‘Californication’ Recap: Suicide Solution

S4E2: To approach Californication as a “realistic” show is not the most fruitful way to watch because, really, this show is a farce. Hank Moody doesn’t live realistically. He drives around in an old, beat-up Porsche, women fawn over him, and he somehow makes enough money every few years to do more than live quite successfully. The show, like movies and TV are supposed to, romanticizes things.

I write this because in order to enjoy this show, you can’t get caught up on the details — details like how Hank is paying the bills or why women find him so attractive. Frankly, you just gotta roll with it. The life he lives is ridiculous. The characters he interacts with are ridiculous. Everything is ridiculous. And when you let go of trying to make it realistic, it’s quite enjoyable.

But sometimes, the show forgets that and tries to make itself into something believable. And frankly, when it does that, Californication turns into a cliche-filled mess. This week, despite giving us some pretty hilarious scenes, the show got a little lost in what its purpose is.

“It’s getting dark. Too dark to see.” -Hank’s Letter to Becca

As I stated earlier (and what seems to be the only point I want to make in this recap), Californication is not realistic. But, it has created a world for us viewers to be part of and enjoy. And in this world — even though Hank Moody might be able to stop at a stop sign, see a beautiful woman, and have her jump in the car to go sleep with him — the emotions can be realistic. I realize that wanting things to be realistic inside non-realism is a weird idea, but it’s what this show does best. It teeters that line of having fun with the characters and genuinely caring about them very well.

So at this moment, Hank took a bunch of pills and is writing a letter to Becca. For a famous novelist, this letter isn’t anything tremendous. Quite honestly, I’ve always had an issue with Hank’s writing. My issue is that it has always seemed to be in a different world than the life he was living. Whenever Hank sits down to write, we need to play music in the background and make the camera jittery because you need to understand how big of a deal this is. That bothers me. And what’s even more frustrating is that because the show relies on these over-the-top cliches, it makes me not care/feel invested when Hank blacks out. Was he trying to commit suicide? Well, that’s what the episode’s title suggests. But I don’t feel invested in him — even after three full seasons — doing so, mainly because rather than letting things happen on screen, the show seems to be jumping up and down, waving its hands, and pointing at this moment, saying “see, it’s a big deal!”

I had a writing teacher once who told me to “stop trying to be a writer and just write.” That’s where I feel Californication is at right now. The writers need to trust themselves and know that they’ve created characters and a world in three seasons that we care for. Honestly, the drama will happen naturally when it needs to.