Ray Donovan episode 3 review: Twerk

Is Ray Donovan simply better at the deep stuff than the shallow? Here's Michael's review of Twerk...

This review contains spoilers.

1.3 Twerk

So this guy walks into a mutual support group… 

Tough crowd Mickey, tough crowd. Telling rape jokes is pretty poor form at the best of times; when your audience consists of sexual abuse survivors it smacks of deliberateness. Why not try watching online twerk videos at the public library instead? Whatever you think about Mickey, he’s determined to make himself noticed, even if it means stamping about L.A. with the subtlety of an ignored toddler. Jon Voight is having a ball as the elderly troublemaker who does for Ray Donovan what The Joker did for The Dark Knight, namely rocking up every couple of scenes and gleefully messing up everything our hero has struggled to keep in place. 

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However, his grim appearance at his son’s support group provides an unwitting metaphor for the show itself. There’s a sensitive and considered message to be heard about damaged people when someone says the wrong thing and ruins the moment.  

Twerk (I’ve said it twice now, look it up if you must), is concerned with the corruption power of money, the damage it can do and its utter inadequacy at fixing the problems it creates. Thus we have Bunchy, whose support group it is, finally receiving his $1.4m settlement for suffering the abuse at the hands of the priest, (who, we learn, is the brother of the priest that Mickey killed in the opener. Whoops.). It’s meant to make things good again, but there’s the real threat that, given Bunchy’s proclivities, $1.4m could kill him, especially with the unhinged Mickey in town. Ray’s certainly concerned, but he’s having difficulties holding his brother’s attention against his father. He’s also got a doubtful purchase on the moral high ground, given his professional duties offering a crack addict a fistful of dollars in exchange for Goldman & Drexler having rights to their activities. Even the addict thinks it’s a bad idea. “I’m deep in my addiction” she protests, implausibly. 

And therein lies the problem. Ray Donovan is better at the deep stuff than the shallow. Its treatment of the issues it presents is better than the dialogue it uses to transmit them. “A legacy is important”, says Ezra, as he drifts out of the room, “especially when you’ve done terrible things, not to be spoken of”. There’s a point there, but it’s hiding behind its obviousness. 

Abby Donovan finally gets to see her husband after his week in his professional fugue state. She drops off his designer suits at the Catholic mission, which, given the cardboard cut-out nature of her character, is at least a step up from attacking them with scissors or dumping them on the lawn. She recants, after a tearful spell at Redemption Yoga (clumsily juxtaposed with Bunchy’s therapy) and takes the togs back, leaving the priest three-four thousand dollars for his trouble. That’s all they do here, if in doubt, throw some money at it, which is a criticism of the characters, rather than their characterisation. 

Not that criticism of their characterisation is ill-deserved. Abby is almost entirely one dimensional and has no role other than as a response to Ray. That response is usually somewhere between annoyance and exasperation. The only time she isn’t yelling at him is when she’s ignoring him, a state she tends to break by yelling at him again. If nothing else, it adds plausibility to his going AWOL for a week. 

Drexler strikes a second of his two notes this week, eschewing his verbal violence in favour of wide-eyed enthusiasm at the prospect of a new client who promises to keep the firm very busy and well-paid. A young singer, Marvin Gaye Washington (u-huh), apparently the black Justin Bieber, and intended protégé of a rapper who lives, most conveniently, next door to Ray, needs prying from the junkie fingers of his mother. Enter Ray. That Ray, who makes every effort to be anonymous, should be regarded as a household name by these guys jars slightly, as does the clumsy manner in which the singer strikes up a friendship and putative romance with Ray’s daughter Bridget. It’s all a little too easy.

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Hardly surprising that once again, Ray and Terry are the standouts. I’m genuinely curious as to what Terry’s problem is. He at least recognises the importance of paying your own way. His ‘gift’ of the attentions of a nurse is a present too far and he insists on paying his own way. Not that he has to, she likes him after all, no matter how difficult he makes things for her. His asking her out on a date scene was the most ham-fisted and heavily coached since George McFly’s density popped him to Lorraine Baines back in ’55. It’ll no doubt prove ultimately as successful too, and if Terry’s smile (cracking work by Marsan) is anything to go by, we’ll find out more about Punchy. 

A little more light is shed on Ezra, who launches his expensive monument to his dead wife, as a heckler drunkenly throws exposition into the party atmosphere. The Ruth Goldman Ovarian Cancer Clinic may well do some good, but again, it’s a case of a character throwing money where emotions should be. 

And then, as before, Ray Donovan teases us with a nugget of curiosity. This week it’s courtesy of FBI agent Van Miller (Frank Whaley) who is purportedly after Mickey but with an eye that extends to his eldest son. Miller, drenched in Lynchian oddness, draws up a family tree, much as Bridget did in the first episode. I suspect his intentions are less favourable. C’mon, Van, bust this thing open, it needs a shot of something. 

Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, A Mouth Is A Mouth, here.

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