Californication: Julia, Review

Change can be sexy, but Californication stays on a familiar path as Hank deals with his baby daddy fall out.

Every guy has a perception of who they are as a lover, as husband and as a father.

Hank Moody has the former on lockdown. His confident boasts of sexual prowess are justified by the outstanding quality and quantity of the women he beds.

In Californication’s latest episode “Julia,” Hank’s perception of the two latter rights of manhood is called into question and the show leaves us in a familiar spot, waiting for the inevitable disaster to strike.

Through the season’s first two episodes, Hank makes a push to become a grownup. After committing to a job and avoiding any sexual encounters of the easy and carefree kind, Hank is on the right track and Karen is buying into it. And why shouldn’t she? Hank seems refreshed, focused, and maybe even blessed by Faith’s groupie magic. Karen has alluded to the fact that Becca might be the only thing that kept the lovers tied together over the last 20 or so years. Now with Becca off on a literary pilgrimage (whatever the hell that is), Hank and Karen can savor the empty nest by reigniting their romance, hopefully this time for good. 

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I agree with Karen that change can be sexy, but in Californication, straying too far from the proven has led the show down some bumpy roads (RE: Season Four and Six). The brilliant thing about the show is it never tries to outrun the problems of its protagonist. Once one crisis is averted, another one fucks and punches its way through the door. It hasn’t preserved Californication’s freshness, but it evokes fond memories of the first handful of seasons and has kept the show around long enough to go out on its own terms.

In the context of Hank’s wider body of work, this latest crisis seems like an unavoidable, yet somewhat excusable one. When Hank learns he fathered a son from a relationship in the pre-Karen days, he has to tell Karen but the reveal is put on hold for good reason. The gang is back together! Marcy and Charlie interrupt a tender Hank and Karen moment because Charlie’s dong is on the fritz. Marcy’s incredible patience with Charlie in the sex department is a disgusting metaphor in a way. No matter what problems arise—or in Charlie’s case don’t rise—you have to overlook some faults in relationships.  

These days for Hank, it’s about toeing the line. He’s dangerously close to pushing Karen to the point where she can’t overlook his faults anymore. Even though Hank was never told about his love child, he realizes the wear it could have on his relationship with Karen. Based on the show’s history, standing in the way of Hank and Karen isn’t Levon, Hank’s obnoxious “alleged” son; it’s the titular Julia, played by the aging, but still gorgeous, Heather Graham.

Julia, a former actress turned dental hygienist, never told Hank about Levon because she didn’t think he could handle the responsibilities of parenthood. In a way she was right, as Hank and Becca’s rocky relationship often took a backseat to Hank’s love life. Now that Hank is aware of his son and willing to at least spend some time with him, Julia offers him a way out. He could “do the right thing” and leave them alone.

For Hank a no is a yes. A stay away means keep trying. Doing the right thing is only doing what feels right to him. Though Becca’s name doesn’t come up, Levon is a chance for Hank to right some of his parental wrongs, even if that wrong threatens to force Karen’s hand and leave for good. 

Julia’s biggest offer to Hank is a sobering dose of reality. “You’re fun,” she says. “Kind of like driving around a dog that sticks his head out the window.” To Julia, Hank wasn’t father material and she finds out that 20 years later he’s still not husband material.

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The final season will answer the question of whether Hank and Karen end up together, and it’s safe to assume that Julia exists to complicate that question in more ways than one. Hank’s already working to change his own perceptions of himself, but how he handles the reemergence of Julia and a new son will define how he is perceived by Karen, both as a father and as a potential husband.

Despite Hank’s best intentions, despite giving off the aurora of a changed man, we know Hank Moody. The itch for losing himself and his responsibilities for some of that “fun” will always be there. As the episode comes to a close, Karen’s reaction to Julia says it all. Disaster has struck.

To steal a line from Marcy: “Ain’t love fucking grand?”   

From the Hank Moody Quotebook:

“It’s just an erection. You’ve had a million of them and you’ve botched them all” 

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3 out of 5