Getting to Know Ray.
A priest, a boxer and an ex-con walk into a bar … waiting for a punchline? Just watch Ray Dononvan. In the second episode of Ray Donovan, the viewer is introduced to a more intricate and intimate look at the Donovan family and its title character, Ray (Liev Schreiber). There’s Ray’s brother, gym owner, Terry Donovan (Eddie Marsan), who’s been hiding the secret of Ray’s half-brother, Marvin (Octavius J. Johnson), for nearly a decade. And there’s his other brother, Bunchy Donovan (Dash Mihok), a recovering (sort of) addict who appears dimwitted and a bit punchy (whether from boxing or lifestyle or genetics is uncertain). There’s a deceased sister and a recently murdered priest. There are Ray’s kids and his wife, Abby (Paula Malcomson), who seems ready to betray Ray in the worst possible way. All along the way, Ray continues to be Mr. Fix it to the rich and famous, resolving their problems while his own loom like an avalanche about to bury him.
And, let’s not forget Mickey (Jon Voight), Ray’s not so estranged father, just released from prison, already up to his old antics, partying, murdering, and interloping on Ray’s life.
Mickey appears to be scheming to supplant Ray as the family’s patriarch, while Ray is scheming to put Mickey back in prison. Their relationship, after two episodes, seems to be headed toward bloody resolve. One gets the very distinct impression that Jon Voight may be a hired gun to help kick-start a new series with only one season of survival for the character — wait and see how it plays out.
For all the immorality Ray displays, he also has a sense of right and wrong in this underbelly in which he thrives. It’s tough to figure out after this second episode exactly what Ray Donovan is trying to be.
At moments, it has tones of Sopranos, Goodfellas or dozens of other would-be gangster tales. At other times, if feels like it’s a Pulp Fiction spin-off about Harvey Keitel’s character, Winston Wolfe. Ray Donovan needs to move quickly and find its own way to keep viewers enthralled.
Two episodes in, the show remains compelling, but there is a lot going on. At this point, it feels like it might be too much. Ray Donovan is, indeed, a tangled web filled with deception, secrets, violence, anger and mystery.
It’s too early to tell if this is a story so expertly crafted that all these pieces will come together by season’s end or if this is an unstoppable avalanche fueled by too many convoluted and disjointed story lines.
The former rather than the latter would be preferred, as this is the perfect role for Liev Schreiber, and most viewers probably would like to see it work, this one included.
Review by Gordon Shelly, special to Influx Magazine