Two episodes in, and I still don’t quite understand what ‘Ray Donovan’ is going for.
There is a lot to like here. Jon Voight’s Mickey is a truly unique creation, and I defy you to not laugh at him giving young Conor practical advice about gay sex while shoe shopping. And Liev Schrieber is exactly what you’d want the eponymous character to be, effective whether he’s meeting with a transgendered blackmailer for a cordial lunch, or with his hand around her throat threatening to kill her.
But I guess the root problem I’m having with this new series – the reason I’m not finding myself particularly drawn into this world – is present even in my praise of it: This show is BONKERS.
‘Ray Donovan’ is trying to do so much, and that was even more apparent in “A Mouth Is a Mouth” than it was in last week’s pilot. There’s a big overarching story about Mickey trying to steal Ray’s family. There’s Ray’s business as a fixer and the jobs he does for multiple clients (by my count, five in two episodes). There’s not just Mickey, but two other of Ray’s brothers, as well as an African-American half brother that Ray was informed of in the pilot. There are the aforementioned completely wild Jon Voight speeches dotting the landscape. There’s this weird undertone of making fun of Hollywood types and their wackiness, a la ‘Entourage’ or something. There’s Ray’s co-worker who yells at everybody. There’s Ray’s wife with the bad Boston accent, and his secretly gay son who has now started unknowingly instant message flirting with a Hollywood A-List actor who also happens to be one of Ray’s clients.
It’s all too much. So much of ‘Ray Donovan’ feels too cute, too mapped out, and too pre-ordained. I appreciate that ‘Ray Donovan’ wants to hit the ground running, but the utter lack of build-up for anything that’s happening is stripping the action of all its meaning. It took Mickey what, one episode to basically hijack Ray’s family? When Ray finds out that his half-brother was the one who broke into one of his clients’ homes, Ray dispatches his associate to issue a beating. How are we supposed to feel about that? This associate seems kind of cool, in the three or four scenes he’s had to date. The half-brother seemed kind of cool, before the whole robbery thing. What am I supposed to be getting out of this?
There are too many characters, too many plot points, and too strong a desire to tie as much as possible of it together into a neat little package. It’s not that I’m not following this show, because I believe that I am; it’s that the pacing feels all wrong. ‘Ray Donovan’ is definitely rushing towards something, but if it continues like this, I’m going to stop caring what that something is.