Ray Donovan recap: Ray is back to cleaning up everybody's problems
Considering that this week's Ray Donovan is the second part of a two-part premiere, it feels a little strange to get plopped down in the immediate aftermath of last week's final scene, with Anita Novak having killed the man who was filming her while they were having sex. It feels strange because the events in "Staten Island Part Two" feel necessarily of a piece with the premiere, and that means we've been waiting a whole week for the very beginnings of this story to get started. It's a bit of a drawn-out way to start the season. By the end of the episode, things are just getting started for Ray and the rest of the Donovans, and that means the season is off to a bit of a sluggish start.
Like I said though, "Staten Island Part Two" immediately puts us back in the apartment where Novak has just murdered someone. Ray shows up and hears her out as she pleads with him to do something. Ray looks exhausted. It's not just the drinking and the fact that he's been taking a few beatings lately, but he can also see himself being swallowed back up by the life he tried to leave behind. As Novak gets desperate, Ray steps out to call Winslow (played by Susan Sarandon). He tells her what's happened, scolds her for giving Novak the man's name and address, and after telling her this isn't the job he agreed to, decides to do it anyways. Ray heads out to pick up some reliable cover-up supplies and tells Novak to sit tight for a while.
Before moving that story along, the episode checks in with Bridget. She's hanging out with Smitty at his apartment, living that idyllic life of smoking weed and reading books. It's the life she could have forever, as Smitty proposes to her after going into a lot of detail about how she saved his life and how much he loves her. Bridget freaks out, yells at him, and it looks like they're headed towards disaster. Eventually, though, Smitty calms her down and Bridget explains herself. She says that all the men she's ever known have been bad people (which is very true), and while Smitty resents being compared to them, he understands. He says they don't have to get married, that he's just happy with her, but Bridget ends up accepting the proposal anyway.
While Bunchy learns about Mickey having a heart attack and Darryl attempts to woo a Hollywood star to work on his blaxploitation film, Ray goes shopping. He finds a hardware store and loads up his cart with the goods. "What are you doing, cutting up a body?" says the store clerk, and it's hard to blame him; those are very specific tools being purchased late at night. Ray ends up leaving without the merchandise though, as he gets a call from Mac. He's in a panic, saying The New York Times has the racial profiling story now. He asks Ray to help him fix it, and once again Ray has somebody else's problems to worry about.
While the events that comprise the two-part premiere would have worked better as a single episode, one of the more interesting aspects here is how reluctant Ray is to get back into this life, and also how easy it is for him to do it. He's clearly exhausted by the prospect of this work, and you can see the impatience on his face as Novak opens up about her life, her ambitions, and the pressure she's been under. Ray's job involves listening to a lot of privileged people who love to talk, and you sense that, more than anything, he just doesn't want to deal with the problems of these specific people anymore. But, once he agrees to help Winslow out, it's like flipping a switch. He becomes commanding and forceful, back to his old self in no time. (Recap continues on next page)
Ray meets up with Mac in order to come up with a plan, and finally, we get more of the story about that night. Basically, Mac had been following the Samoan for some time because he'd been called out on numerous domestics, but no charges would stick because the wife was scared (at least that's what Mac says). So, he decided to tail him, plant drugs on him, and then drive him out to Staten Island because that district's judges would deliver a harsher sentence. Bad guy or not, it's still a dirty play from Mac. But Ray sees an opportunity here. He tells Mac to get him an unmarked gun and a ton of cocaine from the station's evidence lockup, and then he'll worry about the rest.
While Bunchy is the only Donovan to make it to Mickey's side (and is forced to share some awkward conversation with the guard in charge of monitoring Mickey in the hospital), Ray sets about covering up Novak's murder. He deletes the file off the phone, and then he makes a call to the Samoan. He apologizes for everything and says he's not only willing to confirm his story to The New York Times but will also give him the money offered previously. So, the Samoan shows up at the apartment to collect, and that's it for him. Ray shoots him in the head and then plants the gun and cocaine on the scene. He tells Mac to call it in with a friendly cop, and sure enough, Mac's problem is gone and Novak is off the hook. All of this just looks like a drug deal gone wrong.
Back at the hospital, it turns out Mickey isn't as bad as he's letting on. He's been faking being unconscious for some time, so when the guard goes to the washroom, Mickey urges Bunchy to break him out. Bunchy, because of what he's been through and because he's a complete dolt most of the time, gets himself back involved with his father. He goes across the street, buys a hammer, and then knocks the guard out with it. He frees Mickey and the two of them are on the run, just as Darryl and Conor show up at the hospital to find an empty room and a guard who's nearly dead.
And what does Darryl do? He calls Ray because that's what everybody does. Nobody else can handle their own problems. This one though, Ray doesn't give a damn. He's been done with Mickey for a while now, so he has no interest in tracking him down, even though Darryl is freaking out about how Mickey's going to come to kill him.
As the episode winds down it's clear that Ray is fully back on board as a fixer. After Winslow explains why she needs Novak as mayor — the short of it is that she's purchased a massive streaming service akin to Netflix, and her bid to purchase some public land where she can store servers and such was blocked by the current mayor — Ray agrees to work for her for the next little while. He'll get $100,000 a week up until the election, and then double after that. That's tough to turn down, so Ray doesn't. In other words, the two-part premiere gets Ray right back to where he was last season, which is the last place he wants to be, and seemingly the only place he's destined to be.