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Ray Donovan – Pilot Review: An Action-Packed Introduction to a New Type of Show

On the series premiere of Ray Donovan, audiences are introduced to a whole new type of television character. Ray Donovan is a professional "fixer" for the rich and famous of Los Angeles. Celebrities or other high-end rich people get into tough situations and he will be the one to initiate the solutions to their problems. While he seems to handle his business fairly well, his real problems are present in his family and how he relates to them. In just the premiere alone, audiences see him fighting with his wife and encountering the father he had sent to prison, along with the brothers he's not ready to see. The show features a star-studded cast, with Liev Schrieber as the title character and Jon Voight as Ray's father. Elliot Gould plays a supporting role.

The show is new this summer and was purposely set to air after Dexter's final season in order to gain an audience. I can see some similarities between the two shows. While Ray's wife (Abby) knows what Ray does for a living, there is no way that she could know the details that his job can entail and how violent he can get on the job. Much like Dexter, he is forced to live a fairly separate life that he is not able to tell his family about, causing complications in their communication. He has relocated with his wife and two kids, who once lived in Boston, along with the rest of his family, who have also moved to Los Angeles much to Abby's chagrin. Much like Dexter, he is also forced to do bad things in order to get rid of the bad guys as his job forces him to get very violent in some instances.

In the opening moments of the show, Mickey Donovan (Voight) is released from a State Correctional Institution in Walpole, Massachusetts and wastes no time in committing his next crime as he gets a ride to someone's house and kills them. The next scene cuts to Los Angeles and introduces us to the first client of Ray's that we see on the show. This first client wakes up with a woman he's slept with, and rolls over only to realize that she is dead. He has no idea what happened and makes the call to Ray in order for him to handle the situation. Ray talks to him over the phone and instructs him to make sure that she is dead and after they realize that she is, he sends someone over to handle the situation. They make dealing with dead people seem like such a routine activity!

Later, we meet his next client, Stu Feldman, who seems to be a more prominent character on the show, rather than just a one-off character. He is the head of a school that Ray's wife wants their daughter to go to and instructs her husband to ask Stu about that when he sees him. It appears that Stu's problem is one fairly typical of the rich people that live in Los Angeles. He tells Ray that he has been seeing a girl, and he wants Ray to follow her because he thinks that she has been fooling around on him; meanwhile, he is also married. This seems like such an ironic situation to be in, and it's amazing that people can actually conduct their business this way. How does someone who is currently cheating on their wife hire someone to track the person that they are seeing in order to see if they are cheating? I guess these are the sort of complications that people deal with sometimes, and to complicate the situation further, when Ray goes to see what is up with Stu's girlfriend, Ashley, he realizes that he knows her.

Ray goes inside Ashley's house and reveals to her what he has been doing and that she has a stalker. They end up flirting and he tells her to be more cautious and to set up a security system. The next scene shows him torturing Ashley's other boyfriend, assuring that he will not be back for more, although when that assumption turns out to be wrong, Ray makes a return and beats him with a baseball bat (we can assume that Ray killed him). Both Stu and Abby assume that Ray and Ashley have slept together, causing problems for everyone. Ray and Abby attend a party, and when Abby runs into Stu, she asks him about their daughter getting into the school. Ray says that she is banned because Ray slept with his girl. Ray sees this happen and chases him through the house. In a graphic scene that is hard to watch, Ray appears to break Stu's hand over the pool table. Ray can certainly get aggressive when he needs to - a bit too much in some cases, making some of these scenes difficult to witness. Given that this show is on Showtime, he can basically do whatever he wants in terms of violence.  

Ray has not seen Ashley for years and she has since become a well known singer; after reuniting with Ray she wants to keep seeing him. She even calls him and tells him that she cannot stop thinking about him. While on the phone, he looks up at a Marilyn Monroe picture on the wall and to signify what he does in real life, she comes to life and tells him to save her. This could be interpreted as him not being able to escape his business life, as it is coming home to haunt him. This show is well done in the way that it is constructed; Ray is a very complex character: as he is forced to deal with his gritty and aggressive business, he is also trying to maintain a family and keep them safe from his father and the troubled brothers to whom he does not relate well. Just as Dexter is getting ready to end its eight-year run, this may be just the action packed and aggressive new show to replace it. Liev Schrieber gives a fine performance as Ray and we will look to see his character, as well as the others, develop throughout the season.

Another big part of this show is Ray's troubled relationship with each of his brothers. He meets with them at different times throughout the episode, at which points they talk about their various troubles, including their father who has just been released from prison back home near Boston. In one of the final scenes, Ray goes to see his brother Bunchy, who tells him that he feels that they should give their father a second chance; at this point their father walks in with their other brothers. Ray finds it hard to consider forgiving him and threatens Mickey, telling him to stay away from his family. Unfortunately, Mickey immediately goes to see Abby and his two grandchildren and they seem happy to see him. It is hard to tell exactly how a show will be from the first episode, but the first episode of Ray Donovan is certainly action-packed and exciting. A lot is going in this first episode, too, and things will probably become more clear as we become more familiar with each of the characters.

Thoughts and Quotes

-- In one of the first scenes of the series, Ray tells his client, Deonte, "You think you're the first person I've dealt with who's woken up with a dead body? Take your fingers and feel her pulse." What a an interesting job we are being introduced to...no one ever explains how this woman died, either. That's a bit odd, but I guess that doesn't matter.

-- Deonte ironically claims, "I don't do drugs, man. I'm an athlete." Yeah, right...athletes never get caught using drugs, do they? Nice try though, bud. 

-- Deonte: "I just signed a 80 million dollar contract 'cause TMZ was following me around last night."

-- Ray takes charge, keeping his client in check by saying, "Do me a favor. Don't tell me what to do." Ray shows his tough and aggressive personality in this scene.

-- Abby: "You're sick, Ray. You got a hole in your heart." It seems that this is all too much for Abby: moving to a new place and getting used to Ray's new life in Los Angeles. She fears that he is doing something that will seriously endanger their marriage from the start of the show. Abby is a strong character and I am excited to see her show her emotions more over the course of the show.

-- Mickey: "That priest. I took care of him. Some very powerful people are going to come after me now. Very powerful. Da Vinci Code type shit." Mickey is certainly not afraid to take care of the "bad guys" in any way that he feels necessary. A bit too brutal I would say, but we still don't even know what he did to get himself in prison either.

-- Ray, in reference to his father..."Don't let the wolf in the gate, Abby." He fears greatly for his family upon his father's return and does not want them to get mixed up in whatever Mickey has planned.



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