Review: Aquarius (Season 1, Episode 5)

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'A Change is Gonna Come' serves as a great character study of Sam Hodiak; but falls flat with the rest of the Aquarius squad.

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As much as the first season of Aquarius has focused on our lead detective Sam Hodiak, the fifth episode in the series, entitled ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, worked as the most insightful character study of him yet. This episode also strives to set itself out to be the foundation of future episodes further down the line.

Hodiak’s character study unravels itself in two forms. Firstly in the murder of Cassius ‘Cass’ Thomas, a black man whom he had considered to be a friend, which then leads to Hodiak exposing his tumultuous (especially for the 60s) views on race. The rest comes with him finding out why his son Walt is back from Vietnam, and Grace suddenly turning her back on him again, leading him back to the bottle.

The ‘case-of-the-week’ in this episode goes back to the murder of Cassius Thomas. He’s murdered before his barbershop is burnt to the ground, with a threatening message displayed on the front of the building. The initial assumption within the LAPD is that the Black Panther Party set the fire as intimidation, whilst the Panther Party believe there is a cover up with another black man’s murder – Michael Younger – and refuse to cooperate until a neighbourhood beat cop is arrested. In previous episodes, Bunchy complained about the LAPD’s lack of interest and refusal to help in murder cases involving the black community, but now he’s actively stopping Hodiak from solving the case.

Although, Hodiak isn’t a saint in this situation either. In previous episodes he’s tip-toed the line into coming off as a racist, but seems to stick up for the black community whenever another cop decides to weigh in with their opinion. But Hodiak seems to think that because he actively goes to Nate’s diner for vanilla milkshakes, used to be friends with Cass and accepts Shafe’s wife and child, that he isn’t racist. Where Hodiak is noble in thought however, he is weak in action.

In the Emma storyline, Emma is back in the Karn family picture, which lends itself for an extremely awkward family dinner, and in turn Emma acts as a spoiled brat towards her parents. This is where you begin to see why she ran away in the first place, as Grace and Ken are all about appearances and how they’re image is tarnished with what their daughter does.

As soon as Emma disappears, Grace can’t accept that it’s her fault in the slightest. Hodiak and Grace may be sleeping together, but that doesn’t stop her from blaming him for the next disappearance of Emma: “Every promise you’ve ever made, is there ever one you don’t screw up?”

Through this, we then get the answer to the age old question as to why Hodiak was a drinker. Grace’s outburst leads him back to the dreaded alcohol, which isn’t a great idea. This is worsened by Walt explaining why he’s returned from Vietnam.

Walt was going to be drafted in Cambodia, Cambodia being somewhere they weren’t supposed to be fighting in. They were going to carry out saturation bombings which involved killing children and destroying communities in the process. Walt wants to be a whistle-blower, but Hodiak believes that this will result in him being called out as a traitor. Hodiak wants to help his son in anyway that he can so that he doesn’t lose him again, but Walt doesn’t think that he is able to.

Obviously both of these incidents, along with the alcohol, cloud Hodiak’s judgment, and he displays the reasoning as to why he went off the drink in the first place. We all know what’s going to happen. His drunken rage lends itself for a suspenseful, foreboding cliff hanger to the episode, through the brutal beat down of Manson. The cinematography and editing throughout this scene is a testament to the show’s prowess in terms of creativity; it’s truly beautiful in a gruesome way.

This episode is great in terms of character development for Hodiak, but goes flat for the rest of the characters on a whole. Charmaine makes no appearance in this episode, and Shafe is barely featured at all. But this flatness picks up due to Hodiak’s drunken outburst at the commune, which ties all the characters together, hence setting up the next few episodes.

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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