Ray Donovan has had shades of many other successful series — Boardwalk Empire, Six Feet Under — but “Bucky Fuckin’ Dent” shared some things with Breaking Bad. Particularly, that show’s bottle episode, “Fly.” “Bucky Fuckin’ Dent” wasn’t nearly so artistic or suffocatingly insular as that offering, but it did trap the brothers Donovan together with one horrible cretin from their past, and marked an important moment in Ray’s personal history. Ray Donovan has always married past and present together in a way that elevates it beyond just a gangster show. Ray having to deal with his past at the same time as everything in his present falls apart made for a difficult but great hour. Hit the jump for more.
“Bucky Fuckin’ Dent” is the penultimate episode of this first season, and while it wasn’t as explosive with action as some series might choose to be, it was emotionally explosive. Finally, here was the priest who not only abused Bunchy, but also attempted to rape Terry and — we learn late in the episode — also abused Ray. Now Ray’s complex hatred of his father becomes clearer. Had Mickey been more in the picture, would the boys have relied so much on Father Danny’s affections? Regardless, it should have been Mickey would protected them. Since it wasn’t, Ray personally felt the burden for Bunchy being abused — that he, Ray, should have been there to protect him, and that he failed also because he knew with Father Danny was up to.
This, naturally, has lead Ray to the situation he is in now as protector of the Donovan clan. Him putting Mickey in jail was a way to solidify that. Ray also believes Mickey’s own abuse (beating them after fights) and negligence of his kids led to Bridget’s death and the abuses by Father Danny, so there’s not much Mickey could ever do to make that right. His drugs and his gun also lead to Colleen’s death, so now it finally makes sense why Ray might want to go so far as to kill him, to keep him out of their lives forever.
But Ray’s feelings towards Mickey are more complicated than that, and the show does well to portray them as such. Mickey is still Ray’s father, and on some level, he still knows he needs him (or at least, acknowledges that his brothers need him). In the last few weeks we’ve seen him struggle with his decision to put a hit on his father, particularly in the last episode where he was not like himself at all, thinking Mickey was dead. But now, he’s unequivocal with Ezra that he will not kill his father.
This is a new Ray, one who is not fixing things very well at all. Mickey is not working with the FBI anymore, but nobody knows that fact. Ray is being pinned with Van’s murder, Sean Walker is dead, Sully is on the loose and the fixer business has been put on hold (where has Lee been the past few weeks?) Early in the season I said that Ray Donovan would need to choose between work and family, just as Ray himself must, and the choice has been clear for a long time. WIth the Donovans, family is always first. Where that leads us for the finale and regarding the other loose ends remains to be seen.
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Also like Breaking Bad, Ray tries to keep his wife from the truth, and also protect her without giving her any information. It’s not a good tactic. Walter White tried this too with Skyler, and Abby and Skyler have always gotten grief for asking questions and nagging their nefarious husbands about why their family is constantly in danger. Let’s be real, it’s a fair question to ask, especially since they have absolutely no idea what’s going on, or what acts of depravity their husbands are capable of. They’re in a tough position, and as grating as Abby can be (with very little to redeem her, which is a problem with the writing), we also have to cut her some slack.
— The same is true with Frances, who was definitely pushy in this episode, but then again, she wasn’t told at all who this bleeding priest was. Normal people would be concerned about a dying man pleading for help, and I liked that Terry and Bunchy were also initially appalled at the idea of Ray letting the priest die, despite everything he had done to them. It reminded us that, again, normal people don’t just kill whoever they want whenever they want, and it’s a shocking and horrible thing to witness and consider.
— The show has always done a great job with the kids’ dialogue, and I particularly loved the segments with Conor learning about Israel and Judaism with Avi. Although I have to disagree that David Beckham is a “putz” — come on Avi, he once was one of the best, give him his due!
— There was no resolution about what’s going to happen with Sean Walker’s baby, but the conversation Ezra had with Ray about it leads me to believe that baby may end up a Donovan.
— Mickey still has the moves! “This is solid gold … just like you.” Claudette came through for him, but the police are definitely closing in.
— This episode was actually a pretty amazing case study in the effects of childhood abuse. Bunchy’s speech about why the priest chose him and how he actually liked their relationship was heartbreaking, too. Great episode.
— Season finale next week!