The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Californication is Back!

with 10 comments

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.

Written by themothchase

December 14, 2009 at 11:58 am

Posted in Californication

Tagged with ,

10 Responses

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  1. So it obviously seems as if it is “over” between Hank and Karen, but is it!? I don’t know if the show can work without at least a chance between the two of them- although this was always the scene I/everyone knew would come and would be the toughest to deal with for their relationship. What do you think is going to happen in season 4- an absolute breakdown for Hank, or will he and Karen (and Becka) be able to resurrect the family somehow? Just curious!


    December 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    • Yeah, I just don’t know – I don’t know how the show works without their family, but seeing as they’ve always shown us an alternative way of being ‘family’, maybe they’ll come up with something new we haven’t even imagined yet. Either way, they’ve got me hooked again! Thanks for your comment! What do you think?


      December 14, 2009 at 10:49 pm

      • i don’t know if it’s “obvious” that it’s over between Hank and Karen. i never got the impression that their relationship was over, just that they’ve turned a corner and that she won’t be making him breakfast after this one.

        but Karen’s not going anywhere where she can’t be a useful plot device. she’s not willing to be a single mom, never has been. and Becca loves her dad too much to hightail it out of his life.

        i think an “absolute breakdown” for Hank isn’t exciting–he’s been on the edge of those waters for three seasons. been there, done that. more exciting? Hank, financially successful as the literary bad boy, but unfulfilled and insecure — almost a mirror of the Great Ashby. an emotionally unsure but fiscally sound Hank would be a total reversal, great stuff for Duchovny to mine as an actor and would naturally shift the responsibilities of the supporting cast in ways that could give us something totally new and more of what we love.


        December 15, 2009 at 11:23 am

  2. I think you are completely right with

    “The mayhem, childish antics and total lack of consequences have started to wear on me” and ” or was its impact made possible by the rest of the season?”

    It felt somewhat silly during the season itself to me, but afterwards i can kind of see why they did it. After all it makes the finale so much more dramatic


    December 14, 2009 at 3:35 pm

  3. Your blog is well written. Props. Hard to find good talkback on Cali.

    I’ve enjoyed this season of Cali just because I fall into the category of viewers who love to see moody score and Runkle screw up as well. Most of the women Hank has been with are around his age this season except for the college girl. Just when he thinks he clear, here comes the bomb. I don’t think he got arrested for Mia. If he did the show should be over.

    Karen does nothing but push him away so it would be nice to get a season where Hank falls for another woman, an amazing woman who doesn’t push him away, and near the end of the season Karen shows up to forgive and forget after Mia explains how they hooked up and what a psycho she was afterwards. It will be interesting to see how next season is handled.

    These 2 guys have terrible relationships with the women they claim to love, with hank even his daughter. That was what the show was about. They can now take it to another level. I hope they do. The ‘moving forward’ season.


    December 14, 2009 at 5:27 pm

  4. i absolutely loved the finale (for so many of the reasons you pointed out), but i actually thought the whole season was well played. it served as a great meditation on dysfunction: how it attracts its own kind, feeds off itself and ultimately keeps itself going. the women attracted to Hank this season were all seriously psychologically damaged — why else would they deal with him? they knew how to pick Hank and he knew how to respond in kind. what you and others decry as a “total lack of consequences” was actually an observation of pathology. there were no consequences because all of them are damaged, and knew they had no right to throw the first stone. even when the women came together, they couldn’t cast a pebble because they knew full well what they were getting into. as for Karen, she’s long known who she’s dealing with and, for whatever her reasons, has accepted it. in many ways the show is about her unconditional love of Hank and how it allows him to explore his shadow.

    even Charlie and Marcy are totally screwed. (is it any wonder that they’re Hank & Karen’s best friends?)

    what i see in the show, that i don’t hear enough talk on, is the accountability that everyone on the show assumes. it’s far from being “childish.” it seems foreign, because, well, we live in a world where very few people accept personal responsibility. and we’re fed shows where blame and finger-pointing are used as dramatic flourishes. but here we have: Charlie accepting his part in the demise of his marriage, Marcy accepting the destruction caused by her coke addiction, Karen accepting that she’s in love with a flawed man (and, on a deeper level, that she really does not want to be the one to raise her daughter, but would rather focus on her career — why do you think she was gonna marry whatshisface with Mia there to take the reigns of raising Becca in season 1?), the ladies of this season accepting that they didn’t really want relationships (how easy was it for Felicia to chuck her marriage, for Jackie & Jill to go up the threesome Hill with the returned Professor?), and Hank accepting that, despite his best intentions, his dick will get in the way and it’s easier to own up to his shit.

    the show’s characters lack the guilt, manipulation, possessiveness and insecurities that we’re so used to. if anything, those attributes are the “childish antics” that we’re bombarded with on TV, not what’s been going on this season.

    also loved: every season ending with a decisive car ride. up until the great reveal, i was watching like, “oh no, not another car ride with a last minute decision. this is getting old… didn’t Becca use the ‘i want a boyfriend’ trick last season?” (whatever happened to dude, anyway?) that they surprised me and had me covering my open mouth was masterful.

    other than that: first time reading you. great insight. i know who i’m going to be reading in Season 4.


    December 14, 2009 at 7:34 pm

  5. This season started out so promising but ultimately never found a groove, never had that heartbeat the first two seasons had. Each episode seemed scattered, random, almost shallow. Kapinos has said he regrets dialing Hank back in Season 2 and as a result turned him back up to 11 for Season 3. Still, we had characters that lacked depth, had no layers, and seemingly just lived to please themselves.

    Kapinos alluded to Season 3 being a precursor to overdue consequences finally coming home to roost. If Karen doesn’t walk away in Season 4, why should veiwers and fans of the show respect her? She already tolerates more than any rational, self-respecting woman ever would, and she does it with that same “so be it” smile time and time again. Kapinos owes it to Karen to strengthen her backbone. Blacken things up a bit. Darken the skies, bring back the symbolism, the Zevon references, the Moody we saw talking to Henry Rollins on the radio.

    That how Season 4 is like a fork in the road for Californication. Kapinos could go in many subtle directions. Will Hank be incarcerated for long? Will he write something behind bars? Will the world laud him for F&P? Will Mia be blackballed, demonized, publicly shamed? What about Karen and Becca…headed back to NYC? Runkle and Marcy can do whatever Kapinos wants them to, and Hank will need Runkle in Season 4 like he never has before.

    Kapinos has it in him, it’s just up to him where to go with it. I look forward to finding out. It’s his vision…we’re just along for the ride.


    January 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm

  6. The last episode was brillant. One of the best episodes I have ever seen of any tv show. The chemistry between Karen and Hank is unbelievable. I wasn’t crazy about season 3 but now can’t wait until season 4!


    April 23, 2010 at 12:23 pm

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