tek's rating: ½

Aquarius, on NBC
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Caution: potential spoilers.

The show had a 13-episode first season, airing over twelve weeks in summer of 2015. The first two eps aired on May 28, after which the entire season was made available online (NBC.com and Hulu), in case you wanted to binge watch it. Personally, I prefer to take my time with TV shows (and I kind of don't want to finish watching a summer series before summer technically even starts). So I decided to limit myself to one episode per week (on Hulu). The online binge-watching option was only available for four weeks, after which as-yet-unaired episodes were removed, and episodes were put online again on a weekly basis, when they aired on TV. Also I should say I initially thought it would be a limited series, but it ended up being renewed for a second season.

Season One
The show is set in 1967 Los Angeles. David Duchovny plays a cop named Samson 'Sam' Hodiak, who is asked by Grace Karn (an ex-girlfriend of his, from quite a few years ago) to look for her 16-year-old daughter, Emma, who's been missing for four days, after going to a party with her boyfriend. However, Grace's husband, Ken (a lawyer), wants Hodiak to keep the case "off the books," because, for reasons that weren't immediately clear to me, a missing person investigation could cause political trouble for him or some of his associates. Hodiak takes the case, and soon gets a young undercover narcotics officer named Brian Shafe to work with him. While Hodiak is more of a jaded loose cannon and Shafe is more idealistic, neither of them seem to get along that well with the system. Although Hodiak is definitely better at it than Shafe, because it's an era when rules governing police conduct (such as reading Miranda rights) are fairly new, and neither Hodiak nor the majority of the system itself seem as quick to adapt to the new rules as Shafe is.

We soon learn that Emma has been inducted into the cultish following of Charles Manson. (He gives her the nickname "Cherry Pop.") Anyway... my own knowledge of Manson is minimal; I've always known he was a bad dude, but the actual specifics are unknown to me, including the timeline of events in his criminal career. Apparently, this is all happening two years before the crimes for which he is most famous, but I have no idea how much of what happens in the show is complete fiction, and how much hews close to reality. But he's been committing crimes for a long time, at this point, and has recently been released from prison after several years. And we soon learn that Ken Karn had been his lawyer, and that before going to jail, Manson had done things for Karn and various other powerful people that they want kept secret. Which means these powerful people don't want the cops getting too close to Manson. Meanwhile, Manson wants to start a music career, and he wants his counterculture harem of rebels (including Emma) to help him in any way they can. And of course he uses her- and the secrets he holds about her father- as bargaining chips to get Ken to do whatever he wants, as well. (I can't help thinking it's kind of pathetic that all the horrible things he does, like kidnapping, rape, murder, extortion, etc., are in pursuit of an unrealistic artistic dream. I mean, he's so evil, so vile... but underneath all that, he's just a wannabe. In fact, his music isn't bad, but his desire to be "more famous than the Beatles" is ludicrous, a fact which I think is highlighted by the show's liberal use of so much of the greatest music of the era, by comparison to which his talent is negligible.)

Anyway... Hodiak and Shafe both have more things going on than just the search for Emma Karn. They still work other cases at the same time, plus there are aspects of their personal lives that come into play. Hodiak has a son named Walt, a soldier who's been fighting in the Vietnam War. Also, he has an estranged wife named Opal, who apparently played some part in Walt going AWOL. (But eventually we learn that Walt wants to make public some of the illegal actions the U.S. is engaging in, in Vietnam.) Also, Opal is having an affair with Ed Cutler, who I guess was Sam's partner. (Ed is also married, but I don't think we've seen his wife.) Meanwhile, Shafe (who is white) is married to a black woman named Kristin, with whom he has a baby daughter. Shafe reveals this fact to Hodiak in response to the way the latter had handled a murder case they were working. He had arrested a black Nation of Islam activist named Bunchy Carter on trumped up charges, as part of a plan to get the actual murderer to confess, at which point Hodiak released Carter. Carter is understandably upset about this, the most recent in a long line of grievances against the police, and the system in general. Hodiak himself doesn't seem to be racist, as he's equally apt to engage in misconduct and abuse of power against whoever he feels he has to, regardless of race. But change is coming, and Hodiak could end up on the wrong side of it. And I guess later, Bunchy joins the Black Panthers. There's also a young police officer named Charmain Tully, who would like to become a detective. However, Hodiak and Shafe seem to be the only ones who take her seriously, because pretty much everyone else is sexist. Anyway, she helps with some of their investigations. So... there are lots of plot threads to the show, which is hardly surprising, given the era in which it's set. I found the first season reasonably interesting, and I'd like to see how the various cliffhangers at the end of the season play out.

Season Two
This season premiered with a two-hour, commercial-free event. (Wikipedia says it counts as the first three episodes. Until I read that, I assumed it had been two episodes, but I guess without commercials three kind of makes sense.) And it doesn't seem to be on Hulu at all, this season, though you can still watch it online at NBC.com, if you prefer that over TV. Anyway, each episode is bookended by brief scenes set in August 1969, but the majority of each episode is set 16 months earlier, in 1968. A lot of the situations from last season are continuing to develop this season, with a couple of changes. No one's looking for Emma anymore, because they know where she is, and she's chosen to stay there. Also, Charlie's group soon leave the place they had been staying last season, and take up residence in the home of Dennis Wilson (from the Beach Boys). Beyond that, I don't want to spoil any of the developments I've seen. However, I'm afraid I missed a few episodes. And I managed to get caught up with some episodes online, but then... I never managed to see episode 7. (It aired July 14, and after that the series went on hiatus until August 27, at which point the show moved from Thursdays to Saturdays, and NBC began airing two episodes back-to-back for the remainder of the season.) So anyway, not wanting to watch the show unless I could see every episode, I just decided to give up on it. And it didn't really bother me much, because I wasn't loving it, anyway. Still, it's possible I might want to watch the rest of it someday, if I get the chance. Maybe.


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