Series Review: Californication (SPOILER)
Having posted on this a few weeks, ago, it perhaps seems a little soon to be posting again, especially seeing as no other shows will be finishing soon to join the ranks of this in our reviews section. But Californication is the only show yet finished that I’ve been watching and closed beautifully, if slightly disjointedly, on Monday night.
The previous post I entered about the series concerned my own worries over my love of television jerks, the assholes which particularly populate cable television in the states, and what it says about me to love them so dearly and to root for their ridiculous actions. That question was answered fairly solidly in the case of Californication during its first season close but not for reasons I would consider to be true to the spirit of the character. Hank Moody, the centre of the action, played with tired, pithy charm by David Duchovny, comes all a cropper in the final episode.
The finale centres around the marriage of Bill and Karen, the latter the love of Hank’s life with whom he has a precocious but genuinely lovable child. The episode first eschews one key element that has both propelled and hurt Californication during its first season: sex. There is one brief glimpse of sex in the episode but it’s used more as a plot device to assert the coming together (sorry) of two peripheral characters. The sex this time is not used to show the hollowness of Hank or to get him in trouble. Further, the previous, first episode event of sex between Hank and Bill’s underaged daughter Mia is even denied by both parties publicly. So sex is off the menu in this one which is likely good. The writer’s have grown stronger at using sex as a character device for Hank during the season though. Initially, the ridiculous amount of surgically enhanced breast on show was seemingly only there for attention grabbing. But as the series went on, it became used to say something about Hank or other peripheral characters. Most particularly, and extremely hilariously, we were treated to Evan Chandler’s Runkel, Hank’s agent, being showered in female ejaculate at the close of a deeply uncomfortable three way also involving Hank. That incident, in the eleventh episode of the series, served nicely to hammer home the uselessness of sex to the characters, briefly as it did, pushing both men away from their true objects of desire.
With sex out the way, this episode concentrated on loose ends and suffers slightly because writer Tom Kapinos seemed to want to pull all the disparate elements together immediately. He seemed pained to leave any loose ends existing in this season open and instead closed a variety of potential storylines to open others up for the second season. Mia’s stealing of the book and fucking of Hank is closed out all too neatly although should be revisited next season. The Hank and Karen one too, their engaging love affair, was neatly tied up and thrown into the next season all to easily. The feeling immediately strikes that perhaps the show would have benefited from extra running time to fill in gaps. The only character really growing in the episode by it’s close is Becca, the daughter of Hank and Karen. Her move into womanhood is handled nicely, her first kiss with a young musician being the sweetest moment of the series.
Californication though deserves the attention of interested watchers. Not for the T&A but for the breathtaking use of explicit language which never feels forced and the exploration of both the male and female sexual psyche. Male-wise, it is still populated by assholes. Ones with hearts maybe but still assholes. They certainly don’t deserve any sympathy for their actions. Where it succeeds in making them somewhat likable is by placing the women so high above them on all levels. The one-episode fuck-buddy women are pointless but they seem to have subsided. The central women in the series are strong characters, despite Karen’s insistence of flip-flopping between men. Even with that however, her decision to do this seems justified. Bill, the man she is about to marry and a deeply dull human being, still represents a certain sense of security and safety. Hank, wild and untamed, is the polar opposite and, while her final decision is rushed, it makes sense to her overall character.
The challenge for season 2 will be to manage to grow the show up a little and remain both funny, naughty and sexy. Hank can’t remain as he was in this season now and their relationship will have to be handled carefully for us to keep interest. But for sheer enjoyment value and moments of adult comedy genius, you can’t beat the show at the moment.