Get your tissues at the ready.
This is the one. The one where we watch exactly how Abby Donovan dies. From the start of the series, we knew what was coming and I can’t even tell you the anxiety I had ahead of pressing play.
The setting begins at the soon to be open Abby’s bar and we see a frail Abby staring at a painting on the wall. The painting is called ‘Cave Hill’ and depicts horses turning their back and running into the distance. In the background, we hear the faint sound of hooves, along with a Patti Smith song repeating the lyric “Horses, horses, horses, horses”. The emphasis is so strong that we know this is the moment where Abby decides to retain control. Whether it’s wanting to run free again or to be able to turn her back in her own way; we know that this is the moment she decides to end her life.
What is even more important is that she makes this decision prior to her receiving a phone call that she hasn’t got a place on the experimental trial, her mind was already made up and this was just another sign affirming her decision.In that moment, she walks to the pharmacy, and gets herself the prescription that will take her life. The split road between her decision to die and Ray’s determination to keep her alive is further accentuated when Ray buys Abby a diamond necklace for not only the bar opening, but for all formal occasions to come; “Bridget’s wedding” being one . His optimism blinding his sense yet again as he focuses on materialism and she is facing fact.
When Ray discovers that Abby didn’t get onto the trial, it is like something within him switches. He hasn’t gained control of the situation so what does he need to do? He need’s to fix it of course. In the dearest of times when Abby needs her husband the most, you might think that he would of stood by her side. But not to our surprise, nor Abby’s; he ups and leaves to New York to fix a solution that will get her on the trial. With the help of his team, he acquires some meningitis bacteria which will render one of the patients too ill and therefore allow Abby to take their place. From previous episodes, we know it is Smitty who lands the unfortunate blow.
Back in California, Terry is the Donovan who comes to stay by Abby’s side. She dismays how no one ever cares about what she wants, but in the case of Terry, we know this isn’t true. So when she asks him to buy her ‘suicide pills’, he obliges by her wish. Why? The underlying motivation isn’t clear just yet, maybe he understands the weakness and lack of self control due to the Parkinson’s he suffers himself.
Contradictory to this calmness, is the torment that proceeds in New York. The writers introduce the ‘Avi’ subplot back into the fold, which doesn’t really work. On such an iconic episode, why bother bringing a boring and un-relatable plot point back into the fold when we basically guessed it a few episodes ago? Spoiler, Avi’s a drug addict. And he gets arrested which causes an issue bla bla blah.
Fast forward to the hospital, and Ray gets done what he needs too. It’s very brief and somewhat rushed, I think done just to reflect his frantic headspace. He’s a man on a mission. Rewind back to LA, and the bar opens with a small family party which is actually really lovely to watch. All the Donovan’s are there, dancing, drinking and laughing; it’s such a rare occurrence that the simplicity of these actions are enough to watch.(Here is where the waterworks may start) The bubble is popped early as Abby ends up puking blood in the toilets and through the help of Terry and Bridget, cut’s her time short. It’s time for her to go home.
As she sits up in bed, she get’s her empty glass and one by one, she slowly twists the capsule open and pours the powder in. She’s interrupted by an awkward Terry who for once, ask’s her what she wants. She want’s help; and she gets it. Not only from Terry but from Bridget also who pours ginger ale into the glass, finishing the cocktail for her mother. When the drink is drunk, the sound of horses linger in the background. It is quiet, quick and peaceful as anything. (If you aren’t gone by this point, then hold on)
To make the tragedy even more tragic, her demise flutters in and out with an ecstatic Ray coming home to his wife with the good news that she made the trial. Their souls seem in sync as they both close their eyes, the only difference being that they are on different journeys. When Ray arrives home, he hears Bridget wailing and then the sight beholds him. His wife, peacefully passed on the bed. Ray is broken, he drops and shouts and cries asking why she’s done it. Then he holds her for a little while. I just thought it was beautiful. Live Schreiber was just phenomenal. Does it end here?
With emotions running high, Ray always needs an answer and he needs one now. He heads to the bar, finds Bridget and pushes her literally in a rage of confusion. All the family are still there and of course intervene. Mickey makes the mistake of saying that Ray wasn’t there for his wife’s death and it was like a red rag to a bull. He goes berserk and smashes up his family and his bar, ending up in his arrest. His primal animal comes out and as he heads out in handcuffs, the shot closes on a zoom into the painting of the horse’s. Abby is now running free.
My oh my, I have been waiting for this episode but I also didn’t want to watch it. Abby Donovan, I felt, was such a game changer in the dynamics of every storyline. I actually couldn’t believe they killed her off because it’s going to spin the show so much and hopefully not in a bad way. Because I held her role in such high regard, I will say that I think she may have deserved a slightly more dedicated end. The subplots in between were so unnecessary, I wanted to have more time with Abby as it was running out.
What they have done brilliantly however, is created such torment and confliction within Ray. The writers have created a massive ‘What if?’ and with Ray always needing answers and a solution to everything, how is he going to live with himself? What if Abby got the surgery? We already know that it was a success for others so the knife is only turned that little bit more.
One niggly gripe that is annoying me is, where the hell has Connor been? His character seriously annoys me but he has one dance with his mum and that’s it. No speech, no goodbye scene? No wonder the boys on his own. I’m really going to miss Paula Malcomson as Abby, her performance as well as every single cast member’s was something of beauty. This is an absolute game-changer for the series as we know it. I have no idea how far this will push Ray but with the one good thing gone in his life, maybe this turn’s him into the villain we he think he is after all.
What do you think – Was Abby given the send off she deserved?
Ray Donovan continues on Sky Atlantic, Wednesday at 9pm.