Ah, the flashback, a cinematic device best used to derive meaning from a moment in time that was likely buried deep in the psyche of the character. It can be used lightheartedly, but more often it’s used to get out of a jam, like when a floundering relationship needs revival and a plot twist backs a writer into an unnecessary corner. Actually, that sounds an awful lot like this week’s episode of Californication, “Faith, Love, Hope.”
No, the flashbacks weren’t about Hank’s ex-lover Faith. Those are my dreams. So right away the title brings back awkward memories for an episode that basically promised to give us some glimpse of how Hank and Karen will end up during this final season. With Karen’s car smashed up by a drunk driver in the last episode, this week Hank, Marcy and Charlie gather in the hospital to play the waiting game. Like any other sitcom or drama that happens to send a character to the hospital, Californication has to go the flashback route to break up the teary-eyed monotony of waiting for the doctor’s word.
I’m not ragging on the flashback, which at times is a lovely device, but here it’s a crutch to bridge us to the final three episodes. The real damage was done weeks ago, when Hank and Karen’s relationship was put on ice. Though I’ve enjoyed every episode up until this point, now we’re forced to deal with the blowback of not resolving their relationship earlier and it comes at the expense of ditching Rath, Julia and Levon, characters that have been excellent alongside Mr. Moody. It’s not so much that it feels cheap to use a car accident as the defining moment in their relationship, but for it to come so close to the end after everything that’s gone on between Hank and Karen, leads me to believe they never had the fairy tale ending written when they started this show (I’m looking at you, How I Met Your Mother).
Californication has always used the flashback fairly well during its run, so I’ll play ball. Here’s my analysis of the flashbacks:
Flashback 1: Hank and Karen are in the car, fighting about going to a therapist.
Hank’s intimacy problems are on full display here. He’s too proud to ask for help, he’s too stubborn to express his feelings without putting his fist through a wall and he’s reluctant to give up his independence. You can’t even touch the man’s radio.
Flashback 2: The Therapist Weighs in
Keep in mind these flashbacks take place before season one. This is one of the few times we’ve seen a flashback that portrays how close Hank and Karen actually came to being a real, functional couple. They were in a marriage without the certificate. It becomes clear that LA changed their relationship, with Hank’s drinking and newfound movie fame taking over his life and Karen clearly feeling neglected, forcing her to seek a new “emotional connection” so she didn’t have to stand idle and be Hanks’s “ball and chain at home.”
Flashback 3 – Return of the King (Becca)
Becca! She lives! Ok well only in a flashback and only because they got a different little girl actress to play her…
Anyway, little Becca drops some real knowledge on us: “boys and girls make the world go round.” What purpose this flashback serves is to show just how feelings between lovers can get so twisted and unexplainable that maybe only a child with an innocent outside perspective can make sense of it all.
Flashback 4 – “It was never just about fiery sex”
After sevens seasons, I’m starting to think the entire reason the show exists is for fiery sex.
Flashback 5 – More fiery sex
Pillow talk: Is happily ever after possible?
“I love you to death, I’m sure of that,” Hank says.