And so it’s come to this: seven seasons of flings, heartbreaks, memorable nights and awkward mornings. We arrive at the series finale of Californication, which tries to wrap up a lot of loose ends and provide a feeling of finality for as many characters as possible. And while, of course, the finale to a series can never fully satisfy everyone, I did find a lot to like here.
From the beginning of the season, Hank made it clear to Karen that he wanted to grow up. However, since Levon and Julia entered his life, he’s slid backwards and caused headaches for those around him. Time to see if he’s finally learned anything.
The episode begins with Hank trying to bribe Becca out of her marriage. We’re off to a good start. Hank admits that he can’t help his behavior. He’s just an asshole who loves his daughter and wants what’s best for her, so it’s hard for him to get excited about his little girl getting married. But it turns out that Becca isn’t so excited anymore. There’s no point in getting married. Ever. Hank agrees. Better to wait until you’re 30 or 35, he says. Becca is convinced that she can’t have a successful relationship due to her father. After all, he never had one. He might love Becca and Karen, but Hank has only managed to let them down, over and over again. With that, Becca bids farewell to the cruel world and lets herself fall into the water below.
Time to wake up, Hank. Next to him is Charlie, who is in the middle of a quarrel with Marcy, who is set to bed Stu tomorrow.
Following this, Hank heads to Karen’s, but Becca has already left for New York to meet Roscoe’s parents. The ceremony will take place on the upcoming weekend. Try as he might, Hank can’t convince Karen to see thing his way. Hank doesn’t see this as a normal step for Becca, but Karen looks at her own life with Karen: they didn’t get married because they felt they were too cool and Bohemian for that shit. And look where that’s gotten them. Does Hank really want that same fate for Becca? Karen refuses to let Hank drag her mood down and she won’t drag him kicking and screaming into doing the right thing. As Karen continues preparing to leave, Hank receives a phone call from Julia.
Marcy’s big day has arrived. As she gets ready, Charlie does a poor job of hiding his sarcasm and contempt for what his wife is about to do, which is why Marcy didn’t want him in the house while she prepared. Charlie is still free to fuck who he pleases, as long as it’s not in the house. And Charlie doesn’t want Marcy having any orgasms, either.
At the police department, Hank and a disappointed Julia leave with a free Levon, who now has a criminal record and owes Hank a lot of money due to finding comfort in the arms of a streetwalker. I would think California had massage parlors or strip clubs where Levon could take out his sexual frustration, but I guess not. I dunno. I’ve never been to California. But Levon didn’t think such behavior was illegal. He figured cops looked the other way. Only during Spring Break, my friend.
Julia would like nothing more than to send Levon back to his therapist, Dr. Lawson, who Levon stopped seeing because he healed himself. Whatever all this nonsense is, Hank promises to put a stop to it.
Back at House Runkle, Krull arrives with a lovely pair of ladies: a blonde named Love, played by Diana Terranova, and a black haired pretty young thing named Hope, played by Kelen Coleman. Love is for Krull. Hope will give Charlie a good ass licking if he would like, which is apparently even better after exercise. Bleh.
So Hank takes Levon to a bar and demands that he stop with the hookers. What Levon needs is, and run with me on this, something close to a real human relationship. He can’t keep paying for body parts. But Levon believes his looks are the problem. Girls don’t like clammy hands on their tits, he says, and that’s a fact. I did not know this.
Across the bar, the two again spot Tara. Levon doesn’t think she’s his type, but Hank insists that he not have a type. Just be bold, funny and charming.
So it goes as well as you would expect: Levon brings up a girl he went to school with named Sara, who was retarded. He didn’t make fun of her because he had his own issues. What he’s certain of is that Tara is uniquely pretty and that there’s probably no other girl in the world who looks exactly like her. Plus, Tara makes Levon feel good, but not in a creepy, his wiener feels weird kind of way. Yeah, Levon needs to stop talking right now.
Somehow, Tara agrees to have a drink with Levon, so I guess we’ll give him a point for that. She just needs to make a quick stop to the ladies’ room, first. Hank bids his farewell, but not before giving Levon some cash just so he can enjoy Tara’s company. No sex.
After this, Hank heads to Julia’s with the good news of Levon’s slow, but steady progress. The two have a tender moment with Hank admitting that Julia and Levon have been the most pleasant surprise of his adult life. Before they can get hot and heavy, Hank would prefer to take Julia to dinner later that evening.
He then heads to House Runkle and makes his way past Krull and Love making…well, love, and finds Charlie and Hope in his bed. Hank is a bit miffed, despite the fact that he doesn’t live there in the first place. Charlie didn’t want to bone in his marital bed. Things didn’t go well, anyway. According to Hope, trying to suck Charlie off was like nibbling on a piece of string cheese. Californication never ceases to amaze me with its metaphors.
Anyway, Hank encourages Hope to pursue her dream of going back to law school, as well as tells Charlie to fix this mess with Stu.
Speaking of Stu, we learn that he and Marcy swam, played tennis, meditated, did yoga, had massages, everything under the sun except for have sex. Marcy’s just feeling weird, that’s all. Before the two begin, Marcy wants to make sure the money has been transferred.
While Stu goes to take a leak- which is apparently hard to do with an erection- Marcy finds Stu’s very expensive fuck doll. Marcy, like any sensible person would be, is aghast at what Stu calls a loving tribute to her.
Marcy tries to leave, but Stu gets her on the bed. While this technically could be called rape, Stu and Marcy apparently used to play rape games in the past, at Marcy’s request. The hell is wrong with these people?
But Charlie enters and clocks Stu with one of his awards. Luckily, his wife couldn’t go through with the idea. Stu admits what he and everyone else has probably known all along: this was a terrible idea. He also apologizes for messing with their marriage. Charlie retorts that he could leak a story about a washed-up producer who is into prostitutes and sex dolls. Stu, however, is glad that Charlie’s growing some balls. He’s not glad when Charlie decides to keep the money, though.
Julia awaits her dinner date, and she’s met not by Hank, but Rath, who also expected to see someone else.
In his Porsche, Hank goes over to his letter to Karen. The car doesn’t start, so he bids his beauty farewell and runs to the airport as fast as he can.
Having purchased a ticket for a flight that’s about to depart in a few minutes, Hank finds Karen. The woman next to her, played by Sharon Angela, refuses to leave, so Hank just hands Karen his letter. She doesn’t read it at that moment, so he reads it aloud. He admits that each time he opens his mouth, something stupid comes out. Their life has never been perfect. Through the ups, downs and all-arounds, Hank is still a sucker for happy endings. He is a writer, after all. Whatever he and Karen have will never end as long as there’s her, him, hope and grace.
A woman sitting across from Karen, played by Dana Delorenzo, solves the seat debacle, which gives Hank a chance to sit next to Karen one more time. His declaration hasn’t won Karen over, but it’s still something.
As Elton John’s Rocket Man kicks in, we get a montage:
Tara and Levon enjoy their date, but also take a selfie, which automatically makes them horrible people in my book.
As do Rath and Julia…
Stu enjoys dinner with his fuck doll just because…
Marcy and Charlie find their spark again…
And as Hank Moody looks back on his life, he and Karen kiss, united again and headed to watch their daughter wed.
And that was Californication, folks.
Californication delivers its final episode, packaged in a neat box, bow tied to perfection and everything in place. It wraps up continuing story arcs from this season and, as any series finale tries to do, gives viewers a sense of finality. The season began as a chance for Hank to right some of his many wrongs and man up. As the season progressed, things slowly became worse and his relationships suffered as a result. The man has struggled to do the growing up he promised Karen that he would do.
The season threw curveballs at us, such as Karen’s car accident or the introduction of Levon and Julia, but one of the overall messages has been about acceptance and taking responsibility for our actions. Characters have realized that no matter how fucked up a situation becomes, pity will get them nowhere. You take what life throws at you and make the most of it. That included accepting character flaws, and though folks like Charlie and Marcy did come to terms with how screwed-up they are, it took awhile for them to actually do anything about it. They just continued living the best way they knew how. That’s fine, but with so much talk of growing up, it shouldn’t take until the series finale to begin making a change.
Happy endings can and have been very cliché: everything can feel too neat and routine just for the purpose of giving the audience a final farewell to a series they stuck by. Karen herself doubted whether she and Hank could live happily ever after. She knew all along that the two were not a perfect fit. In contrast, Hank never accepted that, despite the wreckage his past and present have caused. It showed his stubborn belief that he and Karen, despite all the odds they face, will always find a way to work things out. The future is never promised for any of us, but Hank, it will be bright as long as he’s with Karen.
Temptation was rampant this season, particularly this episode with Marcy grappling with Stu’s deal, Hank’s brief encounter with Hope, and Levon’s constant love of prostitutes. Though Levon gives in, we’ve seen characters give into their lustful desires, even when it drags them down even further. That doesn’t help their situations- just gives them some temporary pleasure. I’m reminded of a quote from True Blood by Jason Stackhouse: Sometimes the right thing is to do the wrong thing. Indeed, a bit of pleasure is nice, but in the long run, it showed the characters’ inability to make good decisions.
Our heroes tried hard to prove that they had grown up. The real world is scary, though. If it’s not what we want, we act like it’s not true or we try to change what’s in front of us. Karen refused to drag Hank into doing the right thing when he wanted to pretend that their daughter wasn’t growing up without them. Levon wanted to keep fooling with prostitutes even though he didn’t have a job. Heck, even the folks on Santa Monica Cop though they were safe until their show got the axe. Granted, the characters did do some growing up and took responsibility for their actions, but I wish this all came sooner. Doing it now just seems like a forced way to tie up loose ends.
Though we did get some resolution for Charlie and Marcy after so much ‘will they, won’t they.’ Marcy’s sudden shift felt a bit too quick, but from the start, despite how much she wanted the money, she’s had doubts and second thoughts about having sex with Stu for a million dollars. I don’t fully get why she chose to back out, especially considering how tame sex would be compared to the games she and Stu apparently used to play
But I guess seeing a fuck doll in your likeness could have something to do with that. Not sure why the doll was there, considering we saw it in a separate room last time.
Charlie standing up for himself would be a bigger deal if he hadn’t already done it twice already. He already told Stu he wouldn’t be disrespected, but here it was again. However, I am glad that he and Marcy admitted just how terrible they are. And I suppose their money woes are over for now.
Levon and Julia were a welcome distraction since they provided some drama and humor to Hank’s life. We’ve watched Levon slowly develop a spine in his own, awkward way. He still has self-doubt and confidence issues, no doubt. Given his reckless behavior this season, I can’t say I blame him for wanting to tread carefully, but I wish he was more charming and less prone to saying stupid things. He lacks the control and confidence factor, as well as way with words, which seem to come naturally for Hank.
And really, all the nice things I’ve had to say about Heather Graham have already been said. The woman is sunshine in human form and while Julia could be a bit overprotective, she had her reasons and did soften up to Hank’s approach.
I also enjoyed Rath’s sort of mentor-like relationship with Hank, as Rath seems like the type of person Hank could be if he spent more time focusing on his work.
To be honest, not much changed with Karen this season. She’s been resolute in her stance on not fully letting Hank back into her life. She loves him, but cannot be with him. She won’t pity him when he’s down. She knows Hank better than most women and, like Becca, doesn’t mince her words. Was it too easy for her to just accept him at the end? Not necessarily since she said his letter didn’t win her over, but maybe she’s more willing to take a chance.
Another chance, I mean.
From the onset of the season, Hank has wanted to prove to everyone that he can grow up and do the right thing. He wanted to move past the sex crazed hound that he’s been known as and tries to influence those around him to grow up as well. He became the problem solver of the episode. This I didn’t really like because it felt like such an abrupt turn. I can buy his pep talks with Levon since he’s been trying to help the boy grow a pair all along, but why lecture Charlie and Hope on the importance of doing the right thing? They’re both…well, Charlie’s not really a responsible adult, so I guess I can only assume Hope is since she considered going back to school.
I just don’t get Hank’s motive to suddenly become Mr. Responsible. He’s still not on board with Becca’s marriage. Karen didn’t tell him anything new that she hasn’t said before. And what’s more, he still came off as petulant when he still expressed anger at Becca’s marriage. I can’t help but wonder if the dream sequence at the beginning of the episode was part of what he would like to happen, with Becca realizing that she’s not ready for marriage. But Becca isn’t under his control.
Side-note, I actually think the episode worked better by not having Becca in it, outside of the dream sequence. Not that I would have been against having her, but she said exactly what she needed to say about Hank and his toxic behavior. Having her here again wouldn’t have done added anything that we didn’t already know.
No doubt Hank wants the storybook ending. In a sense, he got it. He has always had a way with words. His letter ready was a very open and heartfelt moment, but just a prettier way of him saying what he thinks, feels and has expressed to Karen for years.
So why this public approach? If Hank wanted to be direct, he could have told Karen all of this at the start, even though Karen wouldn’t change her position on Becca. Was it for the spectacle? Because Hank bought a ticket on the day of a flight, which couldn’t have been cheap, so maybe he always intended to go to New York, regardless, but just wanted to be on Karen’s good side. It felt like a last ditch effort of the guy trying to get the girl. The only thing that would have made this even more cliché is if the episode included a scene of Hank running through the airport and confessing that if he doesn’t board the plane, he may never seen her again. Pretty sure Not Another Teen Movie made fun of that worn out cliché.
And let’s not forget the feel good montage.
Look, I’m not saying Californication had to end on a downer. In fact, I’d say this finale is in stark contrast to the ending of Season Three. Maybe a bit of the first season as well because, although it had the happy ending, it also reminded us that you can’t always get what you want.
Let’s look back at the end to Season Three, as it also made great use of Elton John’s Rocket Man. At the end of that season, Hank’s world crumbled around him. He confessed to Karen that he had slept with Mia, then an underage girl who had formed a strong bond with Karen and Becca. Hank and Karen’s confrontation spilled into the streets until the police arrived. The season came to a close with Hank Moody hauled away in handcuffs, his life in shambles while his lady and daughter could only watch.
Big turnaround here, as the song is used again here to show that people can get what they want. The future looks bright for our characters. In the end, even though Hank hasn’t fully won Karen over, we have no idea how the two will end up. Does that matter at this point, so long as Hank is sitting next to Karen and holding her hand? Do they indeed have the happily ever after ending? I can only assume that the writers wanted to give Hank exactly what he wanted: real happiness with the one woman he’d do anything for. In the process, he betters the lives of Rath, Julia, Levon, Charlie and Marcy. Does it seem practical for Hank to solve so many issues when he’s spent the bulk of the season just causing more? Seems too quick of a change for me.
Look, at the end of the day, I wasn’t disappointed with what I saw. I didn’t know what to expect with this finale. It was good and did its job, but not great or up to the writing caliber we’ve come to expect from Californication. Looking back, the series has given us a man who has a great gift of writing, but he focused too much on women and repairing his damaged relationships. We watched life throw him plenty of surprises, not the least of which includes a son he never knew about, and he’s grappled with growing up while realizing that he can’t stop his daughter from wanting to grow up.
As cliché as “Grace” is, I am going to miss Californication and given all of the shit everyone’s been through this season, at least they got a bit of happiness. For a season that’s felt so uneven, this show’s biggest strength, to me, has always been its writing. The most average of Californication still provides great lines and sexual metaphors I find myself quoting and laughing at. To sum up the season as a whole, it’s growth. It took quite a long time to get there and there was some flip-flopping along the way, the characters got what they wanted.
For a show that’s been about the impossibility of the happily ever after ending, Californication delivered just that. Was it the safe route? Possibly. Was it the most realistic ending or strongest send-off for the series? Probably not. There’s much to enjoy in “Grace” and the series as a whole. It can be brutally honest in how much life sucks and how we can’t always get what we want, but should we be complacent or fight to ensure ourselves a happy ending?
So long, Californication.