The day Californication's Hank Moody (David Duchovny) has dreaded for three seasons finally came in the show's Season 3 finale.
After managing to escape a complicated web of lovers and deciding to settle down in New York with his soul mate, Karen (Natascha McElhone), Hank receives a surprise sucker punch: Mia (Madeline Zima), his ex's almost-daughter-in-law, wants to go public with their one-time affair and dirty little secret.
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"I always thought that it would be the right endpoint," series creator Tom Kapinos tells TVGuide.com. "That secret with Mia — the fact that [Hank] slept with her and Karen doesn't know about it — is such a huge part of the show and was a huge part of the pilot. To a degree, by the time you get to Season 3, the audience had kind of forgotten about it. So it felt like the right time to bring it back. On another show you might wait to the end of the series to answer that question, but I always vaguely knew that's how I wanted the season to end."
These are decidedly complicated waters for Hank to navigate. Not only did Karen not know, but Mia was also 16 at the time of the tryst, unbeknownst to Hank. Those circumstances left him powerless to stop Mia when she stole his novel based on the sexual encounter and published it in her own name as a memoir.
Now, after beating up Mia's new boyfriend/agent who suggests Hank tell the world about the scandal, and confessing everything to Karen, Hank finds himself being hauled away in handcuffs. "For three seasons, I've had a character who's seemingly unaffected by everything. He skates through life, there are no consequences," Kapinos says. "I think what we're going to be dealing with next season is consequence. At some point, that character has to be rocked by the choices he makes. That doesn't mean the show is no fun anymore, but I think it's time to deal with consequences of your actions."
Check out photos of the Californication cast
And how does all this information affect Karen? "I think Hank really does love her and wants more than anything else to get that relationship right," Kapinos says. "One of the central questions [of the show] is: What if you meet the right person but you screw it up? I think the series has been about a quest to repair that relationship.
"The problem is, he's got this one secret that nags at him," Kapinos continues. "When it comes out in the finale, on the one hand it's disastrous, but on the other hand, in Hank's brain, I think there maybe is some hope that this is how you start fresh. But can Karen ever actually get over something like that? That's certainly what we'll be exploring in the season or seasons to come."
But let's not forget the lighter moments the show's rejuvenated third season delivered. Hank's role as a professor — and the subsequent bedding of a student (Eva Amurri), a teaching assistant (Diane Farr) and the dean's wife (Embeth Davidtz) — was just what was needed after Hank's misadventures with rock god Lew Ashby in Season 2, Kapinos says.
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"Looking back at the second season, I think if I made any mistake at all, it was that I put Hank in a situation where he was the sane one," he says. "I thrust him into the middle of this crazy rock 'n' roll world, and all of a sudden this morally depraved guy we met in Season 1 was the most normal guy in the room. I had to come up with a situation where Hank was once again the bull in the china shop and could ricochet around and cause a mess."
And Kapinos thinks exploring Hank in the legal system in Season 4 will provide the same sort of fun. He also hinted that we will see more of Hank the writer next season. And Hank's daughter, Becca (Madeleine Martin), will also be reeling from seeing her dad in jail, right?
"For two seasons, [Becca] had been [Hank's] buddy, his ally," Kapinos says. "She'd get mad at him here and there, but he could always win her over with a joke or a smile. [Season 3] felt like the right time for Hank to deal with a sullen teenage girl, and the fact that there was nothing he could do to turn that ship around. I didn't want it to be too specific, because with teenagers it doesn't have to be that specific. Sometimes you're just dealing with a monster and there's nothing you can do about it. I just wanted to find some real moments for Hank to deal with that."
Whatever Season 4 brings, Kapinos says he's better equipped than ever to tell these types of serious stories on the same pages that he writes some of TV's funniest comedy. "One of the things I'm most proud of on the show is that we've sort of invented our own tone. There's a specific tone to the show that I don't see a lot on TV," Kapinos says. "It's what I respond to. I love the fact that we can go from crazy, raunchy, laugh-out-loud comic set pieces to quieter scenes between a father and a daughter that actually make you feel something. I guess that's just my desire to have it all. I wanted to be able to blend drama and comedy in a way without it being one or the other. And as the series goes along, I feel it gets a little bit more refined."