"Fite Nite" was another brilliantly subtle episode of Ray Donovan. I haven't been reading what other critics have been saying about the show, but some comments here lead me to believe that perhaps there is a feeling of disappointment in knowing what's going to happen on the show before it occurs.
That the emotions and absurdities of the story portray so much tension while deliberately dragging the viewer along a path scattered with hearty-sized bread crumbs is exactly why I find the writing so cunning. The writers, producers, directors and actors are all working together to bring life into a plot that isn't new, but seen through fresh eyes nonetheless.
For example, Ray was being too ostentatious on the day he planned to kill Mickey. As a viewer, we were all screaming in our heads that he shouldn't be doing the things he was doing: going to Fite Nite when he hadn't done so even a handful of times in as many years; buying the girls in his life diamond earrings; carrying around in plain sight a bag that clearly screamed "hey, I'm a bag of money!" and generally celebrating as if on that day his life was about to change forever.
We knew he was giving up his secrets and were aware those close to him would catch on. Abby and Terry caught on quite easily, and it wasn't due to poor writing. Ray was living in a dream. He had imagined a time when his father would be out of his life for nearly all of it, and it was so close he could taste it. He lost himself, as humans tend to do. As Ray has shown he can do, time and again, when it comes to his family.
None of us actually expected Sully to kill Mickey. He couldn't do that. The show has been renewed for a second season and the primary conflict of Ray Donovan is the relationship between Ray and Mickey. Why spend an hour pretending that there's a possibility Sully might actually kill Mickey when what actually went down between them was so much more intriguing, and the result spun Ray's world off its axis?
There were some really well-played scenes by Jon Voight tonight, and his character became more disturbing and more of an enigma as a result. Let's tick them down:
- The look in Mickey's eyes when he discovered Ray was behind the hit. It seemed as though he had no idea the lengths to which his return had disturbed his son.
- Mickey turning the table on Ray by telling Sully that he was still working with the feds, and that's probably why Ray wasn't killing him on his own. Instead, he led Sully to believe Ray would have Mickey killed while bringing the feds down on Sully. Mickey can think on his feet.
- Mickey's attempt to save Spa Lady was genuine, and for a minute she thought she was safe, as did Mickey. For that instant, the contrast of pure evil to bumbling bad guy seemed obvious given the way things went down. I was seeing Mickey as a crap father who paid no attention to the path of destruction he left in his wake. Standing side by side with Sully, he seemed like cotton candy next to a roaring fire.
- No sooner had that thought gone through my mind than Mickey and Sully started a trip down memory lane, laughing about past kills they had done together and recollecting how a body had been torn apart by a dog. Again, I started to question Mickey on the scale of evil.
- When the truth about Colleen came out, Mickey wrung out that Sully was only killing him because he truly believed he killed Colleen all those years ago. When Sully learned Mickey wasn't the killer, it was enough to turn the tides. That was surprising. The money, the vengeance;for putting his entire family into prison -- it wasn't enough for Sully to keep his word to Ray to kill Mickey. More shrewd planning on the part of Mickey with an extra iron in the fire...
- Notions of Hollywood stardom be damned, Mickey rolled right up to Sean Walker's house and saved his own ass by offering him up as a sacrifice for Sully -- right in front of his own baby. If I had thought that perhaps Mickey had a soft spot in his heart for the true killer of Colleen in exchange for stardom, that was proven wrong in an instant.
- Mickey's final understated play of the night was walking back into Fite Nite while everyone was watching the news of Sean Walker's death and blaming it all on Ray. He turned the entire affair back around onto his son, and in showing up as he did also set Ray and Abby against each other.
In my couch-psychoanalyst position, I'd have to say that Mickey suffers from a severe case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He has a grandiose sense of self importance, believes he is special, is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power and beauty, lacks empathy, is exploitative of others and requires excessive admiration. Mickey plays each person he meets like a fiddle, getting them to give him exactly what he needs from that list. Everyone but Ray.
That look in Mickey's eyes was recognition that Ray is onto him. Ray broke the rules of the game. He continually refuses to buy what Mickey is selling. That has to be the biggest challenge of Mickey's life. He'll never try to hurt Ray because he wants him to buy into Mickey far more than he wants to get rid of him. He'll use every resource in his grasp to try to get Ray to drink the Kool-Aid.
We'll find out next week if Bunchy jumped off the roof, where Abby and Ray are after she admitted to a years-long relationship with Mickey (sip, sip) and what steps Ezra will want to take after losing all of the money from Ruth's foundation without any reward. Also, check out the Ray Donovan quotes because they always have some interesting ones to tickle your fancy.
This week was a dance between father and son - and the son took a tumble off the dance floor. There's no doubt he'll pick himself up for the next rhumba, but he needs to get his head in the game. Taking gambles on wild cards like Sully are too risky. Ray needs to be all in against his father or come up with another plan for the future to live along side him. Something tells me he's not ready to do that yet.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.