From Ambyr Childers

Aquarius – Season 2, Episode 11: “Can You Take Me Back?”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 2, Episode 11: “Can You Take Me Back?”
Directed by Timothy A. Good
Written by David Reed

* For a review of the previous episode, “Blackbird” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Mother Nature’s Son” – click here
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On August 9th, 1969, Emma Karn (Emma Dumont), Tex Watson (Cameron Deane Stewart), and Sadie (Ambyr Childers) take charge of their victims. Mostly, Tex and Sadie do the dirty business. They blast one away while they setup the noose from a beam on the ceiling.
Cut to awhile before. Four months since the last episode. Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) and Ken Karns (Brian F. O’Byrne) laze around at Spahn Ranch in a perpetual orgy of bodies. In other news, Detective Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) and his wife Kristin (Milauna Jackson) aren’t doing any better. She’s not coming back any time soon it looks like. At the same time he’s slipping back towards using drugs again.
And then there’s Dt. Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) – his car’s stolen, but the precinct holds bigger issues. The police commissioner recently resigned because of corruption and such under his watch, partly due to Hodiak and his slippery detective work, his… issues. Now, Sam is suspended for the foreseeable future. Hmm. That won’t sit right with him, you can be sure.
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Up at Spahn, Ken and Emma are entering a new era of their father-daughter relationship. He’s doing his thing, leaving behind all the time he wasted in his life. Doubtful he’ll be finding any comfort there. We start hearing more about Charlie’s madness. First there’s him digging holes to hide food and anything else they have on hand. Secondly, the plan for hiding in a “hole” out in the desert. What that refers to is the fact Manson actually believed the Family would hide under the Grand Canyon in the City of Gold. Bigger problems arise when the Manson baby gets taken by the police after a couple of the women encounter some officers. All because Ken’s card wouldn’t work at the store. So, naturally, Charlie blames him. Things are tense.
Hodiak kicks around the station and tries helping his fellow officers. Yeah, that’ll go well. He hops in on an interrogation; an Asian man was attacked, then killed a man in defence. He says it was prejudice, Sam feels differently. Of course he can’t do much more, being suspended and all.
As expected, Brian – with the help of his buddy from the clinic, Mike Vickery (Jason Ralph) – falls back into the arms of heroin. While up at Spahn, Charlie is putting the pressure on Ken to start pumping money into the Family. I can see a hard, brutal fallout coming a mile away. Just depends at what point that happens.
Grace Karns (Michaela McManus) doesn’t know where her husband is, so she’s trying to move on with parts of her life. She has options, although her father is footing the bill while she and her husband are separated. I feel bad for her, yet not totally for how she treated Emma.
At home, Shafe and Vickery trip hard. Possible the heroin was cut with something because Brian takes a hard trip down the rabbit hole, hallucinating wildly. No wonder he’s headed for a bit of self-destruction, as we’ve seen glimpses of where he ends up on the nights of the Manson Family murders.
Charlie and the Family are working towards their big plan. By the minute, Ken starts to see how his old buddy is dangerous, more criminal than he ever thought. Speaking of old buddies, Vickery starts overdosing at Shafe’s place. Being a cop, he doesn’t want to call an ambulance. Instead he tries to handle things himself. In the middle of it all, Roy Kovic (David Meunier) comes through the door with a sawed-off shotgun pointed at Brian. Ah, great!

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When Sam gets talking to the Japanese man whom he interrogated earlier. He talks about being at war, as the Japanese man tells him of being in an interment camp on U.S. soil. What we discover is that Hodiak found out that who this man killed used to be a guard in the same internment camp where he was locked away. Very curious.
Terry Melcher (Chase Coleman) has agreed to record Charlie, to get him off Wilson’s back. All is well, I guess. Ken sees more and more the strange brainwashing that happens with the Manson Family, as once Charlie leaves the table the women are allowed to eat. Tragic, all those young lives wrapped up in his mania.
The sexism Charmain Tully (Claire Holt) experiences is always present. She reels off a story about even her own father’s misogyny. One of the upper-ups gives her a shot to turn things around. Only if she helps him “fix” a problem of his own. Does that involve double-crossing her mentor?
Oh, things are getting worse for Shafe, and for everybody. Roy isn’t pleased with all the undercover bullshit. Will it wash out as a “drug deal gone wrong“? When Kristin comes in during the whole confrontation everything becomes scarier.
Now Charmain’s being summoned by Brian, as he and his wife sit at the end of Roy’s shotty. Kovic talks about some of the Manson ramblings, the “wheel of karma” that crushes those in its way.
That addiction of Hodiak’s, the need for mystery in his police life, it won’t stop. He figures out that the man the Japanese gentleman accidentally killed had a wife; she had an affair with the Japanese man in the camp where she taught. This produced a child, and then the man wanted revenge. Still, it’s “justifiable homicide” and lets the man go. You can tell he didn’t take any pleasure in killing the other guy, he didn’t even know he had a son. All that will weigh on him, forever.
Roy is bearing down on Charmain and the Shafes. Things are not looking good. Until the half-overdosed Vickery plants a heroin needle in Kobvic, starting a brutal fight between the biker and Charmain. All ending with a knife right in Roy’s heart. That just leaves them with a mess. At least nobody’s dead. The Shafes marriage? This did it no favours, either.

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After getting the Manson baby back to the Family, Ken wonders why anybody sticks around anymore. Everything at the ranch is getting dire. Emma then reveals to her father she’s with child. Not exactly a jump for joy bit of news, but news nonetheless. Charlie’s got the recording finished, and Ken did up a contract. To please the master. Melcher doesn’t want to sign anything. Then he goes on a tirade against Manson, insulting him terribly. Yet another incident to drive Charlie crazy. Also serves to drive Ken off from the ranch.
With everything happening, Charmain tears into Sam about the way he conducts himself. “I dont your permission to tell the truth,” she says. “Sometimes I wonder, did I create the monster, or did I just drag it back from the swamp?” Sam replies.
Hodiak hands in his resignation to Cutler then heads out. He says he’s done. Not sure how Charmain feels in the end, though she looks surprised. Everything is falling apart, for everybody, from Sam to the Shafes to Charlie and Ken.
Cut to August 9th of ’69 again. With a baby inside her, Emma watches as Sharon Tate, with child, is murdered savagely by the Manson Family. A too late and horrific awakening.
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What a wild episode. This show gets better with each passing chapter in Season 2. Up next is “Mother Nature’s Son” and it brings us to the penultimate finisher. I know NBC hasn’t really treated this series with the respect it deserves. It will likely never see Season 3. I do, however, feel it deserves one. After the decent Season 1, Aquarius stepped up its game hugely, in writing, directing, editing, all aspects. So I do hope NBC gives it a swan song third season to explore the last bits of the Manson days.

Aquarius – Season 2, Episode 9: “Sexy Sadie”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 2, Episode 9: “Sexy Sadie”
Directed by David Boyd
Written by John McNamara

* For a review of the previous episode, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Blackbird” – click here
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Last episode, Dennis Wilson (Andy Favreau) talked on the phone with Detective Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) who was going to tell him everything about ole Charlie Manson (Gethin Anthony).
So what will be the fallout?
We start once more on August 9th, 1969: Sadie (Ambyr Childers) walks back through the bloody house of their victims with things from a child’s crib. Cut back 11 months earlier, she’s with Charlie and telling him how wonderful he is for getting them into a recording studio. “Let us love you,” she tells the enigmatic family leader; her and her pregnant belly. Then Manson listens to the Beach Boys singing a tune he wrote. Although you can tell in his eyes there’s a hatred bubbling. The song’s been changed, drastically. And he is not taking it well whatsoever. The Wilson house has been cleared out, nobody home. Everything is packed up. Things are really falling apart for the Manson clan.
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Hodiak is worried for Emma Karn (Emma Dumont). Her father Ken (Brian F. O’Byrne) is a piece of shit, but Grace (Michaela McManus) is still a good person, deserving of knowing where he daughter’s gone. Except she knows where her daughter is, she’s the one who put her daughter there. Sam finds her in a psychiatric ward. “Im an embarrassment, right?” she asks him, knowing the answer – to her parents – is yes.
But duty calls, and Sam is back at the station. He gets more copycat photographs of the pictures he’s received in the past, though the original perpetrator hasn’t come calling in awhile. Hmm. Aside from that Dt. Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) continues struggling with his addiction; he’s a tad better looking than the last time we saw him. All the same, Sam knows there are problems. “Heroinyou were a better cop when you were shootinit into your veins,” he scolds a worn out Shafe. The only thing the older detective of the two wants is his partner to be doing good work. Regardless of how it gets done. He’s got a way, though. Sam takes his partner over to a place he’s been before, where CIs go to clean up and go straight. Basically the 1960s equivalent of a methadone clinic. Well, the nice thing is that Sam cares about Brian. Enough to take him there and see him into a better way of life, hopefully.
That altruistic side of Sam comes out further, as he goes back to see Emma more. All the while we’re only four days away from the 9th of August when all that horror begins at the hands of the Manson Family. Sam goes to see Grace after visiting Emma, wondering if after the election is over they’ll let their daughter out of that hospital. But those Karns, they’re a terribly egotistical, selfish couple. I guess Grace isn’t so awesome a person after all.


Sam: “I think thats what beina parent is, Grace. You love them, and eat a lifetime of pain in return.”
Grace: “Tell me how to be a parentyou raised a traitor and put his mother in the ground.”
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When Kristin Shafe (Milauna Jackson) shows up to the station looking for her husband, she gets talking to Sam. Turns out Bunchy Carter (Gaius Charles) assaulted a cop. She doesn’t think it’s true. At the same time, Brian is going through the motions of his treatment, getting better all the time. Only the woman helping him has to give hard news: “Relapse happens more often than not.” He can’t just go out and pretend things will be fine. You have to accept addiction is not always a straight, finite line. It can go on and on forever.
Hodiak goes over to see Bunchy in his cell. He claims his security personnel were illegally searched, et cetera. Problem is the Black Panther Party has a strict code of ethics. Bunchy’s sure there were no drugs because of that, and so the police must have planted what they found. “We got history, Hodiak. Im callinit in. You want riots? Just leave me here,” Bunchy tells him plainly.
We get see more Charmain Tully (Claire Holt)! Went too long. She’s an awesome character. Now, her undercover skills are getting put back to work. Meanwhile, Kristin isn’t happy being gawked at, that nobody at the office knew she was black. Certainly it has nothing to do with her husband not being proud of her, he loves her to death. Anyway, Hodiak has some awesomely Hodiak-ish wisdom: “Yknow, Im not positive, but I dont think Id get married again if it cured cancer.”
Who has bigger problems? Ken Karn. His homosexuality’s been discovered by the Nixon team. They’re not happy. Grace’s father delivers the news. Neither of them are safe, as she knows about what her husband likes. This later sends Ken off to find Hal Banyin (Spencer Garrett), only to find him in a similar state of sexual enjoyment. He’s the one who told people about Ken and his predilections. Worse for Ken is the fact Charlie is kicking around, needing a new place to stay and all, washing Hal’s feet (literally). Man alive.

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Charmain finds more sexism in the police department, as even asking a question about operations gets her bitched at. I suppose doing Hodiak’s bidding doesn’t exactly put her in the best position. Speaking of Hodiak, he has Shafe back working, doing his best. They dive into the LSD supposedly found on the Black Panthers and Bunchy.
Now Officer Tully is pushing her luck, peeking into envelopes she’s not meant to peek inside. Then she starts worrying about the people with whom she’s involved with undercover. You can see her good heart pushing up against the duties of a police officer; specifically, a female undercover officer. Not an easy thing to be at any time, especially not in the late ’60s.
The Karn household is tearing apart, even if Grace wants to keep it together. Ken knows things are gone to hell. However, his wife thinks her father is just pissed off, that the Republicans are only giving them a warning shot, essentially. “We make them need us,” Grace tells her husband fiercely. They decide being discrete privately, together publicly is the best way forward, as well as to let go of their daughter for good. Nasty, nasty people.
Later on, Sam gets a call from none other than Ken. He wants to find his daughter, as he originally did so long ago. Hodiak meets him at the hospital and also informs him that someone authorised Emma to have electroshock therapy; she can barely remember herself, let alone anyone else. Well, father seems determined to take his daughter back home. An interesting turn of events, to say the least.


With the help of Hodiak and Shafe, Bunchy is released. Faulty police work after all. Free at last, free at last! He gives a speech at the Black Panthers HQ: “The Man is armed, we are armed. The Man kills, we kill. This is the only relationship respected by the Man because it is the only form of relationship understood by the Man.”
Right then and there men with guns walk through the doors. They blast Bunchy several times in the chest and arm.
Charlie is out looking for Dennis Wilson. He’s latched onto the Beatles White Album already. His madness is getting much deeper now, as if it weren’t before. Then it’s like Manson can see the coming murders in his mind. A terrifying barrage of images.
They’re coming. Soon.
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Another whopper of an episode. Really loved these latest two that came on in succession tonight. They built up so much tension and excitement. Really looking forward to the next one titled “Blackbird” – stay tuned with me!

Aquarius – Season 2, Episode 3: “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 2, Episode 3: “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road”
Directed by Timothy Busfield
Written by Alexandra Cunningham

* For a review of the previous episode, “Happiness is a Warm Gun” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Revolution 1” – click here
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We start with Manson (Gethin Anthony) meeting Charles ‘Tex’ Watson (Cameron Deane Stewart), another one involved in the hideous deaths at Cielo. We see him in the flashes forward to the murders, as well. The family is coming together, and Manson’s terrifying power of persuasion gets clearer each episode. He’s defeated that old influence in his life, and now the triumph over Ralph Church has made him seemingly invincible. In his head, anyway. In a season filled with episodes named for Beatles songs, we can be sure that the Helter Skelter of Manson’s wild dreams is surely coming, closer, closer.
Will this season end with those savage killings? We’re on the road to finding out.
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Back 16 months earlier, slowly edging our way towards those fateful events, Detective Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) and Officer Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) have received another picture in an envelope – a new woman, tied up. So the duo sets about making calls trying to suss out a lead or two.
Ole Charlie’s busy over at the house owned by Dennis Wilson (Andy Favreau). You can see the stars in his eyes already, as Wilson shows up. “I am everyone and everyone is me,” Charlie starts with his craziness, which kind of impresses Dennis. But he makes a mistake, and tells the madman to make himself at home. Little does he know how long that will come to last.
Sam comes across a bloodied woman on a rooftop after heading to a scene where someone was heard yelling loudly. She’s in terrible shape and succumbs to her injuries. This sets fire to Hodiak. He checks with some witnesses that heard the screams and does the normal routine, though things are looking darker than ever. Later he tails Ron Kellaher (Tim Griffin), more to make a point than do anything sinister. A funny situation sees Kellaher’s wife come out to talk. Turns out she knows Sam, too. Hilarious. But Ron gets the point, no doubt. Back at the office there are more pictures, a ton, waiting for Sam. The plot keeps on thickening.
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Interesting stuff comes from Kristin Shafe (Milauna Jackson), involved with the Black Panthers, and her cop husband Brian. She wants him to quit, to do something else. He isn’t exactly willing. There’s a huge contradiction and conflict lying between them, though. Not an unbeatable one, just a wide one.
Mr. Manson is playing guitar for Wilson, handing down prophecy about the music business. He doesn’t exactly play much guitar. He holds one, then makes excuses for not playing and singing anything. In other news, Sadie (Ambyr Childers) and Tex Watson (Cameron Deane Stewart) start to get to know one another. Y’know, now that they’re in a cult together. She starts introducing him to a bit of LSD. Ah, the tool of the Manson Family. “Youre seeing the world through a dirty window,” Sadie tells Tex; Charlie’s words coming out of her mouth. This is where we begin to see further how the brainwashing of Charlie works on his followers. Tragic, how the lost and lonely come together and become hypnotised by a character like him. Then in turn it’s worse how those hypnotised go on to do the same to others. A perpetual cycle, similar to the emotional, mental abuse children suffer in families, and some of them go on to do the same when they have a family of their own. Manson’s clan was merely a large family of broken souls that worked like any other, only dark and devious.
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Out on the trail Detective Hodiak is doing more of his typical bad cop shtick. Works, though. And honestly, with some of these criminals it’s probably warranted. You can argue all you want about the moral line. Certain criminals know no line. Either way, Sam gets shit done right now in the name of young girls going missing, dying, and who knows what else. He and Shafe are checking things out. Sam interrogates Ben Healy (Morgan McClellan), estranged husband to one of the missing women in the pictures. Meanwhile, Shafe interrogates a suspect (Carlos Pratts), or does so casually without being too suspicious. He manages to get the guy to talk, seeing as how his father turned him in. Not too hard for Shafe to spin it all into working for them. At the same time in Sam’s life things are spiralling on the personal side. He and Grace (Michaela McManus) are headed in different directions.
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Wilson just wants to hear Charlie play some tunes. He thinks there’s a bit of nervousness, apprehension on Manson’s part. “Just rise above it, rise,” Dennis says. Prophetic, as that very word ends up written in blood at the LaBianca murders later on. We get flashes to the fateful night at Cielo Drive down the road. We cut from a normal Tex to one filled with Charlie Manson madness: “Im the devil and Im here to do the devils business,” he speaks while initiating the sequence of murder on the unsuspecting victims at Sharon Tate’s home. A chilling finish to this episode.
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Enjoyed the first season. Loving this one. They’ve improved greatly, as well as pumped the action and intensity. Look forward to the next episode “Revolution 1” – it ties into Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination and puts Sam Hodiak in the racial line of fire. Should be interesting!