Skip to main content

TV Review: Aquarius

TV Review: Aquarius



I watched the entire first season of Aquarius on Thursday, June 16 in anticipation of the commercial free season two premiere event that aired on NBC that night. While I normally do not like to go through shows that fast, it proved to be a fitting way to consume this imperfect but very compelling crime drama.

The series in set in Los Angeles in the late 1960s. David Duchovny stars as Detective Sam Kodiak, who at the start of the series is tasked with finding Emma Karn (Emma Dumont), a teenager who joins the Manson Family. The series follows two plot lines that occasionally intersect; Kodiak and his cases (which usually are tied to larger ideas like race or gender) and the exploits of the Manson Family in the years leading up to the infamous Tate-La Bianca murders of August 1969. 


The goal of the show, I'm guessing, is to depict the cultural landscape that made it possible for someone like Charles Manson to wreak as much havoc as he did. If that the show's goal, it's only partly successful. While there is the multi-generational conflict that seemed to define the era by way of Brian Shafe (Grey Damon), the young undercover narcotics officer working with Kodiak, we only get to spend time with the police and the Family itself, so life outside of those two groups remains something of a mystery. 

Duchovny is a strong anchor for the series, and the rest of cast is good as well. Gethin Anthony is interesting (if probably not all that historically accurate) as Charles Manson. Dumont (who you probably remember from Bunheads) is fun to watch as her character becomes increasingly comfortable with the hippie lifestyle. Emma's mother (also Kodiak's ex) is played Michaela McManus, who'd probably be better if her character had a storyline, or a personality for that matter. Emma's father, Ken (BrĂ­an F. O'Bryne) gets the series' least interesting subplot (Charlie was the pimp of the hooker that Ken's friend murdered, helped them cover it up, and now he and Ken are lovers or something like that). Claire Holt also appears as a policewoman who is pretty forgettable in the first season, but her storyline's change in direction at the start of the new season looks promising. 

Be advised that Aquarius is historical fiction, emphasis on the fiction. It's not interested in getting every detail about Manson right. That's what books are for. Much of the fun comes from the audience knowing more than the characters do. In one scene, Susan Atkins (Ambyr Childers) is seen reading Rosemary's Baby, the film adaptation of which was directed by Roman Polanski, the husband of Sharon Tate. The first episode of season two begins with a flash-forward to the night of Tate's infamous murder but jumping ahead eighteen months in the narrative feels very unnecessary. Anyone watching already knows what's to come.

Aquarius is just one of several projects that have been made about the murders in the past couple of years. There was February's Lifetime movie Manson's Lost Girls, which starred MacKenzie Mauzy as Linda Kasabian, the Family member who later was a key witness for the prosecution in the Family's trial. It was a sleek, stylish movie, but the movie was too narrowly focused on Kasabian to really get a complete picture of the events. And then there was the 12 episode arc on the Manson Family from Karina Longworth's excellent podcast You Must Remember This, which tells the story with a Hollywood angle. That was truly a gripping, edge-of-you-seat listen.

The second season of Aquarius airs Thursdays on NBC. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Netflix vs. HBO Max vs. Disney+ vs. Hulu: Streaming Services Ranked

The entertainment industry is at a moment of change. Resources that were once spent on TV networks and theatrical releases are being funneled into streaming services, as media conglomerates race to catch up with game-changing, industry-revolutionizing Netflix. The "streaming wars", the competition between the studios to sure up talent and content deals as they ask audiences to buy their monthly subscriptions, is in full swing. 
One day, a book will be written about the streaming wars and it'll include a clear picture of which services crashed and burned and which ones emerged victorious. I look forward to reading that book and looking back on this moment in time with hindsight, but until that day, all I can do is offer my opinion on each service and say which ones I feel are worthy of your money and time. I'm only going to talk about the services that are directly vying to be the new Netflix, not niche ones like Shudder or the Criterion Channel. Also, a proper ranking…

The Ten Best Songs By Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim's 10 Best Songs 
Today, March 22, is Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday. In celebration, I thought I would rank the ten best songs with music and lyrics by the greatest musical theater composer there is.

Honorable mentions: "Send in the Clowns," "Not Getting Married," "Sooner or Later," "Loving You," "Ladies Who Lunch," "I Never Do Anything Twice," "The Glamorous Life,""Could I Leave You?," "Putting It Together," "A Weekend in the Country," "Isn't He Something?," "Finishing the Hat"

10. "Too Many Mornings" How much time can we hope that here will be? Not much time, but it's time enough for me. If there's time to look up and see Sally standing at the door, Sally moving to the bed, Sally resting in my arms, with your head against my head.
A beautiful, very sad duet from Follies, where two characters confess their long-held mutual …

"Trophy Wife" is the Best New Show of the Season

"Trophy Wife" is the Best New Show of the Season

"Trophy Wife" is an example of an excellent series, with an unfortunate title. When the show premiered back in September, I was not planning on watching. But after reading some reviews, I decided to give it a try. And am I glad I did.