Mark Clark reviews the sixth episode of Ray Donovan season 4…
So, we’ve reached the halfway point of season 4, and with an episode written by producer David Hollander and directed by the uber-talented Daisy von Schuler Meyer, a touch of surreal beauty, some emotional truths, criminal horror and frankly what would amount to a gritty, superhero origin arc. it all adds up to my favourite hour of Ray Donovan this year.
Beginning with cryptic and disturbing images of a Port Authority cop pleasuring himself in front of one of Belikov’s smuggled girls as she plays cat’s cradle, you know you’re in for some dark interplay. Mickey meanwhile, is going through the familiar but humiliating prison processing – all the way to his decrepit, john-sitting, cellmate.
At Donovan HQ Abby is still adamant that no surgery is taking place – she just wants some old time intimacy, showing Ray her body as she is, right now. Upstairs, dumb-bell Conor is lifting actual dumb-bells while watching Girls with Guns, and then posing with his ‘acquired’ automatic. Life is full of simple pleasures; none more so than when a girl with guns takes off her shirt.
Poor Bunchy, still left holding the baby, turns up at the invitation of Abby, as outside Vlad the Russian watches. He’s a vicious creep, but maybe not that smart as his not so veiled threats towards Bridget at al gets him a punch and knee combo from Ray. Obviously Ray has no problem doling out punishment, threats or not.
He goes to see Sonia Kovitzky, who naturally sees no change in their relationship until Belikov is actually freed, Mickey incarceration or no, and hands Ray his latest ‘bill’. Ray has nothing left to give, financially, but Kovitzky says sweat and toil will do – considering she vouched for him to her Uncle and Moscow overlords when they just wanted him done in. After turning her down flat in episode 1, Ray ends up doing some dirty work after all.
Back at the Port Customs warehouse Ray collects a painting, but while there he sees the organisations’ other criminality first hand. Cat’s cradle girl is offered up to him by Vlad, which he naturally declines. Vlad has no compunction in taking advantage however – much to Ray’s suppressed anger and disgust. He takes the customs-bypassed painting to Kovitzky, which ironically is to be auctioned off to raise funds for the Barkley Breast Cancer Center. A shindig that Kovitzky needs Ray to attend.
DA Jackson Holt is having his own fun, which basically involves listening to Mickey dubiously explain how he took out an Armenian gang all on his lonesome. Holt doesn’t believe a word of it, but Mick gets himself charged in any case – something that Kovitzky tells Ray in her car. She tries a little conversation about upbringing but Ray just wants to know if the girl smuggling will continue now that Belikov is getting out. He tells her all the art is just a front; she’s a pimp and a drug dealer. It seems to hit home.
Heading into the Barkley Center do, Ray bumps into an old client – troublesome actress Ashley, who’s paranoid about recent celebrity hacking scandals. However in a nicely perverted twist she’s not concerned about privacy; her paranoia is that she’s not one of them. She and her producer husband, Stu Feldman, have a plan which involves making a sex tape and then leaking it. Stu has previous with Ray, which essentially involved Ray’s fists and Stu’s face. Surprisingly Ray walks away, but Stu’s repressed admiration for him finds him ordering the same drink he was having…
Stu’s night isn’t a total bust as he makes the winning bid on the painting Ray got from customs, and shows his enjoyment via his crotch. He’s a classy guy, Stu. Before Kovitzky and Ray leave, the head of oncology at Barkley reminds her about her appointment. It seems that things are rather more personal than they seemed and in the car she admits she’s got cancer too, but in her case it’s a done deal. You see, cancer is either a turtle, a rabbit, or a bird – a turtle you can catch, a rabbit you can chase, but a bird has flown. For her, it’s definitely a bird.
Ray’s sorry, but the conversation soon returns to business. She has a forger named Chen producing a ‘more suitable’ copy of the painting for Feldman and she wants Ray to deliver. He balks, but she insists; ‘It’s for charity Ray’. He takes the painting and walks into the back end of the sex tape shoot which Stu still wants Ray to deliver as it’ll ‘make Ashley feel better.’ No again from Mr D. I think Stu’s producer tenacity needs a reset.
Job done, Ray tells Kovitzky at her gallery that everything is done, but she has a final suggestion. Talk to Belikov, and apologise, and there’s even a $100,000 sweetener to give to him. Before that though Kovitzky takes Ray to a cross between an art installation and a meditation chamber. Surrounding a reclined chair there are wraparound projections of landscapes and stars, and he lays back as they move around him. Kovitzky removes her shirt, revealing one breast whole, and one scarred by surgery. She approaches him and we trip into a dreamlike and surreal seduction; a perfect profile shot of Kovitzky and Ray on the chair, bathed in dark, blue light, constellations spinning behind them.
Cut to Maria’s baptism, and Ray holding her as the priest asks him if he renounces Satan and believes in Jesus. He doesn’t look exactly sure, his mind elsewhere. Driving the point home we get Ray standing in front of a figure of Jesus crucified, out of focus. Things don’t get any easier back home as Ray hits the bottle and tells Abby that Mickey’s been formally charged. To Abby, whatever had to be done to protect them, had to be done. Ray, it seems, is not so sure that Belikov back on the street and all that entails is a price worth paying. After that, it’s hit after hit. Bunch tells him off after he tries to give Maria a tainted Rosary (given to Ray by their abuser priest), and Mickey calls him from jail – if he gets a deal he won’t get the electric chair, he’ll just be out in 300 years. Ray manages to say thank you; it’s all very emotionally draining. And then some.
Into this happy scene, a text from Kovitzky. Belikov is expecting Ray, and his moral tourniquet gets twisted even tighter. He drives to the Russian crime house, still half-cut, and finds Belikov upstairs, sat on the hallway floor. He drops the bag of money and dutifully apologises, but Belikov needs more. He needs Ray ‘to be useful’. He pushes open a bedroom door and reveals the cat’s cradle girl, dead. Belikov wants Ray to help him take her body to the port and onto a ship back to Russia.
At the port Belikov tells Ray to put the girl in a crate. ‘Be useful… We can be friends.’. Ray replies in kind, ‘Sure, we can be friends.’; which only an idiot can’t see means probably not. Ray attacks Belikov and Belikov’s gun comes out. One yelled ‘look at me!’ from Ray later, and Belikov gets a bullet through the brain, and ends up in the crate himself. At this point I wouldn’t have been surprised if Ray had pulled out a shirt with a white skull on it and dragged it over his head.
Driving away he takes a call from Kovitzky, and she tells him that everything’s back to the way it was. It never is of course, and never will be.
Ray takes the dead girl to the mortuary and leaves her outside – at least she’ll get some respect in death. He then drives away, the bruised LA skyline in the distance.