'It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)' starts off on a literal high, but ultimately ends on an extreme melodramatic low.
‘It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ is one of those episodes you get every once in a while on television, that starts off with a bang, then slowly but surely peters out quietly. The episode can summed up in terms of Hodiak’s LSD trip. We enter on an extreme high, and slowly come down to a depressing low.
The opening is mindblowing, both for us and for Hodiak himself. This sequence is put together so masterfully, it’s hard not to want to go back and repeat it once it’s over. The mixture of Donovan’s ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’, Duchovny’s acting, the effects…everything. It’s so visceral, it makes you feel like you’re high along with Hodiak. You truly feel that what Hodiak is experiencing is what it’s like to be that stoned, especially since we’re seeing everything from Hodiak’s perspective. It’s clear that Hodiak has never been this high, so instead of Manson opening his mind to a pleasant experience, Hodiak begins to have PTSD induced flashbacks of his participation in World War II. This is another instance of the Aquarius showcasing fantastic editing, as the sounds of bombs exploding effect the music playing, by making it drop out with the echoing of explosions.
After venturing out into the road and nearly dying in the process, Hodiak is saved by fellow detective Joe Moran. He tries his best thinking that Hodiak is just drunk and that the alcohol has gotten the best of him. Alas, he wanders off and somehow manages to make his way to Grace’s house, whilst she’s having a party for congressmen Regan. He proceeds to make a scene, taking his shirt off in the process. Luckily Shafe finds him and takes him home to sober him up by morning.
This is where we begin to come down from the high. After an intensely brilliant sequence with Hodiak, the rest of the episode falls flat on melodrama. It’s profound and touching in parts due to its subject matter, but is ultimately pure melodrama. Once Hodiak has sobered up enough, he listens to what Moran has to ask of him. It turns out that Moran has been pretending that he is an American-Irish detective as a façade to hide that he is in fact Mexican-American, something that he hasn’t even told his wife and kids. The local Latino-American constituent knows about this, and wants Moran to stop a robber who is targeting Latino-Americans. Moran informs Hodiak that he needs his help to convince this constituent not to out him, otherwise he’ll lose everything; his job, his wife, his kids and his life. Hodiak agrees to help, but makes it clear that he probably won’t be able to do much.
Meanwhile, Shafe’s undercover investigation seems to be getting somewhere, at least that’s what he believes. He and Manson’s biker muscle Roy finally meet with the Guapo, the drug kingpin that Shafe has been after. Shafe is sent on a pickup, which he and his superiors believe to be their best bet of catching the guy. Shafe agrees to light a cigarette at the pick up if things don’t seem right, at which point, the whole operation will be called off. Surprise, surprise, Shafe does just that, but for a good reason, as it turns out there was nothing illegal in the package. Guapo was testing to see if Shafe could be trusted. So in a way, he actually did a good thing there. Go figure.
We’re then taken back to the precinct, where it seems that Hodiak couldn’t convince the constituent not to out Moran. So Moran is kicked out by his wife, his children are practically taken away from him, and he’s lost the respect of his colleagues. This is enough to make anyone suicidal, which it ultimately does in Moran’s case, as he walks into the precinct with a gun in his hand threatening suicide. Moran’s ‘brother-in-arms’ Hodiak manages to diffuse the situation, by revealing that he himself is a ‘half-breed’, as his father was Jewish (and that he killed himself because of it when he was young) and his mother is Irish. “I’m not Ukrainian, not Irish, not a Jew, I’m an American”. Moran doesn’t quite believe him, he gives over the gun to Hodiak and walks out through the Latino protests outside the precinct.
It turns out that Moran had every right to doubt Hodiak about his father committing suicide, as the cliffhanger of this episode involves the sudden resurrection of him in an interrogation room. It turns out that his father is a part of the anti-war underworld that Hodiak’s son has become a part of. So in turn, his father has been brought in for questioning. Hodiak’s story was just a ploy to save a friend after all.
Aquarius airs on Sky Atlantic on Tuesdays at 9pm.