Last season Ray Donovan ended on a surprisingly upbeat note, with the entire Donovan clan together in one home hearing Bridget sing at the dinner table. Bridget sings again to end this season, but it’s an ironic song choice that also gives the episode its title, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”; the Elvis Presley version of the song is repeated over the final montage, in which every character we see is quite literally alone. It closes the season on a deeply melancholy note that evokes all that’s been lost: Terry’s physical strength, Bridget’s hope for happiness, the Donovans’ childhoods when their father left them to be preyed on by adults. It’s a remarkably sad episode of Ray Donovan, one that concludes with all of its characters in emotional holes as deep as the one Ray spends the episode digging.
If this elegiac season has been about what’s been lost, it’s also been about how trauma and tragedy will never truly stay buried. It opened with decapitated heads floating to the surface and ends with vengeance for the death of Ray’s sister — it’s almost as if Ray Donovan decided to go to therapy and things just started surfacing everywhere. It was a solid season, not quite as impressive as last year, and the truncated episode count made it feel like the finale was rushed, but it’s certainly more ambitious and emotionally fulfilling than some of the series’ lesser years. Not to mention it ends in a way that will almost surely bring people back next year, if just to see how the Donovans crawl their way back to normalcy, or if that’s even possible.
The main thrust of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is about bringing closure to the Sullivan Saga. A blackmail attempt on Kevin Sullivan opened a door to the past for the Donovans, and through that door, Mickey Donovan saw a chance to get what he felt Jim Sullivan robbed from him. What he didn’t realize until the finale was that Jim Sullivan robbed way more than gold coins from Mick. As the show has hinted for weeks and made explicit through flashback this episode, Jim Sullivan was having sex with Bridget Donovan, she got pregnant, and then she killed herself because she couldn’t bring herself to get an abortion. Once Ray puts it all together, he shoots Jim Sullivan between the eyes.
Jim isn’t the only Sullivan to get a bullet in the head this episode. The saga of the Sullivan stocks that Mickey was paid as ransom comes to a brutal, violent end as well, turning another Donovan into a widow in the process. Throughout the episode, Mickey and Smitty speak of forgiveness and auspicious signals from the universe that everything is going to turn out all right. Smitty even gets back together with Bridget after asking God for forgiveness, and the two discuss moving back to Los Angeles.
And then that sinking feeling that this season had to end with the death of at least one major character reaches its logical endpoint. Mickey and Smitty meet with Kevin Sullivan to arrange the sale of the stocks, but they’re interrupted by a gun-wielding Declan Sullivan. Dealing with Declan would have been bad enough, but then Bunchy and Daryll jump out of a car and start shooting. Declan and his goon are shot multiple times and poor Smitty takes one in the jugular in the crossfire. He bleeds out in the middle of the street after Mickey runs off with the stocks. Mickey couldn’t even pause to hold Smitty’s hand or look in his eyes as he died. Add that to the list of sins Mickey Donovan will someday have to answer for.
The best scene in this somber episode doesn’t involve the Sullivans, though. Terry Donovan learned that Dolores, the kind woman he met at the commune, killed herself, and it lit a fire under his already simmering thoughts of suicide. He goes to speak with Dr. Amiot, and the two have a remarkable conversation, strengthened by a pair of phenomenal actors in Eddie Marsan and Alan Alda. Terry speaks of not being able to do what he loves anymore and remembers a photo of a woman who jumped from the Empire State Building. The episode then tracks Terry walking through Manhattan and to the roof of that building, ending with him looking out on a beautiful NYC sunset. It’s a foreboding destination, and he may still be thinking of jumping, but there’s something in that final moment that allows for hope that he knows there are people out there who still need him.
So where do all these lonely characters go from here? Has Mickey Donovan ever been lower? Sure, it’s a contest given the horrible choices he’s made in his life, but think about how he spent this season: He went to jail, almost died, learned the truth about his daughter’s suicide, was at least partially responsible for the death of his grandson-in-law, and watched as the one son who has stood by him most (Daryll) nearly shot him. If Bunchy hadn’t said anything, Daryll might have ended Mickey’s life right then and there, next to Smitty. It feels like a preview of what may still come before this series ends.
And what about Ray? As he says, he can’t be around Molly Sullivan anymore, especially after killing her father. That’s another shot at happiness gone. Terry is going to need his brother’s help emotionally for what’s to come, and Ray is going to have to be there for his daughter when they learn about what happened to Smitty. Most of all, it feels like Ray’s anger at his father has shifted to something even more palpable. As he says, Mickey left them as children to be preyed on by abusive adults. It’s really been a theme of the show for years, how awful people like Mickey Donovan destroy the lives of everyone around them. How long can Ray keep cleaning up the debris?
• Did you notice that Liev Schreiber got a co-writing credit this week? That’s his first on the show (he wrote the films Everything Is Illuminated and Chuck, the former of which he also directed). It’s actually a little surprising it took this long. Other than the creators, there’s probably no one who knows the characters better.
• I love that Mickey Donovan still has a flip phone. We’ve probably seen that before, but it made me laugh this week for some reason.
• Does anyone remember Conor Donovan? Think we’ll ever see him again?
• How do we feel about the ten-episode season? Every other one has been 12 (and it’s a little weird that there’s now two weeks off before Homeland, right?). The finale felt a little rushed, but this is a show that has struggled with wheel-spinning before, so rushed is probably better than dragged out.
• So who’s this year’s MVP? Alan Alda and Eddie Marsan had the most emotionally resonant scenes this season, and Liev Schreiber was very strong. Pooch Hall also was allowed some deeper character work than some seasons that used him more like a plot device. It’s a tough call, but I’d probably go with Marsan.
• On the other end, Kerris Dorsey and Dash Mihok didn’t have as much to do as in some of their best years. And a lot of the supporting cast felt a little wasted. I kept waiting for a bigger presence for Kevin Corrigan and Josh Hamilton. Peter Gerety probably made the biggest impact in terms of seasonal guest stars.