Binge Watchin' TV Review: Ray Donovan
Welcome to Binge Watchin,’ where we take a look at some of the best TV shows available on streaming or disc that have a great catalogue of seasons to jump into and get sucked into the beautiful bliss of binge watching! From crime, action, comedy, drama, animation, etc., we’ll be evaluating an assortment of shows that will hopefully serve as a gateway to your next binge experience.
Series: Ray Donovan
Number of Seasons: 3 (and counting)
Where to watch: Showtime, TMN Canada, Amazon on Demand, iTunes
What’s the show about? : Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) is a well-connected Hollywood fixer. A tough-guy seemingly without a moral compass, he’s a man who’s on the speed dial of every misbehaving power-player in town. While ruthless in his work, he has a soft-spot for his family, including his tough Southie wife Ann (Paula Malcomson), kids Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) and Conor (Devon Bagby) and brothers Bunchy (Dash Mihok) and Terry (Eddie Marsan). One family member not included is his estranged father Mickey (Jon Voight) who consistently comes up with harebrained schemes (mostly involving drugs and prostitutes) that put his family in danger and jeopardize Ray’s life and freedom.
Why should I watch?: For me, Ray Donovan has only recently became a must-watch show. While I’ve liked it since the beginning, for the first two seasons it was one of those series that I consistently enjoyed but never hung on the edge of my seat for the next week’s episode to pick up the story. For me, it was a Homeland-style show rather than a Breaking Bad or a Fargo (which has just returned incidentally). However, that changed this season with a tremendous uptick in the storytelling and cliffhangers, with a finale that might have stretched believability, but also gave star Liev Schreiber some powerhouse acting moments. It's no wonder that his career has been heating up so much over the last year, to the point that an Emmy nod seems like a distinct possibility, especially now that Jon Hamm is finally out of contention.
However, if you’ve yet to dive into Ray Donovan, even the earlier episodes are well-worth your time. Right from the start Schreiber owned every scene as the tough-talking, immaculately dressed fixer (I’d wager the Ray Donovan-look has been one of the most oft-imitated guy fashion statements since the days of Don Johnson on Miami Vice). While the intellectual Schreiber wouldn’t seem a natural fit for a role like this, looking at the show now you’d think It was tailor-made for how well the role suits him. Jon Voight is just as-good as his coke-addled, gangster-dad, Eddie Marsan is full-on method perfection as the tough, Parkinson’s afflicted Terry, and Dash Minok is terrific as the sensitive, damaged younger brother Bunchy. Pooch Hall is similarly effective as their black half-brother, Daryll, who often winds up screwed by Mickey’s schemes, which usually involve him taking a vicious beating or getting his newest car repossessed by people Mick owes money to.
Arguably the best of all of them is Deadwood’s Paula Malcomson as Ray’s tough-wife Abby. Kind and sensitive, the Northern Irish Malcomson (who expertly essays a South-Boston accent) also gives her a lot of grit. She may allow Ray to philander, but she’s no shrinking violet, and often she winds up being the only one who can keep the family in-check when Ray’s labyrinthine plots comes to a head. Also worth mentioning are Katherine Moennig and Steven Bauer as Ray’s assistants. Moening is sharp-witted, like her boss; while Bauer’s Avi is hard-core, ex-Mossad muscle, who often comes in handy when bad (or not-so-bad) guys need to be put-away.
Best Season: Without a doubt, the latest season, the third, is the best the show has ever been. Not only does Schreiber have some incredible scenes, but Eddie Marsan’s Terry gets some much-deserved character development, as he becomes a marked man in prison (after some Aryan thugs make the mistake of misjudging his handicap for weakness) and later starts to fall in-love (in an respectful, un-requited way) with Abby. Ian McShane also feels like an inspired addition to the show as Ray’s new boss/nemesis, while Katie Holmes is effective as his braces-wearing, Machiavellian daughter. This is the season that – for me anyways – has made Ray Donovan one of the best shows on TV.
Final Thoughts: Being in its stride and now riding an all-time high of popularity (it’s nearly tied with Homeland as far as Showtime’s most popular shows go), Ray Donovan will likely be around at least another two seasons, and hopefully the quality will remain high. This is a very easy show to watch, in that it’s good, action-packed fun, but it also has heart-and-soul that makes it more than just disposable entertainment. Basically, it’s what a fun cable show should be.