Mark Clark reviews the third episode of Ray Donovan season 4…
Ray Donovan season four is fast becoming a genre and directorial showcase as Michael Apted takes the chair for episode 3. Not that Apted is particularly known for one genre or another (although he has been to lands of Narnia and 007), and you can argue from Raising Arizona to Hail, Caesar! as to whether the Coens constitute a genre in themselves, but in this episode there definitely seems to have been a gentle swerve towards Coen-esque black humour. Not to mention a scene that comes across as Tarantino script doctoring.
Perhaps the biggest shock this week was the realisation that smart as a whip offspring Bridget Donovan (Kerris Dorsey) was fast approaching adulthood, as Ray and Abby reminisced about her entry into the world exactly 18 years before. Of course being clever doesn’t stop you from having a somewhat ill-advised relationship with your teacher (Mr. Donellen, played by Aaron Staten), which Abby is reminded of first hand as they fumble around in his car outside chez Donovan; a visual representation of Abby’s belief that her job as Mom is basically over. Ray naturally begs to differ, and frankly, with dumb as a bag of spanners son Conor (Devon Bagby), her job seems far from finished – but we’ll get to him later.
Confronting ‘Bridg’, Abby sends her flying out the front door and onto the phone with Donellen, but recruiting Ray to drag her back doesn’t quite work out – he’s channeling some of that count to ten calm from Episode 1 and he knows that trying to drag her back into the fold would just make things worse, and in the worse stakes the Donovan’s don’t really need much help. Case in point, hearing what appears to be Bridg coming back, zen Ray goes downstairs to talk it over with her, only instead of his daughter he gets a hitman – a probable Belikov crony. Still, it does provide a moment of violent, family unity as after a mano a mano tussle it’s Abby who takes out the intruder with a single head-shot. And who better to get in on the clean-up act from the extended Donovan clan than good old Avi.
It’s turning out to be a hell of Bridget birthday.
Meanwhile, back in Nevada Mick is working on his own clean-up, only in his case it involves ripping off a casino to the tune of $4million, all wrapped up in Little Bill Primm’s Big Green Horseshoe. All very simple when you have night-vision goggles, a Native-American partner named Ed, and a jittery, crack-pot, electrics inside-man named Pinky (or Pinky-Toe Josephine Melcherd III to be precise). The scene of Mick and Ed wearing the goggles and discussing the job over some whisky, and frankly anything with Pinky-Toe were a Joel and Ethan homage par excellence.
Perhaps I’m being a little unfair on the programme makers’ originality, but when you also have the finely tuned humour of Conor wandering into the kitchen for breakfast and remaining clueless about Ray and Avi manhandling a full body bag, you might get my point. Then again you might also think I’m being unfair to the geniuses behind Weekend at Bernie’s.
One thing’s for sure, the Donovan’s and Co need to lay low for a bit so it’s off to a motel for the foreseeable, and even Bridget gets the picture when Ray and Abby turn up at Donellen’s. No questions necessary when it’s family trouble. Terry on the other hand doesn’t quite see it that way so Ray sends Daryl to get him from the Fite Club, and we get a nice little pop-culture tete a tete about westerns between the half brothers, even as they both now refuse to leave – circling the wagons.
Ray decides to check on Detective Muncie, but all he finds is the aftermath of break-in and murder; poor bad-guy bashing Muncie dead on the kitchen floor. It’s time to see Belikov.
Unsurprisingly, Ivan Belikov is not exactly forthcoming with help, but more than that, he doesn’t know what Ray is talking about. Seems he’s not the big bad in this story – that honour goes to ‘gallery owner’ Sonia Kovitzky. She’s the one pulling all the strings, sex trafficking et al.
Ray just wants to protect his family, and offers to get Belikov out of prison, but Kavitzky is less concerned with that and more concerned with loss of earnings. Ray literally needs to pay the devil her due.
At the casino comedy heist in waiting, everything’s set as Little Bill Primm (Ted Levine channeling Jeff Bridges by way of True Grit – or maybe RIPD) declares that the $4million Horseshoe is actually going to be spent on a Native American cultural centre. That plan goes sideways as Pinky cuts the power and night vision Mick and Ed snaffle the cash, but it seems Mick is also caught on the hop. Lights back on and Ed and Pinky have hightailed it. Which is exactly what poor old Mickey has to do. Still, let’s be honest, what fun would he be if one of his scams actually worked.
Away from the day’s earlier trauma, Ray finds Abby in a quiet, supermarket coffee shop. It’s cards on the table time. He’s paid ‘them’ off, with everything they’ve got. She doesn’t care, about the house, the money. She just cares about them; and then finally tells Ray about the ‘stage zero’ cancer diagnosis and the recommended mastectomies. The thing is she’s not having them; ‘You can fix what happened today. The rest is up to me.’
It’s a double birthday celebration back at the motel as Bunchy and Theresa skedaddle to the maternity ward after some labour inducing bedroom gymnastics, and the rest of the family finally manage to sing a slightly subdued Bridget’s Happy Birthday.
Separated from everyone, Mick tries to hitchhike away from his latest debacle. No one’s stopping, but that suddenly doesn’t matter when a text arrives of newest Donovan, little Maria.
All in all, another quality piece of TV, and the humour injections worked pretty much perfectly. I’ll leave the last laugh to dopey Conor, a boy who has potential tragi-comedy written all over him. Ensconced in the motel, Avi tells him he needs to get educated, and get into hedge funds. With a look of disdain Conor shoots back, ‘I’m not gonna be a gardener dude.’
Love that kid.