We have to give Aquarius some props here for cutting to the chase with this “find Manson” thing. While Hodiak’s partner Shafe entered the Manson compound last week, this week we already get our ultimate cop/criminal showdown, as Hodiak visits the hippie camp to search for Emma. The two are finally face-to-face this episode before the credits are even over. You gotta love how Hodiak immediately knows Manson’s number—“I’m not a 16-year-old girl”—and with all the play Manson gets, it’s nice to see someone finally calling him on his massive amounts of bullshit.

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That’s the best juxtaposition in Aquarius, although it highlights everything horrible thing about the hippie movement (particularly the misogyny), making it an absolute relief when Hodiak comes in and roughs up the place. Ineffectual Ken shows up at the compound with a shotgun, Manson places it to his chest, and even then Ken can’t blow away the man who’s kidnapped his daughter. The canonization of Manson continues as he gets Christlike, telling Ken he saved him, saying that all he has is love. He says he wants to die for everyone (“It’d be my privilege”), and he and Ken practically end up in a clinch again. (Emma curiously just watches from the window while her father points a gun at her boyfriend/cult leader?)

By contrast, Hodiak storms in, takes down a tripping girl with a loaded shotgun who’s yelling “You can’t take me away from my family!”, and just lifts her over his shoulder. Clearly the girl could have escaped from the backseat of the car, unlocking the non-power-lock doors, say, but maybe the drugs made her confused. At the end of the episode, Emma is finally off the compound, screaming her fool, tripping head off. Hilariously, Manson can barely be bothered to look up to shrug, “Everybody relax: She’ll be back.”

Unfortunately, there’s not a ton else I can rave about in this fourth episode, unless it’s the fun of Emma’s hallucinatory drug trip. But even that turns demonic.

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The pointless murder victim from last week turns out to be Art Gladner, the owner of a coffee shop (The Coffee Hut) and a strip bar with the worst name I’ve ever heard in my life: The Peach Pussycat. Again the case of the week clumsily trips up our main storylines: We would have plenty with Hodiak and his old flame and his AWOL son and his partner’s problematic neighborhood. We don’t need to waste time to find the killer of someone we couldn’t care less about. Duchonvy has some nice chemistry with the deceased’s wife and Peach Pussycat proprietor Lucille, but let’s face it, he would have chemistry with a towel rack, especially in his hard-assed ’60s mode. He even comes equipped with an ax handle to ward off his partner’s racist neighbors.

Everything comes so easy to Hodiak, it’s fortunate that Aquarius offers a situation where even he is ineffectual: looking for his AWOL son Walt. His idiot ex-wife is no help, and somehow he can’t even crack Walt’s lummox friend. Apparently, becoming a seminarian was another way to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War, and Hodiak, a veteran, can’t even hide his disdain.

There are a lot of issues to tackle within this time period, and Aquarius isn’t doing a great job of covering any of them, not even the cult mentality, despite all its Manson material. Perhaps the trail of Art and Marvin and the guy who tells Marvin to kill Art was the show’s attempt to show the effort of law-enforcement agents to stem the drug epidemic of the decade. Shafe’s snitch, who gets heroin from the evidence room dangled in front of him, stands in for the drug addicts. But the police lieutenant drinks until he passes out and hits his head on the floor, so is Aquarius trying to ask which is worse?

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Shafe’s wife and the racial messages on their garage exemplify the fact that racial problems were prevalent in the ’60s (as we know they still are now). Ken, our sad example of what life would be like for a closeted man in the era, is reduced to cruising men’s rooms to get a little action. These issues are all touched on (like the Civil Rights Movement in episode two), but not fleshed out enough yet to even keep us engaged from episode to episode. The graphic violence, like Marvin’s stabbing of Art, is a meaningless replacement for an actually compelling storyline.

Home is where you’re happy. This episode title is credited to a song Manson is joyously singing as Ken walks up with the shotgun. Ken tries to go back home, but Grace says it’s not his anymore. Walt has run from his. Shafe and his family get attacked in the one place they should feel safest. For Emma, the Manson compound has become her real home, even though Manson drops her off to be a sex slave to Rufus. But much to her mother’s dismay, she doesn’t want to leave it. But now that Hodiak has Emma, does he even care about Manson any more? Does his tied-up drug-deal case lead to a larger drug syndicate? Honestly, Duchovny would better off on his own detective procedural (perhaps called: Hodiak) than caught in this kerfuffle. How compelling he is actually does the rest of a show a disservice, as Aquarius is found sorely lacking whenever Detective Hodiak is not around.

Stray observations:

  • I’m starting a new feature called “What’s David Duchovny’s Knee Up To This Week?” This week, David Duchovny’s knee takes down Marvin, the murderous drug deliverer, who Hodiak defeats even though Marvin is armed with a knife. Duchovny makes it look so easy; I credit the knee. “No harm in trying!”
  • Classic Hodiak patter: “Don’t let anybody drop dead near you again or I’ll be on you before the body hits the ground.” “You’ll be on me again no matter what.”
  • This episode title, like last week’s, is from Manson’s 1970 album, Lie.
  • “That acid kicking in yet?”
  • Next week: “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Let’s hope so.

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