Mark Clark reviews the second episode of Ray Donovan season 4…
Unlike difficult second album syndrome, a limited episode TV series should really be getting comfortable by episode 2 and for Ray Donovan season 4 things are shaping up nicely. Not necessarily for Ray of course. Or anyone else for that matter.
Following on from Liev Schreiber’s sharp directorial turn last week, film and TV director John Dahl took the reins and his neo-noir fingerprint was all over ‘Marisol’. Whether the showrunners purposefully tied Dahl to this particular episode, or it was just scheduling luck, the combination of writing and directing was a knock-out punch (I promise I’ll stop the puns at around episode 5).
Fair warning – If you haven’t even started episode 1 yet, I’d turn away now.
Following the revelation last week that Hector Campos has a longstanding and decidedly unhealthy relationship with his half sister Marisol (Lisa Bonet), and Ray’s fall from relative grace helping Hector with a blackmailing cop, Hector tells Ray that Marisol seduced him when he was only 13 and she was 25 in some twisted attempt to assuage his own abuse by priests. Marisol is due to appear on TV in a confessional interview on the same day as Hector’s title fight so naturally he wants Ray to put the kaibosh on it. Not to have her life destroyed – his emotional entanglement is too raw – but to put a lid on it.
Enlisting his partner, the ever cool Lena, Ray manages to abduct Marisol from the TV station – after a couple of Marisol led punches and Lena’s tazer – and they take her to a meet with Hector, his manager, and his coach (who also seems to be Sugar Ray Leonard). No-one is backing off however so it’s off to Ray’s apt./office for some Marisol lock-down time. And so begins just another twisty-turny, moral gut-punching day.
Things aren’t exactly uneventful with recalcitrant criminal Mickey Donovan, or the rest of the Donovan clan. Abby is still reeling from her breast cancer diagnosis but keeping it secret from everyone, and helping Bunchy with his sexually un-charged relationship with his mightily frustrated, pregnant wife Theresa. To cap it all she gets her handbag snatched and Terry ends up on the wrong side of a one-two combo from the fists of the snatcher. It’s not all bad though, pugilist Terry gets the eye from the investigating beat cop. Of course it’s currently tunnel-vision Terry so a smile and a business card just ain’t gonna cut it. Ironically it’s the bag snatcher that catches his eye after tracking him down via his handbag carrying girlfriend. The kid’s got potential, and he also gets Terry’s ticket to the big fight.
Rounding out the Ep’s perfectly balanced story strands is the old bad penny himself, Mick. Finding himself in the clutches of Detective Muncie and on the hook for the Menassian massacre, we get the real noir juice as Ray has to strike a deal to give Muncie who she really wants – season 3’s girl smuggling, sex trader, Ivan Belikov.
With the patsy targeted Ray needs the evidence, but his other colleague, always wonderful Avi (Steven Bauer) won’t play ball. Trouble is Ray knows where to look. Sat in a basement alongside a now drugged and shanghaied Belikov he tells Avi to meet him there, and with deadpan dialogue worthy of a 21st Century Bogart (well maybe Dick Powell), we find out where there is; ‘What the fuck Ray, my Mother is upstairs!’… ‘I know, she’s making us sandwiches.’
Muncie satisfied and Mick freed it’s goodbye once again to old man Donovan, on a forced bus to Vegas. Last week’s continued slip into Mickey’s two dimensional characterisation was put a little on pause in ‘Marisol’, with a nice turn between him and Muncie in her office. Part empathic chit chat, part getting under her skin, but completely Voigt’s usual masterclass. He also gets the shot of the week, slumped in the back of Muncie’s car, despondently looking out at the sun blasted desert.
Talking of sun, all that’s left for Ray before it goes down is Hector’s fight night. Marisol agrees to take the public hit with a prepared statement, before disappearing; Ray gets to enjoy another guilt inducing face to face with Father Romero. Seems he isn’t overly impressed with the results of his Hector and Ray pairing – ‘If you can’t see the trail of broken souls in your wake Ray, there’s nothing I can do for you.’
Ray then watches as Hector, mind spun by Marisol, gets knocked to the canvas and his title hammered out of him. The intimation of one more broken soul is a little heavy-handed but it works. Just like the whole episode. If the rest of the season crackles along at this level I’ll be a happy man. I’ll be even happier if someone gives Lena and Avi their own show.