The Buzz: Dramatic Death Leads 'Ray Donovan' to New Direction

Spoilers Ahead***

“Yesterday, I thought everything was over. I thought we’d never be able to come home again. Now look, we’ve got a fresh start Ray. I told you everything would work out, didn’t I? Don’t you ever fucking doubt me again Ray Donovan. No one can touch us.” Ray Donovan got a fresh start with its Season 5 premiere this past Sunday on Showtime. But what about Abby Donovan? The aforementioned quote stated by the show’s leading lady was presented to us in the finale of Season 4, when all of the external forces that were collapsing all at once on the titular character, all too perfectly collapsed in the nick of time. A fresh start indeed. “No one can touch us.” And yet…they did.

The Season 5 premiere of "Ray Donovan" drops a huge bomb on its viewers, who learn that Abby Donovan (Paula Malcomson) died in the months between the Season 4 finale and Sunday’s premiere. As for how she died, there are a few possibilities that are alluded to. One involves a cancer diagnosis that Abby received last season. However, she claimed that it was going away and no harm would be done. Maybe it came back or maybe it never went away in the first place? A mention of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the season premiere leads me to believe it never went away. Another possibility involves a flashback shown during this season’s premiere that supposedly took place in between the two seasons. Ray and Abby are in the car, happy and reminiscing over their youth together, when a half-naked woman appears, causing them to crash. For all intents and purposes they seem to be all right, but beneath the surface, complications of the crash could have lead to Abby’s death. It’s also possible that a completely different and unknown third option lead to her demise. Regardless, the loss of Abby Donovan does in fact give the show and Ray a “fresh start.” Not, however, the fresh start she had intended.

Throughout its run, “Ray Donovan" has presented a consistent theme of its season finales presenting Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) with what seems to be “no-win” situations. All of the season’s central storylines come together in a manner that requires everything humanly possible to go right for Ray, for him to make it out okay. Whether it’s the FBI creeping up on his illegal activity, untrustworthy clientele pushing him into a perceived inescapable corner or internal family issues arising from his irresponsible father and disappointed wife and children. Yet by the end, with a few exceptions of some loose ends, Ray looks to be in shockingly good enough shape to persevere onto the next season. Season 4’s particularly “all too neatly” wrapped up finale concluded what I consider to be its weakest season. The dynamic created by killing off Malcomson’s Abby not only offsets the seemingly happy ending of Season 4, but leads “Ray Donovan” into an entirely new and potentially engaging direction in terms of both story and character.

Season 5 picks up with remaining immediate Donovan family members estranged. Ray is back in L.A, continuing to quietly solve the problems of the city’s rich and famous, particularly, newly introduced studio head Samantha Winslow (Susan Sarandon). He is also in court mandated anger management sessions for an unknown incident and he's the owner of a bar (all too obviously named Abby’s) losing money by the minute. Meanwhile, Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) is in New York and Conor (Devon Bagby) is away at school. What sets them apart in physical distance is contrasted by the grief that brings them all together following their tragedy. As for the rest of the Donovans, Mickey (Jon Voight) is currently staying with Ray in the mansion, working on his screenplay and apparently staying out of trouble. Bunchy (Dash Mihok) is training alongside his wife, Teresa, in an attempt to become a luchador and Terry (Eddie Marsan) is preparing to wed his fiancée Maureen (Tara Buck). The show’s writers continue to find ways to expand these supporting storylines. However, tendencies to be repetitive in terms of their seasonal arcs, as well as a consistent trend of becoming too slow during the middle of the season, could continue to prevent the show from being as good as people originally expected it to be. 

Liev Schreiber’s portrayal of the tough, calculated and brooding Hollywood fixer has been consistent for the most part. Ray tends to carry a cool, calm and collected demeanor when carrying out his business, which usually ends strategically with him having the upper hand. His moments of vulnerability generally have to do with anger he has toward those who have wronged him or his family. Not to mention, the show’s most emotional scene at the end of Season 3, which saw Ray finally confess to the childhood abuse he endured at the hands of his priest. What we haven’t really seen Ray endure up until this point is loss, and the loss of the most important person in his world certainly presents a deeper dynamic to his character that hopefully will inspire new life into the plateau the show has fallen into.

Season 5 of Ray Donovan airs Sundays, 9 P.M ET on Showtime.