July 13, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Ray Donovan”


RAY DONOVAN:  Sunday 9PM on Showtime

It’s a bit surprising that RAY DONOVAN has been a steady performer for Showtime, considering that its tone tends toward the glum and monotonous, but next to Homeland, it’s one of the network’s more consistent titles.  Despite that success, Showtime deposed series creator/showrunner Ann Biderman at the end of Season 2, for reasons that haven’t gone public, replacing her with David Hollander, who had already been on the writing/producing staff.  The aim doesn’t seem to have been to change the series creatively, because based on the premiere (written by Hollander and directed by Colin Bucksey), Season 3 doesn’t appear to be very different from 1 and 2.

The continuing grimness was made clear in the opening moments of the episode, as Ray’s (Liev Schreiber) mentor Ezra Goldman (Elliott Gould) died in his hospital bed, his final desperate call to Ray unanswered, beset by images of a priest (who turned out to be real, played by veteran character actor Leland Orser) investigating the body Ray had buried on the grounds of the hospital Ezra had built in the name of his late wife.  Ray was thrown out of the funeral, and his relationships with his family are no better:  he’s estranged from wife Abby (Paula Malcomson, still rocking a broad Boston accent), his kids Conor (Devon Bagby) and Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) and brother Bunchy (Dash Mihok) don’t appear to see much of him, his brother Terry (Eddie Marsan) is in jail, and of course he keeps a wide berth from father Mickey (Jon Voight).  Plus he’s still not speaking to his former closest associate Avi (Steven Bauer), who killed a crusading reporter Ray cared about (at Ezra’s orders) in Season 2, although he hasn’t fired Avi, so presumably they’ll reconcile.

Ray continues to be very good at his job, and after a relatively lighthearted bit early on where he bought a local weatherman’s freedom from a glory hole, he became involved in returning a supposedly kidnapped young man to his very rich family (in fact the “victim” had set it up himself), killing one of the captors and returning the unpaid ransom to dad.  Since father Andrew Finney and sister Paige are played by Ian McShane and Katie Holmes, it’s safe to figure that we’ll be seeing much more of them as the season goes on.  (It’s unclear, however, whether McShane will get to interact with Paula Malcomson to provide an unofficial Deadwood reunion.)   The other major storyline had Mickey, who’s become a sort of homicidal scamp, killing a pimp who was going to evict the prostitute whose young daughter had appealed to Mickey’s grandfatherly instincts, probably on the way to taking on the pimping duties himself.  Oh, and Abby adopted a dog she found running onto a freeway while she was driving drunk.

Ray Donovan has an intensity that seems to work for viewers, keyed by Schreiber’s expertly tense performance.  The main emotional throughline of the previous seasons was the murderous grudge Ray held against Mickey, and with no interaction between the two in the season premiere, it’s not clear whether that will continue to be the case; without it, the series may become more of a gritty-side-of-LA serialized procedural.  Fans, though, are largely being given more of what they’ve enjoyed thus far, despite the changes behind the scenes.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."