Review: Aquarius (Season 1, Episode 3)

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80%
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Insightful

Through a combination of music, set pieces and a stellar ensemble cast, Aquarius' third episode gives us an understated look into its era - the 1960s.

  • 8.0

In the third episode of Aquarius, tensions run high as Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) and Charmaine Tully (Claire Holt) infiltrate the spiral staircase to finally get a glimpse at, and interact with, Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony). What they find however, is the girl that they’ve been on the search for from day one – Emma Karn (Emma Dumont), otherwise known to the commune as Cherry.

Hodiak gets serious character development throughout the episode, but more so in the opening sequence. He breaks into his former wife’s (Jodi Harris) home to find evidence of where their now missing son Walt (Chris Sheffield) is, finding a bus timetable strewn on the floor. Hodiak is then met with the surprise that Opal is now seeing and sleeping with his former partner from the LAPD – Cutler (Chance Kelly).

It’s here that we get the first glimpse as to why Hodiak’s drinking has been getting a mention in the two episodes prior, as even though Hodiak tells Cutler that Opal ‘was a lousy wife and mother’, Opal confronts Hodiak that whilst on the drink he hit her resulting in her getting four stitches, and came back the next day begging for her to forgive him. Even with the contradicting statements, it does put a damper on things when you’re just starting to like the main protagonist of the show.

Which comes into effect later on, as Opal turns up at the police station to give Hodiak a note that Walt left for him, with Hodiak rightfully upset and mad that it’s Opal’s fault that their son could be going to prison. To that, Opal slaps him, which Hodiak does and doesn’t deserve. He deserves it through what he did to Opal as previously mentioned, but Hodiak has every right to get angry about his ex-wife risking putting their son in jail.

One of the strongest aspects of their relationship is that you can see how estranged they are through Opal calling Hodiak ‘officer’ every time they speak to one another, as if he’s interrogating her. Which is probably what he did throughout their marriage for it to end up this way.

In the meantime, one of Shafe’s main suspects – Art Gladner (Shaun Duke) – in his undercover investigation is murdered, but Shafe cannot investigate it as it will blow his cover. Hodiak covers for him, whilst Shafe and Charmaine investigate Hodiak’s case over Emma being at the Manson commune. Last week’s episode became convoluted from the multiple storylines, but splitting the team up and having them each investigate Manson and a secondary case, helps give the show multiple focal points without losing the audience.

Charmaine (and equally Claire Holt) shines in this episode, showing her worth in convincing Manson  that they have met before, when in reality they haven’t. She shows promise as a detective, especially as an undercover one like Shafe. She constructs a scenario that is something that Manson would have probably been a part of, by painting a vision. She manages to convince him even more by enticing the girls and the guys to howl like wolves. When Shafe asks her later if the story was true, she replies, ‘It just sounded like a million other places I’ve been to and forgotten’, much like Manson’s life. Although, she does state that she has no idea where the howling came from, which seems to lend itself from the environment of being around Manson. Just his presence alone can manipulate you into thinking of his warped sense of freedom and way of life.

Charmaine also gives an effective look into the placement of gender roles in the 1960s, both through how she feels within the LAPD, and how other detectives and her superiors interact with her. It’s extremely derogatory, but when she’s had enough she lets them know with a vengeance. There’s also a great deal of chemistry between herself and Shafe, with Shafe always looking out for her, even though she tells him that she can handle herself.

Hodiak and Grace eventually make their way up to the commune to find Emma. They both leave equally disgusted and horrified at the generation preceding them, and both confide in each other about the loss of both their missing children. This common ground lends to an emotional attachment and the rekindling of their prior relationship. Let’s just say Grace’s husband Ken (Brian F. O’Byrne) won’t be too pleased.

‘Never Say Never to Always’ helps establish Aquarius as a period set piece, through a combination of the multiple procedural elements that are beginning to find their footing, the use of music echoing around the set pieces, the costumes and the stellar acting abilities of its ensemble cast. Aquarius manages to intertwine these elements so perfectly that it gives an understated insight into the environment of the 1960s, whilst also bringing forth an entertaining and thought provoking hour of television.

Aquarius airs on Sky Atlantic on Tuesdays at 9pm.

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A film student stuck in a 90s timewarp of FBI agents, UFOs, conspiracy theories, alternative rock and grunge.

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