WHEN | WHERE Season 4 premiere Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Injured in the Minassian shootout at the end of the third season, Ray (Liev Schreiber) needs to heal, and does, at a retreat where he is helped by the world middleweight champion, Hector Campos (Ismael Cruz Cordova). Like Ray, Hector’s got his own secrets. Meanwhile, it’s no spoiler to inform you that Terry (Eddie Marsan) has recovered from his own shooting last season; Bunchy (Dash Mihok) is suddenly confronting one major life change; Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) is having nothing to do with her dad after he punched out her boyfriend; and Abby (Paula Malcomson) is facing her own huge challenge.
MY SAY The third-season finale of “Ray” at moments threatened to become an extra limb on what had been a pretty good season. The penultimate episode was actually the better endpoint, but because there were loose ends to be tied, “Exsuscito” had to fill the better part of an hour to get to those. “Fill” it did: I’m almost certain Ray’s stubble grew half an inch by the end of the hour.
But fans learned a few critical things about their antihero by that point, most notably that behind that hard, impermeable, unflustered, stone-cold-killer exterior was . . . a heart. Not just a beating one — we all have that — but a tortured one, ripped by love for his brother, daughter, wife. He cried hot tears during that confession with Father Romero (Leland Orser), not just over the abuse he had long ago suffered at the hands of another priest.
That’s the emotional/dramatic setup for Season 4. Ray needs to heal body and soul, except that Ray is Ray. He’s a fixer, not a healer, which means his brief attempt at spiritual regeneration should end pretty much where you expect it to. The surprise, a pleasant one, is that he doesn’t forget the effort. He glances at a picture of a young woman holding a guitar — the episode namesake — and recalls his estranged daughter. He sees something of himself in Hector, and refuses to forget that part of himself. The boxer and the fixer have a lot in common, which Ray also embraces (or sort of embraces — Ray is not exactly a hugging sort of guy). That adds another interesting tangent to the new season. (The July 3 episode, “Marisol,” gets a lot deeper into that tangent, by the way.)
Meanwhile, Ray’s father, Mickey (Jon Voight), is in Primm, Nevada (just across the California border), setting up scams and making new friends. You’d like to see a little more of his colorful employer, Little Bill Primm (Ted Levine), and will, but not until later episodes. Lisa Bonet also turns up as Hector’s half-sister. I’m reasonably certain you’ve never quite seen Bonet like this.
BOTTOM LINE A touchier-feelier Ray Donovan emerges, and the change is welcome.