Schreiber portrays the titular character Ray Donovan, a Boston-native who makes the problems of Tinseltown’s celebrities, superstar athletes, and business moguls disappear. In the latest season, Ray discovers that even his own actions have consequences and that clean slates are a dirty business. Ray takes some hits that would leave lesser men down for the count, but what doesn’t kill a Donovan only makes him stronger. One thing is for sure, whether you’re with him or against him – it may be a new day, but it’s the same Ray.
One of my minor complaints when reviewing Season Two of 'Ray Donovan' was that so many of the second season's storylines were merely extensions of what happened in the first season. Ironically, Season Three seems to go out of its way to shake things up in Ray's world. By the end of the first episode of this latest season, things have changed significantly for the Donovan clan.
One of the biggest events that occurs this season happens right off the bat, as Ray's (Liev Schreiber) long-time boss and mentor, Ezra (Elliott Gould), finally succumbs to his brain cancer – turning Ray into primarily a free agent for his 'fixer' services. Not long after the funeral, Ray has a new bidder for his business in the form of billionaire Andrew Finney (Deadwood's Ian McShane), who wants to buy Ray and his company lock, stock, and barrel. Andrew also has a daughter, Paige (Katie Holmes), who is more than a little at odds with her father for reasons that will be revealed as the season goes along. The interplay between Ray, Andrew, and Paige is one of the big appeals to Season Three, as both McShane and Holmes are entertaining additions to the cast.
This series has always found something interesting for star Jon Voight (who plays Ray's father, Mickey) to do, and this season must have been a delight for Voight, as he really gets to have some fun. After a thwarted heist at the end of last season (which resulted in Ray's older brother, Terry (Eddie Marsan) being sent off to prison – but more about that in a bit), Mickey and son Daryll (Pooch Hall) hit it big at the track, winning a million dollars. Sure enough, as this season opens, both have already squandered their winnings, without even having paid taxes on the income yet. Mickey has taken up residence at an apartment complex in L.A., where he decides to take over and run a group of prostitutes that live and work there. On top of that, he also decides to sell drugs, making Mickey both a pimp and a drug dealer in this season. I probably don't need to tell you that this is not going to end well, but it's always entertaining seeing Voight chew the scenery – and he's at his best in this latest batch of episodes.
While prior seasons have slowly built storylines and usually finished off their runs with the best episodes, this time out my favorite entry actually came early on, as Ray needs to figure out a way to get brother Terry out of prison before a group of White Aryans who are plotting to kill him. It's in this episode that Ray has to sell his business over to Finney, as he's the only man in town with the power to pull enough strings to free Terry. The episode works because it's one of the few in this series' entire run where we really get to see just how much Ray cares about his older brother. It also unravels in such a way that the viewer is never quite sure if Terry will live or die.
As for the rest of the Donovan family, Season Three finds younger brother Bunchy (Dash Mihok) falling for a Mexican wrestler (Alyssa Diaz) whose family has come to train at the Donovan gym; Ray's wife, Abby (Paula Malcomson), visiting family back in Boston and trying to patch up her failing marriage back at home; and Ray and Abby's daughter, Bridget (Kerris Dorsey), falling for one of her teachers (Mad Men's Aaron Staton) at her new private school.
As has been the case with my reviews for the prior seasons of 'Ray Donovan', it's really hard to judge if this latest season is better or worse than the others. All three seasons have had very good episodes, as well as a handful of episodes that seemed not to move along the ongoing storylines very much. I will say that Season Three is at least as good, if not just a tad better, than the season that proceeded it, and fans of this series certainly shouldn't be disappointed by what transpires in this latest batch of episodes.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
The third season of 'Ray Donovan' arrives on Blu-ray in packaging mirroring the prior two season's releases. The three 50GB discs are housed inside an Elite keepcase, with the first two discs attached to a plastic hub, and the third disc placed on the inside right. Also like previous seasons, the reverse side of the keepcase's slick (seen from inside the box) contains a short synopsis of each episode as well as what disc in the set they appear on.
The first Blu-ray in this set is front-loaded with a short promo ad for the Showtime network. There are no front-loaded trailers on any of the other discs and, sadly, no bonus features whatsoever on any of these discs. The main menu is also similar to what we saw in prior releases, with a video montage of footage from the episodes, with options 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 with the prior two season releases on Blu-ray, Season Three provides nicely rendered video and 'Ray Donovan' continues to be one of the best-looking current television series on home video. Blacks are once again inky deep, facial features are very realistic looking, and the amount of depth and detail in most shots is pretty stunning.
If there's one drawback to this season that wasn't a big issue during the prior two seasons, it's that this batch of episodes seems to distract with a lot more use of green screen that I noticed in either Season One or Season Two of the show. Green screen has almost always been used in car-driving sequences in 'Ray Donovan', and it's always been pretty obvious. That continues in Season Three, but I also notice a lot more green screen for background shots – probably an indication that more sets and less actual exteriors where used for this season than have been used in the past. It's not frequent enough to take away from one's enjoyment of the series, but it is one of the problems that exist when a transfer is this sharp – any type of special effect used in a shot is much more obvious.
With the above in mind, there are no major technical issues with the transfer of these episodes, although I did notice a few establishing shots that took place in bright outdoor locations occassionally had a slight shimmer to them that might be a distraction for those with particualrly large TV screens. Otherwise, this is a very good transfer, with no major glitches of which to speak.
In terms of the audio, the lossless English TrueHD 5.1 track for each episode is on par with the second season release. The audio here once again shows a nice bit of immersiveness to it, which may not exactly match the release of a major motion picture on Blu-ray, but for a television series that is often dialogue-focused, comes across pretty nicely. Like in prior seasons, there's not a whole lot of LFE use, but when the scene requires it, some can be noticed. The spoken word is crisp and clean, and separation between elements is also well-done. I detected no glitches in the tracks, and certainly no issues with dropouts or muddiness.
In addition to the lossless English track, each episode has audio available in Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital. However, unlike the Season One and Season Two releases, there is no French 5.1 Dolby Digital on this set. Subtitles are available in English SDH and English.
Sadly, CBS/Paramount has provided no bonus materials for fans on this release.
Upon reflection, I can't say I enjoyed Season Three of 'Ray Donovan' any more than the prior two seasons, but I certainly didn't enjoy it any less either. Those who didn't think the situations for the characters changed enough between Seasons One and Two will be happy to hear that things are shaken up pretty good this time around. This show may not rank among TV's very best, but it continues to be very watchable and well-acted. Like the prior two seasons, Season Three falls solidly in the recommended category.