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Liev Schreiber Returns For Another Brilliant Turn as 'Ray Donovan'
November 17, 2019  | By David Hinckley

It can happen to anyone, really.

You kill a corrupt cop, decapitate him, toss his head into the water and figure that's that.

Then suddenly his head bobs up to the surface, some fisherman hooks it, and you have to find an explanation. It's time-consuming and inconvenient, and it's just one more thing on the title character's crowded plate as Showtime's Ray Donovan starts its seventh season at 8 p.m. ET Sunday.

Sharp-eyed fans will note that this is earlier than Ray Donovan has aired in past years. This does not mean it has modified its content to fit the old "family hour" guidelines.

First and foremost, in the new season, Liev Schreiber remains terrific as Donovan, the unhappiest fixer/cleaner/hitman on television. It's one of those deals where he's excellent at his job and doesn't really like his job.

We all know people in that situation, right? Maybe not the hitman part, but the job frustration part.

Like many troubled TV characters who hold morally and legally marginal jobs – think Tony Soprano – Ray has always seemed to tell himself that he redeems his life because he loves and protects his family.

Equally true, his family is also a primary reason he's persistently unhappy in the first place. That unhappiness largely flows from his father Mick (Jon Voight), who Ray describes to his shrink Dr. Arthur Arniot (Alan Alda) as "a piece of s---."

Played beautifully by Voight, Mick doesn't have many redeeming traits. As this new season begins, he's about to go back to prison – part of the way Ray and the other Donovans are resolving that bobbing head problem. To be fair, there's an element of selflessness here, too, since he's doing it to shelter another son, the hapless Bunchy (Dash Mihok).

In fact, the whole Donovan family had a hand in that murder, plus another one that occurred in the same sequence of events. Mick, Ray, Bunchy, and the two other Donovan brothers, Terry (Eddie Marsan) and Daryll (Pooch Hall), had all joined forces to rescue Ray's daughter Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) after two corrupt cops very unwisely kidnapped her.

The Donovan posse, abetted by Bridget's naïve and appalled fiancé/husband Smitty Smith (Graham Rogers), ended up killing the two cops, while a third corrupt cop killed himself.

To open the new season, Ray must sort all that out, in addition to keeping up with clients like corrupt Mayor Ed Ferrati (Zach Grenier). Fortunately, he seems to have at least partly repaired his relationship with his essential investigative assistant Lena Barnum (Katherine Moennig), who has always been one of the best things about the show.

Over on the psychological side, Ray remains haunted by the unavoidable fact that his life decisions made Bridget vulnerable and now is leading her toward the same life he lives. He doesn't really want it for himself, and he definitely doesn't want it for her.

That's where Dr. Arniot comes in. Hey, Dr. Melfi worked wonders for Tony Soprano, right?

Meanwhile, Terry runs into a New Age-y woman who lures him to her place by suggesting she can help arrest his Parkinson's Disease, and Bunchy gets a new job that probably shocks the rest of the Donovan family because it's legitimate.

Family togetherness comes and goes on Ray Donovan, and all this latest activity seems to have swung the pendulum back toward harmony. They're still fractured and dysfunctional, but they're glad to have each other. "Strange how people who have suffered together," Bob Dylan sang, "have stronger connections than people who are most content."

Ray is terrific at solving other corrupt people's problems. He's not so terrific at finding a way to live with himself, which is one reason Ray Donovan remains an intriguing show to follow.

As with many of his fellow antiheroes, we don't want him to fail. At the same time, what he's doing shouldn't be earning rewards. When the severed head bobs to the surface, it's hard to say it's all good.

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