Ray Donovan is, or should I say was, a solid crime drama based on a tried-and-true narrative, namely the story of a grizzled Hollywood fixer with a shady past. To keep things interesting, and updated for the 21st century, the show added a few tweaks. First, Donovan (Liev Schreiber) was a transplanted brooding Irish-American Bostonian trying to navigate sunny West Coast Americana. The show also added a Soprano-esque backstory, where Donovan’s dirty deeds were ultimately done for his family, whom he'd tried hard to ensure had as normal a life as everyone else. The formula worked very well for four of the show's first five seasons. Unfortunately, in season five, the show went slowly off the rails. Indeed, the story during that season was oddly disjointed. More importantly, the show dropped a huge shocker, Donovan’s wife Abby (Paula Malcomson), the show's second most important character, contracted cancer, and was basically written off the show. Long story short, by the time the season five finale was aired, my heart was more than prepared to say goodbye to the Donovans forever.
When word came that Showtime, the show’s producer, had picked it up for a sixth season, my initial reaction to the news was: why? The show had effectively resolved most of the nagging story lines created over the history of the series and, for all intents and purposes, killed off Ray. That is to say, what story line could continue where the show left off at the end of season five?
The answer to that question began last October with the start of the show's sixth season. Which, I think, can aptly be described as a soft reboot. Indeed, aside from a few residual story links the previous five seasons, this ain’t your grandfather’s Ray Donovan. First, the location completely switched from sun drenched SoCal, to rainy Gotham. Personally, having lived in both cities, I am not yet sure which vibe has a better feel for Ray. Though, I must admit, the Irish-Bostonian in L.A. theme is much more unique than the Irish-Bostonian in New York City angle. Second, over several leaps of faith, asked of us by the show’s writers, not only has Ray relocated to New York City, but so has every single member of his immediate family, as well as his closest associate Lena (Katherine Moennig).
One of the victims of the show's decision-making, is the plot. While the plots of the show were never very complicated, in order to undue or eliminate some of what had been done in the fifth season, the show, as mentioned, makes several tweaks best ignored by viewers who have history with the show. This is necessary because otherwise the whole premise will unravel. For those first time watchers, however, this does not apply. One of those tweaks is Mickey's (Jon Voight) escape from prison. An event that, in today’s environment of homeland security, is other-worldly for its success. There is also the head-scratching tweak of Ray’s older brother Terry (Eddie Marsan), whose Parkinson’s disease was resolved in the last season by the implantation of a device in his brain, and who know has a prospering gym in NYC, decides to restart his boxing career. He enters a series of bare-knuckle brawling competitions where hits to the head are allowed. Lastly, there is the weird resolution of the story line with Bunchy's (Dash Mihok) kid.
Despite these, and many other, mind-numbing moments, the series does succeed in rekindling the classic Donovan feel that was so much a part of the first four seasons. Moreover, while the way it decided to resolve the issues of the fifth season are questionable, it did succeed in creating a solid current story line, that is ripe for manipulation in the upcoming seventh season later this year.
Did you watch the sixth season? What did you think?
Written by lao.san on Feb 4, 2019