Ray Donovan wiped the slate clean in Sunday’s Season 4 finale, wrapping up several major plot threads (most notably the Russian mob plot) while also seemingly turning the page on one of the series’ most enduring themes (Ray vs. Religion). As a result, the episode — written and directed by showrunner David Hollander — concluded on an uncharacteristically hopeful, dare we say even sanguine, note.
That said, questions remain as the Showtime drama heads into Season 5. Is Abby really remission-bound? Has Ray truly called a truce with God? Is Bridget actually going away to college (and subsequently off the show)? And lastly (and most importantly), what the heck will Season 5 look like? Read on as Hollander tackles these unsolved mysteries and more.
TVLINE | What was your thinking behind ending the season on such a calm, peaceful note?
I felt like it was time for Ray and his family to come to a place of acceptance. And, whatever happens next, it gives us a relatively blank page to go to a new place with them.
TVLINE | It definitely felt like a chapter had closed with this finale. Was that always the intention going into this season?
I never really know exactly what the feeling is going to be at the end of a season. I knew that when the season began the momentum from how we ended Season 3 needed to be investigated. There was no way to ignore the end of Season 3. It was a complex emotional and spiritual situation that Ray was in; there was a lot on the line. And I knew Season 4 would be about Ray’s exploration of his faith and God and family. And himself. It felt like it was time to answer, “Who is Ray Donovan?” to Ray Donovan. Ultimately, it felt like where the story wanted to go is Ray and his family being in a new [more close-knit] place. So, as we move forward, the [series’] dynamic is about a strong, complicated, dangerous, loving, slightly criminal family from Boston living in Los Angeles, who are now working more closely together.
TVLINE | Has Ray made peace with his religious demons?
He’s made peace with who he is. He’s jettisoned the idea that God is going to solve his problems. His new God is his family.
TVLINE | Can we take Abby at her word that her cancer is going away?
I don’t know. Whether she is a reliable narrator or not, what Ray needed to hear at that moment was that she was safe. And that nothing can touch them. Whether it’s true or not, we’ll look into that as we go forward.
TVLINE | Was the point of the cancer storyline to shine a light on how much everyone was taking Abby for granted?
Yes. She was a character who had been taken for granted and put in a less powerful position as the years went on. And the combination of having this strong, matriarchal figure, and a great actor in Paula Malcomson, pushed me into wanting to create a dynamic that would shift the way people saw her. [Abby’s cancer diagnosis] allowed her to behave with a little more freedom and a little more power, like shooting an intruder, making out with her doctor, taking Conor to the shooting range. She’s suddenly a character who has a lot more agency and a lot more power within the story. I was also drawn to the ambiguities of Stage Zero cancer, which is a very new construct, and a complicated one. My wife has been diagnosed with Stage Zero cancer, so we’ve been going through it and looking at how unusual it is.
TVLINE | The romantic connection that Abby and Terry forged in Season 3 was not really touched on this season. How come?
Once [their flirtation] was outed and triangulated with Ray, there was nowhere else to take it. To [revisit it] would’ve meant it had a deeper more complex hook to it [than it did]. They can still have a feeling of love for one another, but to act on it would be too dangerous for either one of them.
TVLINE | Bridget going off to NYU threw me a bit. I don’t really remember her speaking much of college before the finale. Was there more to that story that we didn’t see?
She’s going to visit [NYU], she’s not actually leaving for college. But, to me, dramatizing the college question seemed like quotidian stuff. And everything else seemed so crazy, that to let that happen on its own felt slightly organic. We didn’t really need to [spend time watching her] filling out applications or looking at schools. The heft of it really comes next season.
TVLINE | Will we follow her off to school next season? Will the character have more of an off screen presence?
The first question is whether or not she’ll even go to NYU. I can’t imagine a season of Ray Donovan without the relationship between Bridget and Ray being dramatized in some way. It’s a deeply heartfelt part of the Ray character. But the idea of a highly dramatized [college storyline] doesn’t feel particularly intriguing to me either. What she’s doing and how she’s doing and how it falls into Ray’s world is intriguing to me.
TVLINE | Any hints about the direction of Season 5?
I am very interested to see what happens when the Donovan family actually attempts to work together in more unison in the world of Hollywood. I would love to do a very grand Hollywood story.