'Sick City' falls into the recurring flaw of Aquarius thus far - far too many overlapping narratives.
Hodiak is the closest he’s ever been to getting to the bottom of the Karn/Manson relationship, with a little unofficial investigating on his part. He has begun to investigate the disappearance of one of Manson’s girls, Caroline Beecher. Just as he seems to be getting somewhere with the case, his priest comes down to the station and asks for his help.
Thus begins our veering off into the case-of-the-week; Father Mack believes that the new priest at his church, Father Rowe, has been stealing money from the collection plate handed around at services. What may seem like a trivial hiccup in Hodiak’s prior investigations, doesn’t actually take his attention away from the main case, as Hodiak is a member of said church so he can’t investigate the crime. He instead enlists the help of one of his colleagues to investigate the matter, whilst he himself looks into the whereabouts of Bleecher.
Meanwhile, we’re finally given an insight into what the actual nature behind Ken Karn and Charles Manson relationship is. Finally, after eight episodes, we seem to be getting somewhere. ‘Sick City’ begins with one of the men in question. Ken Karn’s law partner visits him in his office to inform him that Karn has been asked to be the Californian campaign finance chairman for Nixon. It’s a mix of a dream and nightmare on Karn’s part, as Nixon’s people are bound to begin inspecting him and those around him to ensure he doesn’t come with a shady past. They seem to be out of luck, as it turns out Karn’s ‘family ties’ with Manson seem to be coming out of the woodwork. He needs to find a way to hide his daughter’s runaway escapades and his relationship with Manson, fast.
As always, there are four interlocking stories overlapping each other in this episode. Hodiak’s investigation into the missing Manson girl, Ken’s attempt to cover his tracks, Hodiak’s other investigation into the disappearing collection money and finally, Shafe’s continuing undercover investigation.
Shafe’s investigation begins to fall deeper and deeper down into the seedy undergrowth of the drug dealing world, as Shafe gets Manson’s biker muscle Roy to meet with Shafe’s mobster contact at the local brothel, owned by former drug kingpin Lucille. By the end of the episode, a number of things unfold which point to Lucille still working within the drug ring cooperatively.
Manson dabbles further into his music career, which surprisingly doesn’t end well for anyone involved, including himself. He has yet to do anything drastic, but it’s easy to see the anger slowly boiling with him. All that’s needed is a catalyst for him to blow, and his music being rejected seems to set off the beginning of a ticking time bomb. His anger seems to be increasing with the idea that he believes Hodiak is in his head because of Emma. Thus, he begins to manipulate Emma again to gather back some control. This control escalates further as he wants the family to have a group LSD session. Watching Manson in this instance is terrifying. It’s alarming to see how much of a hold one person can have on a small group of people. Emma knows better and doesn’t partake in the LSD. Which is no surprise, seeing as she’s recently been emancipated and therefore disowned by her father, in an attempt to clear his name for Nixon. This causes Emma to become stuck in a limbo, questioning whether she should stay at the commune, or attempt to go back ‘home’.
Back to Hodiak’s priest case. Hodiak makes a fatal call in allowing Father Mack to talk to the priest believed to have been stealing the money, rather than arresting him outright. The next day, Hodiak overhears detectives talking about a murder case at a church where a priest was strangled to death. Hodiak is rightfully angry and upset over this outcome, which fully displays his escalating anger issues.
Hodiak ends up in bed with a hooker-turned-nurse that he has had a previous relationship with, and whom is featured earlier in the episode whilst he’s investigating the missing Manson girl. Grace decides to make her way over to Hodiak’s after Ken emancipates their daughter. She’s without a husband or daughter, and seeks solace in what seems to be her on and off boyfriend – that is until she discovers Hodiak in bed with another woman. She now has nothing, much like Hodiak had at the beginning of the series.
That’s not the kicker. The kicker comes in the form of Ken driving out into the middle of the desert to dig up a body. Presumably, the body of Hodiak’s missing Manson girl – Caroline Beecher. We’re left with the question – who killed her? Was it Manson, or was it actually Ken?
‘Sick City’ suffers from the recurring flaw in Aquarius – too many narratives. It’s hard to follow what is happening between the main characters in one sitting. Even though it adds a vast amount of tension to the episode as you don’t know what’s going to occur around the corner, it makes for a lot of pausing and rewinding to aid in a recollection of plot points and thoughts.
Aquarius airs on Sky Atlantic on Tuesdays at 9pm.