Ray Donovan, Season 1, Episode 12: “Same Exactly”
Written by: Ann Biderman
Directed by: Michael Apted
Airs Sundays at 10 PM (ET) on Showtime
On a narrative level, “Same Exactly” ties up all the necessary loose ends. The three major conflicts that had to be dealt with- the unhinged, still-on-the-loose Sully, Frank and the FBI potentially taking Ray down, and the sudden reveal of Ray’s molestation as a child- are wrapped up with a nice dollop of closure for each. Ray Donovan even manages to reverse one of the more gaping holes in the show’s logic. For an entire season we waited to find out just why Ray wanted his father dead; last week’s reveal pointed the way forward and now “Same Exactly” gives us a genuine, compelling reason. That Ray’s been acting out the revenge fantasy he’s had since childhood makes perfect sense. His motivation never seemed fully-formed, which matches perfectly with the anger a child would have at a neglectful father.
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But the problem with “Same Exactly” is in the show’s unwillingness to ever give Ray a change of direction. It’ll give him depth, for sure. But Ray’s never moved an inch from his original standing in the show. He’s never had to grow or move in a different direction as a character. And what’s so unbearably frustrating is that Ray Donovan is happy to rearrange its supporting characters to meet Ray’s refusal to change.
The show has been painting its two lead characters in parallel lines for the whole season. Mickey was the deadbeat dad, he was never around and he never supported his children the way a father should. Because of this, Ray was molested and now harbors murderous anger against his father. But Ray is a deadbeat dad, is never around and never supports his children the way a father should. And in trying to protect his daughter from molestation, he violently kidnapped her boyfriend in front of the whole family. Bridget is understandably frustrated and furious over her father’s actions. But all it takes is a single utterance of “hey, your dad’s not so bad” from Lena and now Bridget loves him all over again. It doesn’t ring true in the slightest, and destroys the parallel the show’s been fighting to achieve.
The final sequence in “Same Exactly” is the perfect illustration of how Ray Donovan casts aside basic human logic in order to create the right moment. The season’s ideal end is Ray, having saved the day (even though it was Mickey who actually took action and saved Ray’s life) crawling back to his family, exhausted, his strength eventually giving out. But his family meets him halfway and creates a quiet, loving moment around him.
Here’s the problem(s). Two children should not react so calmly to seeing their father slumped over in a beach chair and soaked in blood. Ray has at least a pint or two of gore all over himself, but Conor and Bridget ascertain that he’s fine without so much as a peep. They don’t even check for a pulse; they know instantly that Dad’s ok without any evidence. Because if they were to be upset over seeing their father collapsed and caked in blood, it’d ruin the calm, warm family vibe this scene needs as a capstone for the season. The Donovan children simply ignore human emotion for the sake of the scene.
Also- why exactly is Ray at the beach?. He got the call from Abby, and was headed to the hotel to see his family. Then he decided to forgo the hotel (and his family) and just take a nap in a beach chair. Mickey was more than capable of getting into the room on his own, so Ray, who sneaks into things for a living, should have had no problem maneuvering his way into a hotel room. But he doesn’t. And we’re never told why.
There are a few plot threads that might be of interest in Ray Donovan‘s forthcoming second season. Bunchy is now a new man, upstanding and mature, while Terry is crashing hard. Abby, having learned why Ray is so cold, feels more of a connection to him. Other than that, it seems extremely likely that future seasons of Ray Donovan will be the “Same Exactly.”
And not in a good way.