WARNING: This article contains spoilers from tonight’s episode of Ray Donovan, “Time Takes a Cigarette.” Read at your own risk.
Goodbye Hollywood! Ray Donovan‘s famous fixer of the stars is leaving behind the city of Angels and is taking his very useful set of skills to New York City.
Fans watched as Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) spiraled out of control this season. After losing Abby (Paula Malcomson), the love of his life, to cancer and finding himself unwillingly in the spotlight, his family and business started to crumble. And so, as season 5 came to an end, we found the Donovans as vulnerable and fractured as ever.
They’ve also turned on Mickey (Jon Voight) and are ready to lock him up. After all, it’s what he deserves, at least according to Ray. It seems like every single Donovan — from Bunchy (Dashik Mihok) to Daryll (Pooch Hall) and even Connor (Devon Bagby), who is now ready to serve his country — has found closure, at least for the moment. As for Bridget (Kerris Dorsey), things are looking grim. In an effort to help his daughter, Ray, per usual, makes things happen, and with the help of his special friend, the powerful Sam (Susan Sarandon), he saves a life and obviously takes one as well because that’s how it works in the Ray Donovan world.
It’s been a season filled with pain and self-exploration for Ray and that’s just how he ends it. In one of his now common hallucinations, he follows Abby to the top of a building somewhere in New York. And, in a truly pure and unusual moment for the Boston thug, Ray allows himself to let go.
EW spoke with the Showtime hit’s executive producer/showrunner David Hollander about the season finale, Ray’s struggle, and, of course, the big move to New York City in season 6.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your goal going into this season?
DAVID HOLLANDER: In the most basic terms the goal is to try and tell a good story well and so we always start the year hoping we can find ways to get deeper into the character of Ray Donovan and explore elements of the world that we’re writing about. It’s a little more; write emotion and truth and comedy and complexity as we can. It’s really that simple.
Abby is dead, but she was a constant presence throughout the season. That obviously affected everyone, but would you agree that it completely changed Ray and his story through the season?
Absolutely, I mean there’s a lot of change in Ray this season and a lot of looking at what might happen if Ray was faced with a situation that was truly unfixable and what that would to his psychology and his sort of pathology because he so badly needs to be in control. The bigger issues of what that does to a person, the relationship to themselves, the relationship to God, and the relationship to their place in the world were deeply impacted by Abby’s passing.
Ray and his anger management therapist (C. Thomas Hall) had an especially tense last meeting where Ray was pushed to face his traumas. Can you talk about making that last meeting happen?
The character of the therapist was frustrated with Ray and Ray had all the telling signs of someone that had abuse and rage issues and drug and alcohol issues. This guy had the choice to either just let Ray go or tell him what he really thought about him, in hopes of helping Ray. So it gave us a great opportunity to speak directly to Ray like no one really has before and to see what that did that to Ray, whether he would take it in, whether he would absorb it, whether he would seal, or whether he would do his usual thing, which is bury it. I think in the case of this story this year, not only did he try to bury it but it got the best of him.
Going forward is Ray going to change by having someone talk to him so directly?
Absolutely. It has to. I mean we’re going to try give Ray the opportunity to learn as much as he can about himself without making the story simply about that. I think every time we open a little door to Ray, into his own consciousness, I think it’s interesting to watch him struggle with it.
We need to talk about Jon Voight and his character, Mickey, who is now back in jail. How does that affect the whole dynamic of the Donovan family, and how do they move forward without him on the scene?
I think that the ghost of Mickey is always part of their lives and the reality that Mickey in prison doesn’t necessarily mean that Mickey won’t be a part of their lives. Ray has a lot to grapple within what he’s done. I think Mickey of course will have as many tricks up his sleeve as he can to try and change his situation. Certain characters in the family are more drawn to Mickey than others — Connor, Bunchy, Darryl they all have a longer relationship with him and will want to keep that relationship alive, to a degree.
Clearly Connor is trying to prove something to Ray — how does this affect their father-son dynamic moving forward?
Connor’s fantasy that he can work to impress his father from the outside in is going to be a challenging one for him and Ray is going to want to have some connection with his son. But the question will become whether Connor will let him in and what Connor’s relationship to this journey he’s on, whether the military works out for him, whether he’s actually more suited for something else. These are part of the questions we start to play with next year.
Let’s talk about Sam, who’s become quite a presence in Ray’s life. How real and deep is their friendship, and is it going to be explored further in the next season?
We hope to explore it more. We think its a really interesting relationship and you know, in the writing of next season, its really a question of not assuming that it will be, but trying to earn it and to see what and where their stories overlap. We’re definitely interested in the relationship between the two characters, we’re interested in the chemistry between the two actors, so we’re looking at that very closely and hoping to find a really interesting way to continue the relationship.
Before we get into New York, that last scene with Ray, Abby and water: what were you trying to say to viewers about Ray and him just jumping into the water?
The whole season was built around letting go and falling, the waterfall motif, people dropping, the vision, the music. Ray is having an incredibly hard time letting go of Abby and his part in that story. So the dropping and the following and the fantasy that she’s literally there and falling into the water and him following her in, it can be taken in a lot of ways. In the literally way, in a metaphoric way, he’s letting her drag him under and other versions are rebirth or cleansing. Or simply what happens when you let yourself go entirely, which is what Ray does not do, so part of the messaging is look at Ray Donovan let himself go; he completely let himself go.
Will we see a completely different Ray Donovan in New York City? It’s a whole different vibe from L.A., new territory.
It’s a whole different world. It’s going to be a much different story and a much different show and intentionally. We can’t, we’re not going to transplant Los Angeles Ray Donovan into New York. We have to look at this new character in this new environment and this new life and figure out how it feels to Ray Donovan at this age, in this place, in this city, and at this time. We get to dig down deep and really look at what it’s going to be like to be a modern person in New York City with his story behind him. We’re really excited and its also daunting.
When it comes to his business, how does the city change that — is he still a fixer or is he pushed to new areas?
The answer is yes to both. It does affect his business. Last year changed the nature of his business. Now he’s notorious and known, lost his clients, and he doesn’t have his foundation but he does have his skill sets, he does have this history of being an enforcer, being a thug, a fixer and a collector. I think those are useful skills to have in a city like New York.
Is everyone coming to New York or will it be a bi-coastal narrative?
It will initially start kind of a bi-coastal way and whatever organically we can do to bring people in the direction of Ray, we’ll bring them. Otherwise, we’ll address them wherever they fall, wherever they fall.
How much of season 6 have you planned out?
In my mind I keep planning it and re-planning it. I was alone with my thoughts for the last several months and I just started up the writers’ room a couple days ago so I’m in that early process of throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. Sometimes I think I’ve got the whole year planned out, other times I think I have nothing.
Production on season 6 of the Showtime hit, Ray Donovan, is set to begin in early 2018.