Ray Donovan isn’t a happy show. Ray Donovan isn’t a happy man. In fact, just about everyone on this show is completely devoid of happiness. Even Mickey, perpetual dancer and off-color joke maker, doesn’t have a whole lot of happiness in his life outside of buying a new grill. The season 3 premiere, “The Kalamazoo,” wallows in sadness—just look at the way the Donovan home is shot, all shadows and barely any light coming in—letting us know that Ray’s life is in complete shambles, perhaps more than ever before.
Gone is the charismatic, albeit violent and emotionally distant, Ray Donovan. He’s a shell of his former self in the premiere, working lower-level jobs like freeing men from precarious situations involving glory holes (seriously) and having sex with vulnerable strangers he takes home from bowling alley bars.
Ray’s adrift after the death of Globe reporter Kate McPherson, but more than that he’s adrift because he believes his closest friends betrayed him. Ray believes that Avi and Ezra have gone against his best wishes in killing Kate, unable to see how she could have put him in prison for a long time.
Ray’s despondency only gets worse when he finds out that Ezra has died. When he shows up to the funeral, having not spoken to Ezra in months, Deb ridicules him for his absence. Ezra always treated Ray like his son, taking him under his wing and crafting him into the man he is. Ray abandoned him in his final moments and Deb won’t stand for that, so she asks him to leave the funeral.
Ray obliges, leaving the funeral with nowhere to go, despite Abby’s pleas for him to come home. Instead he goes to his office, lashes out at Avi and then goes back to wandering the streets. It’s there that he’s confronted by a driver working for a man named Andrew Finney (Ian McShane). Finney wants to meet with Donovan about a potential job.
It turns out that Finney is someone of notoriety and his son has been kidnapped. The kidnappers have asked for $5 million, which is fine for Finney but not so much for his daughter (Katie Holmes). She thinks her brother is in on this, looking to get the money for himself. It seems as if Finney thinks that too, but more than anything he wants his son back. Ray, after mumbling a few words, agrees to take on the job.
Ray isn’t the only one taking on new roles and meeting new people. Bunchy is running the Fite Club and dabbling in online dating. He may not get a lot of messages, but he’s trying, and that’s a step forward for Bunchy. Despite such renewed confidence, he’s scared to confront some Luchadores who haven’t been paying their membership to use the gym.
Luckily, Bunchy has a slightly-drunk Abby at his side. She confronts the Luchadores’ manager for him, getting a credit card from the man after employing some classic intimidation she probably picked up from her husband. Never mind that the card is later declined: For now, Abby is a badass and Bunchy is in charge. Let’s give them a win for the time being.
NEXT: Burgers and Xanax[pagebreak]
Mickey seems to be doing all right as well. He’s living in an apartment complex where he’s grown especially attached to a little girl named Audrey. He sits by the pool with her and watches her song and dance routines. Mickey, despite his flaws, has always been charming and surprisingly caring, and it’s clear that he’d do a lot to protect Audrey, and by extension her mother.
Her mother is a prostitute working for a trailer trash man ironically named Gary Royal. It’s clear that Gary abuses her and works her nonstop, and that’s something that Mickey just can’t put up with. He’s a moral murderer, you see?
Before Mickey can take care of Gary though, he has to buy the apartment complex a brand new grill. The Kalamazoo (with 55,000 BTUs!) is an absolute hit and Mickey wants to throw a party. “Burgers and steaks on me,” he says, “but bring salads and shit”; typical Mickey, having to be the life of the party and savior to all those around him.
At least he’s not messing up the lives of his family for once. Instead, he’s set on taking out Gary. He gets a bottle of Xanax from Audrey’s mother and crushes them up before putting them into Gary’s burger. He passes out later that night by the pool, and Mickey gives him a little nudge into the water and drowns him.
At that moment Gary’s phone rings and Mickey, never one to let an opportunity pass him by, picks it up and introduces himself. We have no idea who’s on the other line, but I’d say there’s a good chance that it’s someone who will lead Mickey down a less than lawful path this season.
With one Donovan-induced death out of the way, it’s Ray’s turn—after all, he’s described as “discreet and not afraid of violence,” so it’s only a matter of time before he knocks someone off. He shows up at an abandoned warehouse, where all criminals do their business, and rather than just hand over the $5 million as Finney asked him to, he kills one of the kidnappers and chases the other one off.
There’s a great visual during this scene, where the camera pulls back for a long shot, leaving Ray in the distance, his silhouette against the bright window raising an arm and shooting the kidnapper, who’s own silhouette quickly drops to the floor.
With the kidnappers taken care of, Ray sets Finney’s son straight with a story. His friend Nick kidnapped him, changed his mind, then was shot by the kidnappers he collaborated with. Finney’s son then got free and killed one of the men while the other got away with the money.
That means that Ray returns Finney’s son as promised, and that Finney keeps his money, all while his son is painted as some sort of courageous hero. That’s how Ray Donovan secures business: He goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Still, Ray has demons lurking. When he sees Finney hugging his son, not caring whether or not he was involved in the kidnapping and just wanting to comfort him, it stirs something in Ray. He’s never really been there for his own family, always solving other people’s problems while ignoring his own.
Ray may have done the job right, but his life is still a mess. Really though, when isn’t it a mess? With Finney’s son back in his father’s arms, Ray stands on the edge of the pool, drink in hand and blood on his shirt, a look of hopelessness on his face. Ray Donovan isn’t a happy show. Ray Donovan isn’t a happy man.