One of the most dynamic comedies in recent premium channel memory, Californication follows the life of Hank Moody (David Duchovny); an alcoholic writer who struggles to maintain his relationship with Karen (Natasha McElhone), the mother of his daughter Becca (Madeline Martin), who witnesses his frequent indiscretions. While Californication tackles many important themes and plot points, this is a show about love in a city that complicates it. Hank and Karen are often described as a “cosmic love” by those who know them. One that is so controlled by fate their other romantic interests often bow out, conceding their feelings for Hank and Karen to give it another go. Hank has always been consistent in his feelings. He will drop everything and everyone the moment Karen will have him. Karen however, remains the one who needs convincing. Although Hank ends up in positions that constantly jeopardizes their relationship Karen loves him the same every season. Their past becomes the gorilla glue that holds them together. She understands what makes him unbearable but can’t elude what makes him the love of her life. And once you think Hank is finally out of her good graces he surprised the audience as much as Karen with one last stand. While she agrees they are star crossed lovers, she rightfully asks, “Is that enough”?
What I appreciate most about Californication is watching a comedy that takes itself seriously. The cinematography, editing, and directing in this show is typically reserved for something on AMC. Their flashbacks are given their own color and tone which feels like its own distinct story. The score in scenes between Duchovny and McElhone curate a soundtrack to their love that always matches emotionally where they are. The beauty in the show is it doesn’t glorify misogyny and Hank is no sympathetic character. As the seasons progress the women he beds become less like trophies and more like skeletons. They return to haunt his present and hinder his future. As Becca grows up, we see the influence of his behavior permeate into her own. Hank becomes the older man every young man is cautious of becoming. He drinks whiskey before brushing his teeth, lives in a past where he rues ruining his relationship with Karen to the point he won’t move on, and is much more lonely than he’ll ever admit. However, like all human beings he is moved by hope. The hope that eventually he will become the man he needs to be while maintaining a semi-successful career. The hope he can raise his daughter successfully without contributing to her pain. But most importantly, the hope that he can have his fairytale ending with Karen.