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DDAquariusNewIt's the dawning of the age of Aquarius on NBC. David Duchovny's new series premiered Thursday, May 28th at 9 p.m. EST. The series features Mr. Duchovny as Detective Sam Hodiak of the Los Angeles Police Department. It's the summer of love, 1967, and the country is changing. Hodiak is a police officer from an older generation who ends up crossing paths with notorious criminal Charles Manson. We take a look at the new series and recap and review the season premiere episodes, "Everybody's Been Burned" and "The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game."  

Find out what we think after the jump.



Episode 1 "Everybody's Been Burned" opens in Los Angeles, 1967.  It's dark and the radio is playing. A couple is arguing. A young girl, Emma Karn, slips out of the house undetected. She jumps into a car with a young man and they head to a party. But as they leave a second set of headlights flips on and a car follows them. They arrive at the party, and as the boy leaves to get a drink, Emma is left standing looking a bit out of place. As she looks around the room, we get our first look at Charles Manson. He's sitting on a couch with a few women. Eventually the women invite Emma out for a smoke while another distracts Emma's boyfriend. Once outside, Emma has her first encounter with Manson, who makes it clear he knows who she is. They're overlooking a highway which Manson calls an electric snake set to eat them all. He says he can show her how to "eat the snake" and nothing will ever hurt again. Emma looks frightened but intrigued as he touches her face and says "I'm Charlie Manson." 

AquariusHodiakThe sounds of a boxer hitting a heavy bag is how we meet Sam Hodiak.  As Hodiak pounds on the bag the phone rings. Emma's mother Grace Karn is on the line, calling because her daughter is missing. We learn Hodiak is industrious...he can't find his keys so he simply hot wires his own car! He heads to Grace's house, where we learn Emma has been missing for four days. Emma's father Kenneth Karn doesn't seem very concerned about Emma's disappearance, saying she'll come back in a few days with some story. He asks Hodiak to keep the investigation quiet because of the upcoming election. Hodiak doesn't seem thrilled at this revelation. As Grace walks Hodiak out to his car, we learn a little more about the character. He's married, though the relationship is rocky, and has a son in the Army. We also learn Grace and Hodiak were once together. Grace breaks down over her missing daughter and Hodiak consoles her, while her husband looks on disapprovingly from the window.

We next find Hodiak at a party where he grabs Emma's boyfriend Rick. The juxtaposition of "square, old school" Hodiak with the laid back partygoers is pretty stark, and a theme we'll see throughout the episodes. Rick doesn't seem overly concerned about Emma and isn't very forthcoming with information. He even threatens Hodiak that his father will hear about this. Hodiak calls the kid's bluff and roughs him up a little anyway. He is able to convince Rick to tell him where the party was.

When Hodiak heads to the house where the party was he finds another dead end. One of the residents enjoys insulting Hodiak, calling him a pig while the others egg him on. Lurking in the background is a rough looking guy with a mustache who very clearly remembers seeing Emma but won't cop to it.
Back to Manson. He's playing music to a group of women. Emma seems enthralled with him, and tells the woman sitting next to her that she's doing great in her new life. The woman explains that "Charlie" has a vision and that one day he's going to be bigger than the Beatles and "we're going to help him get there."
Now we're introduced to Hodiak's partner Brian Shafe. He's watching TV in a diner and we see people protesting the 10 p.m. curfew. Riots were held in 125 cities across the U.S. in the summer of 1967. Another man walks in and we see the protests going on behind him outside. Shafe conducts some kind of deal with the man and flashes his badge at him, revealing he's a cop. The two men leave the diner and walk right into the thick of the protests. Things are getting heated and when another officer starts shaking down a protester Shafe tries to get the officer to back down. Instead Shafe finds himself on the receiving end of a police beat down. 

We come back to see arrested protesters being unloaded at the Hollywood police station. Hodiak is watching a television report on the Vietnam war with some concern. Shafe came in with the protesters and in the office we see him get into another fight with the officer who brought him in, much to their supervisor's chagrin. Hodiak watches the scuffle and gets an idea. Shafe, who is rather scraggly compared to the other officers because of his undercover position, could be a big help in his efforts to find Emma. He requests to have Shafe work with him and Shafe is none too pleased about it.  As Hodiak explains it, either Shafe works with him or he's back to being a uniformed officer.

On a school campus we once again find Emma's boyfriend Rick. Hodiak grabs him and stuffs him in the car for further questioning. Shafe reminds him he needs to read Rick his rights, the Miranda. Hodiak asks "Who?" and proceeds to tell Rick "You, dirtbag, have the right to......uh... I'll kick your teeth in how's that?"  Shafe and Hodiak argue about doing it right, which ends with Shafe telling him to go find a pay phone and call the station so they can read Rick his rights properly. While Hodiak is gone Shafe is able to get the name Charlie from Rick, as the man Emma left with. He lets him go and when Hodiak returns we realize sending Hodiak out was just a ruse. 
Back at Manson's house Emma has a conversation with another of Charlie's women and realizes she was the one who was messing around with Rick at the party. The woman instructs her to let it go but this could perhaps be the first inkling for Emma that things may not all be as they seem.
Next, Manson is asking Emma who she loves, and reveals more about what he knows of her family. Saying he sees "what they did to you" and claims it's similar to how his mother abandoned him. He goes on to say parents can't see who they really are, special, powerful. Manson's mental seduction turns to a physical one and the other women in the house join him though Emma is clearly uncomfortable with it. A hard scene to watch.
Back to Hodiak and Shafe plotting strategy on how to find "Charlie" though they don't know his last name. If Charlie "gets the girl" like Rick indicated, they decide they need one as bait. Shafe also says he needs 5 or 6 ounces of "good" dope and Hodiak shares that they could get it off his "old man" which seems to blow Shafe's mind a little. Maybe Hodiak isn't quite as square as he seems. The two end up getting the weed from "Mikey", the man we saw with Shafe in the diner when we first met him. While Shafe ransacks the guy's house we get to watch Hodiak stand in the corner and play Mikey's guitar which is both kind of hilarious and awesome.
At the station they convince Officer Charmain Tully to go undercover as the girl to tempt Charlie. Shafe and Charmain head to another party at the same house where Shafe is able to get a last name for Charlie. He plays it off that Charmaine is really interested in "Charlie and his girls." But Manson's right hand man, who we've seen a few times now, isn't going to give them access that easily. He insinuates that he'll have to sleep with Charmain before he'll take them to Charlie. Shafe plays it off that they can "do it in the backseat" on the way to Charlie's. Charmain starts to panic as they leave the party with the man. Shafe ends up pushing him down the stairs and they leave.
When they return to the station Hodiak looks amused at what went down saying, "The love generation plays rough." He leaves to run Manson's name while Shafe and Charmain talk about what happened. She was angry at him for being on drugs during the incident but overall says she loved the undercover work. 
As Hodiak and Shafe look through Manson's record they become more and more horrified over the crimes he's already committed which include assault, attempted murder, rape, and armed robbery. They meet with Manson's parole officer who says Manson was only caught on a federal marijuana possession charge. He says Manson should have been locked up on tougher charges but he got a "fancy lawyer" who made it all go away. We learn that the fancy lawyer is Ken Karn, Emma's father.
At Karn's office a secretary is yelling to him that Mr. Manson is on the phone again. Ken refuses the phone call which angers Manson, who says, "I will reach him." The day moves on to night and Hodiak is with Grace again. He refuses her offer of a drink and shows Grace Manson's file. Grace claims not to recognize him but looks worried when Hodiak explains her husband was Manson's lawyer. He says he thinks this is about Manson and Ken, not Manson and Emma. While they're talking, Ken moves through the parking garage at his office, when Manson shows up. He's clearly angry with Ken for not returning the phone call. Ken tries to leave but Manson isn't having it. He reminds Ken of all the women he lined up for him back in the day, and says all Ken needs to do for him is to introduce him to people he knows in the music business. Ken starts to turn the car on and the song "Danke Schoen" is playing softly when Manson reveals he has Emma. Ken gets out and tries to fight him but is quickly overpowered. A car coming through the garage prevents a further assault but Ken's neck is cut in the scuffle. Manson takes money from Ken's wallet and leaves, saying next time maybe he'll bring Emma so they can get "freaky deaky." The long shot as Manson walks away is both beautifully crafted and unsettling as hell.
Ken arrives home but plays his injuries off as a random mugging. He does not mention Manson. He asks why Hodiak is there, and when Grace explains he knows where Emma is, Ken says, "Great, I'll go pick her up."  At first, when Sam asks if the name Charles Manson rings a bell, Ken says no, but when pressed, claims he did years ago, that Manson is an ex-client. Ken gets angry and orders Hodiak to leave. 
As Hodiak leaves he asks Grace if she likes Ken's secretary. When Grace says no, he tells her to ask the woman for a favor. This is where we begin the second episode, "The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game."
At the Manson house, two of the women are painting an old school bus, Manson is playing guitar, and Emma comes out wrapped in a towel to tell him there's no food in the kitchen. He says the other women are working for the dream and asks Emma what she's doing to help. 
Hodiak meanwhile is trying to get an answer from Manson's parole officer about the last time he checked in. Shafe is angered on his own phone call when he realizes his source Mikey may have ratted out his undercover status. He asks Hodiak to help him deal with Mikey, but on the way there they get pulled away to a murder call in south central LA. The victim is a 62 year old white woman, something Shafe expresses surprise over for "that neighborhood."  Sam and Shafe question the woman's husband Leo Mankin who launches into a racist tirade about his black neighbors, and doesn't have much of an alibi.

AquariusEmmaManson and Emma have left the house for a street where Manson is encouraging her to steal something from a shop. This is in contrast to the lawyers at Ken Karn's firm who are discussing the situation. Ken's boss is furious that the cops are involved, and takes the phone call for Ken when Manson's parole officer calls. We see a cop pull up behind where Manson is parked and for a split second you think maybe he's going to get picked up, but no. The officer goes over to have a chat with a group smoking in front of the store. Emma is about to leave the store with something she stole but hesitates when she sees the officer out front. The hesitation is enough that the store owner grabs her and moves to call the cops. Manson walks into the store and tells Emma to bite the man to get away. Emma does so and flees. Manson turns the radio up and "Cheer Up Sleepy Jean" plays as he attacks the shop owner. 

At the scene of the murder, Hodiak and Shafe discover the victim's husband Leo has brain cancer and is on a variety of drugs. They take a detour to a diner for the "best milkshake in town" to give Leo a chance to stew a little. When they return Hodiak continues to question Leo, pressing him on earlier domestic calls a neighbor had made about the couple. Shafe goes out to question the neighbors about what they saw. It's a mostly black neighborhood and the neighbors seem suspicious of the officers. We remember again that this is set during the summer of 1967, when major race riots were happening in cities across the county. It was only in June of 1967 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional. One woman speaks to Shafe about seeing the suspect Leo at home around 7:30, but the conversation stops when a man approaches them. The man points out to Shafe that 27 black people have been murdered in the neighborhood but not one of them has been solved. Back inside Hodiak uses examples from his own marriage to try and get Leo to level with him. Shafe tells Hodiak about the interruption from the man outside, who we learn is Bunchy Carter and part of the Nation of Islam. Hodiak marches across the street as "bad cop" after telling Leo they're making an arrest in his wife's murder. Hodiak arrests Carter and they take him along to meet with Shafe's snitch Mikey. 

After picking up Mikey they head back to the diner where we were first introduced to him. In the back room of the diner we again get to see Hodiak's bad cop tendencies. Shafe demands that the dealer walk back everything he said about him on his chain of command. The dealer balks and says he wants a deal in writing. Hodiak roughs him up and writes SNITCH on the man's forehead, so there's his deal in writing. 

We next enter the office of Matty Gladberg who is a vice president at Ham Chapel records. Manson is there playing his songs for the VP who tells him he needs to make a demo. Manson heads to the Karns, who are hosting a party for the Young Republicans. He shakes down Ken for some money to make the demo record. Pleased with himself, Manson heads back to the compound. Emma has found a way to feed the group, by dumpster diving behind grocery stores. She asks Manson if he likes cherries, and now he has a name for her. No more innocent Emma, say hello to Cherry Pop.

AquariusCoffeeHodiak is awakened in his apartment by a thud, to find his son Walt home from the Army. Walt is evasive when Hodiak asks how he got leave to come home. The scene quickly changes back to the police station where Hodiak is questioning Bunchy Carter. It's part of his scheme to trap Leo into confessing to the murder of his wife. Leo is very agitated when asked to ID the suspect and that's when Hodiak starts to lay it on. Leo starts threatening to call his lawyer and Hodiak shows him the neighbors who will testify as witnesses, using Leo's own racism against him. Shafe gets very agitated with this method, repeatedly asking Hodiak to step outside with him. Hodiak ends up locking Shafe out of the interrogation room. He ends up using a birthday card Leo's wife had given him, with two ballet tickets in it, to seal the deal on the confession. Just when Leo thinks he's off the hook, Hodiak arrests him saying "Cops can lie but we can't make deals. Wives can be a lot of things but we don't get to beat them to death."

Hodiak then goes to talk with Bunchy Carter as he leaves. They argue briefly with Hodiak calling him a "crook in a new costume" and Carter saying, "You are a living lie. I am the truth who will burn your world to the ground."  Hodiak then finds Shafe in the locker room while they argue about Hodiak's tactics. Shafe wants to know if he would have treated Carter the same way if he was white. Hodiak says he would. Shafe then orders Hodiak to give him a ride home. Hodiak does, and we meet Shafe's wife, Kristin, and his baby daughter, Bernadette. Kristin is black, which again surprises Hodiak. Shafe says he thought Hodiak ought to know if they're going to keep looking for Emma, so he can better understand where Shafe is coming from.

After leaving Shafe's family we see Hodiak trying to understand more about his. Speaking with someone at the station he figures out there's no way his son Walt would have been sent stateside unless one of his parents is dying. Hodiak realizes his wife Opal wrote a fake letter and confronts her. He explains that the Army will come after Walt and he could go to prison. He returns to his own apartment hoping to find Walt there, but he's gone.  

At the Karn's home once again, Grace and Hodiak are talking about about the call log she got from Ken's office that shows how many phone calls he got from Manson. They're talking about how she doesn't really know her husband and about their respective marriages. While they're talking we see Ken arrive at Manson's.  

He gives Manson half the money for the demo, and says he can have the other half when he gets his daughter back. They talk and Manson kisses Ken. Ken eventually returns the kiss, but is startled out of it when his daughter knocks on the door. Manson dismisses "Cherry Pop" and convinces Ken to "be free" and then the episode ends. 

These first two episodes of Aquarius are quite the ride. We're introduced to a lot of characters and themes right from the start.  Old school versus news school, free love, racism, and changing attitudes. It's a lot to take in but not overwhelming. 
Most people coming into the series are aware of Charles Manson and his crimes. Gethin Anthony does a good job of bringing the notorious criminal to life and the crazy intensity he brings out is a little terrifying. I find myself very scared for Emma whenever the two interact. I do at times have a hard time understanding why she's so enthralled with Manson, but as I am no longer a 16-year-old girl that may explain why.
I liked Sam Hodiak right from the start. Fans of The X-Files may be looking for Mulder in David Duchovny's portrayal of Hodiak, but I think it's important to appreciate the character in his own right. Hodiak is a man of an earlier generation who at times seems bewildered by the way things have changed. We get glimpses of that in situations like reading criminals their Miranda rights. Hodiak's methods may be a bit unorthodox at times but it's clear he cares about doing the job well and solving crimes. Hodiak has some great one liners throughout the episodes and I love that about his character. He comes across as tough but the glimpses of his sense of humor are a lot of fun. I do wonder how much of that comes from the writers and how much of that is Mr. Duchovny's style showing. And I want to know more about Hodiak's home life, why his marriage fell apart, and what happened that he no longer drinks.
The chemistry between Hodiak and Brian Shafe, played by Grey Damon, is excellent. Despite being from different eras they work very well together. They definitely don't see eye to eye on much but it's fun to watch them work through those differences. Both characters are obviously very intelligent and I'm looking forward to more scheming between the two to bring criminals down. Shafe has his own issues to wrestle with and you wonder if his progressive viewpoint will continue to chafe at the more conservative police station. He sees much about what's wrong with the system, though to outsiders he's part of the problem, just another cop.  Another thing I found interesting was that though Shafe disagrees with some of Hodiak's methods, he doesn't seem to mind letting Hodiak be the bad cop when it gets him what he needs. 
I'm curious to learn more about the Karn family too, and more about Ken's history with Manson. The end of the second episode was a twist I definitely was not expecting. Ken comes off as a cold unfeeling jerk who his own wife doesn't understand, so to see him under Manson's spell as well was a shock. The interaction between Hodiak and Grace is really sweet and I want to know more about why that relationship ended. 
Overall I really enjoyed these first two episodes. So much is changing in the world these characters live in and it will be interesting to see how they handle the ride. Will Hodiak's old school methods survive in this different era? The themes of racism and social change seem particularly relevant again almost 50 years later, as we see what's changed from that era and what hasn't. 
Will Emma escape Manson's clutches? We've got 11 more episodes to find out. And the soundtrack is fantastic. 
You can watch Aquarius Thursday nights on NBC at 9 p.m. EST or if you're in the mood to binge watch you can catch it on NBC.com, On Demand, on iTunes and Hulu.