RAY DONOVAN Recap: “New Birthday”

     August 11, 2013


Quite a few comments have been about Ray Donovan‘s move (or bait and switch) from a show about a fixer to one that makes viewers totally submerged in the comings and goings of the Donovan family.  If you are a viewer who preferred the former, “New Birthday” unfortunately had nothing to offer you.  Even for the rest of us, it was a very slow and very dark episode.  But it did fill in a few blanks about the past, and set up quite a few things for the future.  It was a bog-standard building block, but for those uninterested in why Bunchy is sleeping on the gym floor or Abby suddenly shoplifting, then not even the mobster film that the show turned into later in the episode could save it.  Still, hit the jump for why you should “pipe me, bitch!”

ray-donovan-posterFans of Breaking Bad might have picked up on Abby’s shades of Skyler White early in “New Birthday.  She’s suspicious of her husband and suspects he might be a monster, but doesn’t know how to approach that or even begin to accept it if it’s true.  Meanwhile Ray, like Walt, struggles to figure out how much to tell her (in Ray’s case, currently: nothing, which is a line Walt toted for awhile too).  Ray’s kids are also suspicious of him, particularly after last week’s incident where he nearly killed their grandfather in front of them.  This week as Ray hauled Marvin out of the house and drove him away, Bridget voiced a very real fear to her mother: “is he going to kill him?”  “Come away from the window,” was all Abby could offer.

The episode focused heavily on Ray seeking out Sully (James Woods), the FBI’s number one most wanted, and the only man Ray can get to kill his father.  His trip to Boston was not a triumphant one — the scars of that city weigh heavily on Ray, as he searches for answers about his sister’s suicide.  Another layer was added to the Ray’s Boston backstory with Abby mentioning that Mickey killed Ray’s girlfriend Colleen (Sullivan?), the murder he really wanted to put Mickey away for.  Ray also blames Mickey for Bridget’s death, but can’t pin that on him so cleanly (the same goes for Ray’s belief that Mickey was somehow responsible for Bunchy’s woes as well).  The evidence continues to mount against Mickey, and one can’t help but think this season might see the end of him.

On the other hand, Mickey has been a huge part of what has kept Ray Donovan fresh and interesting week to week.  While the Donovan boys mope and  fret, there is Mickey dancing in the background, alternatively goading them, teasing them and encouraging them to do what they shouldn’t.  Imagining the show without Mickey is like taking the battery out: without him as a motivator for Ray’s discontent and as a weekly wildcard, the show would lack spark.

ray-donovan-new-birthdayFor now, Mickey looks to be ok.  His relationship with Van will probably help save him, and it could easily be the kind of scenario where, by the end of the season, its Mickey who escapes and Sully who ends up dead or in prison.  In the meantime, the cat and mouse game is getting more and more complex.

Elsewhere, there was an interesting moment between Bridget and Marvin, where his happy-go-lucky countenance broke suddenly and harshly when he pushed Bridget down to give him a blow job, and then mildly assaulted her when she refused.  It was a shocking moment for both of them, and how Ray deals with him next week will say a lot about him and the direction of the show.  Abby, Conor and Bridget have all been acting out recently trying to either forge something for themselves away from Ray, or to gain Ray’s attention.  Unfortunately, his sites are focused on the past.

Episode Rating: B

Musings and Miscellanea:

— The show has always been perceptive about the eccentricities of showbiz types.  Sean sniffing the baby to calm him down was a great example of this.

— “I’ve been lonely 20 years, everyone’s lonely” – Ezra’s mistress, who peed her pants.

— Abby shoplifting reminded me of a moment from Six Feet Under (which Ray Donovan reminds me a lot of at times), when matriarch Ruth Fischer stole some lipstick because he friend, played by Kathy Bates, told her that middle aged women are invisible (and it worked!)

ray-donovan-liev-schreiber-3— Is Colleen a Sullivan?  I couldn’t read the gravestone on my screener copy.

— I would definitely watch a steampunk Wizard of Oz.

— “You don’t help people you hurt people” – Bridget to Ray.

— Frank seeing the video is interesting.  Now he too holds something over Van to undermine the investigation.

— Sully’s mom was a real treasure indeed …

— “I want the last the person he sees to hate him as much as I do” – Ray.

— Once again, my favorite scene in the episode was one at the gym, with all of the guys shooting the shit and watching the match on TV.  I was sad we didn’t get an update on Terry and Frances, but this was definitely Ray’s episode.

— GIF of the week: someone make one of Mickey moonwalking, please.