Saturday, 6 June 2015

TV Review | Aquarius | Never Say Never To Always

via NBC

This week we delve deeper into the Manson commune and Emma's whereabouts, with infiltration and searching leading to suspicions within the family and the LAPD.

This week revolves around two major plot points. The first being Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) being given $1000 that Ken Karn (Brian F. O'Byrne) owed him (for reasons yet to be known), so he packs himself and the Manson family out to the wilderness - so to speak - to record his first demo. On the flipside, Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) faces a murder investigation of a drug dealer whilst working alongside his old partner, Ed Cutler (Chance Kelly). Brian Shafe's (Grey Damon) snitch, Mikey (Jason Ralph), becomes the main suspect of this investigation when he's seen returning to the scene of the crime. Hodiak believes Mikey is innocent and is willing to go full out to prove it, whilst Cutler doesn't buy it. If Cutler manages to make Mikey look guilty, there's a danger of Mikey going down for 'killing' his boss.

Hodiak and Cutler's history is tested and shown in the chilling opening to this week's episode, with Hodiak picking the lock and letting himself into Opal's (Jodi Harris) house looking for clues as to where their son, Walt, is after going AWOL from Vietnam. Hodiak is startled when Cutler appears out of nowhere, leading to the discovery that his ex-partner is with is ex-wife. Cutler is also cheating on his current wife in the process, Genie, as he's been with Opal for five months. Hodiak seems wary at first, but eventually becomes fine with the situation. 

But, that is until Opal comes in revealing how much of a 'model' husband that Hodiak was after Hodiak suggesting to Cutler that she wasn't the greatest wife or mother. She brings up his drinking again (which seems to be becoming a running motif), and the fact that Hodiak hit Opal with his fist whilst 'drunk off his ass', resulting in four stitches. Remember, he doesn't make the best decisions when drunk. She then reveals that he came around the next day, begging for her to forgive him. You get mixed emotions towards Hodiak here, a mixture of disgust that he hit Opal and pity through it happening through him drinking - which could be the result of num things in his life at that time (World War II, him mentioning she wasn't the best wife or mother to their son).

via NBC

Although, the relationship of animosity between Opal and Hodiak seems to be a two-way streak. We already know through these three episodes that she too is a drinker, and through this episode it seems to be that she is also a pathological liar. Especially when Hodiak asks her where Walt is, her replying that she doesn't know and Hodiak remarking that it's her first lie of the conversation. She doesn't seem to care, though. She only seems to care when Hodiak blames her for Walt's probability of going to prison, which he has a right to. No matter how much Opal loves Walt, she's put him in a dire situation from pretending that she's dying to get him out of Vietnam (which she later states she is sick - through having diabetes). She quickly turns that around on Hodiak, stating that he was the one who convinced Walt to go to Vietnam in the first place because that's what Hodiak did at his age with World War II. His 'glory days' as Opal put it. But that's not to say that Hodiak doesn't love his son, he seems to care about him more than Opal does. He seems the most damaged and distraught over him being missing, much more than Opal does.

And through that, we get a great use of song through The Who's 'The Seeker' whilst Hodiak is walking away from Opal and Cutler's home, becoming one of the many songs to describe Hodiak throughout the series; especially with the line 'I won't get to get what I'm after, till the day I die'. I love how they use songs to transition to different places, too. From where Hodiak is to the Manson commune to it being played on the radio. It helps the episode flow; the songs act as a bridge through the editing.

All this was done before the episode even started, which is something I'm beginning to love with this show. For a show that's all about the history of how the 60s turned so dark, it strives on character development. We're only three episodes in and we already have the pieces to put together of Hodiak's past through his ex-wife, ex-girlfriend and son. It's the casual mentioning of things like his drinking that is intriguing as to what sort of person he is or was. And then you have characters like Cutler who are dropped into the episode but are showing their true colours straight off the bat. As with Cutler being extremely sexist towards Charmaine Tully (Claire Holt), and the fact that he can't take no for an answer or be deemed incorrect when it comes to investigations. 

 via NBC

Speaking of character development, we get a lot through Shafe and Charmaine in this episode. Especially when Hodiak wants Shafe to infiltrate the commune to find Manson through the biker, Roy Kovic (David Meunier). Anyone looking for Manson has to go through this dude first. This dude in particular being the one that Shafe tripped down the stairs in the previous episode to prevent Charmaine from having to have sex with him. 

Charmaine is given trivial tasks in the station. Tasks like patting female suspects down and getting coffee for her superiors. Even though later in the episode she sticks up for herself to Cutler by making fun of him, it's at the commune where she's at her best. She shines at undercover police work, as Manson has no idea who she is even though she states that they've met before. She's good at improvising on the spot. She conjures up a story of meeting Manson in the canyon, with the additional wolf howls thrown in for good measure. It's believable, but you're scared for her. You don't know if she'll convince Manson that he remembers her because you can feel and imagine what Manson would do to her if he didn't. Which leads to the major freak out that always envelops the back of my mine that Charmaine and Shafe may blow their cover. And it seems that they share this freak-out, too. Shafe nearly does it when he's trying to use the phone and Charles comes in stating that he "thought maybe [Shafe] got lost".

via NBC
Through Shafe finally finding out where the commune is, Hodiak and Grace (Michela McManus) make their way there to find Emma (Emma Dumont), both sticking out like sore thumbs. Hodiak goes around showing a photograph of Emma to whoever will pay any attention, bumping into Roy Kovic on the way and getting mildly pissed off with his attitude. Meanwhile, Grace explores the commune with her main goal being to find Emma, and she cannot believe the situation that Emma has put herself in.

It appears Emma cannot believe the situation she's put herself in either and is still considering going back to her parents after she realises that her Dad was at the commune. And especially through her first-hand experience of how quickly Manson can turn, when he slaps her for saying things that he doesn't want her to say. None of the other of Manson's girls care, though. Manson turns so quickly which is disturbing, but what you come to expect with him and his bi-polar personality. And it's also disturbing to think that Emma ran away from her parents due to her feeling as though they were acting as though she was their property, only to have Manson treat her the same way by banishing her and giving her off to the record producer of his demo.

Through Hodiak's and Grace's experiences at the commune, Grace becomes even more distraught over Emma's disappearance. But she senses something is wrong with Hodiak, where he reveals to her that his son is now missing, too. Grace feels sympathy for Hodiak through this. They're both dealing with their children being missing and unaccounted for. I guess it's a reminder to them also for what could have been between them. That these two kids could have been their shared children if they hadn't have married other people and started families with them. Hence why they inevitably kiss and have sex. Which coupled with the way this scene is edited through Manson and the family recording their demo, is kind of like them having their own sexual revolution through what the music that Manson is making stands for.

 via NBC

The other Manson girls, Sadie (Ambyr Childers) and Katie (Tara Lynne Barr) aren't doing it for me. They aren't developed enough to even bother with what they're trying to do or say within the family, especially towards Emma. Emma is fine - she's naive which adds to the annoyance through the viewer as if she doesn't feel as though she belongs in this world. But courtesy of Dumont you can see her development of confidence that she does belong throughout the remaining episodes. You just don't see this through Sadie and Katie.

Even though this episode strives on character development and plot, I think for NBC to sell the show with Manson as the hook has become a disservice to what the show is really about. Because of the cases of the week, especially here, are far more interesting than whatever is happening at the commune. Sometimes the Manson family drama just gets far too mundane and trivial, which it does so much in this episode. When the commune does work, though, is whenever it's interacting with characters from the outside such as Shafe or Hodiak. That's what the show should focus on more, rather than just Manson and the family.

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