Brian Tallerico writes: This is it. This is the episode we knew would come eventually. The one where Abby Donovan dies. We’ve seen glimpses of what happened that fateful day — Ray bursting through the bedroom door, his face broken by what he sees — but “Horses” gives us the last 24 hours of Abby Donovan’s life. And it does so respectably, if not in a way that produces quite the emotionally devastating, breakthrough television fans were hoping for.
Once again, the ensemble is phenomenal, but the writing lacks the spark that makes for great television. Having said that, Ray Donovan will miss the different energy provided by Paula Malcomson’s Abby, and I’m sad to see her go. And her husband wasn’t even at her side when she shuffled off this mortal coil. In a life of bad decisions, it’s Ray’s worst.
Abby Donovan is looking at a painting in what will be the bar named after her, soon to open. It’s a painting of horses called “Cave Hill,” and Abby hears the hooves, as the Patti Smith song “Land” plays on the soundtrack with Smith’s repeated “Horses horses horses horses.” (The song will play two more times.) It’s a captivating moment because we realize that Abby has decided to end her life. Is it the freedom of the horses that she’ll never have again, or a sense of reclaiming that freedom and leaving the world on her own terms? We don’t need to know the specific reason to see it in Abby’s eyes — she makes the decision even before she learns that she didn’t get into the experimental trial.
After the call, she wanders down to the pharmacy to get the Seconal that she’ll use to end her life. Illustrating how much denial Ray Donovan uses to fuel his optimism, he buys his dying wife a necklace. She says, “What am I gonna do with it?” and it’s hard not to feel sorry for Ray in this beat — though it’s not as hard later — because he’s blindly denying that Abby won’t be going to anymore occasions that require a fancy necklace. He’s focused on material things while she’s moved past the stuff that you really can’t take with you.
Ray finds out that Abby didn’t get into the trial and snaps. Always the professional fixer, he’s convinced he will fix this problem. He leaves his wife to go to New York City to “sort things out,” and it’s a decision he’ll regret for the rest of his life. When Abby needed him most, supporting her in whatever way she chose, he decided to do what he always does — scramble to fix an unfixable problem. To that end, he calls Lena and gets names and addresses of people in the trial, and he gets Avi to find him meningitis bacteria to poison someone else on the thin line between death and hope.
Terry comes to the Donovan house and finds Abby on the couch. A great scene unfolds in which she makes it clear that no one cares what she wants, and … (read more)