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Californication season one episode reviews (#3 - #12)

Californication, David Duchovny

Episode 3. "The Whore of Babylon" finds Hank back with the woman he insulted back in the first episode. For the first time in the series we see him in a slightly better light. When the woman reveals that she's been badly treated by her lover, Hank tells her that she deserves better. And he's sincere, too. Hmm. Interesting guy. To get revenge he breaks into the guy's house and steals back her dog (plus a very expensive painting). The episode ends with a killer voice-over from David Duchovny and I'm more hooked than ever.

Episode 4. "Fear And Loathing At The Fundraiser" Hank's girlfriend Meredith (Amy Price-Francis, who was also great in a Corner Gas I watched recently) wants to take their relationship out of the bedroom, so they head to a fund-raiser. The mother of his daughter and another ex-lover are also in attendance. We watch with baited breath, waiting for Hank's self-destructive tendencies to ruin everything. But things don't play out that way. Instead, we learn that Meredith is using Hank to make her other lover (a married guy) jealous. What happens when Hank finds out? He takes it in his stride, looks after a very drunk Meredith, takes her home, tucks her into bed and ends the night with a (touching) telephone conversation with his daughter.

Along the way, Hank (previously shown to be both promiscuous and immature) rejects the advances of a married woman, and advices his agent (and friend) against adultery - advising him instead on ways to save his marriage.

As Hank gets more complex, so does the series. At first, I think, we liked Hank on the strength of the performance of David Duchovny but all that changes with this episode. There's more to Hank than self-destructive stupidity. And I just can't wait to see where the show goes from here.

Episode 5. "LOL" Hank's relationship finally comes to an end. He took something she said in private, used it as part of a radio interview (a tirade against the Internet) and she went ballistic. Of course, there was something else going on, too. As we learn learn more about Hank, we find that he is not quite the ass we saw in the pilot. He gets more likable, and the show gets better.

Episode 6. "Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fonder" Hank is back to one night stands. But the sleazy, desperate nature of the encounters (from episode one) is muted a little bit. Most of the episode shows him in decent light: adoring his daughter, going to 'rescue' his 16 year-old stalker, and having a sweet conversation with his ex. By the end of the episode, he is back in the arms of this week's random woman and the voice-over draws attention to the sadness of the whole dance. Californication is now clawing it's way onto my All-Time Favourite Shows list.

Episode 7. "Girls, Interrupted" The episode opens with Hank and his daughter Becca talking about the nature of Happy Endings vs. Sad Endings. It's a general conversation, but with particular reference to Hank and Karen (Becca's mother) getting back together at some point. Hank is full of boundless optimism for the future. Becca is skeptical.

After that, we are treated to one of the most enjoyable episodes of this wonderful show. Hank still behaves like Greg House, but things manage to work out somehow. And it's great. Until the very end. When some seeds sown in previous episodes start to bear fruit and - suddenly - Hank's plans start to go awry. In minor, but still very noticeable, ways.

The episode closes with Hank and his daughter Becca talking about the nature of Happy Endings vs. Sad Endings. And Becca points out that for all of his boundless optimism, Hank just can't deliver on the Happy Endings he believes in.

And it's a heartbreaking scene to watch.

Skillfully-written heartbreak. Not clumsy kick-you-in-the-stomach, without emotional context, heartbreak (like they are now delivering over on Prison Break!).

Cheers to Californication (and David Duchovny for a mesmerising final scene). Jeers, naturally, to dopey old Prison Break for mis-handling a behind-the-scenes problem.

Episode 8. "California Son" Hank's father dies, so we get an episode of flashbacks to (what I presume must have been) his last visit to see Hank, years earlier. Through these flashbacks we get to see not only their relationship, but also the "family" that Hank had at that time. And how it fell apart. Everything about this episode (and, indeed, this show) is Grade: A+. Very emotional and honest. The wonderful Judy Greer is unrecognisable, but still wonderful, as a hooker that Hank spends some time with to get over his grief.

Episode 9. "Filthy Lucre" Curiously, this feels more like a season/series finale than anything else. Hank writes a book. Finally. He makes a move on Karen and is firmly put in his place, so much so that he appears to have finally gotten the message. We also see that Bill is more than a jerk, and that he can - when he tries - be very considerate and attentive towards Karen. Also, the subplot with Charlie and his wife and mistress reaches conclusion. It's all good. But the viewer is inclined to feel like the story is over. Until two glorious twists at the very end. Glorious, glorious twists. Now, I'm really psyched to see where the story goes from here.

Episode 10. "The Devil's Threesome" If the last one felt like a season finale, then this feels like a whole new season. Charlie is living with Hank, Mia is showing Hank's stolen book to agents (specifically Dani) and Hank himself seems to be genuinely over Karen. While not as strong as recent episodes (all the Hank/Charlie stuff is boring) there is still a lot to like here: it's cool see Mia and Dani spend so much time together and their conversations are fascinating.

Episode 11. "Turn The Page" is the best episode so far. The storyline concerning Hank's stolen book starts to bear fruit, and there's a wonderful surprise when Becca decides to move in with him. Hank, for all his flaws, is an incredibly likable character and it's great storytelling to see the way he is boxed in at the episode's conclusion. My favourite scene? When Charlie showed up, having figured out who really wrote the book.

Episode 12. "The Last Waltz" sees the saga of the tragically-flawed Hank Moody draw to a close (for now) with some questions still unanswered. Even without the twist at the end, it was a great episode. Mia gets a lot of screen-time in this episode and she really in a fascinating character. Her apparent concern for Becca and her admission to Hank as they danced are both reasons to like her. Even her Dad's reaction to (what he believes is) her novel is pretty lousy. So, despite the fact that she is screwing up Hank's life in major way, I'm inclined to like the girl. Major praise to Madeline Zima for her work on the show.

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