Ray's father Mickey (Jon Voight, in a role that will not surprise you) has five kids total: A dead junkie chick, a leprechaun, a black guy, Ray, and Dash Mihok, who was molested as a kid* and is also (or, as the show seems to believe, therefore) an addict. Mickey's been in jail for twenty years, framed by Ray, and has just gotten out, five years early. The first thing he did was vow revenge on Ray, forming a secret connection with Ray's wife Abby, and then killed a priest, and then he did a bunch of drugs with hookers, and then he leered at a lady breastfeeding on a plane, and now he is in LA. He is the worst. Of all the dads you would never want to have, "Mickey Donovan" is top of the list, right above "Jon Voight."
The most imperiled brother's name is "Bunchy," and if you have a heart and eyeballs you love him the most, because it's Dash Mihok. He is a mess, but a loveable mess. The most interesting brother is Terry, who is a leprechaun with Parkinson's disease who mostly seems amazed that he is related to these other people. (I don't know how many of them were molested by priests, but it seems like most of them were based on how weird everybody is about everything all of the time.) They are the main ones, we don't really get to know the dead sister or the black brother right away, but at least the former seems to have a lot to do with Ray's mental problems.
Ray has all these mental problems, but they're noir and hard-boiled and very grown up, so I guess that's fine. "Noir and hard-boiled and very grown up" is a good way to describe the show itself, or at least how the show thinks it's doing. At one point, drunk, he hallucinates a framed portrait of Marilyn Monroe imploring him to both "save me" and "fuck me," a white knight/broken-doll motif that's already been explained even more explicitly (not to say laboriously) by several other characters. That kind of thing.
The main events, beyond Dad showing back up and fucking with everybody's whole life, are as follows: Ray is awakened by a call from a sports hero who fell asleep with a girl who was still doing blow, and when he woke up she was dead. At the same time he gets a call from his manager-esque lawyer Lee Drexler, who is a pretty big cunt, about how one of his action-star clients -- a Vin/Rock analogue played by, of all people, John from Cincinnati -- keeps getting caught with trans sex workers. So Ray switches the two narratives around, puts his assistant Katherine Moennig on it as JFC's handler, and voila: Instant heterosexuality for JFC and plausible deniability for the guy who actually fell asleep next to this girl who died.
Then it's over to visit an extravagantly repellent Paramount executive, who has hired Ray to keep an eye on his barely legal girlfriend, an epileptic ex-Disney starlet whom Ray knows from a prior case. While spying on her, Ray notices a stalker -- he warns the girl, which activates all of her own stalker tendencies, daddy issues, and blowjobbing habits -- and dyes the guy Ferrigno green before, on a repeat offense, beating the shit out of him (maybe to death?). Did I mention that Ray is basically a cartoon antihero whose most complex feature is his total lack of complexity? It's kind of hot.
Then it's time for a quick sunny poolside memorial for Elliott Gould's wife. He's Ray's long-time mentor, where the gross Paramount executive gets his revenge on Ray by telling Abby about an affair he imagines to be taking place between Ray and the Disney girl. While he mostly talks his way out of that, when the girl turns up at Abby's yoga class -- and eventually in their living room -- it's a lot harder to explain. Mostly, I was looking forward to seeing Elliot Gould be charming and quick, but I suppose watching him slowly succumb to dementia could be super fun too. If they think of a totally hilarious way to do it, I mean.
But they won't. The show is so convinced of its profundity that half of the wittier lines -- and the show is smart -- don't even really land until they're long gone, because you get so used to the self-indulgent speechifying and bad-assery and lovingly detailed performances that you barely register what anybody's talking about. It's not even really a bad thing, although its easy reliance on tropes across the premium-cable spectrum comes off a little desperate at times. I try not to judge pilots too harshly, and there was enough -- between the actors and the hint of actual joy that slips out every now and then -- to bring me back next week.
I guess if you're one of those delusional rich people that likes to talk about how shitty rich people are without realizing how oblivious you sound, this is probably a good show for you. Or if you like a show about poor Irish people acting like trashy douchebags in front of rich LA people and never actually getting how bad they look. All in all it's pretty negative and pretty toxic and doesn't have much to say about the way people actually are, but that's what makes everybody love Breaking Bad so goddamn much, so who am I to judge.
Next Week: Abby continues working against Ray's plan to keep Mickey out of their lives, another actor gets a stalker, and our action hero turns up on a sex tape. Presumably Abby will continue to bitch about real estate, prep schools, and Ray's emotional availability, since those seem to be literally the only topics she has any thoughts on, while Ray will most likely continue to see sexual abuse lurking around every corner, waiting for his kids, because that seems to be his main hobby. And Jon Voight thinks of something to do that is so gross you never even thought of it, probably.
Mickey Donovan went to jail for twenty years for murder. But it wasn't a murder he actually himself did, and it wasn't actually for twenty years: Turns out it only lasted fifteen, which is going to be a surprise for his son Ray Donovan, who I think engineered the framing of things in the first place. Mickey has done a lot more than just this one crime, and he is big trouble, but he's not all bad. (He might secretly be all bad.)
In that fifteen years, though, Ray has married a sort of harpy, had two kids, and gotten himself a mentor, an LA lawyer named Ezra Goodman who's recently ceded management largely to his partner, Lee Drexler. Ezra is played by Elliott Gould, so you know you are supposed to adore him; Lee Drexler is played by Taub from House and is therefore the worst human being the world has to offer. Either one of them considered alone would come off pretty crude -- counting their shekels and circumcising everybody all the time -- but if you put them together, they're not so offensive. Elliott Gould Effect.
Ray is a Hollywood fixer, with two fulltime direct-reports (Avi the Muscle, Lena the Lesbian) and an office where he barely ever goes. He moved his wife here from Southie to Calabasas -- as if California has any real concept of class anyway -- because they are both grossed out by where they came from, but surprise! They brought it with them.
They're still way more socially palatable than Ray's brothers, quiet Terry and hot junkie Bunchy, who own a boxing gym call the Fite Club, and are a Carson McCullers-type pair of interlocking physical and emotional problems. (They have another brother but Ray doesn't know that yet.) Bunchy is played by Benvolio, and Terry is played by I think an actual hobgoblin, like from Hogwarts. They are both adorable; it is a very good-looking family. Especially to have come out of Jon Voight's balls. (A man who already looks like a scrotum would, one assumes, have a scrotum that looks like two resentful scrotums, having a fight.)
Ray is having an affair with the white President of the United States, Fitzgerald Grant. Just kidding, no he isn't. But he does have a history of affair-having. He also has an apartment in town for when he needs to sleep off some of his extra testosterone/antiheroism, though, and it's decorated in Marilyn Monroe crap, because he's simultaneously unique and not very unique at all. He's got a thing for doomed dames, see; he's got a noir boner for broken dolls. (We know this because people actually say it in the dialogue, over and over, because Showtime shows are never quite as smart as they think they are.)