What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?
The fourth episode of Ray Donovan‘s fourth season reunites our central cast in a desperate attempt to (once again) try and fix Mickey’s mistakes. Abby, who’s acting talents have finally been put to good use this season, has two touching scenes as she deals with her breast cancer diagnosis. Mickey returns to his family, Terry goes back to his boxing roots. Truthfully, this may be one of Ray Donovan’s best episodes because his irritating children are completely ignored. Conor’s stupidity and Bridget’s combination of snark and melodrama are not missed.
Apparently, blackmail doesn’t always work. After last week’s revelation that Sofia, not Belikov, is the real head of the Russian mob and the subsequent attack on Ray’s family, the Russian problem is now very real. Most of the episode focused on Ray’s attempts to free Belikov from prison. Ray’s plan is to blackmail DA Jackson Holt. The only problem is he’s Mr. Clean; a man with no vices or sins and the only person Lena has every complained about watching. As always, Ray turned to the only real father figure in his life, Ezra. Since Ezra’s dead, that meant his secret stash of blackmail material. I thought the black mail on the old film director would work, the threat of a lifetime in jail for murder would motivate me to action, but it backfired. The guilt overcame the old man and he confessed to Holt, leaving Ray in a rut.
Mickey returned to LA after his failed Nevada robbery in rather bizarre fashion. While hailing down a cab, an older middle aged woman offers Mickey a ride. It starts off strangely when she compares him to Paul Newman, but only gets weirder. She pulls off for gas then demands oral sex from Mickey in exchange for the rest of the trip. It’s a bizarre interlude that really could’ve been cut out in exchange for something more meaningful, like Ezra’s past or more of Abby. Regardless, Mickey returns and is greeted with the same reaction I’d give him in real life. “What the f*** are you doing here?” It’s nice that to see that all of Ray’s family, except Bunchy, finally recognize Mickey for what he is. Ironically, Mickey’s dumb casino heist may be the Donovan family’s salvation since it’s the only way to pay off the Russians and keep the family alive.
On the side character front, Bunchy and Terry’s roles are small but important this episode. Maria is obviously upset that Terry names Ray as their new baby’s godfather. Bunchy not seeming to realize that Ray’s home is no safe place for an infant right now. Then again, in the history of this show, Bunchy’s never had any brains. But it was good to see him finally stand up to Ray in the end, though ultimately Bunchy does back down.
Bunchy’s godfather choice also has ramifications on Terry, who is upset at the choice and generally mad that he has Parkinson’s. But Terry returns to his boxing roots and that gives me a sliver of hope that he’ll be the Donovan with the happy ending. He tracks down the promising boxer from last episode and convinces him to come back to the gym. The joyful look on Terry’s face as he trains the kid gave me a good feeling since I can’t remember the last episode where he was really happy.
But the episode excels when Abby’s on stage. I’ve never felt her character was used well during the show’s three season, especially after seeing Malcomson’s perfromance in Deadwood. But in this episode she’s finally let loose and delivers two touching performances that begin and end the episode. Abby has a lot on her mind now, since her diagnosis and the guilt over committing a mortal sin last episode. You can feel the weight on her shoulders as she delivers each heartbreaking line. From the beginning of the episode, where she outlines why she doesn’t want treatment, to the end where she finally accepts her need for treatment, she feels like a real grounded character.
Hector and Marisol briefly reappear when Hector nearly overdoses. These two continue to be kind of a mystery to me. I’m not sure where their characters are going and feels too much like a sideshow to the real plot. Their story is significantly less interesting than the Russian mob struggles and Mickey’s general hijinks. Best of all, Hank Azarai reappears as the former FBI supervisor turned Ray hating karaoke bar loser. He’s been fun to watch since he became the loose cannon of the show last season, and he’s hilarious in this episode as well. He demands five million dollars from Ray then manages to trick him into singing karaoke to Bob Seger. Fantastic.
Ray Donovan delivers another excellent episode. It’s not without it’s faults. As always, the show seems to rely a little too much on convenience. Mickey happens to arrive home with the solution just as Ray’s problems finally get out of hand. It’s a little too Hollywood than real life. The episode seemed to waste time with Mickey’s strange exodus home. But it’s absolutely worth it for Malcomson’s delicate performance. And kudos to Ray to doing for doing what he should have been doing all along, listening to his wife.