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Ray Donovan Returns With a Big Shocker, and a Nod to Its Dark Comedic Roots

It's about time

Malcolm Venable

[Warning: Mild spoilers about Season 5 of Ray Donovan ahead.]

In past seasons, Ray Donovanhad dark comedic elements that made the family crime drama somewhat unique in the ways it balanced lightness with its heaviness. While the Showtime series never has and never will be LOL funny -- especially with the whopper coming in the first episode -- its quirkiness seemed to have been lost as of late, particularly in Season 4, which teetered on the depressing. Ray's (Liev Schreiber) wife Abby (Paula Malcomson) was rocked by a possible breast cancer diagnosis; Ray's brother Terry (Eddie Marsan) saw his Parkinson's worsening; and Ray's case-of-the-season involved a crack-smoking, sibling-screwing sister Marisol (Lisa Bonet), whose threats to expose her famous brother got her killed. You know, a regular hootenanny!

Liev Schreiber and Susan Sarandon, Ray Donovan

Liev Schreiber and Susan Sarandon, Ray Donovan


Get Your First Look at Susan Sarandon on Ray Donovan

Fans for sure noticed, wondering if they'd forevermore be sentenced to a series full of gloom, doom and trademark Donovan grumbling. Well, they might be relieved to know that Season 5 brings back some of the levity. Make no mistake: Showrunner David Hollander has made clear in interviews that Season 5 will include shocking secrets, big emotional impacts and -- once more -- a gut-punch in Episode 1. But despite that shocker, a sneak peek shows that Ray Donovan will tinker with a few storylines that let some sunlight peek through the otherwise cloudy narrative.

Ray's dad Mickey (Jon Voight), for starters, has embarked on a new path -- Hollywood screenwriter -- and, Mickey being Mickey, the work isn't very good. As someone remarks to him early on, "I didn't even know you could read." Zing! And speaking of career changes, Bunchy (Dash Mihok) is taking up a new profession as well -- one that won't be spoiled here, but if you think hard enough about his past you can likely guess it -- and it's so absurd that it promises to yield lots of visual and physical comedy and perhaps some crime narratives too.

Then there's the emergence of Jay (Brian White) a rapper-actor-producer who's starring in a bizarrely themed movie about black Marines who accidentally get sent back in time -- giving Jay an excuse to have in his entourage... a samurai (?!) who's laughably out of place and yet totally true to the over-the-top hip-hop world. Jay's tale, like the aforementioned, hints at some silly shenanigans to come that'll be a welcome break from the bloodshed and bullets you better believe are on the way.

Brian White and Ken Takemoto as Shoota Koizumi, Ray Donovan

Brian White and Ken Takemoto as Shoota Koizumi, Ray Donovan


For all the all the "fixing" Ray Donovan has done for the characters over the years, his most pressing challenge remains his need to repair himself -- the old wounds, abuse and family drama that plague him. For the show itself, its toughest job has been to pull it back from the brink of a depressing downward spiral-- a fix that appears to have been made with just enough humor.

Ray Donovan Season 5 premieres Sunday at 9/8c on Showtime.

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, the parent company of Showtime.)