Review: AQUARIUS, Season One

aquariusWhile there have been a decent amount of films, shows and literature devoted to the infamous crimes committed by Charles Manson and his “family” (a group of followers hauntingly devoted to him), it’s such a part of pop culture and true crime history, that as viewers, we’re continually wanting a fresh take on what happened, and the David Duchovny (The X-Files, Californication)-led AQUARIUS does something that very few other adaptions have: taken real life people and inject them into a TV show that blends the non fiction with the fiction, and giving its audience a look at a fictional mystery that takes place years before the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders.

Taking Manson and his devotees and injecting them into the story of Sam Hodiak (Duchovny), a homicide detective who is estranged from his wife, has a son deserting the Army and is tempted with breaking his sobriety, AQUARIUS does a good job giving viewers an almost James Ellroy approach to storytelling, weaving real people in and out of noir-like takes involving cops, dealers, hippies and murderers all deeply flawed and damaged. When Hodiak is approached by an ex regarding her young daughter not coming home, Hodiak take the case on, but is met with strange skepticism by the husband of the woman, a lawyer with a past that seems sketchy at best. Duchovy’s Hodiak is a character that is quite different than the Hank Moody & Fox Mulder characters that we’re used to, and that’s good. Duchovny is able to put on a tough guy persona, one that isn’t afraid to crack some skulls to get info, and when Hodiak is paired with Brian Shafe,  a young detective who has just as many problems with the Police system than he does with the criminals. It’s a good duo to follow, each one of them doing a hell of a job balancing the other out. Going undercover in attempts to infiltrate Manson and his family, Shafe is a character that wants justice so bad, that he’s willing to put his life and more importantly, his soul on the line to get his man.

What sets the show apart from the countless interpretations of Manson and his followers is how it never treads on the same ground that all of the others have. It’s a fresh and new story, and while that might turn history enthusiasts off, the show has enough crime and mystery to keep you on board, with crooked lawyers, two timing spouses and enough Manson craziness to satisfy true crime fanatics. Game of Thrones‘ Gethin Anthony is top notch as Charles Manson, invoking the mind-control misleading ways of Manson and his devotees absolutely perfect. Anthony has the mannerisms and also a rage that we haven’t seen very often in other adaptions. His Manson isn’t afraid to get his own hands dirty, with everything from trying to kill Hodiak later in the season, to attempting to rape the lawyer husband whose daughter is missing, Manson is a force of nature in the show and his ferociousness is only met by that of Hodiak’s. Also impressive, are the girls who make up part of Manson’s “family” with WE ARE WHAT WE ARE‘s Ambyr Childers giving a great performance as Susan “Sadie” Atkins.

Dealing with racial issues, police imperfections and how human we all are, AQUARIUS is a show that though it may not be a historically accurate depiction of Manson and his “Family”, it still does a great job being a very entertaining TV show, full of twists and turns and enough ’60s craziness to keep you entertained throughout the entire season, one that features everything from murdered films stars, jealous dancers, drug-fueled hippies to corrupt businessmen and back stabbing police officers. While the show has a six-season plan to cover until tackling the infamous murders,  season one is one hell of a good start.

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