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Californication Series Finale – “Grace”

Despite Showtime’s reputation for screwing up show endings, “Californication” managed to evade the nefarious curse.  Though the seventh and final season was a dud as a whole, the show’s finale, “Grace,” phenomenally, if predictably, tied up its loose ends.  It’s easy to toss around the possibilities of what could have been and what should have been this season (less focus on Hank Moody’s weird kid, Levon, and more attention to the dynamic between Hank, Karen and the Runkles), but the finale’s premise, writing and acting were back on par with the best episodes from seasons one and two.

However, the remainder of season seven could have been condensed into two or three episodes.  Between the first and final episodes, the only plot developments were the advent of Levon and baby-mama Julia, Karen’s car accident, Stu’s ludicrous offer to pay Marcy $1 million to have sex with him again (effectively absolving the Runkles of all their debts) and Becca’s announcement that she’s getting married.  Though Hank’s career as a TV writer on “Santa Monica Cop” was definitely an inside meta-joke, it wasn’t the least bit funny (don’t get me started on Hashtag Black, who makes Levon’s extreme awkwardness look like comedic genius).  Had Hank returned to his roots and written another novel, the story arc would have satisfied.

Despite the plot lulls, Tom Kapinos scripted a feel-good ending that wasn’t a cop out.  The finale ends with Hank and Karen, together again, en route to New York for Becca’s wedding.  At the beginning of the episode, it seemed as if the star-crossed lovers were doomed (the chemistry between the two was at an all-time low this season), but Hank wrote a letter to Karen (which he read aloud on the plane after buying a last-minute ticket) that expounded on their relationship and won her over.   If most other guys pulled a stunt like Hank did on the plane, they would come across as Robin Thicke-level creepers.  But Hank wears his heart on his sleeve in a way that’s earnest, not sniveling.  The letter he wrote was a masterpiece, and he sounded like his gallant self again.

As for the rest of the cast, Levon finally hits it off with a real woman (instead of hiring another prostitute) and Julia finds love with Rick Rath (“Santa Monica Cop’s” showrunner).  Despite spending the day with Stu, Marcy never has sex with him, though he attempted to rape her.  Thankfully, Charlie botched Stu’s assault attempt by a timely interruption of the ordeal.  The Runkles keep Stu’s $1 million as penance for his actions, and are shown moving into Hank and Karen’s old Venice Beach abode (where they lived in seasons 1-4).  Except for Stu, everyone gets their happy ending.

Though David Duchovny repeatedly stated he wanted Hank to die, the idea was apparently never seriously considered.  And while an early death would have been a more realistic culmination to Hank’s sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, the heart of “Californication” was about Hank trying to win his girl back (uncannily enough, the show and finale’s arc also parallel Duchovny’s relationship with his wife, Tea Leoni, whom he’s split with and gotten back together with several times over the past six years).  “Grace,” especially the final scene, captured that perfectly.  And Hank got his girl.

Grade: A

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