As much as it pains me to say it, Ray Donovan was not the ground-breaking, mind-blowing, face-melter that I had hoped it would be. It’s well acted, with a few questionable Bawston accents, and the story seems solid, if not a bit boring. It did premiere with good numbers and I love Liev Schreiber too much to stop watching, so here’s hoping it has a long run and gets more interesting without having too many hanging plot points.
The series opens with none other than Ray Donovan himself, played by Liev Schreiber. A pro athlete has woken up in bed with a dead girl and he calls Ray to “fix” this problem for him – Ray’s a fixer, a Boston transplant to LA who finds ways to keep the Hollywood elite out of the tabloids. He’s obviously an old pro, as he handles what would be an extraordinary event to most as if the guy called to talk about the weather at seven in the morning.
He’s also a family man, though his wife with her wobbly accent worries about the school their two children are at and wants them transferred into a private school in the area. His son gets in fights; his daughter is uncomfortably blunt about the family’s past. She reveals that Ray’s younger brother was molested by a Catholic priest as a boy and that’s the reason they don’t go to church these days.
These happy family moments are cut by Jon Voight getting let out of prison. We find out later that he’s been in there for twenty years, is supposed to be locked up for five more, but he’s gotten out on parole. Hooray! Not hooray for Ray, who seems to hate his father Mickey and wants him kept away from his wife and children. One of the first things Mickey does when he’s let out of prison is kill a priest – presumably the one that abused Ray’s brother, Bunchy, as a child. It’s hinted that there was some abuse in Ray’s past as well, but it’s one of the many threads of plot that were let out to play in the pilot.
Another problem crops up for Ray – a major motion picture star has been spotted picking up a transvestite and he’s scared his reputation is going to take a hit if people find out that he’s gay. Ray takes this Hugh Grant-wannabe and puts him in the hotel with the athlete’s over-dosed dead girl and blames the whole incident on drugs. Someone actually tells him, “Smear this blood on your dick.” Bada-bing, bada-boom, two problems solved at once! It’s easier to come back from rehab than from being gay is the sadly realistic message we’re getting here.
Ray’s next case involves spying on a married man’s mistress because he thinks that she’s cheating on him. He’s not supposed to have any contact with the girl, but when he finds out that she has a stalker, he feels obligated to warn her. There are some hints that Ray’s gotten too involved with his cases before, but up to her house he goes. It turns out that he knows the girl, having helped her out when she was younger. She puts the moves on him and just when I thought he’d be an upstanding family man and let her down easy, he jerks her forward and tries to make it towards the bedroom. Unfortunately, she’s epileptic and has a seizure from the alcohol she’s been drinking, giving Ray enough time to think better of this situation.
Back in the family department, we meet Ray’s two brothers. Terry owns a gym for boxers and has Parkinson’s disease. Bunchy is the one who was molested as a child and is shown to have just recently fallen off the sobriety wagon. How they all ended up in LA, I have no idea. At some point we learn that they used to have a sister too, but she killed herself by jumping off a building at some unknown point in the past. Anyway, his two brothers tell him that his father, Mickey, was released from prison and – surprise! – Ray has a black half-brother that they’ve known about for ten years. He thought his dear old dad to be quite the racist so this comes as a shock to him, as does the secret-keeping probably, and he leaves them all.
At the memorial service for the wife of his boss, Ezra, Ray learns that his boss might be thinking about “coming clean” about all of the bad things they’ve done. This is another possible plot thread they’ve opened up here. Ezra also had a mistress and can be seen wandering through the surf in his suit – it’s going to get interesting there.
Later, the actress that Ray almost slept with has hunted down his wife at yoga. Ray tips his hand about knowing her when he says that she can’t drink because she’s epileptic. He then takes her home, but on the ride she unzips his pants and causes him to pull over on the side of the road. Abby, Ray’s wife, leaves him a message and tells him not to come home if he’s going to be doing that “again.” Obviously it’s not the first time he’s gotten friendly outside of his marriage because he’s got a place in the city to go crash at.
The man that the actress has been a mistress to, Stu, is the one that Abby wanted to help get her kids into private schools. He declines to help her because Ray “fucked his girlfriend.” She shows a little bit of spit and vinegar by yelling fuck you! And Ray chases him down to break his wrist. Later, he warns Abby not to let the wolf in the gate – meaning his father, Mickey – and she tells him that he’s sick. She ignores this advice and lets him in to meet his grandkids when Ray isn’t home.
After arguing with his father and brothers, Ray went off to beat the actress’ stalker with a bat. He had previously given him a choice – the bag or the bat – and had already been dyed green because he’d chosen the bag. The dye had been one of the more creative punishments I’ve seen and hopefully we’ll see more of that Ray problem-solving and ingenuity in the upcoming episodes.
What did you think about the episode? What do you think about the series? There are certainly enough questions to fill a good many episodes to come. My only worry is that they will become a CSI-case-of-the-week-ripped-from-the-headlines type of show, so I can only hope they keep the “fixing” of the rich and famous either in the background or original and unique to the show. I, personally, would hate to see an Aaron Hernandez-esque plot or an Anna Nicole Smith tragedy played out on the show.