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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Ray Donovan - Season Two (Blu-ray)
Ray Donovan - Season Two (Blu-ray)
Showtime // Unrated // May 26, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $49.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted June 24, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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Ray Donovan (2013-present) is a compelling, darkly amusing if explicitly violent crime drama starring Liev Schreiber as the titular "fixer" for super-powerful L.A. entertainment law firm of Goldman & Drexler. It's one of the best short-season (12 episodes) programs on American television today though, unlike other favorites such as the brilliant Nurse Jackie, also from Showtime, I'm not at all tempted to binge-watch my way through it. Ray Donovan's characters and situations are fascinating but generally thoroughly unpleasant, deeply unhappy, and morally conflicted (or, even more disturbingly, on that last point not at all).

Its first season did a fine job introducing to its audience transplanted Bostonian gangster Ray and his awesomely dysfunctional family, they still adjusting to the superficial glamour, absurd demands, and painfully frivolous lifestyles of Hollywood's 1%: clueless, self-absorbed, flavor-of-the-month celebrities who turn to Ray for an easy out when threatened with potentially career-ending scandals.

Much of the first season's stories revolved around the unwelcomed return into Ray's life of his career criminal father, Mickey Donovan (Jon Voight). Both the writing for that character, guided by series creator, Ann Biderman (Southland), and Voight's performance were exceptional. Together and with others they fashioned an awesomely vulgar, reprehensible yet endlessly fascinating character. Perhaps unexpectedly, Voight's Mickey, rather than story arcs concerning Ray's relationship with wife Abby (Paula Malcomson) and teenage children Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) and Conor (Devon Bagby), quickly became the core of what makes the series interesting.

Season Two's (2014) teleplays shrewdly move the series in new directions while seamlessly continuing and expanding upon plot lines and characters established the previous year. Showtime/Paramount/CBS's Blu-ray is up to contemporary standards video- and audio-wise, and comes with several audio commentary tracks.



Ray Donovan's Season One had Ray plugging up holes right and left threatening to expose him and ailing entertainment attorney Ezra Goldman (Elliott Gould) to federal charges from the FBI. Mickey's sudden release from prison has estranged son Ray on edge, especially when Mickey tries to reestablish familial ties, including Ray's siblings: Bunchy (Dash Mihok), raped by a priest years before, he's now an alcoholic and sexual anorexic; and Terry (Eddie Marsan), a former boxer suffering from Parkinson's disease. Mickey, it turned out, was playing both sides, working with an ambitious, rogue G-Man trying to land Ray and Ezra in prison. Eventually Ray hires aging gangster "Sully" Sullivan (James Woods) to kill his father, but in the end Sully winds up dead and, as Season Two opens, Mickey is living the good life in Mexico.

Part of the appeal of Ray Donovan's season one was watching Ray at work. To get his clients, as well as various family members, out of seemingly inescapable jams he didn't merely threaten his targets with bodily harm. Rather, aided by right-hand man Avi (Steven Bauer) and assistant Lena (Katherine Moennig), Ray uses considerable finesse to get what he wants. Sometimes he throws money at a problem; at other times he uses Lena and Avi's research to expose a weakness. Physical force is rarely necessary; Ray's subtle skills at intimidation are usually sufficient. What he does may be reprehensible, even when the victims are equally unpleasant, even grotesque (Hollywood producer Stu Feldman, played by Josh Pais, being particularly noteworthy in that department) but, undeniably, Ray's really good at his job.

The smartest move the writers of Ray Donovan (including Michael Tolkin, The Rapture) did for Season Two was to provide the Donovan with worthy adversaries as tough and unshakable as he is. Ray's new nemesis is the director of the FBI's west coast branch, apparently unimpeachable rising star Ed Cochran (Hank Azaria), a man as quietly confident and blunt as Ray. (In a neat bit of casting, Cochran's frumpy wife, Donna, is played by Twin Peaks' Sherilyn Fenn.)

Further, Abby's psychiatrist (Star Trek: The Next Generation's Brent Spiner, also very good) is equally blunt and confrontational with both Abby and Ray, while Ezra, having fully recovered from a brain tumor scare, aggressively pressures Ray to collect on a $5 million pledge made by still glamorous June Wilson (Ann-Margret, almost creepily well-preserved at 74). Further, a Boston Globe reporter, Kate McPherson (Vinessa Shaw), writing a book about Sully, threatens to expose all while coming between Ray and Abby.

The uniformly excellent performances and imaginative, multi-generational casting help make Ray Donovan involving, though by Season Two I've grown weary of Paula Malcomson's eternally whiny, unhappy Abby character and, to a lesser extent, the trials and tribulations of Ray and Abby's children. None generate much sympathy because their problems aren't all that different from other, ordinary families. All engage in reckless, self-destructive behavior yet bellyache about how unhappy they are in an environment of ostentatious, ill-gotten wealth.

Video & Audio

Shot for 1.78:1 high-def broadcast, Ray Donovan - Season Two looks great, up to contemporary television standards. The 5.1 TrueHD audio is excellent, and supported by optional English SDH subtitles, along with French and Spanish audio. Twelve episodes are spread across three single-sided discs with a total running time of 10 hours and 36 minutes.

Extra Features

Supplements include audio commentaries featuring actors Live Schreibner, Jon Voight, and Pooch Hall (who plays Daryll Donovan, Ray's half-brother).

Parting Thoughts

An excellent if dark series that's Highly Recommended.






Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes film history books, DVD and Blu-ray audio commentaries and special features. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.

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