holding it up when Bunch comes from the back like he just doesn’t care what happens to him next. He disarms one and grabs his gun, pointing it at the other two. Is “Bunchy the Vigilante” a new arc this season? That could be interesting. Daryl also has a brief encounter with a neighbor named Jasmine, to whom he hands his father’s urn. Just when you think you’ve seen every meet-cute possible.
Of course, this is an episode about Ray. Drinking more and more heavily, he finally gets to a calm moment with the rest of his family. He again tells the story about his dad stealing the money and they joke about how generally awful Mickey Donovan was before Ray finally seems to find peace. He cries and toasts the empty urn. After all, they never found the body. And that’s when a bloody Mickey Donovan knocks on the door. Ray punches him. Even his therapist would probably be cool with that one.
Long live Mickey Donovan.
• Jonathan Walker Hansen is just the worst. He sings a heavily auto-tuned song that’s either the story of someone waking up after a bender called “I Came To,” or, given his super-creepy sexual vibe and the stories he told Ray last week, “I Came, Too”. You decide.
• The final track is a deep cut — “Mr. No One” by a band called Nox Boys. This show uses music as well as anything on TV that’s not called Watchmen.
• There’s a funny line in the background of the police station that you could have missed: “A little less eating, more detecting, gentlemen.” Do superiors really tell detectives to “go detecting?” I hope so.
• Anyone else notice that TV is getting shorter? Finally, right? This was only about 45 minutes, as was most of this season’s The Man in the High Castle. It’s almost like creators are paying attention to our concerns about television getting too bloated. It’s refreshing, and this show certainly packs enough in a 45-minute runtime to feel like a complete episode.