Ray Donovan, Ep. 1.10 “Fite Nite” begins its endgame without a drop of believability

Ray Donovan, Season 1, Episode 10: “Fite Nite”
Written by: Sean Conway
Directed by: Tucker Gates
Airs Sundays at 10 PM (ET) on Showtime

Few things are more frustrating than seeing a series make the same mistakes, week in and week out. Ray Donovan chugs along towards its eventual conclusion, and what plagued those early episodes continues to plague “Fite Nite.” There’s been no improvements on the weak characterization, poor pacing, poor plotting and the total absence of believable actions taken by these characters.

Sadly, it spells certain doom for the season’s last two episodes.

“Fite Nite,” ideally, contains the perfect way to mesh all these myriad stories together. Every Donovan is supposed to show up and support Daryll, and bringing them all into the same place gives us a simple physical bridge for all these deviating plots. Yet Ray Donovan can’t help but deviate away, and in doing so fractures the episode’s logic beyond repair.

First up is Bunchy. Ten episodes in, it’s simply too tiresome to ask why there isn’t a single character on the show that objects to an alcoholic, depressed family member downing whiskey like it was going out of style, then grabbing an entire bottle for himself and skulking out the door. And Mickey, who up until now is the closest thing Ray Donovan has to a caring father, simply shouts at Bunchy to man up when he worries that the priest who molested him is still on the loose. Mickey cared enough to kill (who he assumed to be) this preacher in the series’ first episode. You’d think that same rage would flow through him- after all, in the last episode he shot a federal agent who posed a less creepy (yet still serious) threat to another son. But Bunchy needs to end “Fite Nite” standing on a rooftop, and contemplating the same death his sister suffered, and the show will gleefully slash away all the connective tissue, logic and motivation necessary to get him there.

Bunchy, despite being shoved around like a prop all episode long, can still be sympathetic. Ray simply isn’t. We’re supposed to feel for him early on, when he reminisces with his son and wants a new baby. Abby calls this idea a ‘band-aid baby,’ and she’s absolutely right. A brand-new bundle of joy would temporarily distract Ray and Abby from their marital woes just as it would distract those of us in the audience from noticing the gaping holes in Ray Donovan‘s story.

It seems like a massive cliche. It is, in fact, a massive cliche. But it’s there for a reason- to create some sort of significance when, lo and behold, Ray finds himself with a new baby at the end of “Fite Nite.” This show’s never given us real reason to care for Sean Walker. He struck up a business partnership with the man he framed for murder, and assumed nothing bad would come of it. That’s about all he’s ever done in his brief time with the show. So when he meets his end, it signifies little else besides Ray Donovan reaching that point in a season where it’ll cull a few regular players from the herd for dramatic effect. His baby, despite being adorable, has even less significance than Sean Walker ever did. Would Ray really be so baby-crazy as to adopt this kid? Would he even be able to, legally? Probably not, but then again real-world logic is not one of Ray Donovan‘s strong suits. In all likelihood, this baby is simply a means to an end. A cliffhanger for cliffhanger’s sake. Like so many other TV show babies, it’ll be trotted onscreen for a few episodes (demonstrating that yes, these characters have changed since we’ve first met them- they’ve got a baby now), then be used as little more than a prop.

Maybe “Fite Nite” would have been more watchable if there was any real tension in Mickey’s potential execution. Maybe if Terry had something to do. Maybe if Connor didn’t suffer a sudden drop in mental acuity and ask continual questions of his parents with the tone and wording of a five-year-old. What’s Uncle Daryll like? Who’s the toughest Donovan? Is Grampa showing up?

We don’t know, Connor. And frankly, it’s getting harder and harder to care.

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