As a writer your livelihood depends on your ability to construct narratives and your mental state is contingent on separating those narratives from reality. Almost exactly a year ago, Californication left Hank Moody in Karen’s doorway, presumably one knock away from finally writing the elusive final chapter of their romance. Hank, a literary titan, crafts scenes and fills them with dialogue but when it comes to his own story, he admittedly sees his career and muddled love affairs as intertwined.
“Everything that I write is either for her or about her,” Hank tells Atticus before leaving his job and his muse only to end up back at his truest love’s door. “I’m with her, even if I’m not.”
Hank returns for Californication’s seventh and final season waiting to knock, standing in a place most guys know well. He’s on the side of the door that isn’t quite reality – floating in that space before the big moment where every scenario rushes through your head. More often than not, the vision of the big speech or heart-wrenching proposal goes as planned and nervous anticipation turns into much needed elation.
Ask any guy that has an ounce of romance in him about how nothing you plan in your head unfolds exactly the way you want it to. In those moments before the knock you can’t prepare for someone’s reaction, you can only put it out there and hope.
The episode opens with Hank knocking and Karen accepting. The sweeping passionate kiss ensues. The band is back together.
Well not quite. This is Californication, where you can dream all you want but reality always comes to wake you up. Sticking true to the series’ roller coaster love arc, Hank knocks and no one is home. His visions of the big romantic gesture dissipate because now he has to go out and find Karen, an angel in a city filled with demons. When he does find Karen at a coffee shop, his speech comes out a little rushed and the reaction wasn’t something he previously accounted for in his head.
With that opening scene, we’re back to the comfort zone of the series. We’re in a love square where Hank and Karen head for insert new partners A and B here for half of the season. They’ll come back like they always do, pushing away the placeholders and looking each other in the eyes, likely on a beach, and saying it’s time to give it one more try. Those other “one more try” times were just practice.
Before we get back into Hank and Karen’s typical love square, we have a new season and new plot to carry Californication into syndication. After quitting on Atticus and Faith for the slim chance that Karen would take him back, Hank is jobless. You can’t provide for a woman if you have no job.
Hank’s career is arguably at its lowest point. Even when he was in prison, at least his book, “Fucking and Punching,” was flying off the shelf. Now he’s the black sheep of Hollywood, with his reputation as a pretentious troublemaker shooing off potential offers. A man who was once interviewed for a New York Times profile piece is now fielding softball questions from a stiff college reporter with flop sweat. But more on that later.
Newly remarried and forever erectility dysfunct Charlie Runckle nets Hank a shot at the only medium he’s yet to “shit on.” So now Hank is going to put on his TV writing cap and develop a series based on Santa Monica Cop, the film that he personally helped burn to ashes in season five. There to vet Hank is TV executive Rick Rath, who is played by the commanding presence known as Michael Imperioli. You might recognize him from the vodka commercials or some show from the early 2000s. Now armed with long, flowing grey locks, Imperioli’s Rick Rath instantly connects with Hank. They’re both New York guys and writers who are crushed by the creative constraints of living their lives in the soul-crushing valley.
As excited as I am for that relationship to develop, Californication throws us a plot twist so obvious that I’m surprised they waited this long to bring it around. With the general ease Hank has when it comes to scoring with the ladies, you’d think he’d have a pregnancy scare or another child somewhere along the way. To round out the trifecta of plots that will define season seven, Levon (played by Oliver Cooper of Project X fame), the awkward college student who hassles Hank for an interview, is claiming that Hank could be his father. That should be more than enough to stir up a little drama with Karen.
With the plots firmly anchored and Hank’s fear and self-loathing in Los Angles continuing to run down its familiar course, Californication doesn’t begin the end with a bang, rather it shows us that the stories we construct, whether they’re on paper or playing out in front of you, can get easily skewed. We all know how Hank thinks this thing should end. Somewhere deep inside of Karen there’s a voice telling her to succumb to Hank’s projection of reality.
Only that’s not how it works in Californication. There’s always something blocking the doorway.
I’ve dearly missed watching Marcy and Runckle attempt to fornicate in the bedroom: “If you’re going to eat me out you can’t cry”