It wasn’t that long ago that Ray Donovan seemed to have everything going for him. Sure, his personal life was falling apart, but business was good! Even when he had to work security for Finney, things were okay. Now everything is falling apart and the question of Varick’s “disappearance” is looming large.
That’s especially true this week, as “Poker” largely focuses on the threat that Cochran poses to Ray. Last week he found the fire poker that was used to kill Varick, and he started to put all the pieces together. The question was: What would Cochran do with his newfound leverage?
The answer: use it to blackmail Finney into helping him put Ray away for Varick’s murder. Of course Ray didn’t murder Varick, but Cochran isn’t exactly looking for fair and balanced justice. He has more than enough reason to go after Ray though; he’ll frame him for this murder as a stand-in for every other one he’s committed.
When Cochran reports the whereabouts of the body narrowed down to a two-mile radius, it gives Ray a bit of a head start on covering his tracks. He tells Avi that he needs him to move the body — “I knew you were going to say that,” he replies — and as quickly as possible. They have a head start, but it won’t be long before the cops find the exact location and start digging.
With that part of Cochran’s plan in motion, Finney begins his own. While he initially tries to bribe Cochran to just let this thing die, he eventually agrees to work up a story that implicates Ray in the murder. Finney goes to the police and says that he invited Ray over to discuss a settlement package with Varick, only to then find Ray standing over Varick’s dead body with a fire poker in his hand.
Of course it’s a bogus story, but Finney’s a man with some sway, so there’s inherent credibility to his story. All that’s left then is for Paige to corroborate her father’s story and everything will work out. Ray will go to prison for Varick’s murder and Paige will either get her NFL team or control over how that money is reinvested.
While Ray is busy dealing with Cochran’s attempt to have him locked up, Mickey’s busy throwing himself a party. If Ray wants him to leave town, he’s at least going to have a BBQ with his family before he takes off. Most of the Donovans make it out, including newlyweds Bunchy and Teresa, and even C-Money, but there’s no way Ray is swinging by to see his father.
At least that’s what he thinks. His hand is forced when Mickey comes up with a plan that’ll allow him to stay with his family. He tells Bunchy, Darryl, Teresa, and C-Money that he has Alzheimer’s and shows them the letter he got from the lawyer. He then tells them that the reason he’s leaving town is to go to a home so that he doesn’t have to be a burden to his family.
Of course, the family is devastated and can’t believe that Mickey would leave. Mickey goes even further and says that while he’d love to stay, he’s scared of what Ray, as his legal guardian, will do to him. He puts on his best vulnerable face and tells them he’s scared that Ray will put him in a home.
The Donovans aren’t having any of that, so they call Ray and tell him that Mickey can stay. Ray gets on the phone with Mickey and tells him he better leave town, but there’s not much he can do. He either gets his father to leave and ends up looking like a selfish son, or he admits to lying about the Alzheimer’s. There’s no winning for Ray Donovan.
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At least Ray is on the right track when it comes to covering up Varick’s death. When the police come to search his apartment looking for the fire poker that was used to kill Varick, Ray manages to remove it from his air duct just in time. He throws it out the window to Lena, who’s waiting below on her motorcycle.
With no more murder weapon in his possession, all that’s really left for Cochran then is to have Paige’s testimony implicate Ray. It’s his and Finney’s last chance at pinning this murder on Ray. For a while Paige is ready to go along with the story, but when Ray confronts her and tells her what really happened, she sees how her father is just using her.
Thus, when she goes to the police to give her statement she tells them that her father killed Varick and that the two were having an affair. Her dirty laundry is finally out in the open, but as Ray assures her, they can probably still get the NFL deal done with a little charm and force.
More than that, Ray gives her a way to nail her father for everything he’s done, thus giving her control of the company. He says he has the body and the weapon and they can easily frame — is it still “framing” if he really did commit the crime? — Finney for the murder. They put the body and poker in a dumpster outside Finney’s house and set it on fire just after they call the cops. By the episode’s end the cops are on their way to the house and Paige is ready to take control of the business. Cochran has been dealt with, his plan foiled once again by Ray.
Things aren’t exactly looking up for Ray though. His home life is still in shambles, especially as Abby and Terry grow closer, as the two share a kiss in “Poker” and take equal responsibility in working to control Bridget’s behavior. Then, of course, there’s Mickey. Ray confronts him at the end of the episode and tells him once again to leave town. However, Mickey has the upper hand now, so he’s not going anywhere.
In some ways then, Ray Donovan turns back into its old self with “Poker.” Ray is once again at odds with Mickey in a very real, meaningful way, and that’s sure to drive the narrative for the last two episodes. And of course there’s Ray’s continually crumbling domestic life and his loose grip on every relationship around him.
This has been a season of contrived and often dull conflict, but by embracing the type of tension that made its first two seasons fun, “Poker” suggests there’s still some life in Ray Donovan.