I’ve already written my magnum opus on why ‘Ray Donovan’ is a hot mess of series, and there’s no need to tread through that ground each and every week. Suffice to say that “Housewarming” was not a particularly bad hour of television, but all the problems I outlined last week were still present this Sunday. This is still a series that’s trying to do way too much, can’t figure out its tone, and (wrongly) assumes that viewers care about each and every one of its characters without, in most cases, giving us a reason to.
So let’s keep this short and try to be as positive as possible, because writing about this series bums me out almost as much as watching it.
The structure of an average ‘Ray Donovan’ episode involves pinballing between scenes involving characters I am not interested in or rooting for, with the notable exception of Terry. I’m all in on Terry, and I can’t say enough about the performance of Eddie Marsan bringing subtlety and humanity to a show utterly lacking both. After a disgruntled Ray pistol whips Mickey in front of Connor and Bridget then tries to corral his traumatized kids into the car, Terry steps in to take care of the kids himself. Before that, Terry’s conversation with Bridget at the party was such a sweet, quiet moment I felt like it was from a different series.
‘Ray Donovan’ is so steeped in its own mythology that it can’t even deign to imagine why the viewer wouldn’t be invested in Ray staying free or keeping his children from Mickey, despite the fact that we’ve seen barely any evidence of why the FBI would even care about Ray or why Mickey is so dangerous. I guess it’s part of the show’s premise: Ray is A BIG DEAL (ALL CAPS!) and a worthy target of the FBI, and Mickey is A BAD GUY that only Ray can stop. I would feel so much more connected to this story if more time was spent on Ray actually doing his job (rather than hurried cases that wrap themselves up in 5 minutes every week).
“Housewarming” actually featured the most Ray/Avi material to date, which on paper is a great thing – until you factor in the ludicrous material involving Van Miller hallucinating that went on forever and ever. Look, ‘Mad Men’ already delivered the definitive drug hallucination episode of television for 2013, and even that was controversial (I thought it was brilliant) – for an embattled show like ‘Ray Donovan’ to try it is doomed from the start.
The problem is not that ‘Ray Donovan’ is attempting comedy, it’s that the comedy that it is attempting is broad and frankly stupid. I don’t need the monkey in a business suit, I don’t need the nightmarish Toy Story-style scene in the office, and I certainly don’t need it all sandwiched between two (count ’em, TWO!) blowjob scenes, the latter involving yet another hallucination (!!) and Bunchy. Oh, and a ton of material involving Ezra’s tumor. Great.
Sorry. Try as I might, I obviously can’t keep this review positive. ‘Ray Donovan’ is as unpleasant to watch as it is self-satisfied. This show sucks.