Monday, November 23, 2015

Ray Donovan, Season Two

(Fair warning: spoilers abound.)

Season Two of Showtime’s Ray Donovan started off strong with Ray going to Mexico to bring back Mickey to account for how exactly Sully turned up dead. Boston Globe reporter Kate McPherson (Vinessa Shaw) stumbles onto a flaw in the Sully story from the other end and has Ray stuck between the feds and her investigation. Lots of threads to pull together and things were rolling. There was immediate chemistry between Ray (Live Schreiber) and Kate. The Beloved Spouse and I were looking forward to seeing how that give and take played out.

Alas, twas not to be. Ray beds Kate early on and the middle part of the season muddles through
as more of a soap opera than the tight drama we’d come to expect. Many of Season One’s problems become even more prominent here. Ray’s wife, Abby (Paula Malcomson) is all over the place. She’s either mentally ill or the writers only use her as a complication for Ray. A similar situation exists for the kids, too. Half the fun of a well-constructed drama is getting to know the characters so we have some idea what they’ll do in a situation. Too often in Ray Donovan the prime consideration seems to be what can be done to give Ray the biggest pain in the ass.

Even Terry (Eddie Marsan) gets into the act. He decides to sell the gym and move to Ireland with Frances (Brooke Smith). His problem is Ray owns half the gym and has been using it to launder his money, which Terry only finds out about when he decides to confront Ray at Conor’s birthday party. This also happens to be when Mickey (Jon Voight) disses Darryl (Pooch Hall) in front of the entire family by giving the vintage Caddy he promised to Darryl to Conor on the spur of the moment. (All this is after Abby forgot the kid’s birthday and fucked up getting him a cake.) Sure it’s great drama and we get a fantastic scene of Conor and Ray in an “Aw, fuck it” moment, but here’s the thing: Terry and Mickey love Conor. It defies their characters to believe they’d pull that shit unprovoked on the kid’s birthday. True, Mickey is a douche who might do some shitty thing at any moment, but not Terry. I never bought the idea that he would force Ray into a corner during the party.

The series found its feet again in the final four episodes, which, not coincidentally, show Ray stepping up to take control of several situations. He resolves them in his own way and set up confrontations for next season with Avi and Ezra along with whatever goofy shit Abby will pull.

The show is still good enough that we’ll be all over Netflix as soon as Season Three is available. Schreiber is perfect as Ray. He’s not quite the match of actor to character as James Gandolfini and Tony Soprano, but he’s close. A sociopath one can empathize with because, deep down, he will do what he feels he has to do for his family and the people he thinks deserve it. He’s willing to
go to prison to save Kate, and may be in the process of bringing down everything he’s worked for to avenge her murder. His resolution to the situation of Bridget witnessing Marvin Gaye Washington’s murder was creative, ballsy, and badass. You can’t help but root for him.

And let’s not forget Bunchy (Dash Mihok). The more you see how his molestation messed with him, the happier you are Ray shot that priest in Season One. Lots of dramas address pedophilia; few look at the victims twenty years later. Bunchy is permanently damaged, an eternal psychological child in a man’s body, doubting everything about himself. He’s painful to watch at times, though his story lines never veer into the dramatic inconsistency of some of the others.

I would give Season One 4.5 stars out of 5. Season Two is at least that good when it’s good, but no more than an episodic network melodrama with foul language and visible nipples when it’s not. Ian McShane joins the cast for Season Three. We have high hopes.

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't feel they are using McShane all that effectively. Katie Holmes, playing his daughter, gets more air time.