Blu-ray Review: Ray Donovan (Season One)

I’ve always felt that Liev Schrieber was quite an underrated actor, floating by with smaller roles, and never really catching a big break that would fully showcase what a true talent he is. Luckily, that big break has come in the form of the new Showtime series, Ray Donovan.

Schrieber plays the lead character, Ray Donovan, who is a professional “fixer” for his various rich and famous clients in L.A. He’s a loyal family man (well, loyal could be used loosely in some cases) to his wife, Abby (Paula Malcomson), and his two kids, Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) and Conor (Devon Bagby), as well as his two brothers, Terry (Eddie Marsan) and Bunchy (Dash Mihok). The series starts off showing Ray doing what he does best: getting his clients out of sticky situations by any means necessary. He’s a “fix it” guy who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

Things in his life – and the lives of those around him – take a turn when he finds out his father, Mickey (Jon Voight), has been released from jail and is in L.A. looking to reconnect with his family. The problem? Let’s just say that there’s some history between Ray and his father that Ray was hoping to keep locked up along with Mickey. And with that, the main storyline for the first season is in play.

Now, Ray Donovan is a different show than say, Breaking Bad or House of Cards, because right now it doesn’t feel like there’s a finely crafted overall story that has a beginning, middle and end all planned out. It feels more like Dexter right now, where it could go on for an unknown number of seasons and just end when it feels ready. Again, maybe that’s all wrong. Maybe the creators do have the storyline planned out. It’s just a little unclear as to what that might be come the end of Season One.

There won’t be any spoilers in this review, so don’t worry about that. It’s just that there are a lot of places the show could go come season two, so it’ll be interesting to see what path they take. I think once the second season begins, then the overall direction of the series may become a little clearer.

So, is the show worth getting into? Definitely. Season one has a great arc to it, and if the series is going down the individual season arcs, then this was a great start. A very important trait to any show is that the characters actually feel real, and don’t come off as actors playing them, and that’s one place that Ray Donovan truly shines. Schrieber and the rest of the cast actually feel like a tight-knit family unit. It feels like they’ve grown up together, experienced life with one another, and that really helps sell the show in general.

There are quite a few mini-arcs throughout the season that aim to give each character a little time in the spotlight, and most of their stories get wrapped up in a pleasing fashion. That’s pleasing as in entertaining, not necessarily happy. There is one unclear moment near the end of the season that will either be the ongoing storyline for the series, or, was simply poorly handled in a muddy fashion that doesn’t mesh as cleanly as the rest of the season does. Which of the two it was will all be sorted out once Season Two begins, and while it’d be unfortunate if it was mishandled (as it is one of those moments that could be cleared up by a simple two-minute conversation taking place between two characters) it’s not make or break when it comes to how successful or good the show is or will become.

As a whole, the first season of Ray Donovan was incredibly entertaining. It introduces a strong family unit played by wonderful actors, and the characters they portray are people we want to see more of and learn more about. Schrieber definitely holds the show on his shoulders, and he makes it look easy. There are quite a few bad-ass male leads on TV these days, and Ray Donovan/Schrieber can be added right up there with the best of them.

The show looks absolutely fabulous on Blu-ray, and the sound mix is also quite solid. There weren’t any complaints when it came to darker scenes, or dialogue being spoken. Everything is crisp and clean on this front, so those looking for a good show in the technical department need look no further.

There’s an app you can download to watch each episode with little tidbits throughout; however, in terms of straight up extras, there unfortunately aren’t any. It would’ve been nice to have had a simple handful of interviews with the cast and crew and hear their thoughts on the show, but alas…not this time around.

Paramount Pictures and Showtime Present Ray Donovan. Starring: Live Schreiber, Paula Malcomson, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Steven Bauer, Katherine Moenning, Pooch Hall, Kerris Dorsey, Devon Bagby, Jon Voight. Running time: Created by: Ann Biderman. Running Time: 10 Hours 32 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Release: June 10, 2014.

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