Aquarius Review: “Cease to Resist”

(Episode 1.07)

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<i>Aquarius</i> Review: &#8220;Cease to Resist&#8221;

Hearts don’t change. That’s what Hodiak’s priest says—points off for poor character development there Aquarius. Beyond Hodiak referring to him as “Father,” this character goes completely unnamed. Just another friendly neighborhood priest who’s known you since you were a child, but whom you awkwardly call “Father” through an entire conversation during which he reveals intimate knowledge of your character. Yep, just one of those. Okay, I know it’s a small oversight, but you knew at some point I’d nitpick something stupid.

Still with that out of the way, we can ask last night’s question. Is he right? Do hearts always stay the same hearts they start as, or can a heart change? Can it become an unrecognizable version of itself? And if it can, will that change turn out to be preferable to staying the same? It’s hard to know what the answer is. Tonight’s episode seems focused on the transformation taking hold of characters Emma and Charmain. Both women are on a quest of self-discovery, and just like Luke Skywalker before them, they come equipped with their very own Obi-Wans.

Emma’s been missing for a little while, but we finally catch up with her and Sadie as they travel to San Francisco in search of Mama. While the entire Mother Mary plot line may make you to cringe—beyond being a little on the nose with his naming practices, it definitely focuses on the potential fallout of having Charles Manson for a boyfriend. Mary herself is being used to illustrate a catalyst of change as old as storytelling itself. That is the mentor (see Obi-Wan Kenobi). Both Mary and Hodiak’s priest serve as secondary examples of the mentor/mentee relationship that is at the center of tonight’s episode. Mary serves as a mentor to Sadie and Katie. Both of the girls look up to her. Sadie in particular indulges in a bit of narcissistic hero worship. And through what little we learn of her tonight, we can infer that she holds a lot of responsibility for recruiting and indoctrinating the two girls into the Manson (and, oh, didn’t we come so close to saying this phrase out loud) family. It’s a relationship that is at best manipulative and at worst outright predatory. Although we may be a bit unclear as to who are the hunters and who the prey. It may have once been Sadie and Katie, but the ease with which Sadie is able to lure Mary back into the fold rings a few bells that seem to scream Scientology and Jim Jones Kool-Aide.

It may be a bit surprising then that Emma seems openly hostel to Mary from the start. It would be easy to write this off as petty jealousy. Of all of Manson’s “girls” Emma seems to be the one constantly prone to envy. Maybe it’s some kind of TV manifestation of only-child-syndrome, but she never seems to be as willing to share her cult leader-sized action figure with the other children. This is an over simplification. If Mary is Sadie and Katie’s mentor, then in Mary’s absence it may seem that Emma has been without. Her behavior this episode points to something a bit darker. Emma proves herself more self righteous and comfortable with manipulation and cruelty this episode than we’ve ever seen before. Of all the followers, she’s the one who is beginning to take on the most Mason-like qualities. Charles himself is her mentor whether intentionally or not. It’s pretty clear to see that Emma’s heart has changed. Unless you think this kind of behavior was in her all along. In which case, we have to ask ourselves, was it Manson who picked Emma? Or Emma who picked Manson?

But if there is a dark or evil team, there has to be a good or light team too. It’s a balance thing. You know, the Force. And the Jedi Knights to Emma/Manson’s evil Sith Lords must be Hodiak and Charmain. First, it’s pretty cool to see this relationship developing between these two characters. Typically (and the show certainly steered us to this early in the season) such a relationship would develop between Hodiak and Shafe. It’s an old TV fallback. A cultural stereotype from years past, whereby men should learn from men and women should learn from women. In typical Charmain/Hodiak fashion let’s throw that convention out the door. If it gets lonely it can hang out with old episodes of Leave it to Beaver and Associate Justice Scalia.

That’s not to say that their relationship is perfect. Hodiak is a little over protective of Charmain, but he believes in her. And more importantly, he encourages her to believe in herself. If he’s a dangerous combination of too brave and too caring, we certainly can say the same for Charmain, who risked herself (safety-wise, health-wise, ability-to-say-she-never-shared-bodily-fluids-with-Roy-wise) to track down a girl she didn’t even know. They have a really interesting relationship growing, and I’m excited to see where it leads, even if it means Aquarius getting a little heavy handed with the Disney songs.

Yep, mentors are great. They impart their knowledge on their mentee, encourage them, let those underdogs who oh-so-often become heroes finally see their own potential. I mean, Holy Cow, what if Charmain turns out to be this series’ real protagonist in the end? That would be pretty awesome, and certainly a change of heart I would cheer for. There’s only one problem with this mentor/mentee love fest. And it goes back to the fact that the Mentor is a very, very old storytelling convention. Writers want to break old conventions all the time, but when it comes to the very, very old there’s always this sense that maybe those ancient Greeks and Medieval poets knew what they were doing. And in those stories the mentor… well… You remember how it all went down in Star Wars.

Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based freelance writer and director and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter.