The Donovans just might be a tight family again
If there was one thing that this season of Ray Donovan was about, it’s the idea that it’s very, very difficult to escape your past. Ray moved to New York after Abby’s death, but that new start didn’t mean anything in the long run. He ended up back working with Winslow, once again killing people for the benefit of others, all while remaining isolated from his family. There seemed to be no way back for Ray, but when the corrupt cops within the NYPD kidnapped Bridget, something in him changed. Suddenly, he realized that escaping his family wasn’t the answer. Yeah, the Donovans are a complete mess, but they need Ray and Ray needs them. It’s a twisted relationship, but it works.
The season six finale, “The Dead,” is in many ways about the Donovans finding their way back to one another. Abby’s death left them splintered and wandering, Ray especially, but the events of this season brought them back into each other’s lives in a way that cemented their bond. At the top of the episode, Sandy sits on the front porch of her home, smoking a cigarette and covered in blood. Thus begins one long tracking shot, where we take in the aftermath of what these people have been through. While Mickey and Daryll dig graves for the three cops they killed, Smitty appears panicked. He’s not a Donovan, so he’s not used to this. He heads into the garage to try to lend a hand, but when he sees Sandy using a chainsaw to cut off Radulovic’s head, he vomits. So, Bridget has to step in, and I’m left trying not to ask why she’s suddenly okay with all of this after weeks of telling her father that she needed to escape this life. I mean, she’s making sandwiches for everybody!
Bridget’s shaky motivations aside, “The Dead” is a solid finale, one that takes the Donovan family and moves them into new, interesting spaces. It’s more emotional than most episodes, and that begins with Ray calling his father and asking him if he truly loved their mother. Mickey goes on and on about how much he loved her, and how he was nothing compared to her, but he balks at Ray’s insistence that he was never there for them. They have different perspectives, and that will influence so much of what happens in this episode.
With the bodies being buried, all that’s left for Ray to do is tidy up things with Winslow and Feratti. He heads to a visitation for Justine first, where nobody is in attendance other than Lena, who is waiting out in the car, not wanting to see Ray. Once he pays his respects, he heads to Winslow’s place. He’s welcomed in, but he’s not there for any cheery conversation. He knocks out Vinny in the elevator, and the black latex gloves he’s wearing suggests he’s here to kill Winslow. She tries to manipulate him, telling him she can get him anything his heart desires. He leaves the apartment and we’re left wondering what happened until the end of the episode reveals Winslow hanging from her ceiling, a bed sheet around her neck. Like I said, Ray can’t escape the violence.
While Terry shows up at Sandy’s to try to convince Mickey to turn himself into the FBI and save Bunchy, Ray proceeds to his last loose end. He makes his way into the bowling alley that Feratti uses as his home base, taking down the guards and drawing a gun on the mayor. Ray’s surrounded though, and there’s no way he’s killing Feratti and getting out alive. The mayor, truthfully for once, tells Ray he had nothing to do with Bridget being kidnapped, and that he’s more than happy to make a deal to let “bygones be bygones.” With few other options, Ray leaves the alley and goes to Novak’s office, where the media is gathered. He tells the truth about everything except the audio tape, that he was hired by Winslow to derail Feratti’s campaign and turn the election towards Novak. Seemingly, Ray is in the clear now, with Winslow dead and Feratti off his back.
Because burying bodies is super romantic, Smitty decides the best way to deal with his anxiety is by marrying Bridget. They convince Terry to be their witness and head to City Hall, quickly getting married and then heading back to Sandy’s, where everyone else is sleeping off their day of criminal behavior. Meanwhile, Ray gives an address to Lena, the same place where he brought Bianchi to beat the hell out of him. Lena doesn’t want to hear from him, but he keeps it short and tells her to simply show up. She does, with a rope in her trunk—did Ray text her further instructions?—and finds Vinny, the man who killed Justine, tied to a cement barricade in the abandoned warehouse. Vinny thinks he’s saved because he doesn’t know Lena’s connection to Justine. She wraps a noose around his neck and then jumps out a window, snapping his neck and getting her revenge.
In other words, the bodies really pile up in this finale. It’s the Donovans who are left standing, perhaps more whole than ever before. Part of Ray’s deal with Feratti was getting Bunchy out of prison, and that moment is one of the more tender ones this season. The way he hugs his brother, who he turned on just a few episodes ago, is touching. Ray spent a lot of this season lost, thinking that his family was the root of all his problems. He may be right to an extent, but they’re also the only people who accept and understand him.
Back at Sandy’s house, as the family merrily sings around the table, Ray and Bunchy make their return. Terry tells Bunchy to go inside because he wants to talk to Ray. He knows about the suicide attempt after Bridget told him, and he needs to give his brother a pep talk. “You stick around and I’ll stick around, okay?” he says. There are few words exchanged between the two, but it looks like the Donovans are finally back on the same page.
Well, almost all of the Donovans. When Bunchy and Ray go inside, they have to deliver the bad news. Ray could only save Bunchy, which means Mickey is destined for prison. The Donovans sit around telling stories, but this is Mickey’s moment. Everyone basically agrees, whether they say it or not, that Mickey deserves to go to prison, largely because he has this reputation amongst the brothers as being a terrible, manipulative father. But when Mickey starts reciting James Joyce, which he used to do to help the kids sleep, they realize he wasn’t all bad. “I was there,” he says, drunk and upset. Ray wanders out into the yard, snow starting to fall. He calls the therapist who tried to help him when he was committed to the psych hospital. He’s ready to start talking to someone about what he’s been through, a move in part sparked by the fact that his perception of his father is maybe different from reality. Maybe this is finally it for Ray. Maybe he’ll get the help he needs and the Donovans, in general, will be alright. Then again, this is the Donovans. That hope can only last so long.
Now, it’s on to season 7.