‘Ray Donovan’ Review: Liev Schreiber’s Fixer Roars Back to Life in Season 3

Broken hero of Showtime’s Hollywood-set series is in tragic, terrifying top form again

"Ray Donovan" Season 3, Liev Schreiber (Michael Desmond/Showtime)
Michael Desmond/Showtime

The brilliance of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” expresses itself not only through the impactful intelligence of star Liev Schreiber, but through nuanced moments in its literary-quality storytelling — written and visual.

In the Season 3 premiere, a shimmer of Southern California heat bakes the titular fixer in a scene simmering with rage and despondency, both of which radiate off of Schreiber in equally terrifying parts. Fans of the series’ first two seasons feel the weight of dread in their chests, knowing the stressed character’s potential for explosive violence. He is a father figure on a mythological scale — capable of great loyalty and even greater vengeance. And his self-loathing is most fearsome of all.

Schreiber has played Donovan as a slippery operator gliding just beneath the surface of Hollywood’s oily, undulating veneer — making the ugliness assaulting the entertainment industry’s power players go away or else hiding the vile behavior of those same cracked and addled creatures. But where he plays hero to those who can pay top dollar for his services, Donovan also takes a toll from those who can’t with the promise of a fix, an emotional price paid and then a boot to the butt as he kicks them out onto the boulevard of broken dreams.

Whether it’s a one-night stand or his own wife and kids, anyone requiring validation from Ray Donovan is sorely disappointed in the end, because Donovan is the most vicious kind of survivor — the kind who can’t resolve his own victimhood and sees society on a whole as reprehensible.

"Ray Donovan" Season 3, Shree Crooks, Jon Voight(Michael Desmond/Showtime)Jon Voight won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the Donovan family’s malcontented, con-artist, ex-con patriarch Mickey. In episode “The Kalamazoo,” written by executive producer David Hollander and directed by Colin Bucksey (who won a 2014 directing Emmy for “Fargo”), Voight again proves his worth, shining in bittersweet moments, as when he’s saddled with babysitting duties for a prostitute’s child, for instance. The wheels turn in his lizard brain as he seems to assess the how and when he will kill — or perhaps just maim — the woman’s pimp.

The brilliance of Mickey is that Voight allows viewers to see those wheels turning; a detail as simple as Mickey’s eyeline can speak volumes — where he’s not looking is as important as where he is.

“You don’t scare me, Mick,” incredulous Gary tells Mickey after getting a smack.

“A’course not — we’re friends,” Mickey says brightly. Venomously.

Mickey aspires to be the story’s hero, but can’t quite get past his messy addiction to the fast score. It’s no coincidence that his son’s chosen occupation is as a fixer, whether it’s a simple clean-up job or finding the quickest route between unsavory point A and subhuman point B.

"Ray Donovan" Season 3, Jon Voight as Mickey (Michael Desmond/Showtime)

Back in the mix, Paula Malcomson as Ray’s feisty wife Abby, enduring the seedy part of her husband’s lifestyle while fighting her own battles on the side. Eddie Marsan returns as layered and tormented Donovan brother Terry, in prison after last season’s inadvisable move to work a job with Mickey. Dash Mihok is wounded Bunchy, groping for love amidst so much hopelessness, and Pooch Hall as half-brother Daryll begins to see the downside of being a Donovan.

Abby and Ray’s kids Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) and Conor Donovan (Devon Bagby) ride out their parents’ dysfunction and cultivate some of their own, while Katherine Moennig as Lena and Steven Bauer as Avi — fixers to Ray’s fixer — seem to have stepped back somewhat from the boss’s train-wreck of a life.

New to the series, Fairuza Balk appears as Mickey’s prostitute friend Ginger, and Shree Crooks is her young daughter Audrey.

"Ray Donovan" Season 3, Katie Holmes as Paige, Ian McShane as Andrew (Michael Desmond/Showtime)

New character Andrew Finney introduces Ian McShane to the Donovan world, as well as guest star Katie Holmes as Finney’s daughter Paige.

“Kafka said, ‘In man’s struggle against the world, bet on the world,’” Andrew tells his new hired-gun Ray. “People like us, you bet on the man — you most definitely bet on the man.”

That is, you bet on Ray Donovan.

“Ray Donovan” airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime. Non-subscribers can watch an edited version of the Season 3 premiere below or on Showtime’s site.