Wednesday, 4 September 2013
TV: Ray Donovan - Episodes 6 and 7
Episode 6, Housewarming, is a very odd offering, coming across as rather self-indulgent and self-consciously 'quirky', until a brilliant final 10 minutes. Avi drugs federal agent Van Miller's coffee with LSD, leading to the agent having several hallucinations, including a capuchin monkey in a suit using the facilities in the restroom and the agent's action figures coming to life and attacking him in his basement. While sporadically amusing, far too much time is given over and it feels like padding. When Ray and Avi come and threaten him, filling him up with more LSD, their efforts backfire, making Van Miller only more resolute in his pursuit of them. What makes this segment watchable is Frank Whaley as Miller, the actor starting to rise above the limitations of the 'OCD nerd' character that he's been given. You do wonder though if the writers quite know what the show is meant to be - this is about as far from gritty noir as you can get and the show's tonal shifts are alarmingly all over the place.
In other developments, Bunchy's housewarming turns into a disaster as Bunchy (Dash Mihok) is just too messed up to be able to enjoy it, ending up setting his house on fire deliberately. There's a great scene earlier when Abby, Bunchy's sister-in-law, comforts him as he recalls his abuse at the hands of a catholic priest. We find that the priest tried it on with Terry too, who broke his hand for it. At the housewarming are Bridget, Conor and Marvin, even though Ray forbade his children to go. When Ray finds out, he races over there and pulls a gun on his father, seemingly about to shoot him. Mick believed he would, as did his kids who were hysterical. It's as near to the edge as we've seen Ray go so far, brilliantly conveyed by the wonderful Liev Schreiber.
Ray's world is slowly spinning out of control and his mentor, Ezra (Elliot Gould), has a brain tumour. Amid everything else, Ray had to go and find him as he'd slipped out of the hospital in his gown. Thankfully the initial surgery seemed to go OK and the pair were soon debating how to deal with the Mick problem until Ezra says calmly: "We're going to have to kill him." Ray responds that Mick is still his father and Ezra muses: "Who hates him more than we do?" and the shot changes to our first view of Sully, the man Mick stole from and played by James Woods. What a casting coup!
Episode 7, New Birthday, has Ray jet off to a cold Boston to track down the elusive Sully, real name Patrick Sullivan. Along the way he gets beaten up, meets Sully's foul mouthed old mother and spends a thoughtful drink with Gary, the ex-boyfriend of his dead sister Bridget, a tragedy that still haunts Ray. Sully finally agrees to a meet and James Woods is brilliant, giving that kind of edgy, turn on a sixpence performance he's capable of. Sully is convinced to come to Los Angeles to help kill Mick. Woods is a superb addition to the cast, which is already bursting at the seams with talent.
Meanwhile Mick Donovan (Jon Voight) is stalking Hollywood actor Sean Walker, the man who really killed Ray's girlfriend Colleen and which Sean, Ray and Ezra framed Mick for. It's not vengeance Mick is after however, but the chance to coerce the actor to buy his movie idea and become a player in the movie business. After his sinister entrance, Mick Donovan is becoming a more ambiguous figure, showing what appears to be genuine affection for Bunchy and having all manner of fanciful schemes. He's like a slightly psychotic child. The best moment of this episode featured Mick and his surrogate family (Bunchy, Daryll, Terry and Potato Pie) just hanging out at the Donovan boxing gym and watching old videos of Mohammed Ali. Also great is when Abby (Paula Malcomson) and Ezra's mistress Debra (Denise Crosby) get boozed up and end up shoplifting from Rodeo Drive, leading to Abby getting arrested and Debra laughing so much she pees herself!
The New Birthday of the episode title refers to Marvin, the promising rapper and beau to Ray's daughter Bridget, who was bought from his drug addicted mother by rapper Recon, with Ray's help. This week he finds out that his mother has been shot dead and bursts into the house to confront Ray. With Ray subsequently off to Boston, Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) ignores her dad's warning and goes to him, finds him celebrating his new birthday (bestowed by Recon) but ending up with the lad getting quite aggressive sexually. Bridget escapes, honour intact, but Ray finds out and storms over, bundles him into a car and drives off. Will we see Marvin again? Will Ray's inherent sense of right make him come to his senses before he does something he will regret or will the turmoil of his current problems lead him to kill Marvin? A cracking episode that balances the drama and comedy much better.
GK Rating: ****