This review of Ray Donovan will contain *spoilers* so if you don’t want to know what happens then you probably shouldn’t read this.
What I loved.
- Ray Donovan is almost a perfect example of what a male lead in a gritty TV show has become. He isn’t a good guy, and he isn’t a bad guy. He’s just somewhere in the middle. Yes Ray kills people, cheats on his wife and does lots of illegal things, but that doesn’t make you look at him as a bad guy, it’s just business.
- Ray is coolness personified. He is suave and composed; he is the kind of guy that many men wish they could be naturally without the priest molestation thing.
- The show very much centres on Ray, he’s very much the glue that holds all the characters together, quite possibly why the show’s called Ray Donovan (just a hunch).
- Live Schreiber plays an excellent part, which isn’t a surprise because he is an excellent actor.
- The best character in the show, which isn’t surprising in many ways because he plays that funny bastard role (like Pauly in the Sopranos) that, is easy to like.
- Mickey’s character progression was odd in the show, because he went from being the main antagonist, to a more sympathetic character when with Van Miller and by the end helping Ray with Sully in an attempt at redemption. It isn’t that I have a major issue with it, but rather at times it felt forced.
- The Mickey-Ray relationship was one that they avoided truly dealing with (maybe in the next season) and that’s a shame because it could have been great TV. I liked the idea that in a contradiction to Ray’s suave, composed and well thought out nature, Mickey was impulsive, reckless and all sorts of crazy. It’s a fairly accurate depiction of people from a working class background and the change that happened (both socially and educationally) around the 60’s.
- Jon Voight was excellent in the role and really fully utilised what he was given. It was always going to be a great part for someone, but it takes a top actor to fulfil that potential.
- I loved the scenes where Mickey went to Bunchy’s molestation group therapy and when he went dancing in the gay bar, one of many funny Mickey scenes.
- Avi just oozed cool. He is a cooler less troubled version of Ray, so what’s not to love?
- I think James Woods is a great actor and he does a great job with the character of Sully. The thing is that the writing for the character wasn’t great, and often at times it was illogical, but despite that Woods makes the character a realistic sociopath. Ray Donovan had a great cast throughout, and if it weren’t for an actor like James Woods playing the character of Sully, the role could’ve struggles.
What I liked.
- Although Terry didn’t get much screen time and what he was doing wasn’t that interesting, you still cared about what was happening to the character. He didn’t have to be in every episode or have hugely important scenes, you still liked the character. Again you get the feeling that was down to excellent acting from Eddie Marsan.
- The writers also took the interesting step of having Terry be a Parkinson’s sufferer, although it wasn’t truly made into a massive storyline it could in the future and there are avenues they could go down with it.
- Read what I wrote about Terry and it basically applies to Bunchy as well. He had a little more to do because of his molestation issues and his relationship with Mickey.
- You put Elliot Gould in a TV show and you know he’s going to perform. Ezra had a lot of potential as Ray’s mentor but his role seemed to diminish dramatically as the show went on.
- Taboo subjects.
- Maybe it is a little bit easy to write about a taboo subject in a show about Irish Catholics from Boston and have it be priest paedophilia, but that sort of stuff did/does happen and it still takes guts to write about it.
What I disliked.
- Underused characters.
- With a great cast like Ray Donovan had, it is hard to get every character the screen time that they deserve. However I can’t help but feel that I would have liked to see more of Ezra, Daryll, Avi, Lena or Terry. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the show has left me wanting more, but I can’t help but think that these were underused characters and there were many potential avenues that the writers could have went down.
- Celebrity culture.
- The idea of Ray Donovan is a show about a fixer who makes the problems of the famous and glamorous people of Los Angeles go away. It’s a great idea for a show and has lots of potential and areas in which the writers could explore, due to the secret life of celebrities being a subject that interests many people. However this side of the show tended to take a back seat to Ray’s own family troubles. Not that this necessarily was a bad thing, but rather that an interesting take on the celebrity world was available and they sort of dropped the ball.
- The ending.
- The ending was not what I’d call a classic. What the show was trying to deliver was a tense finish with a stand-off between Ray and Sully, which would keep the audience on the edge of their seats; however that was never truly achieved. The scene never truly had the tension it should have because you never truly believed that Ray wouldn’t come out on top, it didn’t make that much sense for Mickey to be there in the first place, and then his face turn was meant to be a big twist but was at best average. The ending was a bit of a damp squib.
What I hated.
- At times illogical.
- There is nothing worse when a show makes decision that has you thinking to yourself that it doesn’t make sense, sadly Ray Donovan had a tendency to do this.
- Why didn’t Sully kill Mickey? Even if he hadn’t killed Colleen, he had still robbed Sully, turned in half his family and told him he was working for the FBI. Yet for some reason Sully let him go, it doesn’t make sense for a guy that was killing people on a whim
- Why didn’t Ray and Avi wear bullet proof vests when they went to meet Sully at the dock? Ray and Avi are supposed to be very smart guys, so surely they knew he was incredibly volatile, and there was a good chance that he may do something crazy, after all they had informed the FBI of his whereabouts and they weren’t on the best terms.
- There are other examples of illogical character behaviour in the show, especially towards the end of the season.
- Plot holes.
- There is nothing more annoying in a series than plot holes (wait didn’t I just say that about things being illogical? Hm…. They both suck to be fair). I’m no genius about crime scene investigation, but I’ve watched enough TV to know that DNA can be left in many different ways; whether it is finger prints, hair, a foot print or maybe something else. The problem is that throughout Ray Donovan, Ray (and other characters) regularly made basic errors when committing crimes that would surely have put the police right on him.
- Have the FBI just accepted that Van Miller got shot in the head and let it go? Maybe it’s harsh because this will be part of the next season, but you can’t help but think that this is surely a big deal, even if he was about to be thrown out of the bureau. Plus surely Mickey’s DNA is all over the place; he touched stuff with his hands and drank out of a mug. Come on FBI, do you really need to get Dexter to find out who did this?
- Wouldn’t the FBI have noticed that there was a suitcase full of fat guy’s clothes alongside Sully’s stuff? Also why wasn’t he wet when he ran away? Didn’t he fall in the water?
- Much like the illogical moments, there were more plot holes in the show and most came nearer the end of the season.
- Maybe it is harsh to criticise a show for having plot holes at the end of a season, because maybe they will be an important part of the next season. If that is the case then the criticism is unfound, however if it is not the case then the show instantly loses credibility.
- You have to wonder why writers on a TV series that centre on a male anti-hero cannot write for their wives. It isn’t that the acting is bad, but rather that Abby is a total bitch. Yes she has a right to be asking Ray what he is doing, has he been cheating on her and generally be pissed at him, because when you break it down Ray is a total dick to her and does cheat, murder and steal, but that doesn’t mean I want to see her moaning all the time. Just let the man get on with his job god damn it!
- Abby has joined a long line of bitchy wives that includes Skyler, Carmela, Margaret, Laurie, Lois and whatever that bitch from Homeland is called.
- I don’t care about some teenage girl’s angst about teenage girl stuff, because if I did I would just watch Gossip Girl or some other rubbish.
- Many times throughout the season certain stories seemed to be dropped without feeling finished, Bridget’s story with her sort of boyfriend was one that I wasn’t sad to see go.
- Too clean.
- Ray’s a fixer, his job is to fix awkward situations for his clients and he’s good at what he does. However everything just went too smoothly at the end, to the extent that you knew that Ray was never really in trouble because he would get out of it somehow like he had throughout the season. I don’t care how good you are, you don’t win every single time (just ask Barcelona).
Overall I liked Ray Donovan, it has an unbelievably excellent cast, great characters and real potential going forward. That however didn’t distract from the fact that at times the writing seemed to be forced to suit the situation rather than what would have made the most sense. I do think the good outweighs the bad for Ray Donovan, and it definitely has potential with the ever changing world of celebrity.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Ray Donovan wasn’t as well received by the female audience as it was by myself (a man person), because the show feels like it is aimed more at a male audience. I could be wrong on that point, but Ray Donovan felt like a very testosterone based show.
Ray Donovan never really fulfilled its potential and at times underutilised what was an excellent cast; however there is lots of potential for the second season and hopefully we’ll see more of the Ray Mickey dynamic that the show teased throughout this season.
What did you think of Ray Donovan? Do you think that it has potential going forward? Or that it is just another in a long line of Sopranos wannabes? Leave a comment and let me know. Also like bm23reviews on Facebook and follow bm23reviews on Twitter by clicking the links. Thanks for reading.