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Ray Donovan - Norman Saves the World - Review

This latest episode of Ray Donovan offered a brief (and not necessarily welcome) reprieve from the intense character-focused drama that has so far defined the show's fourth season. This episode saw the show do something that it used to do commonly but hasn't done much of this season: have Ray delve into the long-hidden secrets of Hollywood's rich and famous elite. This foray was mostly enjoyable, but it couldn't help but feel as if the show needing to stretch this season out a little.

The primary reason for my enjoyment of this episode's A-plot was Hank Azaria's return as Ed Cochran, and the dynamic between that character and Ray. Cochran has always been one of this show's more successful recurring characters, succeeding in being pitiful, hilarious and reprehensible all at once. Cochran is needed because he can convince the DA to get Mickey out of prison. How can he do this? He has dirt on sitcom actor Sherman Radley (played by Reginald VelJohnson) who, as it turns out, killed a co-star of his called Fiona Miller. Cochran and Ray plan to give Radley up in exchange for Mickey's release, and so they team up to find Fiona's body.

This adventure leads to a brief reappearance of Tommy Wheeler, and the introduction of two new (presumably recurring) characters. One of whom is Radley's agent, played by Six Feet Under and 24 alum Eric Balfour, who's appearance in the episode amounts to him being arrogant and getting waterboarded (a scene Azaria and Schreiber did their best to make funny). The second new addition is fellow fixer The Texan, played by the always great Stacy Keach, and while he sustained two gunshot wounds to the chest at the end of the episode, I doubt we've seen the last of him. Of course, this all ended with Ray discovering the body and Cochran attempting to betray Ray, and Mickey is now a step closer to getting out.

Mickey's subplot this week was also somewhat enjoyable, mainly due to Voight's primarily comedic performance. A hitman had been sent to kill him for the Armenian murders, and so, for protection purposes, Mickey, as well as the Donovan family at large, had to pretend that he was gay, in order for him to be moved to the safety of "the gay wing". This went exactly how you think it would've gone: Mickey pretended to be gay, hilarity ensued. It was a pretty solid piece of comedy, which peaked with Mickey pretending to have sex with his dying cellmate, and so the show got away with lasting another week without Mickey's prison arc becoming stale, as prison arcs tend to do (I'm looking at you, Justified season five).

The few pieces of interpersonal drama this week involved Hector Campos and his sister Marisol, who's stay in rehab didn't have the desired effect. While some of this show's recurring characters are interesting, like Cochran, they're very much the exception to the rule, and after seven episodes this year I still don't care about the Campos family drama. This is probably due to the lack of screentime they've had this season, as even the writers don't seem interested in writing for them. This doesn't mean the actors are doing a bad job or anything. They're just working with weak material.

One of this season's greatest strengths has been Paula Malcomson's character Abby. Earlier in the series, the character was an annoyance, but now she's one of the best things about the show. So the lack of Abby in this episode was disappointing. Her one scene was perfectly fine but didn't add much to the episode. This scene also confirmed that the show still has no idea what to do with Bunchy, and I hope it figures it out soon, because otherwise it would be a terrible waste of Dash Mihok, who has always been one of the show's strongest performers.

As I said, this episode provided a break from the dour but insightful character drama that has thus far fueled this season. This episode was unlikely to live up to last week's standards, but it was a disappointment nonetheless. Ray and Mickey's respective arcs mostly worked due to the performances, but the lack of character drama exposed the fact that without it Ray Donovan is a much lesser show.

About the Author - candon_sean
Sean is a student living in Ireland. He has a keen interest in dramatic television (as well as some comedies). Some of his favourite shows right now include The Leftovers, The Americans, Game of Thrones, Black Sails and Mr Robot. Some of his favourite shows of all time include The Wire, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Person of Interest, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Lost. He is also an "A Song of Ice and Fire" obsessive. You can visit his blog at
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