Season 5 of Ray Donovan has been one long and painful goodbye to the family’s strong matriarch, Abby Donovan (Paula Malcomson).

Through Ray’s (Liev Schreiber) flashbacks, we are given a window into Abby’s cancer struggle and the unbreakable bond between the couple who have weathered so many storms together. We see Ray truly internalize what a powerful role Abby has played in his life, standing by him through every indiscretion and drunken stupor.

But in the present day, Abby is gone, a reality that is eating Ray alive as he struggles to cope with her death. Ray has always been a fixer to the powerful and the wealthy, making their sins and misdeeds disappear into thin air. But Abby’s cancer battle presents a crisis that Ray cannot manage. He can’t fix the one person he loves most of all.

In “Horses,” we come to understand the sequence of events that lead to Abby’s death and it is a brutal episode to watch in it’s emotional tug.

With Abby losing all hope after failing to make it into a cancer trial, and ready to end it all, Ray refuses to give in. He will fight to the bitter end, dragging a depleted Abby along with him if he has to. He needs her.

RAY DONOVAN (Season 4)

In full fixer mode, Ray flies to New York to force his way into the cancer trial. But his means are gruesome, as the scheme requires him to inject another cancer patient set to take part in the trial, with meningitis. And just like that, Abby gets into the trial.

Back in Calabasas, the rest of the Donovan clan gather at Abby’s, the just-finished bar Ray bought for Abby to fulfill a wish of hers. It is good to see the whole gang gathered together, a camaraderie that has defined the show. Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) even manages to get a bright red lip on her mother. It is a moment you want to freeze in time. But it cannot last. Abby disappears into the bar’s bathroom and coughs up blood. She has nothing left in her. Terry (Eddie Marsan) is back from the pharmacy with the pills Abby begs him to pick up for her. It is time.

On his flight home, his spirits soaring, Ray calls Abby’s phone to give her the good news about the cancer trial. But she doesn’t pick up. Instead, Abby is surrounded by Terry and Bridget, who help her mix her pills with something fizzy to wash it down. They comfort her until the end. Abby dies on her own terms, in her bed, surrounded by those she loves.

Ray returns home…but he is too late. Abby is gone and there is nothing he can do about it. Schreiber delivers an emotional performance that is deeply affecting. Ray is destroyed, and a broken man. Schreiber’s moving turn is matched by Malcomson’s tender performance as Abby slips away.

Abby’s passing causes a fracturing of the Donovan clan as Ray finds out that Bridget and Terry helped his beloved wife end her life. Whether these relationships are reparable, we will see. And whether Ray can put himself together again remains a question without an answer.



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