The sixth season finale of Ray Donovan, S6E12 “The Dead,” doesn’t start off like every other episode. Instead of a cast member uttering “Previously on Ray Donovan” before a weekly recap of last week’s events, a familiar piano line hits.
Back in 2007, LCD Soundsystem re-wrote Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” for a new generation in a sprawling anthem, “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down.” Instead of celebrating the cultural and financial center of the universe as a proving ground for aspiring dreamers, vocalist James Murphy sings of the urban grievances one wakes up to in the city that never sleeps.
An extended montage of Ray getting beat up by policemen, Bunchy getting arrested, Bridget being gagged and bound, Terry brooding, Sam Winslow and Ed Feratti pulling strings, and Justine hanging dead in a shower prove a point. The Donovan’s will never survive New York without each other. Just like James Murphy will never give up the five boroughs, Ray Donovan will never desert his own flesh and blood.
A long tracking shot begins the episode. Aunt Sandy ends a smoke break on her front porch, and we follow her rattail through the house. Blood is soaked through her apron, and Mickey and Darryl are transiting one of those dead bodies from last week. Bridget is making sandwiches to keep the family fortified, and Smitty is watching TV, trying to pretend he isn’t in the middle of a multiple murder cover-up.
Bridget takes a tray of food back to Aunt Sandy, who is in the woodshed with a chainsaw, dismembering two of Ferrati’s stooges, Red and Bianchi. Puffing a cigarette like a chimney, Sandy guides the blade through and through the neckline as if she were slicing up a holiday ham. Bridget has been holier-than-thou all season, but now decides to help out and take off Bianchi’s head. A few episodes ago, Bridget wanted to move away and never speak to her father again. Now, she’s firmly entrenched in the family trade. Yes, this now-headless man had a hand in her kidnapping and was most definitely going to kill her, but it’s hard to believe she is this numb to the gore. Smitty throws up all over the backyard. Mickey isn’t impressed, and suggests Smitty make himself useful and clean the bathroom.
Ray is back at his loft in full Hemingway mode: alone outside on the catwalk, downing a glass of whiskey, firmly stuck in the past. He calls up Mickey to ask him if he was present when his wife — Ray’s mother — took her final breath. Mickey takes Ray down memory lane, and tells him that Ray’s mother loved him the most. She read him Shakespeare every night, and thought he was the golden child. Mickey views his own behavior through rose-colored glasses, and Ray simply hangs up.
Ray takes off into the city. His first stop is at Justine’s wake. No one else is there, and Ray views the body of another person in a long line of them who is dead because of his actions. Justine wasn’t just a pawn on Ray’s chessboard, she was Lena’s potential life partner. Lena refuses to even be in the same room as Ray, waiting outside in her car until he leaves. As Ray views Justine’s body, I must wonder if he gives any thought to his former best friend Mac, who might still be sitting in his car. Dead and alone.
Terry walks into Aunt Sandy’s house, aghast at the spectacle: “What the fuck is going on here?” Smitty is scrubbing blood off the floor, Mickey and Darryl are digging graves, and his aunt and niece are wrapping a severed head in a trash bag. Terry made a deal with the FBI to turn in Mickey to exonerate Bunchy, and the feds didn’t even trail him. Mickey shrugs at Terry’s deal and refuses to cooperate, insisting that they will still screw Bunchy. Darryl abides. A few episodes ago, Terry was beating truck drivers and lumberjacks to a pulp in a Brooklyn fight club, and now he can’t even wrestle an eighty-year-old man into a car.
Sam Winslow is watching the latest news coverage on TV: Ed Ferrati says the recording of him ordering a hit on the judge is a Hollywood production, while Anita Novak insists she has the mayorship in the bag. Ray calls Sam. He is sitting outside her penthouse and demands to talk. Ray gives a swift ass-kicking to Sam’s henchman (the same one who killed Justine) on the elevator ride up and approaches Sam wearing a pair of rubber gloves. Ruh-roh.
Ray has done Sam’s dirty work for two seasons, but the fact she nearly killed Bridget by leaking the Ferrati tape might end this partnership for good. Ray is mute, his body frozen, his face rattling like Terry’s hands. Sam caresses his cheeks, and asks him what he needs. Later, Ray is back in the parking garage, slamming the trunk of his Cadillac shut. An ambiguous camera angle leaves us wondering who or what is stowed away. Ray exhales and peels off his gloves before making a call. He can’t muster the courage to leave his psychiatrist a voice mail.
Smitty is rifling through Aunt Sandy’s closet. Bridget is splattered with blood, wondering what he is up to. Smitty ain’t playin’. He is looking for clothes to get married in. Aunt Sandy’s chop shop hasn’t scared him away, in fact, he wants to get married at city hall that afternoon. Bridget sits down with Uncle Terry for a tender moment. Bridget and Smitty need a witness, and instead of Ray, they invite Terry to do the honors.
Ray calls Lena from a deserted shipyard. She doesn’t want to talk to him, but he implores her to come to an address. Ray left Lena a present—Sam Winslow’s henchman who killed Justine. Lena throws a noose around his head and breaks his neck by jumping out the window and holding onto the rope. Lena struts off from the scene and into the next season like it ain’t no thing.
Bridget and Terry continue their conversation at city hall, and she drops the bomb: Ray tried to kill himself a few months ago. Terry is devastated, and continues to be the only Donovan to display any kind of empathy or humanity all season.
Ray’s revenge tour through New York continues when he storms into Ed Ferrati’s bowling alley headquarters. He draws a gun on the mayor of New York, ready to kill him for having Bridget kidnapped and nearly killed. Ferrati shrugs and blames Radulovic for the whole fracas. I might be a sucker, but I kind of believe him. Ferrati claims that he loves his family just like Ray and that he would do anything for them. Ray’s season-long nemesis makes an offer: “Work with me, and I’ll work with you.”
Ray apparently accepts the deal, and walks right up to the doorstep of Anita Novak’s campaign office. The media swarms him, wanting to know if the Ferrati tape is legit. In one swift blow, Ray destroys Anita Novak’s political career. Ray claims that the Central Park attack was staged, Ferrati was setup at the debate by Cesar Chavez, and that the tape of him ordering a hit on the judge was faked. From a few feet away, Anita watches on, devastated. Ferrati watches her concession speech in a limo, and calls Ray to offer long-term employment. Ray being Ray, he says nothing and hangs up.
This all makes sense in the next scene when Bunchy walks out of imprisonment and embraces Ray on a sidewalk. The tenants of this show stay true. Anything and everything for the family.
I never would have guessed it, but all roads lead to Aunt Sandy’s house. There’s plenty to celebrate; Bridget and Smitty are married, and three dead cops have been successfully disposed of. Mickey interrupts the feast and a rendition of “Molly Malone” by defending his past behavior. No one wants to admit that they’d have all been better off without his dark cloud hovering over them. Bridget reclaims the moment by singing the Bright Eyes song “First Day of My Life.” Uncle Terry nudges Bridget and secures the best one-liner of the episode: “One thing’s for sure, won’t forget your fuckin’ anniversary.” The jubilation continues when Ray arrives with Bunchy. Terry embraces Ray and reminds him that he will always be there for him, and to give him a call before his next suicide attempt.
Last week, I thought this season finale of Ray Donovan would end in a bloodbath, a melee of Donovan’s circling one another, picking sides, and slitting throats. The final destination is something even scarier. All of the Donovan’s in the same room, laughing and smiling, on the same damn page for once. Ray steps out for a moment and dials his psychiatrist. He doesn’t hang up this time, and makes an appointment for the following Monday. Snow starts falling from above, and Ray stares up at the great unknown. Not reaching for an end like last season, but for possibilities.
As snow blankets the rest of Manhattan, Ferrati steps out of a limo to camera flashes, Anita Novak stamps out a cigarette, Lena examines the rope burns on her hands, and Sam Winslow’s body hangs from her penthouse ceiling. And once again, poor Sean “Mac” McGrath is forgotten. Another day in the life of Ray Donovan comes to a close.
This season of Ray Donovan was by no means perfect. I can forgive the plot holes and the lack of character development and admit this was a fun volume of episodes that installed a new playground where the Donovan’s could outsmart bullies and raise some hell. Let’s hope Aunt Sandy sticks around next year, and my money says Anita Novak may stick around to haunt Ray. My primary disappointment this season was Mickey. The reckoning between him and Ray will surely happen someday, and I think it will be well worth the wait.