Aquarius is beginning to settle into it's groove, but becomes a little too elaborate at times with the addition of multiple overlapping storylines.
After the insinuation that Ken Karn (Brian F. O’Byrne) knows Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) in the previous episode, Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) finds out through himself and Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) looking into Manson’s criminal record, that Ken was Manson’s lawyer. According to his parole officer, Manson was a pimp. One of the women that ‘belonged’ to him went missing, due to her threatening to leak the client list. Manson was subsequently imprisoned for seven years. But Ken managed to get him a deal that ensured that he’d only go to prison for marijuana possession. Both Hodiak and Grace Karn (Michelle McManus) know that Ken is involved with Manson, and Manson is involved with Emma (Emma Dumont). They both try to confront him, but Ken feels as though Hodiak is impeding on his territory. He has a sense that some sort of rekindling is going on between Hodiak and Grace – and he isn’t too far off.
But Manson’s dream at this present time isn’t murder, it’s to be bigger than The Beatles. He needs a record deal, and he’s using Emma’s ties to her father to get to his dream. Not only is he using Emma to get what he wants, but he’s also beginning to strip Emma of who she is. From referring to her now as “Cherry-Pop” and taking her to steal something, Emma looks as though she is way out of her depth. Manson may be getting her to live in the moment, but living in the moment also results in Manson manipulating Emma. When she is caught shoplifting he tells her “to bite the hand that frees”, and she literally bites the hand of the store owner as he’s calling for the police.
Shafe’s investigation into the drug ring is meanwhile beginning to unravel – that is until Mike Vickery (Jason Ralph) lets slip that Shafe is a cop. Shafe enlists the help of his older parter Hodiak to intimidate Mikey into telling them who he snitched to, resulting in a hilarious shot with Mikey sitting down, with Hodiak towering over him, only having to take his sunglasses off and start to take off his jacket to make Mikey talk. This eventually leads to the diner where we met Shafe in the first episode, as Mikey admits that he snitched to Art Gladner (Shaun Duke) – the owner of the diner – who is selling drugs to customers there. Hodiak warns Gladner not to talk of Shafe as a cop, and that they need the names of his suppliers. He wants a deal in writing, so Hodiak opts for writing ‘snitch’ on Gladner’s forehead.
This episode also introduces the ‘case of the week’ format of the show, in the form of racial tensions. A white woman – Joyce Mankin – is killed by a brick to the head in a predominantly black neighborhood. Hodiak suspects her racist husband Leo (Kyle Secor), who is blaming it on someone from the neighborhood as, according to him, “one day we woke up in Africa”.
Whilst Hodiak is talking to Leo, Shafe is stopped from talking to witnesses by Bunchy Carter (Gaius Charles), a member of the Nation of Islam. He reminds Shafe that 27 black people have been murdered in this neighborhood, yet the police only come down once a white woman has been murdered. Hodiak seems to have known Bunchy since he was a kid, so he decides that the best thing to is to arrest Bunchy to make it seem as though Leo is off the hook, to mess with his head, in order to make him confess.
Shafe isn’t at all happy with the way Hodiak treated Bunchy, thinking that he wouldn’t have done the same thing if Bunchy were white. This seems to hit close to home for Shafe, so he makes Hodiak drive him home to meet his wife Kristin, who it is revealed is a black woman. They also have a daughter together, Bernadette. It makes Hodiak stop and think for a moment, as not only were his actions unwarranted, but also times are changing, and interracial families are beginning to become the norm thanks to things such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Hodiak’s home life is much less idyllic than Shafe’s, with the sudden arrival of his son Walt (Chris Shiffield) who should be in Vietnam. It turns out that Walt managed to come back because of a ‘new policy’. Hodiak, a veteran, tells Walt that “it’s a little different from my day”, with his son replying, “Lots of things are”. Hodiak eventually finds out that the only way Walt could have been sent back is as a result of one of your parents being sick, to which he realizes his “technically, I guess” wife Opal (Jodi Harris) sent a letter stating she was sick to get Walt back.
The second episode of Aquarius entitled ‘The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game’ becomes convoluted at times, but it still manages to prove itself as a unique period crime drama. One instance that highlights this uniqueness being the shoplifting scene, with ‘Daydream Believer’ playing once Manson starts slashing the store owner to save Emma from getting arrested. The editing comes into effect here too, as the world seems to stop and slow down whenever Manson enters the realm outside of the commune.
It’s this episode where the show is beginning to find it’s footing, but also trips along the way thanks to the addition of four story-lines running alongside one another.
Aquarius airs on Sky Atlantic on Tuesdays at 9pm.