Marilyn’s Spirit Lingers in ‘Ray Donovan’

Marilyn plays a recurring, symbolic role in Ray Donovan, the Showtime series starring Liev Schreiber as a troubled Hollywood fixer. Her haunting presence is prominent in a recent instalment (Series 5, Episode 9, ‘Mister Luck’), as Brian Tallerico reports for Vulture. Samantha Winslow, the studio boss who enlists Ray’s services,  is played by Susan Sarandon – who starred as Gladys in Lifetime’s 2015 mini-series, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe – while Ray pursues a doomed romance with actress Natalie James (Lili Simmons), who suffers a fate not unlike Marilyn’s.

“The image of Marilyn Monroe’s garbage-strewn star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame could serve as a poster for Ray Donovan, a show about the people who clean the trash off the world’s most image-conscious people. While Ray’s journey to the dark side of Hollywood results in the death of someone close to him in ‘Mister Lucky,’ the entire Donovan clan is spiraling out of control.

Chronologically, the episode takes place months after the death of Abby Donovan, so it’s interesting that the structure of the season placed it right after the flashback episode in which we saw her die. All of the Donovans seem unmoored, slipping into their worst habits and flirting with violence. Abby was the rock of this group, and they are now adrift without her.

We pick up where ‘Horses’ ended: Terry just revealed that he helped Abby take her life and Ray knocked him to the floor. Ray pours a drink and then takes the bottle to a booth as Terry gets to his feet … After the encounter with his brother, Ray thinks he sees Abby walking down the street. He follows her to Marilyn Monroe’s star. He pays a male escort nearby to keep it clean …

A series of minor beats follow: Bridget and her dying boyfriend, Ray looking at a Marilyn Monroe painting in his apartment … The next major event comes when Ray gets a call from Lena to turn on the TV. A TMZ-esque show called Stalkerazzi has footage of Natalie and Ray together. Their affair is out in the open, and Natalie’s ex is watching the story in a bar … Most important, Ray gets to work with Natalie and she wonders if they can go public now. Natalie seems to be reaching out to Ray and he doesn’t see it. Given the episode’s tragic end, one wonders if she could have been saved if Ray simply paid attention.

While his father is having his own sexual adventure, Ray stops by a club called the Fist, where Lena discovered George has been hiding. It’s an underground gay sex club, and Ray finds George sitting in the front row for a show (which happens to co-star the escort in front of Marilyn’s star). George tells Ray that he’d make an excellent James Bond and then tells stories about Marilyn and Cary Grant.

Violence marks the end of ‘Mister Lucky’ … Ray comes back to the apartment to find Natalie’s ex on the pavement. He rushes upstairs and sees the aftermath of what looks like a murder-suicide. Natalie’s strangled corpse is on the bed. Another woman in Ray Donovan’s life has died.”

Thanks to Carl Rollyson