Todd and Nicole Discuss the Season Finale of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan”

Hi friends!  Friend and known “Legal Eagle” Nicole Phillis and I are back to talk about the Season 4 finale of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.”

TODD: Well, Nicole, the “Ray Donovan” Season 4 finale delivered in all the convenient ways a fan would want, but without any clear picture for where it wants Season 5 to go. There was literally NO cliffhanger, which wouldn’t bother me so much save for the fact that this season was unusual tough on our characters, deserving of some pain and punishment for decisions made and moves that were in question. Let’s sum it all up and look at the outcome:

  • Sonia has returned to turn against Ray, but is killed by her uncle. She’s useless, save for the fact that her murder motivates Ray to screw over the Russian mob on their operation and the set Hector loose to win his championship fight … which I DO suppose is a big deal
  • Abby’s breast cancer is conveniently in remission
  • Father Romero reappears – which I’ve been asking for – but no one seems to care, rendering him somewhat of a non-factor. And his inability to turn both Ray and Hector back toward a Godly path also introduces us to the theme of the episode in my opinion – “self-idolatry.” After all, we’re introduced to lines like the following:
    • When Father Romero claims God has helped assuage Hector’s problems, Ray states defiantly, “He [Hector] called ME Father. And I solved his problem… not God.”
    • When Ray, after releasing Hector from his dive and encouraging him win the fight, meets up with him in the post-fight celebration. He asks Hector if he’ll confess to his sister’s murder and return to Father Romero’s tutelage, only to have Hector respond, “All I know is I was the one that knocked Archie Whitaker on his ass tonight… not God.” So we have a real FAITH problem going on as well as some serious self-worship.
  • When Terry finds out the fight is set to be fixed, he is at first mad at Ray for once again taking away his life’s chance at success and happiness. But when he learns why Ray fixed the fight, and what’s at stake for the family, Terry actually offers to help hamper Campos physically and ensure that he takes a dive

This leads to a bit of a 2nd theme of the night, which I’ll call, “Screw the FBI and the Russian Mob, the Donovan family can kick some ass and scheme with the best of them,” which they do, to almost flawless execution and success.  Consider:

  • Mickey and Bunchy seem completely unmoved that they have been called upon to assassinate Russian mob henchmen and render them useless in aiding Sonia’s Uncle in taking out the fight loss on Ray and his family
  • Avi gets his sweet revenge by beating and killing his Russian mob captors
  • FBI Agent Barnes is made to look both the fool and set up by Ray’s machinations to look like he stumbled upon and stymied the Russian mobs art forgery and drug smuggling ring

Oddly, and against both of our predictions, Teresa is nowhere to be found in the Finale. The seemingly only real “winner” of the night is Bridget, who in her self-reliant way managed to get into NYU and is off to college (from, apparently what looked like John Wayne Airport in Orange County). The look on her face is one of excitement and relief, but also perhaps concern for the family she’s leaving behind? I couldn’t quite tell. You?

Again as a fan I’m happy the Donovans once again pulled it off and survived, but it a critic I think it was all oh so convenient. And the lack of a cliffhanger of any kind seems to have me feeling the show is rudderless. But then again other seasons have been packaged up cleanly without the clearest of honest to goodness “cliffhangers,” so perhaps they have plenty in the tank for a Season 5. What are your thoughts?

NICOLE: I must say, this finale left me feeling satisfied but wary, almost searching for the drama to create continuity for Season 5.  This is, of course, as you note because there were very few “loose ends” unlike seasons past. Perhaps this season had additional finality because it wrapped before Season 5 was picked up, so the writers wanted to make sure that this was “Series Finale” acceptable if Ray Donovan was not renewed for Season 5.  Maybe, but who knows.  All things considered, I would not be surprised if Season 5 is our final season.

As for the Season 4 finale, I cannot say that it packed as much punch as slaughtering a lot of Armenian mobsters a la Season 3, but I liked it (albeit not quite as much as the other finales).  I was so pleased that Father Romero came back into the picture (mostly because this was both your wish and your prediction), although I agree he was generally inconsequential.  Father Romero appears to be playing almost a God figure himself, loving Ray and Hector unconditionally, appearing in their times of greatest need and anguish. Eternally hoping for them to follow the path to God, but never resenting them when they fail to do so.  I hope his character is developed further in Season 5, because he is an intriguing one.

One of my favorite scenes in the episode is when you see a clearly unwell and undone Sonia in the car with Ray, tears silently streaming down her face, knowing full well that she is going to meet her death.  This was really well done, and certainly a shock to no one when she showed up on the morgue.  Ray finally ditched his martyr/hero complex for femme fatales and walked out of Dmitry’s lair knowing full well that Sonia was going to die.  This was an interesting to me because it is a departure from Ray’s character in the past (Kate McPherson, Ashley Rucker).  Sonia’s character was much more akin to Paige Finney in Season 3 – less conventionally attractive, more powerful, more flawed, more dangerous to Ray.  And in the end, Ray was ruthless to her.

I was also surprised at the fact that, in no way did Mickey screw things up this episode.  It’s part of his character, and one of the most wrenching things about him (gets a half-cocked idea, runs with it, and then Ray needs to fix them).  That did not happen here.  Instead, you have a super competent Bunchy (huh??) and a laser focused Mickey (double huh???) go and slaughter a bunch of Russian thugs to see Ray’s plan through.  I still am forgetting why, entirely, those thugs had to die (I know it had to do with planting coke, etc. in the trunk), but we have yet to see why that actually matters.

As for Frank, blech.  Poor Frank cannot catch a break, although seeing him emasculated never gets old for me (maybe that’s my inner [and outer] feminist coming out).  I think Frank will continue to be a key play for Ray in the seasons to come, although the power imbalance seems to be growing narrower and narrower.  Likewise, I do not think we have seen the last of Ed Cochran, and I welcome his valiant return.

Bridget and Conor were inconsequential, per usual.  I did not perceive Bridget’s getting into NYU as significant as you apparently did, although that scene was beautifully acted (well done, Kerris Dorsey).  Abby appears to be growing into a true partner to Ray, which I love.  And Terry is also growing into his own strength.  I really did love the conclusion of the episode where you see Ray’s inner grit, which has been used so often to subvert, or at least at the expense of his family (e.g., the affairs on Abby, torpedoing Terry’s relationship with Frances, beating on Darryl when he first learns about him [oh man I still remember the staple fun scene]), actually being used to bring his family together and bring out the inner strength of each person.

Lastly, kudos to Hank Azaria AND Tatiana Maslany for their epic Emmy wins last night.  I could not think of better winners, and I am so glad Ray Donovan is getting the recognition it deserves.  Thankfully my television needs will soon be fulfilled with another season of Transparent (YAY!), but I still will be counting down the days until Ray’s valiant return.

TODD:  Oh, I think Bridget’s escape is especially telling, and important, especially if the show had not been renewed. It implies that maybe she makes it!! (Let’s hope she still does!)

It is a good observation about Ray – maybe he is done letting femme fatale’s slide. I hope so – I do agree he and “Abs” do seem stronger and closer. So here’s a question for season 5… why not let Abby shine?  I mean really take on an enterprise all her own, and thrive?!  I vote yes!

I also think it’s an astute observation of the symbolism that may suggest Father Romero represents God himself. Or at least a handsome, still viable “JC?”  J  I hope he returns and that he plays a role, whether as tragic failure OR significant healer.

Also – thinking a bit about Season 5 … is one ever REALLY done with the Russian Mob?  Perhaps we find others hot on the trail of what happened in Los Angeles looking for answers and discovering the deeds of the Donovan family?  It’s highly possible. But they would need to make it original, not just a retread. This means we need Ed Cochran back (Hank Azaria) working towards another Emmy and helping Ray and company keep other players in check. After all, a disgraced former FBI bureau director has nothing to lose!

Final thoughts – Season 5?  What do you think is coming?  What do you HOPE is coming?  For me, the wish list is:

  • More Hank Azaria unintentional comedy as disgraced FBI man turned fixer Ed Cochran
  • As I said, Abby goes big on her own, maybe even gains a little fame
  • Teresa and Bunchy find a comfortable medium, keep their family growing, and Teresa finds a way to manage depression and find joy
  • Terry becomes a go-to boxing trainer, sum-promoter, for the “scrappy” types like the kid who mugged him and who now, under his guidance, holds keys to the gym.

Oh, but who am I kidding… this is far too much optimism for Ray Donovan!  The final word is yours.

NICOLE: Ok, last word: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”  Season 5 I expect, among other things, Abby’s cancer to come back, with a vengeance.  Ray loves her even more now, and has become more vulnerable because he believes she is getting better, I have a strong suspicion that this is not the last we will hear of Abby Donovan’s cancer.

Also, Ray has a lot of unfinished business with Frank Barnes, and Frank has a LOT of shit on Ray.  This could be catastrophic.  I am talking Walter White, Breaking Bad series finale, bang, bang, bang catastrophic.

As for Bridge, I remain “Eh.”  She has been a tertiary character at best (although I did enjoy the storyline about the teacher tryst with Ken Cosgrove).  I think she may come back to LA when she knows her family is in trouble (unless they are legit writing her off the show, which would make sense why the scene with her going up the elevator was one of the best acted ones all series).  Perhaps the Bruins are calling little Bridge’s name, because I certainly do not see her going to USC.

We need to figure out if Teresa found her marbles and what the heck is going on with baby Maria in Pismo Beach.  I am hoping for a relatively quick turnaround on Season 5 (i.e., within a year), but who knows.  Maybe Angelina will make a guest appearance with Mickey in her newfound singledom to shake things up (I kid.)

But in all seriousness, here are my predictions:

  • Abby’s cancer comes back with a vengeance
  • Conor continues to be a tool
  • Terry gets married
  • Bunchy gets divorced (and keeps Baby Maria)
  • Ray finally learns how to reject the femme fatale (he ultimately got it right with Sonia, but man, what a cost)
  • Avi continues to save Ray’s butt and serve as his oracle (sidebar: have you seen Steven Bauer’s girlfriend in real life?)
  • Lena continues to break lady hearts and save Ray’s butt
  • Ray finishes things off with Frank Barnes once and for all (enter Hank Azaria/Ed Cochran, because he’s a fan favorite and he HATES Frank)
  • Mickey gets back together with Claudette
  • There are a lot of FBI/law enforcement strings to be tied up here.  How in the world is Frank going to explain this bust? What is he going to do with all Ray’s shit?  What is Ed Cochran going to do with himself now that he has knowingly double-crossed Ray?  Has anyone forgotten about the murder of Muncie?  Granted, that was LAPD but usually the murder of a cop does not just go away.

We saw the Texan this season as the Ghost of Christmas Future.  I hope that the writers treat Season 5 as a real test of that future, because Ray currently is living in a Nietzschean world of ubermensches, and it may just be high time to have him knocked down a notch or two.

In the interim, some great new shows for possible discussion:  Scream Queens (OMG, so kitschy, I die, season premiere TONIGHT), Transparent (I literally cry in the credits, season premiere 9/23), Law & Order: SVU (9/21), Madame Secretary (10/4), Mindy Project (10/4), and last but not least, Red Oaks (11/11).

See you on the flipside!

TODD: Ha!  Never trust the guy who owns the Website with any promises of a “last word” on the matter. No – I kid, but did want to say your predictions are good, albeit not a stretch where Conor is concerned.  J

Also, I just wanted to take a quick respond to your ideas for other shows to get into.

  • Scream Queens – heard from a friend that it was so bad that I never tried it
  • Transparent – Shame me now, for I haven’t seen it (it’s just a “there are too many shows!” thing. But if it’s getting these accolades, maybe I’ll read EVEN LESS THAN I DO and squeeze it in
  • Law & Order, SVU – Kill me again for saying this, but I don’t “do Law & Order.” ANY of them. I like lots of character development, not an entire case stuffed into an hour. Plus – isn’t this the one where kids are sexually abused?
  • Madam Secretary – Did most of season 1, but again – “too many shows” and I fell too far behind. Also – NO secretary of state could possibly spend THAT MUCH TIME actually in the U.S.
  • The Mindy Project – Watched all of the Fox years (I would watch for Morgan alone), but haven’t caught on Hulu. It WAS sort of getting too “Mindy and Danny” too. But she IS a genius. Fear not, I’m on the Mindy train
  • Red Oaks — ? Never heard of it. Do tell!  But you know — just in an email. Because …

… that’s a wrap, readers!  Thanks for making this latest visit to “Todd Flora’s America.”

1 Comment

  1. I’m glad the show is coming back. I got everything you said, but I forgot who Muncie was to me it’s a town in New York where my mom’s family once lived. Thanks so much for this blog!!

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