Kai continues his ascent, by murderous means. Even if that involves killing his own.
Season 2, Episode 10: “Blackbird”
Directed by Michael Zinberg
Written by Rafael Yglesias
* For a review of the previous episode, “Sexy Sadie” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Can You Take Me Back?” – click here
On August 8th, 1969, Tex Watson (Cameron Deane Stewart) gets his marching orders from Papa Charlie Manson (Gethin Anthony). Tex and Sadie (Ambyr Childers) are to go to the designated home in the hills, tie people up, knife them to death and “paint the walls with their blood.”
But 7 months earlier, Ken Karns (Brian F. O’Byrne) has hauled his daughter Emma (Emma Dumont) out of that snake pit of a psychiatric ward. Only problem is the ECT has her scrambled for a while. Now Ken is trying to make amends. Or is he? Blaming his wife Grace (Michaela McManus) for most of it, he asks Emma for forgiveness. When she mentions his homosexuality, though, Ken is a bit taken aback. He isn’t ready to be true to himself. He’s on the Nixon team.
In another part of town, poor Kristin Shafe (Milauna Jackson) has seen Bunchy Carter (Gaius Charles) shot up. Her husband Dt. Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) and Dt. Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) are there to offer comfort. And because of all his personal connections to the case, Sam insists he’s the one to take charge.
Mr. Manson is not at all happy with Dennis Wilson (Andy Favreau) for changing his song to fit the Beach Boys mould. He threatens one of Wilson’s housekeepers, frightening her badly. What else is he willing to do?
Kristin’s sure the shooting was done by United Africa (UA). She believes the FBI are working through the police and other groups outside of the Black Panther Party to tear them apart. She wants the UA all taken in, so she can identify them. However, Hodiak can’t just bring them all to jail. Then he assures her there will be justice. Maybe not from the department; from him. Meanwhile, Brian is still doing work over at the clinic with Sam’s friend Billie Gunderson (Olivia Taylor Dudley) to get himself, and keep himself, clean. He’s pretty conflicted over the death of Bunchy. The jury on Brian is still out. Not sure if he’s a good guy, or a shitty man.
The FBI are swooping in on the Carter case. That’s not about to stop Hodiak, though. He doesn’t care what Ed Cutler (Chance Kelly) tells him. Then there’s Officer Charmain Tully (Claire Holt), she’s heard information about UA trying to get at the Black Panthers. The upper-ups do not care: “That‘s what we wanted to happen,” her commanding officer explains. But Hodiak, he’s the one she can go to with these situations. Let’s see what ole Sam gets up to.
In a bar where Charlie searches for Wilson, he winds up running into a still kickin’ Ralph Church (Omar J. Dorsey). They almost kill each other before the police arrive.
Emma is still attached to Charlie, or the idea of him. She longs to be with him and the family. For now, she and her father smoke a joint together and relax. Across the city, Hal Banyin (Spencer Garrett) is tripping out and needs something to calm him. Apparently the solution is mescaline. So his hippy friends are tracking some down.
Stuck in a cell together, Charlie rambles about “when Helter Skelter starts” to Ralph. The bigger of the two doesn’t care. He has a “slow and ugly” plan for Charlie’s death. But Manson only cares about the big race war he believes is happening. Finally, Ralph understands how crazy the man across from him is truly. A frightening scene.
Brian has to bail his wife out of jail when the Black Panthers get arrested. At home, Sam is waiting for them. He wants to jump in before the FBI gets swinging. Moreover, he surprises Kristin, and Brian, after wanting to borrow a book called The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois. Here, we see how Sam is more in tune with the black experience than ever Kristin’s own husband. Sort of a jarring moment for her, as the man she’d never have expected to understand actually seems to start doing exactly that.
Oh, and we find out Hodiak had the Panthers rounded up after Charmain alerted him to UA’s plan. Smart move. Except Charmain has guilt about what happened to Bunchy, and things slightly fall apart between her and Sam when he grills her on it.
A face we haven’t seen in awhile, Roy Kovic (David Meunier), has figured out that Dt. Shafe is in fact a cop, after one of Brian’s old buddies runs into him at the clinic Billie runs. Uh oh. There’s some nasty trouble ahead for the Shafes.
Brian: “Doesn‘t everyone feel that way sometimes?”
Sam: “Well sometimes ain‘t all the time”
Spahn Ranch is now on the Manson Family radar. Hal babbles about it while getting fingered in the ass by Sadie. She seems intent on it being their new destination, just by the look in her eyes. For those of us who know Manson history, we know that is indeed where they’ll go soon enough. Where things will get darker, dirtier than ever before.
Back to Ken, whose life is in shambles even if he won’t fully admit it to himself. He’s losing friends, losing business acquaintances, so on. He discovers “no one” in all of California will be hiring him. Likely ever again. Seems his father-in-law has shut him down all over the place.
Hodiak follows Charmain to her meet with the CI from United Africa. He further discovers the links to the FBI. Yet Sam forges on anyway. He puts a line-up together for Kristin and she makes an identification. Cutler’s mostly concerned with credibility, although Sam has his plan in place, and he makes clear there won’t be any further help, or interference, from him. Either way, Mrs. Shafe is convinced she knows who shot Bunchy. And I believe her.
She and Brian aren’t exactly on the best terms. He still doesn’t fully support her, though he pretends. It’s so obvious he has slight problems with the Black Panthers. “Your people impoverish a generation of negroes and you don‘t expect that they‘re gonna end up in prison or gangs,” Kristin questions her husband. There is a huge issue between them and that wedge will only drive in further.
More and more, Ken sees that his daughter isn’t made for a normal life. She wants so badly to find the family once more. Well, the family’s out taking care of business, as Charlie leaves the police station while Tex and Sadie kill Ralph waiting outside. Took them long enough to get him finished off.
At the station, Sam finds his case being swept up by the FBI. Simultaneously, Charmain is being kicked around for helping Hodiak. Again she’s back to being treated like the little girl around the precinct, back to getting coffee refills probably. Very sad.
So with Ralph dead, Charlie fearing reprisal by the Black Panthers if they find out who killed a “blackbird” – as he calls them – Sadie suggests they all head out to Spahn Ranch. Where Papa Charlie says they’ll play “cowboys and Indians.” Jesus. What a delusional bit of madness. And more is coming.
“You, Sam, are addicted to being a detective,” Billie tells the detective while they lie in bed. She makes a great point. He’s addicted to “solving mysteries” that keep him from working on himself. Perhaps the reason he and many cops find themselves lost in the work, forgetting everything else around them.
The Shafes are separating, at least for the time being. Kristin doesn’t like that he’s a part of a terrible organisation. She’s pretty right, that he works for “the enemy.” Only makes sense she can’t stick around. Especially in the late ’60s, couldn’t be an easy time for a white cop and a female Black Panther to be together.
Out at their new digs, Charlie receives Emma back in his arms, as well as her father Ken; been quite a long time. They both get taken back into the fold.
We jump to quickly to August 8th in ’69. Ken confronts Charlie telling him to stop whatever is about to happen. Tex and Sadie are ready to go, but Ken begs for his daughter not to be involved. Too late.
Another solid episode getting deeper into the bit of Season 2. I love this god damn show. I don’t care about the liberties they take with facts concerning Manson or otherwise. They get the spirit of the 1960s, the danger of Manson, all of it, and they put it together nicely with a lot of intrigue for us to hang on. Excited to see “Can You Take Me Back?” next.
Season 2, Episode 4: “Revolution 1”
Directed by Timothy Busfield
Written by Rafael Yglesias
* For a review of the previous episode, “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me & My Monkey” – click here
At the scene of the Cielo Drive killings in ’69, a more clean cut Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) does a stutter step by finding the little medallion we’ve seen before from under a couch, then settling in to do some heroin. Really? Mysterious, cryptic. Incredibly interesting.
16 months earlier. Detective Shafe is worried about Officer Charmain Tully (Claire Holt) still being undercover, and unofficially. Well there are troubles elsewhere: Martin Luther King Jr. has bee assassinated. Everyone is watching. Especially the Black Panthers and Bunchy Carter (Gaius Charles).
Cutler: “He dies, Watts is gonna burn.”
Hodiak: “He dies, America is gonna burn.”
Everyone at the Wilson place hears the news, too. Charlie Manson (Gethin Anthony) doesn’t have the same reaction as the others. He looks almost thrilled: “That‘s far out,” he exclaims before running to the television. At the police station, Hodiak and Cutler (Chance Kelly) are receiving their marching orders for what’s about to happen. They have to try and keep “a lid” on the whole racial boiling pot out there. What’s intriguing is the link Shafe has to the Panthers, due to his wife Kristin (Milauna Jackson) being involved with the party. For all Hodiak’s lawlessness as a lawman, he doesn’t seem prejudiced like some of the others, which we saw lots of in Season 1.
Naturally, the streets are all but on fire. The African American community is raging. There’s a dead black woman that Hodiak is trying to look into, and there’s a riot brewing outside. Hodiak keeps the white uniforms out to try and assuage people. Not sure how long it’ll last.
Meanwhile, Charmain is still playing Roy Kovic (David Meunier). It’s only a matter of time before something slips. Spend too long being undercover, things might get crazy. There is only so long a rookie can handle themselves. Or maybe Charmain will surprise us all. She cons her way into going to a meeting with Roy, that gets her closer to whatever business he’s dealing in. Then there’s Shafe, he’s down at the Black Panther Party HQ to see his wife. Everything gets a little heated, as she’s not exactly thrilled the police commissioner knows about her involvement with the party. Still, Bunchy isn’t a reactionary; he’s a revolutionary. I like his level head, though cool heads can’t always prevail. He isn’t exactly willing to work with the police. Also, he doesn’t want rioting. Not because of the cops, because he knows it will harm the black community and their credibility. At the very same time things aren’t so hot between Kristin and Brian.
Wilson isn’t so thrilled about Manson and his raving. Nobody’s too into it and the party has a dying buzz. All except for Charlie. He is frightening, watching the television and relishing the cities all but burning to the ground.
Opal (Jodi Harris) shows up at Sam’s place, worried to death about their son Walt (Chris Sheffield). He does his best to calm her down, though it’s understandable her worry. In the meantime, Brian has troubles, as well. Not only his wife, but with the commissioner. He’s torn in all directions. He doesn’t want to fail at his job, nor does he want to fail with his wife. Except Kristin comes home, raging about MLK, how Brian treated her at the BPP HQ, and throws him out: “You think I‘m your nigga to boss around? You think I‘m your nigga? I‘m not your nigga. I am your wife, the mother of your child.” He begs her not to go. She agrees – sleep on the couch and maybe tomorrow things won’t be so bad. Maybe.
Well over at the Wilson place, Charlie is ready to head for the desert. The Manson Family members are so brainwashed. Poor Dennis is caught up in the midst of it and starts seeing how strange, dangerous, devilish Manson is behind the hippy-ish exterior when one of the girls rambles on about the supposed coming race war.
Hodiak is still taking care of business with the Watts madness. He tracks down Snyder, the man they were looking for, and finds him hiding with the aunt of his dead girlfriend, the dead black girl. There are a few issues that Sam sorts out. Seems the cousin Steve has been hiding things of his own. An accidental death, but a murder nonetheless.
Trying to get things settled with the BPP, and his wife, Shafe is trying to do things “the righteous way” for it all to go smooth. Bunchy makes sure things pass right at the station and gets Sam to ensure African Americans in the city get a day off due to King’s death. All sewn up. That doesn’t bode well for Manson, whose ideas of a race war are foiled. This is great writing and helps us begin to understand how Charlie’s moving towards spurring on the race war himself.
In the undercover world of cops, Charmain introduces Brian to the man she met earlier through Kovic. Brian does a nice job playing himself up, talking about his service in the war and so on. Problem being this guy wants Brian to get high, to prove himself. Gotta try it if you wanna sell it, right? Well, the young cop shoots up, heading to the sky. Uh oh. At least they can get further into the case. But at what cost?
People march the streets in solidarity, black and white, all for Martin Luther King Jr. Even ole Charlie heads down to walk, holding his hands together praying; not for the deceased King, but for a race war. An eerie moment. Everyone sings “Amazing Grace” and it is simply chilling. Across town, Roy is about to be murdered and Charmain finally pulls out her badge. The biker gets a bullet anyway, threatening to kill Charmain. For now, it’s all over.
Skip to August 10th, 1969 – a bloody, high Shafe calls his partner: “We‘re in trouble, Sam.”
Whoa. Great finisher.
I’m really excited to see where Shafe plays into this and how his trajectory ends up taking him to that point we saw at the beginning and end of this episode. Next one is titled “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” and I want you to stick with me, and with Aquarius. This season is a big improvement on an already decent show.
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
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.
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.
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. “You‘re 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.
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.
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: “I‘m the devil and I‘m here to do the devil‘s business,” he speaks while initiating the sequence of murder on the unsuspecting victims at Sharon Tate’s home. A chilling finish to this episode.
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!
Season 2, Episode 2: “Happiness is a Warm Gun”
Directed by Jonas Pate
Written by John McNamara
* For a review of the Season 2 premiere, “I’m So Tired” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” – click here
There’s a lot going on these days.
At the family ranch, the women have got their hands on a load of guns. We get a cut over to the murders 18 months later, edited together with Ralph Church (Omar J. Dorsey) showing up at the ranch once more. “Helter Skelter,” Charlie Manson (Gethin Anthony) tells Emma Karn (Emma Dumont), explaining his idea of a coming race war. We see the night of the murders. The dead, bloody, pregnant woman on the floor in the near future.
All at once there’s the women confronting Ralph with their guns. A really great sequence; tense, exciting, wild.
In ’69 flashing forward again, we see the night of the murders, as Sharon Tate (Amanda Brooks) and Jay Sebring (Mark Famiglietti) discover Sadie in the bedroom doorway, waiting with a knife. Cut back to 18 months before, Ralph is confronting the women, asking for Charlie. And Sadie (Ambyr Childers) leads the charge with her gun drawn, pointed for the kill. The two old jail pals try striking up a deal. But can there be one? This is headed for something more dangerous.
And ol Hal (Spencer Garrett) wakes up, calling for the police. This is going to get tricky for Ken Karn (Brian F. O’Byrne).
Former-and-still-Mrs. Karn (Michaela McMaus) is across town with Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny). She gets a call from her father – he’s trying to sweep things up, getting Ken and his daughter together for a bit of triage. Big election coming up, so they’ve got to keep things together; no divorce, no slipping. There’s all kinds of things floating around the situation. A complex shitstorm.
Ken later goes to the hospital to see his onetime friend. He lets him know about the police not coming. Nobody’s coming. Hal is all alone, especially with the knowledge that he’s already somehow made a statement. Yikes. It’s all used to help Nixon claim the “radical left” are dangerous maniacs.
Sadie isn’t happy up at the ranch. She wants Charlie to stop praying and do something real. “Our plan is to open our hearts and feed those in need,” he assures. He does nothing but talk, and some of those around him, Sadie most of all, are starting to find themselves disillusioned with Charlie’s rhetoric and lack of action.
At home, Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) and his wife Kristin (Milauna Jackson) watch tv. He says he doesn’t want a child growing up in a country that loses wars. Kristin remarks it wasn’t so great growing up in a country that won them, either. An excellent, poignant moment of writing. Over at Roy’s place things are more dangerous and clandestine for Charmain; she’s still trying to get one over on the biker. I keep hoping this situation will have a proper end. Although I worry more and more for Charmain’s safety. She’s playing a dangerous game that she isn’t quite yet prepared for, but more power to her. She does have a good head on her shoulders and an eye(/heart) for justice.
And at the ranch Charlie is trying to keep Ralph happy, while also bringing a new girl into the fold, Patty (Madisen Beaty) – she’s trying to help the girls get away from the toxic environment Ralph has brought in after seeing the influence, the sexism, how they’re not even slightly in control anymore.
How? Well, she knows Dennis Wilson (Andy Favreau), and he’s always willing to have more people over to stay.
Sam and Grace receive ex-wife Opal (Jodi Harris). She isn’t too pleased to see them at the house together. Taking the time to verbally tear the both of them down before she and her ex-husband have to head out and see their son Walt (Chris Sheffield). No more treason charges, though he’s still on the hook for a deal of trouble. Salazar quit the New York Times after the paper refused to run the story; lots of Pentagon pressure. You can be sure Sam’s not impressed with the results. He’s ready to help his son. He loves Walt, and is going to do anything necessary.
More developments with Manson. The food he had cooked for Ralph and his boys? Poisoned. No wonder Charlie was adamant not to have the white and black food mixed. That, and he’s a racist. Still, the jailhouse deviousness in Manson pays off. Ralph and his crew are all fading fast, as Charlie relishes in their collective death. In the meantime, Patty’s been conned into the family, convinced to murder and convinced it’s all fine. Right at the same time we cut back and forth between Charlie with Patty, and the Manson family at Cielo Drive, committing the murders. See, this is Patty – one of the Manson Girls – who infamously aided in the Tate killing. A powerhouse ending to Episode 2.
Stick around for “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” and we’ll see where Hodiak and the rest of the characters wind up. Is there more danger to come? You betcha.