Californication is Back!
Finally! It has probably become clear over my last few posts that I’ve become quite sick of Californication this season. The mayhem, childish antics and total lack of consequences have started to wear on me. But last night felt like a return to so much of what once made this show great! The thing is, Mia always annoyed me, and I was happy when she left, but the show has been in a strange holding pattern since her absence; a holding pattern I didn’t recognize until last night.
With Mia gone, our greatest plot driver was gone too – she’s the one who Hank has to worry about, whether she’s going to tell on his inadvertent indiscretion and how far she’s going to take his stolen book. Karen and Becca can hold Hank to a limited type of accountability, but I realized last night that they need Mia to keep his feet to the flames in any real way. I was surprised to feel so pleased at her return!
But not only did we get some real dramatic tension, we also finally enjoyed a return to some of the more artistic, interesting modes of storytelling that have been long absent. Opening in a dream-like sequence in a swimming pool with Hank surrounded by the three women of this season, we realize how many deeper connections he has actually forged; the deepest connection being forged with Felicia as she held the prominent place of sharing Karen’s chair while the other two swam around him like sharks in the pool.
Karen warns Hank – and us – that there’s not going to be a happy ending, while Becca bombards him with the questions she’s been asking all season. When he once again is unable to answer her, she begins to sing ominously, “I think I’m sinking down,” in a great allusion to her own name recently tattooed on the anchor on Hank’s shoulder. The scene is worrisome, but not without hope, especially as when Becca loses her virginity later in the episode, she is able to assure Hank that it was neither magical nor bad but simply a necessary rite of passage; a sign that “you didn’t fuck me up…I’m a woman now, Dad”. It’s the later pool scene, in which Felicia has left the side of the pool to swim with the sharks and drag Hank down into drowning, and as Karen takes Becca’s hand to lead her away, that we know things are not going to end well.
And so consequences mark the whole episode – not only Hank’s bedding of Mia and everything that results from that, but also Marcy’s insistence on divorce, Mia’s terrible writing that follows up her stolen book, and of course Hank being arrested for beating up Mia’s agent.
In the end, I was so pleased that Hank outed himself to Karen and the scene was played perfectly. We didn’t need to hear the content of their conversation; we just needed to know that they were over. And we needed to know that for all his faults, Hank would out himself – however late – for the right reasons, and not to further his own career. Hank’s face shows that he knows it’s over; that there’s no hope. But when push comes to shove, he steps up to take responsibility for his actions rather than just let the great, tragic machine he’s created expose him. This is the Hank that deserves to be played by Duchovny – the complex, tragic hero who is so much more than the horny boy-man we’ve had to sit with all season.
Californication has been criticized this season for selling out to sensationalism in an effort to get higher ratings and those critics have struggled with the fact that the ratings ploy worked. After last night, I have to wonder if the crazy, ludicrous mayhem of the whole season, its inability to get serious, actually provided the necessary foil or the necessary context for this very, very serious finale. Was the finale something completely other than the rest of the season, or was its impact made possible by the rest of the season? With my ongoing desire to read this show in the most generous light possible, I’m hoping for the latter – but I’m also hoping for a season 4 that doesn’t require such a stark shift at the end because it has woven at least some of the seriousness throughout.
Posted by Natalie.