The Most Metal Moments of Last Night’s Californication
“Hell Bent for Leather” is the title of this week’s Californication, and we learn quickly that it is meant as a double-entendre (not that it wasn’t for Judas Priest when Halford penned a song with that title in 1978). It all unfolds as the show’s lovably conniving agent Charlie Runkle, played by Evan Handler, tries to convince author Hank Moody (David Duchovny) to write on a remake of the 1980 William Friedkin movie Cruising, where Al Pacino plays an undercover detective on the hunt for a serial killer in New York City’s gay S&M community. Of course all this makes more sense as the episode unfolds, with Runkle facing some high stakes. But rather than give the whole plot away, here are the most metal moments from an episode with a title that says it all.
Hell Bent for Runkle
When Robbie Mac—the openly gay actor, played by Johann Urb, whom Runkle falsely came out to in the season’s first episode to convince him to hire him—makes his entrance in the Hollywood pitch room, he’s dressed like an alternate for Rob Halford at Judas Priest’s 1983 US Festival showstopper. From top to bottom, he’s wearing a leather biker hat, a studded leather jacket, no shirt, fingerless gloves, assless leather chaps, jeans (surprisingly), and boots. He’s carrying a riding crop and a boombox that’s blaring Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” (which the band played at the US Festival, after Halford rode out on a motorcycle).
Now this is “metal” not just because Priest pioneered the metal biker look that defined how ’80s metal bands dressed, from Slayer to Metallica, but because the daring crossover it has with gay culture. Since he came out in 1998, he’s become an inspiration to gay metalheads everywhere (something I touched on in an article I wrote for Out, where God Seed frontman Gaahl says, “The best metal singer in metal history is gay.”) And while there is some gay-confusion humor and the Runkle character is steadfastly hetero, not that he tells Mac, he and the rest of the characters never seem homophobic—even when Mac outs and molests him in front of his other client and Hollywood bigshots. It’s a loud-and-proud gay-metal moment that’s hard to achieve, and best commemorated with a gif of Moody giving Runkle the horns:
While Marcy, Runkle’s ex, waxes her feminist writer friend’s nether regions, she says, “I’ve seen a lot of vajay in my day, but yours is simply stunning. I mean it took me a while to hack through all this brush, but once I got there, wow. Honestly it’s like it’s glowing.” The owner of said reproductive parts, the character Ophelia Robbins, is played by Maggie Wheeler, who played the woman with the annoying laugh on Friends, Janice. I’m just calling this out because not once during the waxing did she make that nasal snort.
Introducing “British Steel”
When Runkle and Moody go to the gay bar Mac suggested to celebrate the remake of Cruising, the writer remarks, “I feel like Indiana Jones in the Temple of the Greased Fist.” (Spoilers ahead.) Not only does Moody seduce and subsequently—and consensually—”hate-fuck” the Hollywood producer who fired him from the adaptation of his novel God Hates Us All, after using the pickup line, “I don’t know if it’s all the gay-sex talk, but you’re looking pretty good to me,” but Runkle has an awkward sexual encounter with Mac. When the actor undoes his pants to reveal his manhood, he says, “Here, take a look. That’s ‘British steel.’” (Yes, he named his penis after the Judas Priest album.) And later, when a topless woman with whom Runkle had been trysting outs him as straight to Mac, the actor won’t buy it. So he looks at the agent, asks for some oral confirmation, and references the title of Poison’s 1988 album, Open Up and Say…Ahh! Of course Runkle’s not up for the challenge, so he tells Mac he’s “not totally straight, because in prison I would probably be a total slut.” That’s not good enough, though, and he and Moody are immediately fired from the Cruising remake. But that opens up the season to let Moody work on a story inspired by his daughter, the newly interested-in-writing Becca. He justifies his creative change of heart by telling his ex, Karen, that he’s “relatively clean and soberish.” Next week we’ll see if that state of mind is permanentish.
All production stills by Jordan Althaus/SHOWTIME