The seedy, vulgar, and always entertaining Californication is back for its second season, and the show keeps rolling into one of the best on TV. Season Two is available on DVD August 25th, and I thought I would review the entire second season for those of you who might be interested in a show that involves a lot of sex.
My friend Trevor got me interested in the show after the first season when he said that Duchovny’s character, Hank Moody, lived the life he wanted to lead. The premise is that Hank, a successful and somewhat reclusive author, finds himself in California (uprooted from New York), struggling to write, while drinking a lot and having sex with a lot of women.
The second season starts off right where the first ended, with Hank and long-time on-again off-again girlfriend Karen reunited, after Karen runs out on her wedding in favor of Hank and their daughter, Becca. Hank and Karen are trying to make their relationship work, but any viewer who got to know Hank during the first season, and knows the addage “It’s hard to teach and old dog new tricks”, can see where this is going.
Try as he might, Hank quits smoking and curbs his drinking in favor of his new/old life. He gets a job writing the biography of Music Producer Lew Ashby,who he meets at a party and then later that night in jail, and their friendship is tumultuous at best. Ashby is the devil to Hank’s wannabe angel, and temptations abound while Hank tries to pen his new book. He wants to do it right, but he just keeps getting in his own way, asshole that he is.
Ashby starts dating Mia, the underage girl Hank slept with in the first season who stole his book. This leads to a lot of new developments, including Hank dating Lew’s old flame, and Lew going on a date with Karen.
His relationship with Karen starts off great, as their back together, but quickly dissolves into the two-parent household it was in the first season. It’s a tragic relationship, as Hank obviously can’t get over her, no matter how many other vag’s he ends up penetrating in the meantime. A minor quibble with the character of Karen, is that she seems to stagnate for too long, and other than her interactions with Hank, she doesn’t seem to really be doing much else.
His relationship with his daughter Becca is the same, although she gets a boyfriend interest in this season, she still just wants her parents to be together as one big happy family. Ultimately, Hank ends up sleeping with her boyfriend’s mother, and is forced to part with a very special gift given to him by Ashby in order to make it right with Damien and Becca. Becca is your typical emo teenager, and she is obviously what Hank cares the most about, and obviously what he wants to repair most.
Hank’s agent, Charlie is back, and he actually develops a lot better in this second season, after being a little one-dimensional in Season one. He loses his job after being filmed “relieving” himself in his office (multiple times), and he tries to hit the ground running by picking up a new client, who just so happens to be a porn actress. Charlie actually seems to be doing the right thing, using his work experience to try to get the girl a better and more respectable deal, but of course, things never go quite as planned, and his wife Marcy develops a pretty pricey coke problem that, coupled with the porn star living in their house, really affects the marriage.
Duchovny is absolutely spot on as the smarmy, quick-witted, somewhat angsty writer. The audience can see how big of a dick he is, but they can also see that he tries very hard many, many times to get his life on track. To focus on his career, and get his family back together. But, no matter how hard he tries, he always lets Mr. Johnson speak loudest, and it costs him on a number of occasions, not only his family, but his career. The show is Duchovny’s through and through, and he, and the character Hank, never disappoint.
The supporting cast is pretty strong, the fabulous Natascha McElhone as Karen is a pleasure in that she’s smart and fiesty, but also driven and, oh yeah, gorgeous. Evan Handler is good as Charlie, and he plays a fast-talking agent pretty well.
The season is paced very well, as everything just continues to snowball until the end. There are a lot of issues that are covered in the last couple of episodes: Mia’s book (that is actually Hank’s book), Hank’s potential child, Charlie and Marcy’s divorce, it all is addressed by season’s end.
Californication is a smart show, that is very well thought out in terms of character arc and episode structure. Each episode answers and questions and successfully introduces more, without leaving things open for multiple episodes. There are no throwaway episodes in this season (or the series as a whole), as each progresses the story forward meaningfully and thoughtfully. Season Two is a small step down from Season One, but when you start at the top, it’s impossible to go anywhere but down. Season One had a lot more visceral relationships surrounding Hank that really pulled you into his psyche, but Season Two is not completely barren of those moments. If you’re easily offended by languare and/or sex, you might want to steer clear, but if you enjoy quality TV, this show is definitely worth a peak.
- Hank is a fantastically layered character
- Each episode is meaningful
- Some supporting characters (actually, most) are pretty one-dimensional
- A small dip in overall quality from Season One
Score: 8.0/10 (Very Good)