Tagged 1969

Aquarius – Season 2, Episode 8: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 2, Episode 8: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
Directed by Nelson McCormick
Written by Alexandra Cunningham

* For a review of the previous episode, “Piggies” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Sexy Sadie” – click here
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Last we left the characters of Aquarius, Detective Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) is a junkie, Emma Karn (Emma Dumont) was being taken away in a black car, and of course Detective Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) was caught in the middle.
We open in 1969, the night of August 10th. Shafe is full of blood. He makes a call, but it’s clear he is strung out. He paces through the scene, as his voice narrates in voice-over while he takes a look at all the bodies. He lies on the couch looking awful.
Switch back to 12 months prior. He’s going through the motions of withdrawal, sweating hard in bed and sick from the smell of coffee. “You dont have a fever,” his wife Kristin (Milauna Jackson) clearly knows there’s something other than a flu at hand.
And Hodiak, he’s got his own crutch: a little liquor in the coffee. But at least he’s not waking up sweating and crawling out of his skin. He has other things to which he must tend. He got a call last episode that’s kept him intrigued, although nothing else is turning up to help.
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Out of nowhere, Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) shows up to see Hodiak outside the precinct. He’s looking for Emma, who hasn’t returned yet since being whisked away in that black car. Oh, he ain’t  happy. One of his women have wandered off; not good for a misogynist like Charlie. “Ever know somethinbut you don’t know how you know it?” he asks Sam cryptically. There is lots of tension here. Whereas Manson is worried for Emma, he isn’t worried for the right reasons. What I’m excited to see now is more of the intersection between Charlie and Hodiak, how that will play out further in the back end of this season.
Ken Karn (Brian F. O’Byrne) is off taking care of some business. He has Nixon sneakiness to be done concerning Vietnam. He meets with a diplomat from their government (François Chau of Lost fame). A little bit of iced coffee can’t exactly smooth over Karn’s message. He wants to make a deal, one to do with the ceasefire and waiting for Tricky Dick to slip into the White House. Love the political intrigue mixed in with the other various subplots.
At the precinct, Hodiak is looking into a hit and run incident. He visits the ME. Turns out the incident was just a drunk man being run over while passed out in an alley. Two older women show up back at the station to claim the body, which leads Sam into a conversation about his last name’s Ukrainian origin, as the women are from there. He comes to believe they “might be murderers.” Can’t wait to see more of this. For now, Hodiak gets a visit from an old female friend; she’s brought him food, dressed up nicely, and isn’t there just to see him casually. It’s Ed Cutler’s (Chance Kelly) wife, upset about the affair her husband had with Sam’s now deceased ex-wife Opal. So Sam does some lying and promises the lady Ed is taking her on a trip soon. Yeah, right.
But the most trouble is when Sam gets home to find Charlie Manson digging around in his things. That does not sit well with the detective, obviously. He’s not happy to be pressed so hard by a dirty hippy. Charlie just wants to find Emma: “I dont like to wonder, I like to know.” They talk over the loaf Cutler’s wife made, as Charlie eats and Sam susses out more information.

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Shafe continues sweating through his withdrawals. His wife Kristin tries to help him by giving him some milk of magnesia, grapefruit juice, a peanut butter sandwich. She is a loving woman, even if he is slowly becoming less likeable and harder to deal with, and I’m not sure how long they’ll last. Kristin worries, she wants her husband to get better. Brian’s secrets don’t help, either.
The loaf conversation continues between Sam and Charlie. Most of it goes the way of the latter’s persuasion. While he spouts off, it’s clear Hodiak reads his every move, his every sentence and phrasing, the way he responds, and so on. Furthermore, the psychology of Manson comes out. Sam knows that Charlie only serves to “use people” and makes the women in his clan feel as if they were the ones who chose the life, not him. We all know the truth, too. They later end up jamming together on the guitar, some “Run Around Sue” and other tunes. Except Charlie keeps spying the gun on top of the fridge. Uh oh. Hodiak gets his new sleazy pal out without any violence, but it’s the air of impending violence that hangs thick over them.
In other news, Mr. Karns heads back to the diplomat’s office later, after hours. Yes – you know why. Ken has that sexual prowess going for him.


The withdrawals are getting better for Brian, only there’s no assurance his marriage will get better. For now, Kristin talks about her brother being at war, and how people over there used drugs to take away the pain of they’d done. We find out Shafe knew her brother, they were soldiers and that’s how he got introduced to Kristin. There’s an empathetic nature about her. She knew when they met he had a darkness in him, so this has all come part and parcel with their love. “Im sorry, baby,” he moans to her in the throes of his terrible addiction.
Sam is trying to figure out if those two Ukrainian women are in fact killers. He’s got his buddy Joe Wilson (Brian Goodman) hoping to get back into the detective work again, doing his best to help. In league with Sam’s uncle Don Hodiak (David Proval), they have the Ukrainian women together, starting a fight, which helps Don come up with a translation. Good job, fellas! The old ladies know more than they let on.
Later, Hodiak calls father Ken looking for his daughter Emma. Of course he doesn’t know and eggs Sam on saying “ask my wife” and none of it leads anywhere. Sam also gets a call from Dennis Wilson – he spills the beans to the Beach Boy about Charlie and his truest intentions. That’s going to make for an interesting situation all around.
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Finally, we cut back to Shafe at the murder scene during ’69. His mind is breaking, he sees terrifying images. Then Charlie appears next to him: “Rise,” he whispers.
That is one of the words left scrawled in blood at the same murder scene, in real life when the murders occurred. Spooky.
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What a fabulous episode! A great return after the Olympics coverage. Aquarius doesn’t get enough love, but that’s fine. Those who love it, we dig it hard.
Next episode is “Sexy Sadie” and I’m excited to see where Dt. Hodiak, Dt. Shafe, Charlie, and the rest of the gang end up.

Zodiac: The Dark Reality of an Uncaught Killer

Zodiac. 2007. Directed by David Fincher. Screenplay by James Vanderbilt, based on the book of the same name by Robert Graysmith.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Richmond Arquette, Bob Stephenson, John Lacy, Chloë Sevigny, Ed Setrakian, John Getz, John Terry, Candy Clark, & Elias Koteas.
Phoenix Pictures/Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros.
Rated 14A. 157 minutes.
Crime/Drama/History

★★★★★
POSTER In terms of people who’ve been making movies since the ’90s, David Fincher is one of those whom I’d consider as an auteur. He doesn’t necessarily tackle any abstract subjects – perhaps The Game and Fight Club are closest to being abstract – but he definitely has his own style, a look and feel all his own. His hand is on every last portion of the finished film. He’s plain and simple an auteur.
So even Zodiac, which is part procedural and part dramatic thriller, has all the earmarks of his genius on it. Everywhere. Not to mention the loaded cast, right down to spectacular character actors such as John Carroll Lynch filling out the back end. There’s enough intrigue in the Zodiac Killer case from real life to fill out a dozen movies, and it certainly has over the years with actual people like SFPD Inspect Dave Toschi having served as inspiration for other films like Bullitt, as well as both he and the Zodiac inspiring Dirty Harry. What Fincher does, using a solid screenplay from James Vanderbilt and based upon the identically titled book by Robert Graysmith, is create a dark, compelling piece of crime cinema that weaves through the enigma which is the Zodiac Killer case with a slick flow.
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July 4th, 1969: an unknown man shoots two people in Vallejo, California, with only one surviving. A month later, someone calling himself The Zodiac starts writing encrypted letters in a strange code to the San Francisco. Soon, political cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) starts to get interested in the case, as big shot crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr) is set to cover the case. At first, Avery thinks Graysmith is foolish. But soon he realizes the young cartoonist may actually know a thing or two.
A couple week laters, a San Francisco taxi driver is killed in Presidio Heights. Detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and his partner Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) are assigned to the case, and it becomes Toschi’s personal mission to track the sick bastard down. But the Zodiac keeps on killing. And when he threatens school children, other citizens, even Avery directly, things get very serious.
Though we know how the story ends, or has kept going on, the darkness of the Zodiac and his story is all too engaging, as his grip on the city of San Francisco remains a still existent shadow to this day.
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The Zodiac was a scary genius. Assuming it was intentional, he killed across jurisdictional lines, which in turn landed all the various police departments scrambling trying to keep themselves coordinated. Zodiac‘s screenplay by James Vanderbilt is surprising. He hasn’t really done anything else that I’m personally into, though he has done a ton of successful stuff. This script does a great job of laying everything out and even while it is complex, intricately laying out a bunch of characters and major players in the search for the Zodiac, as well as casting doubt and questions over the identity of the killer himself. A story and plot such as this runs the risk of getting tangled up at some point, but Vanderbilt keeps it well on track. The pacing is solid, the character development is extremely solid and well fleshed out. In particular, the main two characters of Graysmith and Toschi are written to near perfection, as we start to see how they sort of became victims of the Zodiac, in that their lives were dominated and ultimately determined, in a sense, by his crimes and the pursuit. Another thing is that the ending comes at the right time. This is a long film at almost 160 minutes, and it’s never boring. But certain writers might not know how to, or when to, cap things off. Vanderbilt manages to cauterize the story at the appropriate time. As there’s a natural mystery to a case we all (should) know is unsolved to this day, the way the plot finishes is just right.
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Fincher and Vanderbilt together never glorify the violence. Yes, there’s a slow motion moment near the beginning as two people are shot, and we see much of the violence in a fairly upfront, raw manner. However, Fincher handles it so that there’s no glorification. It is most certainly stylized, just never put on show as violent erotica. I’m a horror fan, but have an appreciate for all film, especially anything that’s well executed, well composed. And Fincher manages not to make a spectacle of The Zodiac. Rather, we get deep into the psychological territory of the crimes getting drawn into long, dark takes that make us feel as if we’re right there with the victims, the near victims, and those hoping to catch the killer. For a movie that’s stylized, it also has a realism to it. Because it’s not played off like some serial killer of the week. The Zodiac is real, frightening, and the mystery of his true identity is played out impeccably via intelligent writing and, as usual, classic directorial choices on behalf of Fincher.
The soundtrack is amazing, everything from Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” to Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye and Vanilla Fudge, to Three Dog Night, Sly and the Family Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher”, and a bunch more. Great period specific soundtrack that helps give authenticity to the era, alongside all the excellent costume and set design, the locations, and so on. Great stuff. In addition, there’s an eerie piano score which comes in now and then to punctuate dark moments: one of my favourites is the terrifying moment an unseen Zodiac tells a woman he’ll throw her baby out the window of his car before he murders her, then everything goes quiet except for a dreadful pounding piano note. Just everything at play comes together in a spooky tapestry to make this an unsettling film disguised as a crime procedural. Combined with the directing, the soundtrack and score, cinematographer Harris Savides (BirthThe GameLast Days) captures everything in an almost classic sense, as he and Fincher craft things in slick, rich frames to give things a gritty yet pristine look. What another filmmaker might process into mediocre fare Fincher turns into a masterpiece of crime cinema.
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This movie is built on good performances, solid directing and writing, as well as an interesting, enigmatic story of a real life serial killer. The Zodiac murders will linger on in the collective memory of Americans, particularly those in San Francisco, even the world. Because of the mystery involved, we’re often inclined to wonder exactly how he slipped away. David Fincher’s Zodiac doesn’t so much try and answer that, so much as recreate many of the events surrounding the case. Again, as I mentioned concerning the lead characters, much of this has to do with how it wasn’t only the dead left in The Zodiac’s wake. Toschi, Graysmith, all of them to an extent were sucked into the undertow of his unsolvable case. Maybe it was nobody’s fault, or maybe a big part was because of jurisdictional breakdown between departments and precincts, the stubbornness of cops, the bureaucracy of the law, so many things. Perhaps it was all due to the scary fact The Zodiac was smarter than anybody trying to stop him. Regardless, Fincher’s film is a contemporary classic in the crime genre. Many might expect further focus on the actual serial killing, as a lesser project might try (see: 2005’s The Zodiac starring Justin Chambers and Robin Tunney which actually felt all around like a lesser version of Fincher, or Ulli Lommel’s atrocious Curse of the Zodiac). Instead Fincher gives us little bits and pieces, then fills the rest of the film with a thrilling crime investigation, the odd real life characters involved in the case, and much more. This is definitely one of Fincher’s great films, as they’re all pretty impressive. But if you want a creepy serial killer flick that isn’t full-on horror and focuses more on real life, atmosphere, story, then Zodiac is always a safe bet.