Ray Donovan: One Night in Yerevan (Review)


You have to love a Ray Donovan episode that opens with a performer that looks as if she were based upon Hilary Duff’s character in the John Cusack film War Inc. The song that Hasmig (played by Sarah Shahi) starts to sing in the opening sequence is “When Thighs go Boom” surely a huge nod and wink to Duff’s Yonica Babyyeah’s song “Boom Boom, Bang Bang.”  Of course this whole thing could be a coincidence but…Really?? 

Of course all this is in prelude to Ray’s fixing Mickey’s problems with the Minassian’s and the Armenian mob. Donovan turns to Hasmig for help with Grace Zabriskie’s scary mob leader Mrs. Minassian. This quest to have Hasmig save his father leads to another cameo by the delightful Bronson Pinchot (who got noticed in a big way back in 1984 in his standout  role in the Eddie Murphy vehicle Beverly Hill’s Cop – “Hello, my name is Serge, how may I holp you?) as the misbehaving former weatherman Flip Brightman.

The payoff, to get Mickey free from the evil Armenian mob, is to let the singer perform her “One Night in Yerevan” song. Telling the story of her ancestors who were murdered in their villages by the Turks , or as she says, “It’s about the genocide,” no one will play her song, which is sung in Armenian. The price to save Mick is getting her song aired, hence the arrival of Brightman as plot device and cute cameo.

Eddie Marsan gets the line of the night with his character’s  response to Conor’s question about  Terry’s  improved gaming skills on Assassin’s Creed.

“Damn Uncle Terry! Have you been practicing while I’m at school”

“It’s the new medication kid…Moves the blood from my d*ck to my hands.”

Terry to Conor: “It’s the new medication…”

Hank Azaria as the former FBI leader Ed Cochran gets the runners up prize for lines of the night. He gets not one but several.  After being told that his boss will flag his employee evaluation, Cochran mutters, “Then flag me…you f***ing b*tch.” The vitriol dripping from every word is priceless. That line is almost as good as Cochran’s trying to get Paige to stumble with his “Bermuda” reference in their little exchange.

“Boy, I bet your ex-husband’s gonna kick himself when word of your team reaches Bermuda, huh?”


“Belize, right. Yeah.”

“Always get my “B” countries mixed up.”

Ed Cochran questioning many things, mostly about Ray Donovan…

Ray actually follows through with a vengeance on his promise to help his father out. Coming to Mick’s apartment, he flushes Daryll’s remaining coke and takes Mickey to see his lawyer.  Getting Mick declared “non compos mentis” and having Ray put “in charge” of his father, gets Mickey out of the enforced deal with the police. It also puts him completely at the mercy of Ray.

Later, the Armenian singing star stops Mrs. Minassian’s thugs from putting Mick in the hospital and/or killing Ray. But it is close. Grace Zabriskie rocks it as the old battle axe mob leader. Ray’s explanation of his father’s disability falls on deaf ears.

“He belongs to me.”

“Mrs. Minassian, I’m sure you can understand my father’s an older man.”

“Let him eat dog food. Let him sh*t his pants. I don’t care.”

“I own him”

“You want out? There is no out. ”

“This is so disappointing.”

All this while Mickey is being beaten and Ray has a stand off with another of Minassian’s men. Hasmig delivers, however, and Ray is identified as a “friend to the Armenians.” Mrs. Minassian orders pictures to be taken with scarcely a pause between emotions.

Cochran continues to find things in the NFL Finney file that adds up to something being wrong about Varick Strauss. For instance, the border photo of Avi as Strauss. As a stroke of genius, Ed fakes out the storage company clerk and gets a copy of the key  to Avi’s store room. Taking pictures of all the items in the lock up results in Cochran finding the poker, later in the episode that Andrew used to kill Varick.

Andrew Finney chooses to be awkward about the NFL questioning…

On top of all the things going on over at the Finney place, and Mickey’s issues with the police and the Armenian mob,  Bridget gets into hot water at school for breaking a classmates nose. Her budding romance with Donellen has caused problems. Abby finds the Oxy and confronts the teacher at his house. After heated words are exchanged, she tells the widower to leave her daughter alone.

Abby now has one over the teacher just as Ray has one over his father. He tells Mickey to leave L.A. or he will have him committed. Paige drops by to give presents to the Donovan family and Abby flips out. She knows something happened between Ray and Paige and she tells Donovan that Finney is not to come to their house.

The Armenians are busted down at the docks with the sex slaves, Cochran pays Andrew Finney an impromptu visit, poker in hand, and Flip Brightman introduces Hasmig to the audience on his show and she prepares to sing her Armenian genocide song.

Flip Brightman introducing Hasmig.

By the end of the episode, Ray may have saved Mickey and the Finney’s may have gotten past the NFL questionnaire, but Donovan has Cochran on his and Andrew’s trail. The find of the poker and the mistake of Avi being seen crossing on Strauss’s passport, has left Ray open to problems with the former FBI man.

It now appears that Ray has it made. His three percent will make him and his family very rich. However, Paige hits the nail on the head when she asks Ray if he is now happy that he has everything he wanted. Donovan answers, after a short pause, that no he is not. Andrew Finney’s daughter pegged Ray correctly, he is addicted to the fight and does not care about the things that most men do.

It looks like Ed Cochran has foolishly decided to either blackmail Andrew Finney or to take on Ray Donovan for a round two battle. Hank Azaria rocks it as the former FBI agent and it is hoped that this character sticks around for a while. Grace Zabriskie is another guest star that one hopes is around a bit longer.

Ray Donovan airs Sundays on Showtime. Brilliantly done crime/drama’s are hard to come by, don’t miss this one. It is worth the time taken to watch it if for no other reason than for the show’s music. Playing out this week’s episode was Patrick Wilson’s Good Morning Mr. Wolf and really, it does  not get much better than this.

Ray Donovan: Tulip (recap and review)

It is hard to define just what made last night’s episode of Ray Donovan so pleasing. Tulip felt like a lot of things; a touch of Breaking Bad, for instance that opening with Ray in the desert breaking up that hard dry soil with a pickaxe and flashing back to this scenario throughout most of the episode, and a final  touch of musical genius. The music playing at the end of everyone’s day, Barbarossa’s Bloodline, overlapping Father Romero praying, Bridget laying her head on Donellen’s chest, Avi driving to Mexico, Terry asleep on the bed; clutching the family bible, Ray coming in seeing his brother and reading the note from the pedophile priest and Abby saying “Come to bed,” shows the masterful touch of director Michael Uppendahl.

Perhaps it has little to do with the dressing. The storyline, continuing from the previous weeks has Ray still juggling the football deal (and now Paige) along with the Bunchy problem, aka Father Romero and this newest episode has him karmically getting one over on Andrew Finney. Tulip feels a lot like “what comes around, goes around.” There is a message here, those who are patient get the brass ring, or if you are Ray Donovan, you jockey things around rather than wait. Ray is, after all, a fixer.

Andrew Finney gives his lover Varick the push after Paige serves him with divorce papers. Daryl’s cadillac goes up in flames, via a good sized explosion, and Ray gets Lena and “Helen Miller Game and Fish” lady to help set up Napier with vipers full of heroin.  The last bit is easily the funniest sequence of events in the season thus far.

After injecting the snakes with sedative, the vipers are put into a bag. Helen is to stand by while Lena inserts the bag of snakes into Napier’s golf bag. As the trio stand in the hanger Miller gets increasingly nervous as Ray briefs her on the part she is to play. Helen panics and grabs for the bag.  Yelling that she will give back all the money while holding on to the bag of snakes.  Lena punches Miller knocking her down. Laying on the floor, with the now open bag of vipers, Helen complains that Lena hit her. A lone viper slithers out and bites Miller on the leg.

*Sidenote* This sequence as completely laugh out loud funny. Stephanie Erb rocked it as the bribed official who “bottles it” (loses her nerve) and gets bitten, beaten and driven away. Sidesplitting does not even come close to describing this comic interlude.

The camera moves back to Ray, working that hard soil to dig what can only be a grave. This is, after all Ray Donovan, why else would the man be digging in the desert? Avi shows up in a small mini-van and he brings a shovel to help Ray. Back at the hanger we see Lena shoving Helen into the back of a car (with Miller complaining nonstop, she  clearly believes she is going to die) to be taken to the hospital. The question now is, did she make it or is this hole in the desert going to be Helen’s final resting place after that snake bite?

As the show moves through its paces, other characters become candidates for that hole.


Father Romero shows up at the Fite Club and tells Bunchy that he needs to speak with Ray. Bunch calls his brother and Ray immediately heads to the gym.  Meanwhile Varick has gone to see Andrew Finney after his former lover has fired him and booted him out of the company. Back at the club, there is a tense meeting with the cleric who asks Donovan to accompany him outside. As they head to an alley behind the gym Ray tells Brendan to clear the gym out and to lock it up.

The camera heads back to that hole, which now has a body in the bottom of it and Ray takes the box of evidence that Romero was seen with earlier in the show. Is the body in that bag Romero? Ray tosses a book of burning matches into the hole that Avi has poured petrol in.

Back at the alley, Ray takes a gun out and points it at the priest. Father Romero pauses for a split second and then he recounts Ray’s backstory with his family tragedies. He explains, as he hands the box of evidence to Ray, that Donovan has suffered enough. “Excommunication, ” he says, “Is not a punishment. It is a rest.” Romero gets in his car and drives off.

Clearly the burning body is not that of Romero.

Back at Mansion Finney, Varick has accosted his former lover. Andrew tells the man it has been over for a long time. He kisses Varick and tells  him that he felt nothing. Paige’s soon to be ex husband starts goading Andrew until he gets angry and grabs a fireplace poker. Yelling that “I’m not f**king gay,” Finney  hits Varick killing him.

We now know who was in that bag…

Before Varick expires, he calls out to Andrew “Oh. Finn.” Back at the gym, Ray tells Brendan that everything is alright with Romero. Bunchy beats himself up, blaming himself and SNAP for whole thing. Ray tells him that the priest is not going to the police. Ray, somewhat predictably,  gets a call from Andrew Finney.

The remainder of the episode deals with Ray taking care of the Varick problem and getting Paige’s deal for the football stadium sorted.  Abby wins Terry over and he decides, seemingly, to stay with his brother’s family. Bridget goes to Donellen’s house and he is not pleased. The man is on a load of pain medication and not doing at all well. The Donovan girl has found what she wants.

Mickey ends up doing a deal with the cops after the Armenian’s bomb Daryll’s caddy.  Avi and Ray sort things out between the two of them while digging that hole and burying the burnt evidence.

Mickey celebrating with his boys before the caddy gets torched.

The tulip theme appears  throughout. Mickey gives Theresa tulips when he welcomes her to the Donovan family, there is a program on television about the flower in the scene where Varick sneaks into the Finney Mansion. At the pool side, just before the cadillac is destroyed, Mickey talks about tulips. He tells about a beautiful girl from Amsterdam who died of cancer. The tulips, like the flashbacks to the grave digging, is an underlying theme of this episode.

Oddly enough, everything works out for Ray and Paige. Donovan uses his new “Varick” leverage to force Andrew to give Paige what she wants, giving him the 3 percent back. Terry allows Abby to woo him into the room she prepared. At the end of a busy day, Terry lays on the bed and looks through the family bible. Abby asks if he is ready to leave and he says he wants to give Ray something.

Later Ray tells Paige that the football deal is back on. She is suspicious. Earlier, Ray had come to her house to get Varick’s passport. Paige was annoyed that the Napier problem was not solved. “It still needs to be fixed [sic],” Paige says. “The passport is the fix,” Ray tells her. At the end of the show she repeats this to Ray. Strangely, she is not overly happy that she has won.

Paige, the morning after…

Back at his house Ray finds Terry asleep on the bed and takes the bible. Looking inside he sees the note from the perverted Father Danny. Irony at its finest.

It looks like Ray may have problems with Paige, she too is addicted to the fight.

This episode had Andrew Finney’s daughter getting what she wanted all along, and it was not the football stadium deal, and Andrew himself now owes Ray a great deal.

Performances by Liev Schreiber, Ian McShane an Steven Bauer were all spot on, as was Kerris Dorsey as Bridget. Kudos to Stephanie Erb as the hapless Helen Miller. Her comedic timing was just perfect. 


Tulip, with its “back and forth” to that hole and the trotting out of suspects for that body bag was spot on. Add to that the other things on the periphery and it was Ray Donovan at its finest.

Ray Donovan airs Sundays on Showtime. This crime and drama show continues to entertain almost effortlessly. Miss this one and miss out.

Ray Donovan: Swing Vote (recap and review)

Bunchy and Father Romero
Ray Donovan last week had some stand out moments. One of which was Grace Zabriskie’s Mrs. Minassian’s power play on Mickey. She wound up owning 50 percent of his new business and this week, the show begins with Mrs. Minassian showing the elder Donovan what will happen if he is not a “good boy.” Bunchy mourns the loss of his Mexican wrestler and Father Romero plays matchmaker, while he continues to “work” the Donovan brother.

Everything falls apart for Ray this week after everything looked so promising. Donovan tells Abby that he does not want a divorce, that he sold his business and about the football deal. Terry looks to be marked for death and Bunchy spills the beans on what happened to his abuser to Father Romero. By the end of the show, Ray winds up with 3 percent of nothing when Governor Vernon loses the gubernatorial race after making disparaging remarks about immigrants.

Ginger has been reported to child services by Mrs. Rosenblatt and she starts to move to Vegas.  Ray signs the paperwork for his three percent of the NFL deal. Andrew Finney tells Ray that Paige is going for the deal with Zack Davis at noon and he needs to stop the billionaire competition from arriving.

Terry finds out that the Aryan’s have been in his office at the gym. Lena does her second job for Ray and Terry suffers a massive meltdown. He asks Pie to get him a gun. Romero, who has taken Bunchy to Bakersfield on a mission of love, tells the Donovan brother about blinding his abuser.

Paige forces Davis to sign the deal and he asks for a 10 percent break fee  after initially refusing, Andrew Finney agrees.  Paige reassures her father that “Verona’s a lock” and that this is the last thing she will ever ask him for. He tells her to “make the deal.”

Ginger has to have a real job and Daryll comes up with the perfect solution. Hire her to work at the gym, in name only, and she can stay. Bunchy asks Teresa to marry him and she angrily tells him to get up. She then tells him to get out and he tells Teresa he will wait for her at the Denny’s “down the street” for when she changes her mind.

Ray and Paige talk over drinks. “Money is a kind of poetry,” says Paige. She then tells Ray about the poet Wallace Stevens and she explains that it is her favorite line. “It doesn’t rhyme,” Ray tells her. Paige asks if he will be bringing Abby to the Century Plaza and then says she cannot wait to “meet the woman behind the man.” They both head off in different directions.

Terry is huddled in the office at the Fite Club and when Potato Pie brings the gun, Terry asks him to clear out the gym and lock it down. Abby goes to check on Bridget at the polling station. Paige and Ray talk outside and he asks her what was in the envelope she gave Andrew at the studio.

A love letter she says, from Andrew to her husband. She gave him the breakup letter for the team. Paige makes a move on Ray and he turns her down saying his wife is now back. Back at Denny’s Bunchy tells Romero who did what to his abuser. Bunchy explains that he partly killed his abuser, who also abused Ray, and that he shot the man in the stomach and Ray shot him in the head. After telling Romero, the man thanks Bunchy for doing so. Donovan still has not idea that this new friend is a priest.

Terry is huddled in the darkened gym shakily pointing the gun at the door. Ray explains to Abby that things are looking up. He explains about getting a small part of the NFL team and that it means a lot to him that she is  coming to the governor’s party.

Bridget gets stoned with her classmate. Teresa shows up at the Denny’s,  suitcase in hand. She accepts Bunchy’s proposal, “I got a few conditions,” She says. “You don’t lie to me. You don’t cheat on me. You don’t hit me.” “Never,” replies Bunchy.

Teresa continues, “I’m not running away with any gabacho named Bunchy. That’s a puppy’s name. Your name is Brendan. Okay Brendan?” Bunchy agrees and she finishes with, “I’m not running to f**king chapel with you. That’s a longer discussion.” “Okay,” Bunchy says, “That’s fair.” Teresa smiles.

At the Plaza, on the way up to the party, Abby asks Ray about buying the bar in Boston and Ray says “I don’t know why not.” She then meets the governor and Donovan’s new boss Andrew. Casey Finney also meets Abby and tells her that Ray saved his life. She meets Paige and the two women retire to the bar.

Donovan speaks to Varick about Paige and the team. Paige’s husband and then Casey predict that things will not go well for the governor in the election. Ray gets a call from Terry who tells his brother that the Aryan’s have found him and Donovan  has to leave the party. He arrives at the gym, along with Mickey, and Terry shoots at Mickey.

After a few tense moments, Terry gives the gun to Ray and they put the whole thing down to the Parkinson’s. The three men make a joke about the situation and Terry tells Ray to go back to the party. Mick says he will stay with Terry and after Ray leaves, Mickey asks Terry to put Ginger on the gym’s books.

The governor loses the election which means the NFL deal is off. Ray gets back to the now dead party and Andrew lets him know that he knew about the 3 percent deal and that now Ray  has “f**king nothing, or 3 percent of f**king nothing.” Finney is furious with Ray and asks what he gave his daughter for the 3 percent and Ray tells him about the cell phone.

Ray is in trouble. Teresa and Brendan go into the gym and on the counter is the weight that Terry saw earlier.  The Aryan’a have left a message for Terry again. Things are falling apart for the Donovan’s.

This show is once again all about dark drama and the two dysfunctional families, three if you count Abby’s. Andrew Finney proves that he is a grade ‘A’ douche who probably sabotaged the governor’s election just to punish Paige and Ray. Mickey is not in a good place with Mrs. Minassian who tipped off Mrs. Rosenblatt in an effort mess the senior Donavan up. Bunchy has related very incriminating information to the shady Father Romero and things do not look good for the Donovan clan at all right now.

Ray Donovan airs Sundays on Showtime. Crime and drama in Los Angeles never looked so interesting. Don’t miss this look at the underbelly of big business in Tinseltown.

Ray Donovan: Come Knock On Our Door (recap and review)

Mickey talking to the girls in Ray Donovan
Last week on Ray Donovan brother Terry fought the Aryan Brotherhood and won…twice, putting his life in jeopardy and in Come Knock On Our Door, it transpires that the man the “ding” beat with the barbell has died. Family comes first with Ray and his efforts to save his brother leads to a short painful downhill trip that ends with a deal with the devil.

At the start of the episode, Ray comes home to see his daughter. They have a short talk in her bedroom and Ray sees his dead sister Bridget in the room. Going downstairs, he watches an old episode of Three’s Company, or possibly The Ropers, and sees his dead sibling again. Later, Ray watches more old television, this time an old Bonanza episode and Little Joe is shooting out of a window while Lena packs her things to leave. She tells Ray that the spare key is in her desk and that the coffee machine is “bust.” “I got you a new one,” she says before walking out.

Mickey has a meeting with the hookers with donuts and cocaine. The girls want to leave but Ginger talks them into hearing him out. Mickey introduces his son “Daryl” and explains that he will be the muscle and their driver. He wants them to try his way out for just one day and Ginger is supportive.

Bunchy asks for $20,000 out of his fund to put on the Mexican wrestling match at the gym. Ray gets a call from the guard and he learns that Terry killed an Aryan. He tells his brother’s protector that he will be right there. Bunchy tells Ray before he leaves that the gym could make money for once and Donovan tells his brother “it’s a front, Bunch, it’s not supposed to make money.”

On the way out, Ray is approached by two of Finney’s lawyers, one; the family lawyer, makes a veiled threat when Donovan refuses, again, to sell his business to the man. Daryl is updating the website, and worried about the Armenians taking his Cadillac. Ginger drops Audrey off with Mickey again, seconds after the girl arrives, Mickey gets a call from the prison.

Abby learns that Ray dropped by the previous night and Bridget tells her mother that he had been in a fight. Abby is also learning that she has lost touch with her family. All she has left after trying to connect with her kids in the kitchen is Dog. “Who’s the best boy in the world,” she asks the animal, “You are.”

Mickey arrives at the prison and is refused entry. Ray turns up and after learning that his father planned to bribe the guards with cocaine, the two argue. Ray tells Mickey to stay out of it and goes inside the prison. As Mickey leaves he calls Abby and asks her to meet him at the gym. Ray learns that Terry will be in danger no matter where he goes.

Ray visits Terry in isolation and they talk. Terry looks at Ray’s beaten visage and asks, “What the f**k happened to your face?” “What the f**k happened to yours,” Ray shoots back and the brothers laugh. Terry has given up and asks his brother not to help him.

Mickey gets Abby to look after Audrey and Ray goes to see Judge Wettick. He explains about what happened to Terry, how the Aryans went after him because of his Parkinson’s and he wants the judge to give Terry a compassionate release. The Judge refuses and when Ray offers him $100,000 to reconsider, Wettick pulls a gun from his desk and orders Ray to leave.

Ray heads back to his office to drop off the money and tells Abby about Terry. She offers to help and he blows her off. The next visit Ray will make is to see Frank Barnes and blackmail him onto Wettick with false charges to force his hand.

Daryl is overwhelmed with the demands of the hookers and Bunchy drops by to see Mickey. His brother talks him into helping out. The first task is to take topless pictures of Michele. Ginger drops in to ask for some breast milk and says that she needs it in a hurry. Mickey goes to see Ronald Keith to get the judge’s address so he can help Terry.

Bunch goes to get some milk and adult diapers. Ginger tells him that it has to be real breast milk. Bunchy has an epiphany when he sees a mother with twins.

Terry gets treated for the knife wound and when the doctor leaves the cell an Aryan kills the doctor. Guards grab the attacker and everything falls apart. Ray is called and Terry’s “protection” has been taken off his detail. His brother will be put back in the general population and Ray heads back to see Wettick.

Mickey goes to see the judge and inadvertently kills the man when he knocks his heart pills out of the judges hand. Ray arrives to find Mickey looking at Wettick’s body. Ray is furious, “You just killed another one of your kids Mick.” As Ray leaves he gives Barnes the blackmail evidence and Frank asks Ray if they are even, Ray does not respond.

Donovan goes to see Finney. He is offered coffee; Finney is keeping it friendly, and then he explains his dilemma. After Malcolm agrees to help, the two men go to see the governor Tom Vernon. The governor offers to help and says it will take a few weeks. “You need to pardon him tonight,” Finney says. The governor hesitates and Finney finishes with “This is taking far longer than I thought it would.” “I’ll get it done tonight,” Vernon says.

Back at the mansion, Finney says it was a pleasure to see Ray and the contract is put in front of him to sign. Ray is told to show up for work tomorrow and to see himself out. Before he leaves, Paige sees him and says, “I thought you were though with the Finney family Ray?”

Abby leaves, for a couple of days she says. Mickey learns that his idea for the girls worked well and the icing on the cake is Ray calling to say, “I got him out.” Mickey plans a party. Ray goes to pick Terry up. The two brother’s meet in the prison parking lot and Terry asks how much it cost Ray to get him out.

This week’s episode was pretty heavy going but once again Bunchy and Audrey provided some much needed comic relief. The breast milk scene was brilliant, Audrey and Abby watching as the mother pumps milk from her breast. Bunchy awkwardly taking Michele’s picture,”you cannot show my face,” she says. Audrey telling Mickey off for leaving her in the car, “It’s against the law to leave a kid in the back of a car, you know,” she says when he gets back in the vehicle. A few light-hearted moments to take away the sting of Ray’s deal.

It was almost a done deal that Donovan was going to end up selling himself to Finney after last week’s cold refusal. That Ray was worried about Terry was signposted with his continued sightings of Bridget and his overall preoccupation. It was apparent from the first frame that Ian McShane’s Finney appeared in that this man was the devil and that Ray would end up selling himself to him.

Once again Liev Schreiber knocked it out of the park. Dash Mihok keeps getting better each week. Jon Voight as Mickey provides Schreiber with some heavy duty support and the Oscar winning actor shows that a lifetime of experience makes everything shine.

Ray Donovan airs Sundays on Showtime and despite last night’s heavy going episode, is quality television with some of the best ensemble acting around.

Ray Donovan: The Kalamazoo Season 3 Premiere

Leiv Schreiber as Ray Donovan
Getting an early peek at the season 3 premiere of Ray Donovan, The Kalamazoo on Showtime, courtesy of Hulu with their special offer, is a great reminder of just what an acting powerhouse that Liev Schreiber really is. A man who started his career playing weird and creepy characters who then played the Gregory Peck role in the remake of The Omen and now plays a sort of Mike Hammer-ish fixer for those with money and power in the city of angels. That Schreiber has got some impressive chops goes without saying. The pedigree of regulars on the show are proof of that.

Academy award winner Jon Voight, as Ray’s father, Brit actor Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes, The World’s End) as Terry Donovan, Steven Bauer as Avi to name but three. The show also boasts impressive guest stars like the iconic Ian McShane (Death Race, Case 39, Deadwood), Fairuza Balk (The Craft, Almost Famous) and Katie Holmes in this season opening episode alone. In The Kalamazoo, former season regular Elliot Gould, another Hollywood icon, who played Ezra Goodman, has rather loudly shuffled off his mortal coil while yelling for Ray.

The show has Donovan remembering Goodman, as well as being booted out of the funeral by Deb, and doing what he does best. Ray “Fixes” things for various clients in Los Angeles, at the start of the show he steps in to aid Flip Brightman, played by the excellent Bronson Pinchot, a TV weatherman who keeps “stiffing” the local porn shop’s “glory hole.” The offender gets his penis trapped in the device and Donovan has to pay to get him out.

A very rich Andrew Finney (McShane) hires Ray to get his kidnapped son back and to not pay the $5 million ransom if possible. It appears that his son arranged the abduction himself. Ray’s father Mickey buys a barbecue grill (The Kalamazoo) for the apartment complex and tries to talk Gary, a cowboy hat wearing pimp on moving his business out of the area.

Mickey puts on a party for the people living in the apartments while trying to look out for Ginger, a prostitute with a young daughter who wants to be an actor. Gary beats up on the mother and insults Ray’s father, not understanding just how dangerous the man really is. By the end of the show, the pimp pays for his stupid cruelty with his life.

Ray gets back Finney’s son and saves the man from paying the ransom. A priest, who stopped by Ezra’s room at the start of the show, collects some files and looks to be a man who will be reappearing in season 3.

Watching the season premiere, it is easy to see why the first two seasons of Ray Donovan was nominated for and won awards. The show is gritty and somber. The characters feel real; damaged and seedy and not a little frightening. Ray is a hard man who feels as though he would not be out of place in Raymond Chandler’s LA.

The writing of the show is such that one can step in at the start of season three and not feel lost. Regardless of whether one knew who Ezra was, or just why Ray is estranged from his wife, enough information could be gleaned from the script to follow the events in the episode easily.

Ray Donovan is a Showtime production and is available via Hulu as an upgrade. This is a cracking show with a hard edge and one that drama lovers will appreciate.

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