The real “will they or won’t they?” heading into this series finale wasn’t whether Hank and Karen would, at long last, cement their insufferable romance. (Or, as Hank selectively recalls it, “a thing of absolute fucking beauty.”) What we all longed to know was whether Marcy caved to Stu’s indecent proposal, a cliffhanger whose outcome wasn’t foregone until the current Mrs. Runkle nee Mrs. Beggs (nee Mrs. Runkle) stumbled on her ex’s creepy, Marcy-inspired sex doll. Not that Charlie wouldn’t “throw a shot into” it. After all, the customized companion did set Stu back a mighty “15 large.”
Fortunately for our little bald friend, he’d exit his nemesis’ estate hand-in-hand with the real thing, having stormed Stu’s master suite swinging an Oscar into the guy’s ribs before he could so much as lay a finger on, or in, Marcy’s “rainforest” (ew). That little scene won’t do much to convert the unconverted Californication critic. Nor will Hank’s decision to ditch the Porsche and hitch a plane ride with his beloved to Becca’s wedding suddenly signal a turn toward the devout. Committed, maybe, but not without sin.
That final dramatic scene, complete with Hank orating some spoken-word to Karen (who, humorously, would rather continue reading her William Boyd paperback) about their roller coaster love story, was far less moving than the ensuing nostalgia reel of Becca through the years. And like a ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier, the tape makes its rotation to that sunset-less, inescapable “just now” Hank alludes to in his big Wedding Singer tarmac moment. It’s not exactly Six Feet Under’s coup de conclusion, but we see what the future likely holds for the show’s present cast of characters, including furious courtship for Rath (Michael Imperioli) and Julia (Heather Graham); a possible second date for poor Levon (Oliver Cooper) and adorable Tara (Emma Fassler); renewed Runkle bliss; and a lot of sad meals for one and a half between Stu and what ultimately amounted to his mil-and-half-dollar Marcy fuck toy. (If this series did have one saint, it might be Stu’s housekeeper Irma.)
The tidy slow-fade to black lacked didn’t quite amount to parting ways with dear friends. Far as at least half the aforementioned players go, we arguably hardly knew ye, which is only apropos. Hank’s existence, and the improbable, everlasting life of Californication, always thrived on random chaos. Relationships were never its forte. Even Karen (by no fault of Natascha McElhone’s) was more muse than companion or counterpart, and she and her baby-daddy’s entanglement was far less epic to watch than in Hank’s imagination.
But if the long game’s never been Californication’s forte (let’s also consider this season’s waning attentiveness to its promising TV writers-room satire and assorted, colorful regulars), “Grace” at least exemplifies all the vintage cable-raunch charms of creator Tom Kapinos’ tales. Californication is basically Red Shoe Diaries for the Soul, and even as the finale strained to oblige its endpoint, there was lovable laughter in that final glance of Runkle’s butterfly-tattooed ass; Charlie cuddling under the covers with Hank for comfort; Levon continuing to uncomfortably admire his father’s “great fucking body” and ill-advisedly caution Tara that the bar’s toilet paper is “rough stuff; Hank and Stu going half-man to half-man for one last tête-à-tête; and a final, requisite bit of nastiness via Krull and randy escort Love (shoutout to The Newsroom’s Kelen Coleman as her girl-next-door colleague Hope). And while Becca was sorely missed throughout most of these last dozen chapters, we at least were privy to one last father-daughter stroll by their favorite bridge and Becca’s signature droll, even if it was actually Hank’s suicide nightmare.
In letter-grading and spirit, Californciation has been the ultimate B-TV show. Accordingly, “Grace” (and the seventh season as a whole) was, in Hank/Kapinos’s winking words, a “big, smiling mess,” one that fucked, punched and somehow found its way to making a deservedly modest ado of its final adieu.
- No idea if it was Michael Imperioli’s doing, but you couldn't have cast anyone better than former Sopranos mob wife Sharon Angela to nearly burst Hank’s bubble.
- Foo Fighters and Elton John? OK, fine.
- I just kind of wanted Hank to stop saying “fuck” on that plane.
- Also hard not to think of Say Anything during that scene.
- C’mon Hank, you could do better than a Punk’d joke.