Monday, July 6, 2015


Ray Donovan is back and Goddammit, it's darker than ever.

While everyone continues to sing the praises of the overbloated and (sometimes) full-of-itself "True Detective," I've been telling people about that other California neo-noir on premium cable Sunday nights (WATCH THE FIRST EPISODE OF SEASON 3 HERE).

Granted, the visions of the Golden State on 'Donovan' are more Cartier than K-Mart on the Showtime drama and, truth be told, it works. And why shouldn't it? If the grit and underbelly of California can work as a character on the bleak "True Detective," it can certainly do the opposite for the Rodeo Drive set.

For the cheap seats: The drama is set in sunny Los Angeles where brooding Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber), a tough and deeply-flawed South Boston transplant, is a fixer for the law firm of Goldman & Drexler and makes messy situations go away for the Hollywood-elite. Initially, Ray had to deal with the fallout of his own problems when his father, Mickey Donovan (Jon Voight), was unexpectedly sprung from jail. As a result, Ray's been teetering the line with FBI agents and the press who have been on him his associates for two seasons.


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Cold-cocked by betrayal twice - professionally by his mentor Ezra Goldman (Elliott Gould) and personally by his unfaithful wife Abby (Paula Malcomson), Ray harbors a bitterness he can't seem to shake at the start of season 3. After divorcing himself from anything that resembles closure, Ray finds neither solace in that bottomless bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue or the barfly he angrily pounds against the wall of his apartment. None of it seems to work. In fact, they may be making things worse.

He seems temporarily distracted when Andrew Finney (Ian McShane), a wealthy Los Angeles power broker, hires him to find his kidnaped son. Finding him is the easy part. The obstacle quickly becomes dealing with Finney's ambitious family, namely daughter Paige (Katie Holmes) who may be even more treacherous than her powerful poppa as they attempt to bring a football team to the city.

And what of Donovan patriarch Mickey (Emmy-nominated Jon Voight)? Last we saw TV's most charismatic snake, he won a boatload of cash at the racetrack. At the start of this season, he's holding court at a crummy condo complex he owns in which he's surrounded by low-level hookers (including new cast member and the almost-unrecognizable Fairuza Balk), pimps and various ne'er do wells. His dim-witted son Bunchy Donovan (Dash Mihok) is busy attempting to run his brother's boxing gym left vacant when Terry (Eddie Marsan) got pinched in a sloppy heist gone wrong with Mickey.

Admittedly, 'Ray Donovan' is one of my favorite summer shows and I'm relieved to see that this season isn't bringing the tired arc of yet another oddball lawman to the mix. This drama has always excelled when they concentrated on the creeps. Speaking of, I'm particularly excited to see what Golden Globe winner Ian McShane will bring to the table. After all, this is the guy who stole every scene as criminal Al Swearengen on HBO's 'Deadwood.'

It'll also be interesting to see how Ray adjusts to his darkness for season 3. As he attempts to go legit and become a power player himself, where will that leave the rest of the Donovan clan? Will Ray reconcile with his wife who seems to be unraveling post-infidelity? Will Mickey derail any plans that Ray has in store? Will Ray's two spoiled teenagers continue to go down that path of right and wrong? Will Ray ever reconcile with his right-hand man Avi and tough tech-savvy assistant Lena? I'm salivating at all the subplots in store.

While the masses continue to dissect every syllable and soliloquy on the still-ponderous and heavy-handed 'True Detective," the only enjoyable crime delight on Sunday nights continues to be the fast-moving 'Ray Donovan.' It's time a new anti-hero claim his throne...

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