Worth Watching: ‘Ray Donovan’ Last Stand, Denzel Is ‘Macbeth,’ ‘After Life’ Final Season, A Real ‘Scream’
Showtime brings back Ray Donovan for a movie-length finale to bring closure to the dark drama. Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand headline Joel Coen’s atmospheric rendering of The Tragedy of Macbeth, generating Oscar buzz. Ricky Gervais’ moving dramedy After Life drops its third and final season. A Shock Docs special revisits the crime spree of a killer said to have inspired the antics behind Scream (a new version of which opens this weekend).
What matters most in this feature-length sequel is that it represents Ray Donovan: The Ending—something of which fans were deprived when the series was abruptly canceled after seven seasons. Picking up from 2020’s bloody cliffhanger, the movie depicts a final reckoning between the moody fixer Ray (star and co-writer Liev Schreiber) and his wayward father Mickey (Jon Voight). Flashbacks that are a lot more satisfying than in last year’s Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark feature their younger selves—Chris Gray as Ray and Bill Heck as a swaggering, charismatic Mickey—as they fatefully clash, setting up the schism that would fuel the series. (See the full review.)
Shakespeare has rarely felt more eternal onscreen than in director Joel Coen’s ravishingly bleak, tautly trimmed (at 105 minutes) version of the classic tragedy. Filmed in foggy, eerie black and white on cavernous soundstages that feel both theatrical and cinematic, harking back to silent-era expressionism, the oft-told tale of murder and hubris is stripped to its primal core. A haunted Denzel Washington (generated Oscar buzz) is Macbeth, balancing bloody ambition with fateful regret, and he’s well matched by Frances McDormand’s relentlessly fierce Lady Macbeth. But it’s Kathryn Hunter as the freaky terrifying witches who nearly steals this memorable show.
Kindness is generally not the first thing that comes to mind when you consider the work of Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras), but this touching dramedy about life, loss and healing is a minor masterpiece of compassionate storytelling. The third and final season catches up with Tony (Gervais), a small-town newspaper guy who’s now grieving his dad as well as his late wife. With the help of his offbeat co-workers and a community of friends, life goes on for Tony, which is good news for us all.
Also calling it a cosmic day after six seasons is this epic space opera, setting up a climactic showdown between the Roci and Marco’s Free Navy, with a hope for peace if the Inner Planets and the Belt can finally be unified.
How’s this for typecasting? Jimmy Buffett guests on the long-running police drama as a Jimmy Buffett impersonator who runs afoul of Danny (Donnie Wahlberg). Regina Taylor guests as NYPD Captain Terrell, who falls under Frank’s (Tom Selleck) scrutiny after she allegedly uses her rank to scam goods from local stores.
A two-hour Shock Docs special takes a paranormal approach to revisiting the crimes of a serial killer said to be the inspiration for the hit Scream movie franchise (whose latest chapter opens in theaters this weekend). The Gainesville Ripper, aka Danny Rolling, terrorized Shreveport, Louisiana and Gainesville, Florida, starting in 1989, murdering eight people including five college students. Claiming to have been possessed by a demon named Gemini, Rolling was convicted and later executed in 2006. Paranormal investigator Steve Shippy and psychic medium Cindy Kaza team up to investigate the demonic angle.
More true crime:
- 20/20 (9/8c, ABC): The newsmagazine digs into the twisted case of South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh, who first made headlines when charged in a suicide-for-hire insurance scheme. He’s also implicated in scores more financial crimes and is a person of interest in the unsolved murders of his wife and son.
- Dateline NBC (9/8c, NBC): Keith Morrison takes a deep dive into the mysterious 1998 death of controversial Las Vegas casino figure Ted Binion.
- King of the Con (streaming on discovery+): A three-part docuseries profiles notorious con man Barry Minkow, who went to prison after a Ponzi scheme was exposed, then transformed himself into a pastor who used his expertise to uncover fraud—which turned out to be a front for even more financial skullduggery.
Inside Friday TV:
- RuPaul’s Drag Race (8/7c, VH1): Alicia Keys is the guest judge as the second half of this season’s cast is revealed.
- Reno My Rental (10/9c, HGTV): Design Star: Next Gen champ Carmeon Hamilton, an interior designer and social-media influencer, helps give renters in Memphis a style upgrade so their properties feel more like home.
- Archive 81 (streaming on Netflix): A supernatural thriller adapted from a popular podcast stars Mamoudou Athie as an archivist scouring old VHS videotapes from the 1990s, where he becomes drawn into the footage of a documentarian (Dina Shihabi) who met an unfortunate end while investigating a scary cult.
- Sex Appeal (streaming on Hulu): Mika Abdalla stars in a teen comedy as an overachiever who bones up on the mechanics of sex when her long-distance boyfriend suggests taking things to the next level. Using her best friend (Jake Short) as a test subject couldn’t possibly complicate things, right?
- Use of Force: The Policing of Black America (streaming on Peacock): Hip-hop legend Chuck D narrates and co-produces a documentary exploring the history of police misconduct against people of color while also seeking solutions with police reform and community policing.
- Stars on Stage from Westport Country Playhouse (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Broadway belter Shoshana Bean wows an audience with tributes to her idols Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston, then impresses with performances of some of her own original songs.