Ray Donovan (Schreiber), Boston bouncer turned Hollywood crisis fixer, can protect just about anything except the unity of his family. As his estranged ex-con father (Voight) dodges the law, Ray's lonely wife Abby (Malcomson) finds herself drawn to a cop. Son Conor (Bagby) may be too close to home while daughter Bridget (Dorsey) is slipping away. Can he hold the pieces of his family together while going to bat for celebrities in crisis? In this sharp, edgy second season, Ray finds that what he wants the most is the hardest thing to fix. Notable guest stars this season include Hank Azaria, Sherilyn Fenn and Wendell Pierce.
Perhaps the best and the worst thing that can be said about the second season of 'Ray Donovan' is that it's more of the same. It's slightly disappointing that most of the 'new' storylines here are merely logical extensions of things that transpired in the series' first season, but viewers patient with the slow unfolding of Season Two's plotlines will find their devotion paid off in the final four or five episodes. It's a slow burn, but it leads to a significant explosion for most of the main characters on this show.
Season Two begins in the aftermath of the prior season's episodes, with Mickey Donovan (Jon Voight) now in Mexico after offing rival Sully Sullivan (played in Season One by James Woods) and Ray (Liev Schreiber) pretty happy that his troublesome father is finally out of Los Angeles. However, the new FBI chief in L.A. (Hank Azaria) informs Ray that he wants Mickey brought back to the city, once again leading to the whole Donovan family having to deal with their less-than scrupulous patriarch.
Mickey's return is the least of Ray's problems however, as a reporter (Vinessa Shaw) from the Boston Globe has come to California hoping to write a story on what really happened to Sully. He's also having more of his share of problems on the home front as well, as his relationship with both his kids is unstable, and he's becoming more and more estranged from his wife, Abby (Paula Malcomson), who begins to look outside their marriage for comfort.
So much time is spent on both Ray and Mickey during the first several episodes that viewers wonder if Ray's brothers Terry (Eddie Marsan) and Bunchy (Dash Mihok) are going to get much of anything to do this season. Rest assured that they eventually get some significant screen time as well, with Terry still hung up on (and wanting to leave the country with) his married girlfriend, Frances (Brooke Smith), while Bunchy has to deal with some sexual issues when he becomes involved with a new love interest (played by Heather McComb).
By the time the season finale rolls around, viewers will be anxious to see how Ray is going to mend all the family relationships around him when everything seems to be falling apart at the seams. Schreiber's character is not only the lead of the series, he's perhaps the most interesting to watch, as so much of what makes up Ray Donovan is internal, rather than through actual dialogue or actions on the screen. That leaves the audience spending a lot of time wondering what Ray is thinking and never knowing when he might snap completely or just simmer some more – which he seems to do a whole lot of this season.
Season Two didn't capture my attention as a viewer quite as much as the first year did, but that doesn't mean I don't want to see what happens to these characters next, or that there aren't some genuinely interesting developments in this batch of episodes. I think Season Two definitely 'plays' better on home video, as watching all 12 episodes in a short amount of time (say, over a week or two) is probably far less frustrating than the viewer who had to wait week by week and found himself or herself wondering if the season was ever going anywhere. Even at its slower moments, though, the actors are so good here than its hard to get bored with the series, so that means Season Two still is deserving of a recommendation.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Ray Donovan: Season Two' arrives on Blu-ray in an Elite keepcase, with the first two 50GB dual-layer discs on an attached plastic hub inside the case, and the third disc on the inside right. The reverse side of the box cover slick (seen from inside the keepcase) contains a list of episodes (with a one-sentence synopsis of each) and bonus features for each of the Blu-rays. Disc One in this set is front-loaded with a promo ad for the Showtime network. There are no front-loaded materials on either Disc Two or Disc Three. The main menu consists of a video montage of footage from this season, with menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-rays in this release are Region A-locked.
'Ray Donovan' is shot digitally, using Arri Alexa cameras, and each episode is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. As was the case with the first season release on Blu-ray, the video quality of this second season is pretty spectacular, making 'Ray Donovan' one of the best-looking television series you'll find on Blu-ray. Colors are rich without ever being oversaturated, detail is razor-sharp, depth is significant, black levels are inky deep, and skin tones are both well balanced throughout and very realistic looking.
There are no obvious flaws in the transfer, and things like noise, banding, and/or aliasing of the image are non-existent. In short, regardless of your opinion of the episodes themselves, this is a near reference-quality transfer and deserving of the highest of video ratings.
The primary audio option for each episode is a lossless English TrueHD 5.1 track, which shows a much more immersive quality than I noticed in the Season One release. While dialogue is still primarily up front, ambient noises are much more apparent in this second season release. The mix here is also nicely done, so when an episode makes use of a song or other background music, it doesn't overwhelm the viewer/listener or seem overly loud compared to the rest of the audio. In terms of any glitches/problems with the audio tracks for these episodes, there were none that I noticed or that jumped out at me, although I will say that LFE use is at a minimum – however, 'Ray Donovan' isn't the kind of series that involves big action sequences...although when called for, some LFE use is brought to the forefront.
In addition to the lossless English track, each episode has audio available in French 5.1 Surround and Spanish 2.0 Stereo. Subtitles are available in English SDH and English.
Because it takes over half the season to finally start paying off, Season Two of 'Ray Donovan' isn't quite as strong as the first season, but those willing to devote their time won't feel cheated by what transpires. Once again, the actors here are in top form (particularly stars Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight) and I really enjoyed how this season devoted a lot of time to the effect of Ray's profession on his family. While the extras here are sparse, this set still falls firmly into the recommended category.