Californication: Season 6, Review

A look back at Season 6 as a whole and a reminder of why we keep going back.

Californication-poster2
Summer is almost here. The beaches will open soon, bonfires will be lit, and long days and nights will be spent out on the road in pursuit of the getaways that break up the cold monotony that winter winds tend to blow in our faces. As the brisk summer air rolls in and the sun focused its rays on painting my body a darker shade of white guy, Californication enters its hibernation, a hiatus until a seventh season that will undoubtedly take the show in a new direction. In many ways, Season Six was a breather for Californication. It was the guy in the cubicle next to you who took a sick day after the boss ripped him to shreds the day before. It was the tall glass of beer that couldn’t be downed fast enough at the end of a long day. When you have to follow up a season loaded with plot twists, unsettling jealousy, and numerous complicated relationships changes as Season Five did, it is ok to have a little fun. That’s what Faith was. That’s Atticus’ whole shtick. They even threw us some Marilyn Manson for the hell of it. Season six brought a little life to California after a heavy season five left us wondering if the show had made its peace and was ready to provide the closure it desperately wanted to find. Yet just as history tends to repeat itself, Californication gets caught up in a cycle of letting relationships crumble and heal, or maybe the correct cliché is ‘bend but not break’. Either way, Season Six wanted to give us some answers to the bigger picture of the series, albeit they did it more slowly than we are used to.

In the season’s final episode “I’ll Lay My Monsters Down”, Hank is having a drink in Hell again. Lew Ashby (played by Callum Keith Rennie) is the bartender and his continued posthumous presence on the show further proves that he should have never been killed off. I would go as far as to say that Duchovny and Rennie have the best on-screen chemistry of any two characters in the series, if you couldn’t tell by their bromance when the bad boys were teaming up in the second season to make Californication a keeper [1]. Before I digress too far from the point, Lew Ashby returns to give Hank some much needed perspective on his chapter of the tale of two women. In all but one season of Californication, the finale ends with a resolution or a cliffhanger to Hank and Karen’s relationship. So as the opening minutes of the season six finale settle in, the always-brash Lew Ashby is in Hank’s dream to pose the question that the show has toyed around with all season: 
“What if the one you think is really the one is not the one?” 

 

Early in season six we found out that Hank needed something to rip him out of the funk that his psychotic ex-girlfriend Carrie created. This is where the opportunity for fun entered. Hank rotting away in rehab was maybe necessary for saving his life but it wasn’t going to help revive his writing career. Hank needed that spark. Californication needed a direction. We needed something to keep us watching. Show creator and writer Tom Kapinos delivered us former Lost star Maggie Grace as Faith. And what a delivery it was. She was charming, she played hard-to-get, she held Hank’s attention for more than an evening and most importantly she was everything that Karen was, is, and could be. I’ll try and weed out the bias as best I can, since my knees clearly buckled at the very sight of Faith [2].

Faith had plenty of flaws for a character that was more or less the focal point of the majority of the episodes this season. Early on it was obvious that Faith lacked depth. Even when we got an episode detailing her past, it felt unsatisfying. There was no denying that Hank and Faith had a sizzling relationship, but I’m still not sure I ever bought into the idea that they could end up together as was implied throughout the season. If it was Kapinos’ intent to make us feel as though they could find happiness together, then he did Duchovny and his incredible acting [3] a disservice by putting him in a role in which he was unable to deliver. But don’t fret, David. The years of Hank knowing exactly what he wanted only to mess it up and make him want it more took its toll on us. We’ve been trained to understand the psyche of Hank Moody. He lays it on the line in the final episode, claiming that in many ways Faith is perfect for him. Even when Lew Ashby returns to offer the honest truths of a fantasy afterlife, we knew what road the show would go down 28 minutes later. We’ve been conditioned that way.

Ad – content continues below

Faith wasn’t as much the problem with season six as was she the attempt to be the solution. She was the only woman in the show’s run to give Hank a real shot at a life beyond Karen. It maybe wasn’t as believable, given Faith’s history of roaming from tour bus to tour bus, or substantial, with Hank giving her up fairly easily, as it should have been. Regardless, it was that breather we needed, a diversion from the tired storyline of Hank and Karen that has been fed to us in different ways through six seasons, some more satisfying than others [4]. 
Though we probably no longer tune in for the drama, Californication is still entertaining. 

 

It is a whole different question as to whether we ever tuned in for the drama in the first place. The show is about sex appeal, and where there is sex, there is drama lurking right behind. Take Runckle’s long road from a married masturbating agent, to a single, sexually liberated agent to a fired “gaygent” wondering what he made of his life. His character kept the show relevant in the beginning of season six at a time when it felt as though Californication was on a barren highway with no town in sight. 

With Hank’s plotline short on direction, single Runckle, as funny as his sexual conquests are, isn’t enough to sustain us. Ever since the first episode of the series, Runckle and Marcy have had a certain chemistry about them. They have this way of intertwining drama and (dysfunctional) sex appeal [5] and even though we have seen it all before, it somehow still feels new. Their re-marriage is the best thing that could happen to the show moving forward. Before we move on to season seven, we say goodbye to the guest stars that pumped life into season six. Atticus (played by British comedy musician Tim Minchin) appeared in nearly every episode of the season. He had a flare for the overdramatic, which at its least entertaining led to a dull faux suicide attempt and at his best he was brilliant on the wild plane ride that was setting for the season’s most amusing episode “In the Clouds”. The professional goal of the season was for Hank and Atticus to make this rock opera and that completely falls by the wayside in the last few episodes, but I wont blame Atticus for that. When it was time to go he left peacefully before he overstayed his welcome. My eyes will definitely miss Faith and I have a feeling I’ll be surprisingly excited when Atticus makes his inevitable return in a future episode but as they exit stage right, it is clear they never settled in like a Stew or a Lew Ashby did.

The glorious thing about guest stars, and Californication will continue the trend of being Hollywood’s revolving door in 2014, is that they aren’t permanent [6]. I guess no one really is in television. But as Faith says in her final goodbye to Hank, the chance to move on is sometimes as beautiful as what was so captivating about the romance at the start.   
“The great thing about never really being together is you never really have to break up,” she says. 

 

Faith’s journey from hard-to-get roadie to Hank’s muse and their subsequent “break up” was a long way of finding out if there was something else out there for Hank. When you finally win over someone like Faith, you hold on, but Hank couldn’t do that. He couldn’t even do that each time he won over Karen, so why would we expect him to here? 

In “I’ll Lay My Monsters Down”, Californication takes the literary device of the open road, puts Hank on it and sends him back home. “All roads lead back home,” Faith says earlier in the episode to further hammer the point in [7]. Hank is back on Karen’s doorstep, where he thinks he belongs. There most pressing question for the series is can Hank and Karen be together for an extended run of episodes, while still quenching our thirst of wanting a balance of drama and sex appeal? Maybe. But more likely, Californication will fall into the same plot traps and zany guest stars to get us through another, and likely final, season [8]. 

Ad – content continues below

Notes: (I bet you wondered what the numbers were about)

[1] Hank and Lew Ashby might have the best bromance (sorry Charlie), but as for romance, the long walks along the beach and the dialogue that makes Hank and Karen fit for a bestseller is hard to top.  Hank and Faith had their moments this season, but I’m hesitant to give them a higher ranking because Faith is irresistible. She could have electric chemistry with a street sign. [Back] 

[2] Faith will return someday. In my dreams.[Back]

[3] David Duchovny was on the X-Files. Need I say more? Someday his brilliance will be immortalized with a Den of Geek career retrospective and it will be heavenly.[Back]

[4] The most satisfying is a tie between the highest of highs and lowest of lows: Hank rescuing his muse from marrying Bill and Hank doing the right thing and paying for it with a nasty overdose at the hands of Carrie. The series could have ended on either episode and I would have been fine with it.[Back]

Ad – content continues below

[5] Runckle and Marcy are narrowly edged out by Richard Bates for most confusing sexual being.[Back]

[6] The point that their re-marriage could be the best thing to happen to the show was fine until the news that Michael Imperioli was joining the cast for season seven rendered my statement hyperbolic. The former Soprano’s star will play a TV producer that has a hand in Hank’s next professional endeavor. Hopefully his foray into TV will be more enjoyable than his failed experiment with musicals. Somewhere there’s a Curb Your Enthusiasm joke in there.[Back] 

[7] Hank says “all roads lead back home” sounds like a bad country song. I took to YouTube to test this theory. Ironically, I found an indie ballad by a band named Golden State[Back]

 

[8] My prediction for ‘cation 2014 is that Michael Imperioli will be the show’s savior. Right now all I’m thinking about is how Christopher from The Sopranos is going to come in and light a fire under Hank’s ass, get his career going and they’ll bond over scotch at west coast equivalent of Bada Bing[Back]

Rating:

3 out of 5