TV Review: ‘Ray Donovan,’ Season 3

Ray Donovan Season 3 Review
Courtesy of Showtime

The noise-making guest stars essentially cancel each other out in the new season of “Ray Donovan,” with Ian McShane adding viperine class as a wealthy mogul out to commandeer the title character’s services, and Katie Holmes at best proving an irritant as said mogul’s daughter. The departure of showrunner Ann Biderman hasn’t yielded significant changes, as the story continues to dig its way out of the dark corners into which it traveled in its sophomore year. Yet while this Showtime series still has its strengths and charms, the Hollywood fixer looks like he could use a bit of a fix.

One of the hurdles facing the new season stems from the manner in which last year’s events fractured several key relationships. Not only did Liev Schreiber’s Ray acknowledge his own sexual abuse at the hands of a priest (which had taken a more overt toll on his brother), but he wound up estranged from his wife Abby (Paula Malcomson), who had been his emotional anchor, despite his affairs, moodiness and secretive nature. Indeed, while “Masters of Sex” gets the headlines on the sexual dysfunction front, “Ray Donovan” has explored the problem on its own grim terms.

Season two also left Ray severed from his professional associates. But his days as what amounts to a modern-day Ronin might not last long. That’s because his unique skills catch the eye of McShane’s Andrew Finney, a world-weary Master of the Universe who enlists him to recover his son, who has been kidnapped under suspicious circumstances. From there, Ray is recruited by Finney’s equally high-powered daughter, Paige (Holmes), although the actress seems more than anything to be impersonating a ‘40s femme fatale than actually playing one.

As usual, Ray’s ex-con dad Mickey (Jon Voight) steals much of the show, including his hilarious attempt to take over a prostitution racket. For Mickey, the sex trade is still back in the day of working street corners, and he’s shocked to hear one can pursue a favorite perversion via the Internet. Like, where’s the fun in that?

Similarly, the aforementioned Bunchy (Dash Mihok) is trying to run the family gym on his own, while third brother Terry (Eddie Marsan) is in prison, a byproduct of last season’s robbery gone wrong.

The series has never really been a terribly high-concept product, deriving much of its appeal from the noirish atmosphere and general corruption that surrounds Ray, whose attempts to maintain some moral compass in this line of work have been repeatedly tested, perhaps never more explicitly than in the deal-with-the-devil (or McShane’s version of it) this season sets up. Because Schreiber’s character is so brooding and emotionally clenched, though, the series heavily relies on its supporting players and guest stars, which is where the opening salvo feels relatively malnourished.

That’s likely not an irreparable problem. But in TV, as in Ray’s line of work, these situations seldom fix themselves – and getting out of them occasionally requires cracking a few heads.

TV Review: 'Ray Donovan,' Season 3

(Series; Showtime, Sun. July 12, 9 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Mark Gordon Co. and David Hollander Prods.

Crew

Executive producers, David Hollander, Mark Gordon, Bryan Zuriff; co-executive producer, Lou Fusaro; supervising producer, Colin Bucksey; producers, Liev Schreiber, John H. Radulovic, Jason Weinberg, Brett Johnson; director, Colin Bucksey; writer, Hollander; camera, Robert McLachlan; production designer, Ray Yamagata; editor, Lynne Willingham; music, Marcelo Zarvos; casting, John Papsidera. 60 MIN.

Cast

Liev Schreiber, Paula Malcomson, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Steven Bauer, Katherine Moennig, Pooch Hall, Kerris Dorsey, Devon Bagby, Jon Voight, Ian McShane, Katie Holmes

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  1. Joe Smith says:

    Season 1 of Donovan had some “thing” that after watching it, few shows ever could duplicate. Not since first few seasons of Sopranos it seems had a drama been this good. Season 1 was a film noir thriller with hard-hitting acting, sick photography or cinematography, you were wrapped up in ever episode.

    Season 2 was a pretty big step down, but Jon Voight’s acting saved the season in a way. Everything became more far fetched and seeing Mickey with the ankle bracelet… let’s just say season 1 left more to the imagination. The skinny white assistant of Ray’s was excellent, at the same time.

    Season 3 has had it’s bright spots, but overall was a disaster. in Episode 8 or 9, you see the short pudgy brother (forget his name)… in a supermarket, he starts dancing and singing while pushing a shopping cart buying groceries with Ray’s wife. A scene this ludacris should never have seen the light of day.
    I think Katie Holmes’ acting was actually very good. Bunchie and his Latina wife was a decent plot. And the giant powerful guy they added (Katie Holmes father) wasn’t bad either. Ray’s wife has become more annoying than ever. “Manny” from Scarface’s Russian accent is as unconvincing as Ray’s wife’s Boston accent

    But the real problem with Season 2 and much more-so in Season 3, is that viewers are no longer glued to their seats. In season 1, the fact that Ray was cheating was left unsaid. The crimes and punishments and violence was also largely “under the surface” and made you think. In Season 2 and 3, everything is now “out in the open” so not only is the writing and acting not as good as Season 1, the element of mystery and tension and it being a film noir thriller are ALSO gone.

    John Voight should have been killed off at the end of Season 1 but they obviously needed his admittedly great acting, so he marched obligingly into season’s 2 and 3.

    I just can’t think of one aspect of the show that was done better in Seasons 2 and 3: The themes of abuse were handled better, Ray’s violent genius criminal mind, his power and how much he is feared, John Voight’s scary good acting and slick way of speaking, Ray’s daughter’s black boyfriend subplot, cinematography, tension, atmosphere

  2. Zookeeper91326 says:

    I must say, the show this season is lacking the intensity and magnetism it once had. Katie Holmes adds nothing (so far), Micky’s character has become boring and predictable, and the gritty, INTERESTING cohorts of Ray have moved on…Why? The original Ray character needs to come back…this “wimpy Ray,” is not at all…well…sexy! I wonder…could these immature and uninteresting choices possibly be due to the departure of Ann Biderman? If so, Showtime needs to bring her back, before a complete downhill ratings spiral.

  3. Jo Carvill says:

    I still like the show. Wish Katie would get canned…over the cliff in the trunk was a great idea. Liev Schreiber is fantastic. His wife grates but that’s the way she’s written. Hope it gets another season. :)

  4. Zookeeper2day says:

    After waiting with great excitement for Ray Donovan to begin its third season, then after watching the first two episodes, I must say I am greatly disappointed. What happened??? New writers? The energy and suspense is gone. Boring and slow paced. I only pay for Showtime because of this show, and now I am thinking of canceling.

  5. Bking4@verizon.net says:

    Why is season 4 not on demand

  6. boston 1985 says:

    you people just dont get it.watch somethin else.i think its great.maybe you have to come from it to get it

  7. Sol says:

    hi, it’s great to see articles out there covering ray Donovan when I simply google it. It’s wonderful but I have to ask a question here. I mean most viewers out there are not in the media. I don’t know if articles like this sort of insinuate that the people riding and have already seen the entire season or not, but I just happily watch the premiere days before I thought it was supposed to come out. That was great that I checked on Showtime anytime and there it was. I watched it through Apple TV. But as I started reading this article I had to stop myself because it seems to me there is a lot of things that obviously I could guess that developing, but until I seen them they are kind of for lack of a better term, spoilers. I’m just not sure if this is what we should be reading about without a big disclaimer saying this actually contains info about stuff you haven’t seen yet. perhaps there should be both articles, those that only review the premiere and those that review the whole season. But its just like most people out there are not going to be able to see ray Donovan in its entirety right now so why should we be learning about the book before we read it so to say?

  8. coolshake says:

    At first it was the shock of recognition at seeing Katie Holmes, then it was appreciation for the way she plays the older daughter in a dysfunctional privileged family. I thought her disgust for her brother’s “victimization” while remaining loyal, as family, was brilliant, and she’s a key reason to look forward to the rest of Season 3.

  9. mj says:

    I’m a huge fan of Jon Voight but I can’t stand him in this. I wish they’d kill him off. Anyone who thinks they want to start a war should have to watch Coming Home over and over until they get it.

    In this he is such a buffoon and clown you wonder where Ray came from. You also wonder how he’s managed to live to old age. Someone would have surely killed him in real life.

    When he comes in I usually head to another room. It’s like he’s a different show than everyone else.

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