The following post mortem contains spoilers from Sunday’s Ray Donovan — proceed at your own peril.
Over the course of five seasons, Ray Donovan‘s title fixer has sustained multiple bullet wounds, has been stabbed several times (once with scissors) and, in at least six separate incidents, found himself on a receiving end of near-fatal beatings. But Liev Schreiber’s immortal antihero saved his most death-defying stunt for Sunday’s Season 5 finale.
At the conclusion of “Time Takes a Cigarette,” Ray — racked with guilt over wife Abby’s death, father Mickey’s incarceration and, you know, murdering people for a living — followed Ghost Abby off the roof of a high(ish)- rise building and into New York’s East River. The episode (and the season) ended with the haunting shot of him floating unconscious in the water.
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It’s hard to imagine anyone — even the invincible Ray D — surviving such a fall. But survive it he does — we know this because just days ago Showtime renewed Ray Donovan for a sixth season. But in the following post-mortem Q&A, showrunner David Hollander maintains that Ray will not walk away from the suicide attempt unscathed. The EP also weighs in on whether the series’ full-time move to New York will result in any cast changes, explains his thinking behind that priestly full-frontal flashback, and tackles this big, burning question: Why didn’t he play the romance card with Ray and Susan Sarandon’s Sam Winslow?
TVLINE | So… how does one survive a fall like that?
That’s a good question. We’re talking about that now. For us it becomes about what the damage is psychologically, emotionally, environmentally. The big questions I’m grappling with are not just the physical elements of it.
TVLINE | Did you do research into whether a human being can survive such a nosedive?
We did a lot of research and looked at a lot of anecdotes. The truth is, a lot of people survive jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. There are a lot of anecdotal stories of people surviving that kind of drop into the water.
TVLINE | Ray has been wrestling with his inner demons since the show began. Was Abby’s death the tipping point?
Definitely. It was that, plus what he came to learn about how it went down and why and what his part was in it. And also what he did to Mickey. I don’t think Ray [climbed to the roof intending to kill himself]. He had a bit of a psychic crack in following his wife off of the roof.
TVLINE | Although he did ask Terry to take care of Bridget…
Absolutely. But he was also on his way to kill Landry at that point.
TVLINE | The show is relocating to New York but much of the family remains ensconced in Los Angeles. Will the move result in any cast changes?
No… There will be characters in Los Angeles and characters in New York. Terry and Bridget and Ray are in New York right now. Mickey, Bunchy and Lena are in Los Angeles. Daryl is in flux, but he has a movie that looks like it’s going to shoot in Harlem, so he’s heading that way as well.
TVLINE | It seems like you backed yourself into a bit of a corner with Mickey’s incarceration. Are you gearing up for a lengthy prison storyline with him?
Partially. This is a man who has been in prison before and knows prison very well. Next season we’ll be picking up very close to where we left off.
TVLINE | It sure seems like next season will find Ray and Mickey at war again.
Absolutely. Whether Mickey is able to [pull strings from a prison cell] I’m not sure about, but the emotional stakes of the story and what Mickey feels toward Ray and what Ray has done to Mickey are going to live in a pretty strong place.
TVLINE | This episode also gave us the most graphic glimpse yet of the sexual abuse Ray endured as a kid. Talk to me about the decision to show the priest exposing himself to Ray.
The whole subconscious idea of what Ray was remembering was playing throughout the finale, with him seeing Abby go off the cliff and the memory of his mother when she died. There was this idea of his past subconsciously coming up to meet him in his literal consciousness. So when he follows Abby off the side of the building in a way we are seeing that the memories are becoming more real for him.
TVLINE | With the exception of The Leftovers, full-frontal male nudity remains a taboo in TV and film. I have to imagine there was some debate/discussion with Showtime about that scene, particularly given the context…
There was really no big debate. I wrote the script, presented it to the network and they were fine with it. [Ray Donovan] is based on this very real idea about his tragic past. None of us felt like we were being over the top or provocative just for the sake of being provocative.
TVLINE | Will Susan Sarandon be back next season?
I hope so. We’re all very interested in Susan’s character and we’re all hoping that there’s a place for her [in Season 6].
TVLINE | Whenever the show introduces a big female guest star, she usually gets romantically involved with Ray. But you didn’t go there with Susan’s character. Why not?
It just wasn’t as interesting to me. There was more [to their relationship] I wanted to explore before opting for that type of emotional, carnal connection.
TVLINE | Last question — Teresa didn’t really give Bunchy their kid to take care of, right?
Not permanently. There’s much more to look at with that story in terms of what comes next.