Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ray Donovan Season 5


What the actual fuck happened to this show?


Seasons 1 and 2 were brilliant. I’d been aware of Liev Schreiber but his portrayal of Ray was a revelation. The relationships between the brothers and Mickey (Jon Voight) and Mickey’s criminal past threw off endless subplots that complemented the main stories, which were themselves artfully constructed examples of Ray using one client’s problem to solve another’s with everyone coming out ahead. (At least as far as Ray’s clients were concerned. Everyone else was on their own.) Watching Ray’s relationship with Ezra (Elliott Gould) as Mickey came back into the picture was engrossing.

Then Ann Biderman left the show, replaced by David Hollander.

(Editor’s Note: Spoilers don’t just abound from here on out. That’s pretty much all that follows. Consider it a warning or a public service message. Your choice.)

Things didn’t collapse in Seasons 3 and 4. They eroded into Season 5, which is a hot mess of what Ray Donovan might look like if it were a Lifetime movie that decided to re-imagine The French Lieutenant’s Woman over a span of twelve weeks instead of two hours. (And two hours of that was more than enough.)

Most of the first two-thirds of Seasons 5 teases about how Ray’s wife Abby (Paula Malcomson) died. First it appears she recovered from cancer, then symptoms pop up at unexpected time just as she and Ray are reconnecting. We see this through a series of lengthy flashbacks that serve the dual purpose of not only killing the story’s momentum, but confusing time frames and references beyond all recognition. The “Previously on Ray Donovan” teases last several minutes in a valiant effort to refresh your memory on what happened several weeks ago, when last this subplot appeared.

Characters doing things that weren’t really in character if the writers needed something to move the plot has always hampered the Hollander era. Season 5 uses this weakness as a foundation. Both Terry (Ray Marsan) and Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) tell people things that can serve no earthly good except to create conflict. Bunchy (Dash Mihok) does things so stupid he barely qualifies as a sentient being. Given any choice, he inevitably makes the one calculated to do the most damage.

Two weak spots really tore the season apart. Bunchy, distraught because the diaper bag he was carrying $1.2 million in was stolen in a robbery he just happened to wander into (I swear to God I did not make that up), arrives drunk to pick up baby Maria from day care, so Mickey has to do it. Bunchy gets arrested and Mickey gets sidetracked, so no one picks up Maria the next day. We see the say care provider making a phone call, but no one answers.

And that’s the end of it. After having made a point of showing this predicament, the writers drop it. We don’t see the baby again for at least four episodes, when mother Teresa (Alyssa Diaz) is seen holding her after returning from several weeks on the road with a professional wrestling troupe. (ISTGIDNMTU, either.) Since Ray gets a call when anyone else gets a hangnail, it’s hard to believe he wasn’t on the emergency list, except that it would have been inconvenient for the writers if Ray found out what Bunchy and Mickey were up to just then. Another subplot that suggests itself would be for the day care center to call Child Protective Services, but that never happens, either. The kid just disappears.

Where the show jumps the shahk (as Ray would say), is in what we discover Ray did to get Abby into a surgical trial she was originally denied. He:
  1. Gets Lena (Katherine Moenning, woefully underused) to find out everything there is to know about the three people who got the spots Abby didn’t. This takes Lena what appears to be no more than a couple of hours, never mind medical privacy and computer security systems. She’s good, but the only person in the world who’s that good is the goofy chick on NCIS.
  2. While Lena does this, Ray hooks up with Avi (Steven Bauer) who sets him up with a Mossad agent working deep undercover in New York who just happens to be able to provide
  3. A vial of meningitis bacteria that Ray has to take by force because Avi got arrested for heroin possession 38 seconds after getting off the plane in New York
  4. After which Ray sneaks into a hospital wearing a bloody shirt and multiple lacerations and contusions (I’d call them cuts and bruises but we’re in a hospital) to
  5. Inject the meningitis into the IV of the kid Ray wants to knock out of the trial, assuming Abby is the first alternate.

Had enough? As they say in commercials, “But wait! There’s more!

After learning Bridget has fallen in love with the kid he aced out of the trial and learning she hates him and does something so dumb (and unlikely) I’m not even going to waste time on it here (except for when she’s in jail and needs Ray to get her out), Ray finds a conscience and
  1. Arranges with the Hollywood mogul he’s working for to force the doctor Bridget pulled a gun on to do the operation anyway (See? I don’t you it wasn’t worth going into)
  2. In a special secret operating theater stuffed into a strip mall in New York City, because this is entirely out of protocol for the trial and people will go to jail if word gets out (how a Hollywood mogul has the juice to do this is just assumed)
  3. Where the operation goes well. The doctor releases the kid to Terry and Bridget for a few days of home care—and here’s a list of the meds he’ll need, no prescriptions—after brain surgery.

Rest assured that’s only about half of the glaring plot holes and confusions in Season 5, but I already had to sit through it once. I’m done here.

2 comments:

Elgin Bleecker said...

Dana - I never made it to season five, but got a charge out of your take on it. The first two seasons were excellent. But after that, I thought they were stretching things out and going to the same well too many times. BTW – I had the same reaction to BREAKING BAD.

Charlieopera said...

I watched and continue to watch in spite of the storylines. I think they blow … the first 2 seasons were okay, but it's been a sliding pond of bullshit since … I watch (and continue to watch) because of the acting (end of story). The characters are great/the plotlines blow. There's nothing I could remotely find realistic about "the fixer" or his ability to drink a gallon of scotch a day and still function. I had several alcoholic friends who could down a quart a day, but they moved slow … real slow.

John Voigt, who politically I wouldn't mind seeing shot, is the show for me. His character and the way he's played is brilliant. Terry and Bunchy were great casting (don't know the actors names, although I'm familiar with their work home and abroad), so is most of the casting wonderful … but I'd have to swallow a lot of pills to accept the storylines (mostly Ray's). My only issue with the Ray character is the "cool" we're expected to buy. Voight's character feeling the "rush" after a heist, etc., that's real.