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‘Ray Donovan’ Returns for Season 5
August 6, 2017  | By David Hinckley

The characters in Showtime’s Ray Donovan start their fifth season on a note of high optimism.

You know that’s not gonna last.

The dark and compelling drama, which premieres at 9 p.m. ET Sunday, wastes little time in decimating several happy fantasies.

Ray (Liev Schreiber, top), a “fixer” for shady elements in Los Angeles, has so many fantasies in the course of the first episode that sometimes it’s hard to distinguish them from what’s actually happening.

We do know that most involve his wife Abby (Paula Malcomson), to whom he is deeply devoted and who has had more than a few delusions of her own over the last several seasons.

In Abby’s mind, the best is right around the corner. She and Ray and the family, even including Ray’s bad-seed Dad Mickey (Jon Voight, left), have dodged several literal bullets, not to mention breast cancer, and now must be invincible.

Their kids Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) and Conor (Devon Bagby) seem to be leaving the nest, so Abby and Ray can now plan the rest of their own lives. Whattya wanna do, Ray asks Abby as they take a long dreamlike car ride.

That’s a trickier question than it would be if, say, Abby and Ray had just retired from long careers as insurance adjusters. The people with whom Ray has done business aren’t exactly the Elks Club, and it seems likely he’s never going to be able to stop glancing over his shoulder.

He also has a new colleague this season: Samantha Winslow, played by Susan Sarandon (below). Sam Winslow heads a major movie studio.

Ray meets Sam because she indirectly becomes one of his clients. Be confident that role will be expanding as the season moves along, because it’s clear she has something in mind and she didn’t get to her current position by playing nice.

Sarandon fits immediately and perfectly into the Ray Donovan world. She has the polite façade thinly draped over a fist of jagged glass.

Ray isn’t quite sure what to make of her. He hopes it won’t be much, since he’s got other problems back home.

Bridget is falling even more apart than she’s fallen in the past. Conor, away at school, doesn’t care to speak much with him. Mickey, who’s now living in the family house, is about as likely to keep his vow about staying clean as he would be to win the Boston Marathon.

Ray’s screwup younger brother Bunch (Dash Mihok) has screwed up again, and a past problem comes back to clobber Ray’s older brother Terry (Eddie Marsan).

Not to mention that Ray has to comply with some court orders about counseling sessions. As if Ray, Mr. Quiet Man, is going to open up to some stranger about what is going on in his life, or what happened in his childhood. One look at Mickey and no one would want to go there.

So Ray really doesn’t need another situation to deal with. But he’s staring at several of them, which is good news for viewers.

As season five unfolds, Ray Donovan seems to be following in the path of several other intense dramas. It started by focusing on events and gradually shifted some of that focus to the characters as it created them and filled them out.

As for where they’re ultimately going, happily ever after still isn’t necessarily the most likely option.

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Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is now available in paperback for under $15. Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. Interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer are high points... Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post


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