Aquarius Review: “(Please Let Me Love You) It Won’t Be Wrong”

(Episode 1.12)

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<i>Aquarius</i> Review:  &#8220;(Please Let Me Love You) It Won&#8217;t Be Wrong&#8221;

The Hodiak Home for Wayward Characters was in full swing last night. It may not be intentional, but it’s hard not to draw comparisons between the number of lost souls that move through Hodiak’s care and those that stay stuck in Manson’s. Intentional or not, it’s a pretty effective way to show how Hodiak’s idea of caring for people differs from Manson’s. For all his imperfections, or maybe because of them, Hodiak wants to put people on the right track and get them out. Manson’s interest lies more in helping people when they’re at their lowest and keeping them low enough to stay with him.

If ever there was ever a doubt of this, there’s indisputable proof now. A film crew visits the Spiral and in the midst of trying to discover the magic, a new worldview of Manson reveals some rather dark realities to the family. There’s a bit of a wrinkle here as the actor playing Elliot Hillman, the producer, can’t seem to settle on wide-eyed admiration for Manson or something seemingly more cynical. As the audience, we already know that there’s emotional and physical abuse going on, but Hillman sometimes give us the sense that he suspects this as well. It contradicts the writing, which seems to lean towards Hillman arriving in admiration and slowly realizing there’s a problem. Still the actor (Evan Arnold) never quite reaches the level of sincerity necessary to sell admiration for Manson. This leads to some confusion as to what exactly his motivation for documenting the Manson family is. Is his admiration genuine, or was he always a bit more cynical?

Maybe this wouldn’t matter so much if it weren’t for the fact that Aquarius walks an increasingly slim line between historical speculation (filling in the gaps we don’t know) and historical reimagining (changing facts we know to be true). It’s a difficult balancing act and the show certainly has never declared itself one or the other. Still it does bring up the question of how this documentary footage will ultimately effect Manson’s fate. The characters of Aquarius don’t live in a consequence free world. It’s one of the show’s most impressive qualities that every plot line comes back eventually. Just like real world problems; murder, abuse, and deceit don’t stop existing just because the episode ends. It makes perfect sense that seemingly “closed” cases like Louise Mitchell and Raymond Novo should come back to haunt our favorite detectives. So why shouldn’t we assume that existing footage of Charlie beating Sadie can’t return as well? It may all come to nothing, but it seems like Manson’s Houdini-esq karma can’t last forever.

Well, maybe not forever, but at least for today as Hodiak and Karn make a devil’s bargain. Hodiak says it pretty well—that he’s giving up the last of his soul to save his son, and of course the most heartbreaking part is that, in the end, Karn can do little to actually guarantee Walt will be protected. It’s an admirable gesture and certainly the sort of self-sacrifice we’ve come to expect from Hodiak. But if he does something we can all understand, maybe even agree with, why does he unravel so fast? By the end of this episode the generally sober detective is drunk on the job and fighting with Shafe. We’re watching Hodiak be pushed towards a breaking point again, and the season finale is coming upon us fast. In the end, it’ll be up to the Aquarius production team as to whether or not Hodiak falls apart completely. But right now? Well, it’s not looking good.

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.