Bridget's birthday means a yearly toast among the brothers, a Shakespeare reading, a little of the old ultraviolence and the requisite insensitive interruption by Mickey... But also leads to a contemplative hour, and I would say the best of the series to date.
It was early in the episode that I remember thinking to myself that I probably still didn't love this show as a show, but I have definitely become very attached to a lot of the characters. Bridget's honesty and pragmatism, Mickey's inconsiderate and destructive affections, Ezra's capacity for love, absolutely everything about Terry and Bunchy, and even the hyped-up power-mess that is Abby Donovan.
What immediately became the central theme, though, is the affection the show itself has for each of them. It's an intensely compassionate story, painfully so perhaps, and while you could have extrapolated that from the subject matter and motifs in play, it was nice to spend an hour just sort of hugging everybody and feeling feelings. Nobody leaves the episode without opening a vein, and it's gorgeous.
Frances shows up at the Fite Club with a black eye, so the boys interrupt their birthday/memorial to go beat up her husband, but it's beautiful. Terry beats the guy until he stops fighting and then very sweetly, in his Terry way, apologizes to the man for sleeping with his wife, and orders him to stop hitting ladies. Then he breaks up with her a few times and drags Bunchy to a church, so he can give confession (adultery, as he sees it, being an easier thing to do penance for than the unimaginable hubris of actually being happy). The well-meaning priest's pretty basic (and correct) advice -- self-love, self-condemnation, loneliness, the wonderful beast that is Terry -- is exactly what he doesn't want to hear, and he ends primed to join Bunchy on the Self-Punishment Express.
Avi blows up Bunchy's house and kidnaps the realtor/slumlord that sold it to him, and Ray tortures him into giving back all of Bunchy's money, in cash. This then goes to Boston with Avi, for purposes of buying off Sully, who will make the trip back next week. Sully and Avi on a road trip across America sounds great! Sadly, Sully's gal won't be joining us, regardless of her blowjob skills, but at least Avi will get some scenes. The trick is, when Bunchy gives Ray shit about not returning his money, he admits to the aforementioned arson and torture where Mickey can hear him, so that should work out well.
Mickey meets an ex-trophy wife (Rosanna Arquette) of a movie producer, who finds his story fascinating and decides to accompany him to his new rathole apartment. But in a sequence of events that is somehow (the "how" being that this episode was written by the show's female showrunner) catastrophically funny, he plays gamely into what he thinks is a sexy scenario, but is abashed to find out is actually just him almost accidentally raping her. It's embarrassing for him, hugely traumatic for her, and it does not end well, but it's nice to see some expression on his generally impassive/creepy face other than "lizardy."
In the wake of Marvin's boundary-crossing last week, a therapist has suggested that Bridget get a body mod, but without telling Abby she gets a belly ring on her own. This causes major static with Ray, and once she's grounded she disappears for the day. Abby freaks and freaks and freaks, finally brings her home and -- after a rip-roaring, hideous fight -- gets drunk enough to be nasty and oracular by the time Ray comes home. It's exceedingly unsatisfying, in a very calculated way, to bring the two of them so close to the same level of buzz and actually start throwing words around like "emotional honesty," only to have Ray puss out at the last second and stumble off into the house.
Marvin, we learn, was made to suck a gun by Ray, then dropped off at his dead mother's house in Compton with orders never to return to Calabasas or contact Bridget. Bridget, of course, spends the day on the bus to Compton, but when she offers Marvin her virginity he calls Abby himself. The sadness of him recording a song and video about his mother's death in the actual crime scene is undercut by the essential buoyance of these preceding scenes, and the level-headed and mature way he and Bridget deal with each other.
In advance of Van Miller's investigation, Lena is destroying all evidence of federal crimes in the office when Avi adorably counsels her to discuss her feelings with her current girlfriend (married to a man), which she does in the form of punching the chick in the nose. Because it is Lena, this is somehow winsome.
And because it is this show, Lena is arrested at the end of the episode during a Cat Stevens montage that moves from Ray and Bridget's gorgeous reconciliation scene, the various emotional tortures of poor stunted Terry and Bunchy, to Mickey, weeping over his daughter's portrait. Great hour. Wonderful stuff.
No Van this week, but for once I was able to think about people other than Van, so that was good. There was a fucking fascinating moment where the Irish melancholia and recitation of memories you expect from the second the whiskey gets opened takes a sharp left -- Ray remembers certain events from childhood VERY differently than his brothers do, managing to blame Mickey for all kinds of things he might not have done. As always, it's left hanging, but Terry's gravitas in correcting Ray's more dubious memories pulls us even further from trusting Ray's narrative about his father. That's the thing to keep an eye on, I think, moving into the season's third act.
Next Week: Van wires Mickey up for a visit to see Sean Walker about that girl's death, Sully's gal might be a double agent, Ray threatens to expose FBI Frank's bigamy when he gets cold feet about Van, and there is possibly a real-life explosion having to do with good old Tommy Wheeler's inability to stop sucking dicks for even just like one day.
Bunchy bought a house with his settlement, but then freaked out and tried to burn it down. Ray visited Patrick Sully Sullivan in Boston and convinced him to kill Mickey in LA. Terry came up against his girlfriend's secret marriage. Van Miller is closing in on the Sean Walker murder investigation and hopes to bring down Ray and his bosses in the process. Marvin Gaye Washington got a little ahead of himself in the sexual experimentation department so -- since his greatest fear is that one of his children will be involved in blowjobs -- Ray grabbed the kid and drove off with him, to an unknown end.
Making this the third or fourth scene in which this happens, Sully decides to leave for California. His lady friend wants to come along because she hates Boston -- and has been in hiding from the FBI for who knows how long but probably the whole time, unless they met on the internet or something -- but Sully won't let her come with, not even once she blows him in a Barcalounger.
You know what's fun? Thinking about old people going down on each other.
Meanwhile, Avi blows up Bunchy's house. It seems like the kind of arson that is just straight-up arson so I am guessing this is not for insurance purposes. To be fair, it was a bit of a tear down to start with. I suppose I wish Bunchy was there to see it, not that it would bring him much peace.
Ray takes his time after a shower to look at his various tattoos and think about what they all mean. Mostly this takes the form of various angles on Liev Schreiber's insane body, but if you know that this week is all about scars and less permanent body modifications -- plus the anniversary of his dead sister's birthday, who is memorialized in one of the tattoos; his mother is the other -- you might be distracted from that.
Upstairs, Bridget investigates her belly button piercing, getting a little spot of blood on a tank top in the process and just tossing it in the laundry without trying to shout it out. At first it just seems like your average teen girl stuff, but again: This is coming in the wake of a pretty negative sexual experience, so we're talking about a reclamation of some kind.
Ray calls the gross guy that sold Bunchy the house in the first place, just to make sure he knows who burned it down, and the guy goes a little apeshit on the phone before Ray, of course, hangs up on him. Rolling calls, you know. Terry calls immediately to remind him of their sibling ceremony about Bridget, and gets ready to face the day.