“My heart was beating outside my chest… It’s been almost too much to bear.”
Written by Tom Kapinos and directed by David Duchovny, Suicide Solution was abundantly soulful, transcendently raw and eerily beautiful.
It’s fair to say this episode was Duchovny’s finest moment yet in the series. From Becca’s lonely guitar playing, through Hank’s heartbreaking realization (beautifully, subtly played by Duchovny) that for now at least, he has lost her, to the extraordinary power of its conclusion, when the scuffed poetry of Hank’s words to Becca was overlaid with hypnotic, melancholy dream-imagery, as Hank’s self-medication finally took him down, the show reached a new level. “It’s getting dark, too dark to see,” Hank said in voice over as the waves crashed over him, swallowing him whole.
With this season, the show as a whole is delivering on everything it has promised in the previous three seasons, and more. It’s better at everything now. Executive producer and creator Tom Kapinos is flexing new dramatic muscles, and the show has come back as though it spent the hiatus working out: it’s leaner, stronger, tougher, and its core twin strengths (the genuine love of Hank for his family, and the don’t give a f**kness of it all) are back in full effect, but this time used more precisely and to more subtle, devastating effect.
This season is all sinew, muscles and veins, exposed and raw. It’s all about facing the music in the worst possible way. It’s about staring into the eyes of your daughter who hates you. A life in painful shards, slicing the skin. Season Four of Californication is drawing blood. It’s harsh, unforgiving. And still it’s damn funny. Whether it’s Hank getting unexpected relief from Marcy, or Rob Lowe channeling Brad Pitt’s Floyd and Gary Oldman’s Drexl from True Romance to play Eddie Nero, the crazy A-lister who wants to play Hank in the movie of his book, the show jabs humor with southpaw precision. It’s great to see the show full throttle like this. Its one liners are sharper, its gonzo situations more outrageous. It’s pulled off one of the most difficult tricks in TV: treating darkness and humor just the same, combining them into one scathing, blistering, pain-fuelled but hilarious blend that charms, horrifies, moves and makes you laugh, hard.
There were moments in season three when the show located itself – charmingly to be sure – in the quirkier areas of its world. The drama of it all was traded down in favor of priceless humor. This was a good trade, for a time, but ultimately Kapinos brought the show to the darker place it needed to be, where every seed Hank has sown is reaped.
Throughout the first three seasons, Hank played at self-loathing, played at being the one everyone hated, knowing, or at least hoping, all along that it wasn’t quite true. But now, it’s real, and Duchovny is giving a virtuosic rendering of a man realizing his life really is disintegrating, and flashing that smile or being rogueishly adorable means nothing anymore to those whose hearts he has truly broken. It’s a tough, excruciating experience and lesson: watching Hank learn it is heroically compelling.
Californication is at the top of its game, and getting better.
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