'Californication' Season Finale Recap: And Justice For All

Mar 28, 2011 | 7:21am EDT

S4E12: Californication's fourth season was, at its heart, about one thing: Hank Moody's consequences. As we all know, back in the show's pilot in season one, he accidentally slept with a girl named Mia who was under the age of 18. Until this point in the series, that moment hid beneath Californication's other action and plot lines, randomly popping up here and there, but never fully coming into development. This worked because as viewers we knew something would happen eventually, we just didn't know when. At times, I almost felt anxious about it -- like, when is that going to finally bite Hank in the ass? This time? No, this time? Wait -- maybe finally this time?

And finally, it did. "And Justice For All" felt like an epilogue, rather than a finale. Last week, the show dealt with the verdict and at the beginning of this episode, they immediately revealed his sentencing (three years probation). And after that moment, as a viewer -- much like Hank -- I felt almost in a haze. Like, really? All of that build-up for all of those hours of television and plot development were for that moment? It's a joyful moment, yes, but at the same time, like Hank, we don't know really know what to do or how to operate with the world we're comfortable with changing so quickly. And even though that sounds confusing, the strange thing about it is that, well, it worked. After a mediocre season, the season finale (and last week's setup) delivered a delightful and moving episode.

"I'm carrying Charlie's baby." -Marcy

Abby and Hank celebrate and then head over to Stu's house. He throws a dinner for the entire group in celebration of a few things: the movie finally starting, Hank's freedom and his baby with Marcy. Unsurprisingly, it kind of ends up as one big disaster. Eddie Nero shows up -- dressed as Hank -- and starts prodding each person around the dinner table, attempting to get a sense of his world. But at that current moment, his world is a little more nutty than usual. Not only does Hank bring Abby as a date, but unexpectedly, Karen and Ben shows up as well. Plus, Charlie brings his crazy girlfriend, who Marcy really doesn't like (and Stu doesn't like that Marcy doesn't like that). And, yeah. It was nutty. Then, things got even more nutty. Marcy announces, randomly, that she is carrying Charlie's baby. So, yeah, that happened.

Basically, it was one big clusterfuck. And you know what? It was a riot. Around the dinner table, there are all sorts of crazies from all sorts of backgrounds, and yet somehow all of these crazies in one place work together amazingly, constantly feeding off one another. And yet, these moments, even though each character is presented in a nutty way, somehow present genuine emotions. It's like they were so crazy that it was believable.

"You're clearly the better man." -Hank

"Like that was ever up for debate, buddy." -Ben

After the disastrous dinner, Hank heads outside for some self-loathing. He drunkenly walks out on the invisible glass covering Stu's pool, and Abby finds him. She tells him that she plans to get a ride with Karen and Ben because Hank is too drunk, but Hank doesn't take that very well. He automatically assumes that Abby is leaving him. "Captain Fantastic," he groans. But, once again, Abby is the one to get real with Hank. "You're afraid of me because I'm real," she says, poignantly. It's true, too. Hank is terrified of reality. That's why he's a writer. He romanticizes things -- specifically, relationships -- that he can't have, because that way, he won't be hurt. If he doesn't open himself up to something that's actually real, then he won't have to worry about taking the risk. Abby knows this. She calls him out on it. She doesn't claim to be someone who will "change him" or even try, but she's there. He knows where to find her; he just has to want to find her. She kisses him and leaves, and in his drunken stupor, he falls in the water but before he drowns, Ben saves him.

Immediately following this moment, I was angry that Californication was renewed for another season. Because you know what should have happened when Hank fell in the pool? Hank should have died. He should have drowned in that pool. It would have been heartbreaking and terrible, but it would've fit the world of Californication. It's fairly obvious that Hank can't operate in this world without Karen and Becca. He tries, but he always ends up coming back to them. At this moment, immediately after Abby talks some sense, it's apparent that her words hit him. He knows she's right. Dying in that moment of clarity would have been a perfectly tragic end to a perfectly tragic man.

"Why does he love her so much?" -Actress playing Karen

But, he doesn't die. He heads to the set of Fucking and Punching, and walks into a world that doesn't exist any more. He walks through the set based on his house full of actors based on his relationships, and he doesn't really know how to handle the moment. He's in a haze. He knows that his life with Karen is over. There's no chance to return to it. But then, there's this movie set that is his life with Karen. It's the life he's lived over the past four years. It's his California. So what does he do? Well, he sleeps with the actress playing Karen because, well, because that's what Hank Moody does.

What's in store for next season, I'm not really sure. To be honest, even though they didn't kill Hank like I wished, this episode still felt like a series finale, more than just a season ender. As Becca says, a "chapter is closing" in their lives together and that means that everything we, as an audience, have invested in over the past four years -- characters, situations, etc. -- that's all being thrown out the window. The show is finished with that. So, what's next? Will Hank finally make his move back to New York? Will we watch Charlie and Marcy try to raise their undoubtedly fucked up baby? Or will it go back to the same old thing -- Hank trying to win back Karen? I'm not sure, but it will be interesting to see where they take the series. I'll tell you one thing though, I am glad I'm not a writer for the show.

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