Ray finds himself in the media spotlight with Natalie James
Episode 509
Credit: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME
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For the first time all season, Abby’s death isn’t the central focus of Ray Donovan. Her presence is still very much noted and her death still reverberates within the family, causing Ray to go into an emotional tailspin, but there are signs that the show is now moving forward. Now that we understand everything about Abby’s death, Ray Donovan is back to dealing with the season’s other dangling plots, namely Sam Winslow’s consistent needs and Natalie James’ drama. If “needs” and “drama” sound like vague descriptors, it’s because the show hasn’t done much to flesh out why Ray is involved with these two and how their stories play into the season’s larger arc.

Before “Mister Lucky” shifts its focus to the meandering, rudderless stories of Sam Winslow and Natalie James, it begins with some rather effective emotional aftermath. After getting laid out by Ray in the bar, Terry gets up and attempts to give his brother the wake-up call he desperately needs. He chastises Ray for not giving Abby what she wanted and for letting her decision divide the family now that she’s gone. “You’re pushing us all away,” he says before leaving, and he’s right. Abby is gone and there’s no bringing her back. The question is: Will he let himself disappear along with her?

Ray doesn’t have long to muse on Terry’s admonitions though, because he has to get drunk and suppress all of his feelings. On top of that, he has Winslow calling him and asking him to — you guessed it — track down that box of evidence! Now her stepson George has it, she says. I have to say, for someone who desperately cares about the contents of this box, she sure does seem to lose it a lot.

Is this a sign that Ray Donovan doesn’t have any idea what kind of story it wants to tell with Winslow? I ask because I’m starting to feel like Brad Pitt in Se7en, just yelling about a damn box every single episode. Seriously, Susan Sarandon’s entire guest spot this season can be boiled down to “calls Ray for favors a lot, and then calls him for more.” There’s no sense of dramatic intrigue — no stakes whatsoever.

If there’s any sense of drama right now, it’s in the fact that Darryl killed Frank Barnes, the head of the FBI in Los Angeles. That should be a huge boon for this season, forcing the Donovans to scramble, but “Mister Lucky” can’t seem to capitalize on that shocking moment either. Instead of creating some tension, Mickey and Darryl get rid of the body and immediately shift gears, with Mickey recoiling at Mister Lucky, the bastardized version of his Four Leaf script. I know they’ll eventually have to reckon with the consequences, but as of now, their plot is missing that feeling of impending doom.

And really, isn’t that the case with so many of this season’s story lines? “Mister Lucky” is certainly an improvement over the season’s earliest episodes, largely because it finally starts to get the plot moving. Some of those moves aren’t all that interesting — I’m not too invested in Damon’s father coming back into the fold, and weeks of Natalie James just lying in bed and pouting haven’t done much for me either — but Bunchy and Dimebag make for a good comedy B-plot, and the reveal that Landry is perhaps going against Winslow at least points the story in a fresh direction. (Next: All Ray knows is death)

Getting back to the one story line that’s actually fun to watch, Bunchy’s search for his money isn’t going so well. He bails Dimebag out of prison, and the two quickly set about tracking down Freddy, who Dimebag believes will still have all the money. There are signs that this isn’t going to work out pretty much immediately though, as Dimebag and Bunchy wait inside Freddy’s home, wearing masks and smoking weed.

As it turns out, that’s not the best plan. Freddy’s wife comes home with her kid and they peg the intruder as Dimebag. Before long Freddy’s wife is laying into him for being stupid, saying that her husband is probably off with his “W-H-O-R-E.” Once Dimebag takes a few moments to spell that out in his head, he and Bunchy head out to try and find this woman — and hopefully the cash in the process.

Their search leads them to a trailer in the woods, and nothing good ever happens there. They find the cash, but more importantly, they find Freddy dead on the floor. Before they have a chance to make off with the cash, some guy in his underwear comes out of nowhere and starts shooting at them, forcing Bunchy and Dimebag to flee. Bunchy gets shot in the shoulder, but he’s the lucky one. Dimebag is dead, shot in the head, and Bunchy dumps his body on the side of the road before heading to the bar to get patched up.

The rest of the episode focuses on Ray, who suddenly finds himself thrust into the spotlight when Stalkerazzi tracks down Natalie James, their photographers snapping pictures of her with Ray. The two become public headlines, but Ray can’t focus on that right now. Instead, he’s once again tracking down Sam Winslow’s box of evidence.

It really doesn’t take him long to do so. He finds George at a sex club called The Fist and drags him back to his mother. But George says he doesn’t have the box — he gave it to Vicky Delgotti. So Ray tracks her down too. Somehow, all of this is interconnected. Vicky is mentioned as the source for the Stalkerazzi photographers finding Ray, and she’s apparently a hired hand of Landry’s. But what this all means for Winslow, Natalie James, and Ray Donovan, I’m not sure.

As the episode winds down, it’s unclear where Ray Donovan goes from here. Bridget comes home to find Mickey and Darryl on a coke-fueled orgy bender; Bunchy is shot and no closer to getting his money back; and most importantly, Natalie James is dead. When Ray comes home to his apartment, he finds the building buzzing with police officers. He sees Natalie’s husband dead on the pavement before ducking under the police tape and going up to his apartment, where he finds Natalie James naked in his bed, seemingly strangled to death.

Whether this sudden death acts as a kick in the pants for the final few episodes of this season is up for debate, but one thing is for sure: Ray Donovan is piling up the bodies, and at some point it’ll have to reckon with the consequences.

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