This week, RAY DONOVAN returns to the device that used to make it a little more unique than just a modern gangster story, opening with one of Ray’s classic, surreal dream sequences. The entire Donovan family attends a funeral at Father Romero’s church, which turns out to be Abby’s funeral. Ray is a little distracted though, as he finds himself like getting a hand on from Sonia Kovitsky.
Ray’s dreams were always very specific yet very obtuse, with no easy interpretation. Abby’s death is one of the few plot lines that didn’t appear in the Season 4 recap that started the episode, so this is a necessary reminder. Is the implication that Ray has to choose between his attraction to Sonia and his love for his family, or that his feelings for Sonia got him into this mess in the first place? The latter is technically true, as Abby said, if he had turned Sonia over as Dmitri requested, they wouldn’t be in this mess.
The mess, in brief, is that Ray and Sonia both owe Dmitri big time, after the death of his right hand man Belikov. Rays payback scheme revolves around a fixed fight between Hector Campos and a rival boxer, while Sonia tries to pacify him by agreeing to resume the smuggling operation at the gallery. Her plan has a problem, in that it was actually the brainchild of FBI agent Frank, who arrested both Sonia and Ray in order to force the tenuous sting operation. In other words, it’s not going to work, and Ray knows it.
Leaving Sonia in a deceptively cordial reunion with her Uncle, Ray visits Avi for his last consultation of the season. “[Frank] wants me to wear a wire,” Ray admits with an air of finality. But it’s not just about ratting out the Russians aka calling the adults to settle a fight between kids. Ray’s greatest fear is turning into his father, the man he hates (or used to hate) most in the world.
At home, Abby reveals that her latest MRI came back with good news – her cancer is responding to treatment. At the same time, Bridget gets the news she was accepted into NYU. We’re happy for them, but at the same time it feels more contrived than Frank’s sting: Ray has gained everything, but he may be about to lose it.
Hector seems positive about his chances against Whittaker as he boasts at the pre-fight press conference. His bravado is almost convincing, though the Russian henchman hovering in the crowd reminds him of his promise to Dmitri. At Fite Club, Damon worries that Hector has supplanted his place in Terry’s affection, but Terry surprises the youth by giving him a key, and a home. The move also impresses Terry’s police officer girlfriend, who hasn’t been terribly crucial this season, but is thrown in here nonetheless.
Speaking of characters coming out of the woodwork, Father Romero reappears (in the flesh) with a stern lecture for Ray. Hector has confused to everything and wants to win the fight for real, even if that means getting murdered by the Russians in retaliation. Romero and Ray’s relationship was always one of the more interesting aspects of previous Ray Donovan seasons, and it has definitely been missed here. Romero stands in a shaft of light while Ray sits in shadow, pointing out the fact that Hector came to Ray, not God, in his hour of need. Ray’s hubris echoes a conversation he had with Avi, but in a twisted way. Avi prayed for deliverance from the Russians and God sent Ray. In other words, he’s doing what he was born to do.
Per Abby, Mickey goes on a quest to sell the “Girl with Guitar” painting that Sonia gave Ray for Bridget’s birthday, a quest which can only end in tears, right?
The tears start pretty quickly actually. First, Terry finds out that Ray is forcing Hector to throw the fight (thank you Bunchie), and realizes that his whole reinvention, his plans for Fite Club after the match, will be based on a lie. Next, Ray has a sobering call from Lena and visit to the morgue: Sonia is dead. Back at home, Ray finally comes clean (again) to Abby about how desperate their situation is. The choices are limited, death, prison, or witness protection in Idaho (a fate worse than death).
One of the greatest things about this season is that Mickey continuously bumbles his way into salvation. He returns to the Donovan home with the painting, and some news. It’s not “Girl with Guitar,” it’s girl with guitar and a whole lot of cocaine.
After all the intrigue and complexity of this season, the solution is surprisingly simple. The Donovan’s divide and conquer, with Avi and Darryl taking out Dmitri, Ray and Lena taking out his Belikov replacement and Mikey and Bunchie shooting up some henchmen at Dmitri’s mansion. Hector wins the fight and thanks Ray for setting his debts.
“No one can touch us,” Abby says, and it feels like an invitation for a shot in the dark, or for a character to suddenly fall down in spasms. Surprisingly, none of that happens. A happy ending seems an odd choice to bring audiences back for the next season, but there’s no argument that the Donovan’s have earned it.
Season 4, Episode 12 (S04E12)
Ray Donovan airs Sundays at 9PM on Showtime
Heather is a fan of all stories that reflect life, but it doesn’t hurt if they’re set on another planet or in another time.
Heather West | Contributor