Ray Donovan recap: 'Michael'
As the fifth season of Ray Donovan approaches its end, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Abby’s death wasn’t just a tipping point for the Donovan family as a whole, but also a devastating moment that would send Ray off the deep end. Abby’s death is the instigator of so much more than just Ray getting in a fight with his brothers. It’s the instigator of a deeply felt anger toward just about everyone surrounding Ray. He seems to hate everybody. Nobody can pull him back from the brink, and by the end of “Michael,” he’s crossed a line that he potentially can’t uncross.
Abby’s specter haunts Ray as the episode begins. A surreal dream sequence sees Abby on an infomercial for a cooking product, and Ray, as one of the audience members, is called down to test out the hot plate. Abby tells him to put his hand on it, that you can do it without hurting yourself. Is this Abby warning him about how he’s inflicting his own wounds at this point by warring with his family? Perhaps. I mean, Terry comes out in a sad clown outfit later on in the dream, so there’s plenty of interpretation to go around.
Ray wakes up, and it’s only because Maureen — welcome back! — is doing everything she can to get him moving. She tells him that Bridget is in jail and that while she can keep her out of processing for a while, it won’t be long before she’s locked away. So, Ray heads to the prison and gets a quick visit in with his daughter, assuring her that he’ll do everything he can to get her out. Ray has done nothing but clean up one mess after another this season. “Call Ray” might be the line of dialogue most spoken throughout season five.
While Ray tries to formulate a plan to get Bridget out of prison, Darryl continues to freak out about his meeting with Jay White and the district attorney. “That D.A? He’s like a weird mother f—ing cat, but a scary one, you know?” He’s panicking, thinking that him and Mickey won’t get away with dumping the body. Mickey, on the other hand, is cool as a cucumber. He’s cooking breakfast and looking forward to his date later that night.
Many of the season’s storylines have felt isolated from one another, but “Michael” starts to bring everything together. This might be the best episode of the season, largely because of the way it interweaves nearly every single plot in order to create something substantial. This is a beautifully paced episode, far removed from the sluggish, often dull episodes that dominated so much of this season.
The frantic pace begins when Ray can’t convince Dr. Bernstein to drop the charges against Bridget. Ray immediately pivots and goes for his trump card: Frank Barnes. But the FBI agent isn’t answering his phone. That’s because, unbeknownst to Ray, Barnes is dead, killed by Darryl after he tried to arrest Mickey.
While Lena preps Bridget for what’s she going to experience during her processing and booking, Ray visits another FBI agent who’s apparently on his payroll. The agent, Kyle, initially says Frank is on assignment, but relents when Ray persists. He tells him that Barnes has been missing for few days now, and based on the timeline, Ray quickly determines that Mickey probably had something to do with it. (Recap continues on next page)
If there’s a storyline that doesn’t quite connect with everything else — excluding the brief scene we get with Teresa and Bunchy where she tells him she cheated on him during her tour — it’s Damon’s training and the emergence of his father back into the picture. I can’t say I hate the storyline by any means; in fact, there’s plenty of potential in the idea that Terry is latching onto Damon after Abby’s death and the dissolution of his marriage, feeling protective and in control where the rest of his life spins out of control.
Still, it all feels a little undercooked. There’s been no follow-up on Terry’s marriage — seriously, the show seemingly just threw that out the window after their fight — Damon has barely been present this season, and the lack of backstory for Damon and his father certainly hasn’t helped matters. Sure, it’s pretty cold for Terry to turn Damon’s father away and show no sympathy for his struggles, but let’s get more of that. Let’s understand Terry’s motivation and give Damon a voice in all this to make it more impactful.
But back to Ray and his quest to get Bridget out of prison. With the sense that his father had something to do with Frank Barnes disappearing all of a sudden, Ray confronts him. Mickey plays dumb, but all that gets him is a swift right hand from his son. When Mickey then calls Darryl to warn him about what Ray might know, Darryl starts to crack. He’s not made for this in the same way Mickey is. He may have killed Frank, a decision made in the heat of the moment, but he’s not prepared for the fallout.
Lucky for Darryl, Ray isn’t really looking to nail him, instead directing all his wrath toward his father. After he questions Darryl about what happened, and he tells Ray absolutely everything, Ray makes his move. He has one card to play now: He can give up Avi in exchange for Bridget’s release.
Ray meets Mickey at Abby’s later on, and the tension is incredibly palpable. The episode jumps between their conversation and the LAPD bringing up Barnes’ body from where it was dumped. It feels like something huge is coming, like everything is about to change. The crosscutting underscores just how important this scene is; it’s the culmination of the season’s simmering tension, and years of strife within the Donovan family.
After the body surfaces, everything goes to hell. Bridget gets out of prison, which is great, but that doesn’t fix any of Ray’s problems. He’s still the same stubborn, angry guy he was at the season’s beginning. When he tells Bridget that she doesn’t have to go back to New York to watch Smitty die because she barely knows him, she lays into him. She tells him that being by the side of someone you love as they die is what a decent person does, taking a shot at Ray’s refusal to let Abby go. “I blame you!” she screams.
Bridget is gone. She’s removed from Ray. And now, so is Mickey. Ray didn’t turn in Avi, but rather gave up his father, pinning Frank’s murder on him. A SWAT team storms the house and arrests Mickey. He uses his one prison phone call to talk to Ray. He says this is the last time Ray gets in his way, the last time he pulls the rug out from under him. “I’m going to get you, Raymond,” he says.
Mickey and Ray have always been at odds, and Ray has certainly tried to get rid of his father before. But now, he may finally have him trapped, unless Mickey once again finds the luck of the Irish and wiggles out of the murder of an FBI agent.