'Ray Donovan' Review: Dark Tale of Dysfunction at the Highest Level
'Ray Donovan' Review: Dark Tale of Dysfunction at the Highest Level
Carla Day
Carla Day
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Get ready to rumble! Showtime is launching their new show, Ray Donovan, which stars Liev Schreiber as Los Angeles' best fixer in the titular role tonight after Dexter's final season premiere. Ray's life gets much more complicated when his father, Mickey (Jon Voight), gets out of prison early and heads to LA to be reunited with his family.

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Showtime has never shied away from troubled characters or families. This is the premium cable channel that brought viewers the Gallaghers on Shameless, a serial killer on Dexter, and a certifiably crazy CIA agent and a cheating American traitor on Homeland.

Ray Donovan fits well within that group of shows. In a face-off between the Gallaghers and the Donovans, I'm not sure which family would win the "Most Screwed Up" award. Both families are messed up though while Frank is weak and not capable of providing for his family, Ray is fierce and supports his.

Ray is a fixer who works primarily for his long-time mentor Ezra Goldman (Elliott Gould) and his law partner, Lee Drexler (Peter Jacobson). When a sports star wakes up next to a dead girl, Ray's there to make it go away. And, not only does he protect the client, he uses the poor dead girl as a beard for a gay movie star with a huge film opening.

Ray may be a fixer, but it's other people's problems that he's able to resolve seamlessly. His family is dysfunctional and with his father's return it's only going to get worse. Ray is filled with anger and his job allows him to transfer that to others by breaking their hands or bashing them with a bat. Though, that doesn't fix the underlying problems that he faces.

The premiere is overloaded with character introductions and unless you pay close attention it's easy to get confused by the various back stories. Ray has two brothers, Bunchy and Terry, who he feels responsible for helping. He also had a sister who committed suicide. Her death continues to haunt her three brothers.

Bunchy (Dash Mihok) was sexually molested by a Catholic priest and continues to struggle with that years later. He struggles with both alcohol and drugs. His support group isn't enough to help him and Mickey's return only makes matters worse for him.

Terry (Eddie Marsan) is a former boxer. He has Parkinson's that has been attributed to his boxing career. He receives medical treatment and helps train new boxers at Donovan's Fite Club.

Ray is adamant that Mickey stay away from his family due to his troubled past. It's unclear what happened between the father and son, but there's something fishy about how Mickey ended up in prison. Though, his first action after being freed shows that perhaps he should have been kept locked up.

Mickey is the epitome of a creepy old man (who likes butts). He appears to have a secret agenda though. Does he really love his family? Or, is he just using them to exact his revenge on Ray, Ezra, and the others who helped put him away. Either way, he's a corrupting force for his sons and a danger to his entire family.

Ray Donovan is a dark, twisted story. Even the marriage between Ray and his wife, Abby (Paula Malcolmson), is troubled. In fact, they may have the most dysfunctional marriage on television. As a good looking man, Ray, is tempted to stray and doesn't have the strength to say no to an attractive woman. 

With a husband that works too much and strays, Abby makes decisions that are stupid and could put their entire family at risk. She acts recklessly in her quest to hurt Ray. Her actions are difficult to watch play out, especially with the knowledge of the truth.

In a episode, Abby tells her husband, "You're sick Ray. You have a hole in your heart." And, while that may be true, he's certainly not the only one in that family or in the show's world to which that phrase could refer.

Ray Donovan is not an uplifting tale. In the premiere, it's nearly impossible to find an endearing character, except perhaps the Donovan kids, Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) and Conor (Devon Bagby). The characters are just so unsympathetic. Despite that, I wanted to watch additional episodes and find out more about the Donovans, their history, and how they got to where they are now.

After seeing the first four hours of Ray Donovan, most of the characters remain unlikable, but they each have their moments where their true hearts are exposed. Ray is tough, dangerous to cross, and violent. Though, he has a few truly shocking moments where he shows he does care and has a big heart.

Will you be watching the Ray Donovan premiere? Did you watch it? Love it or hate it?

Ray Donovan airs on Sundays at 10 pm ET on SHO.

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(Image and video courtesy of SHO.)

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