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.