1960s Los Angeles. Crime drama. David Duchovny. Charles Manson. Interesting ingredients for Aquarius on NBC. At first I thought it was going to chronologically pick up where Mad Men left off. After all, on Mad Men, Megan had moved to LA and Don increasingly went to California where he found enlightenment in Big Sur in 1970. What if Don had been meditating up in Topanga with Charlie Manson?
Rewind just a bit. Welcome to 1967 and the world of LAPD Detective Sam Hodiack, played by Duchovny. For those of you who’ve binge-watched, I’ve only seen the first couple episodes. Hodiak is a World War II veteran with a drinking problem, an ex-wife problem, and a son who has gone AWOL from duty in Vietnam.
The Hodiack character rings not only true, but represents a formidable place in the history of the LAPD. A large part of the LAPD rank and file in the 1950s and 1960s was WWII veterans. Juxtapose that generation against the tumultuous 1960s, drugs, free love, draft dodgers, and general disrespect for any establishment, and you have an attention-grabbing, conflict-prone backdrop. But where the hell is Jim Morrison?
Producer Marty Adelson told The Hollywood Reporter: “That period was a pivotal moment in our country. I grew up in LA, I was a kid then and it changed everything. We never used to lock our doors until Manson happened. That’s what makes this story so fascinating is that it could turn on a dime.” There is a noir throwback style to this show. Duchovny deftly plays an old school loner with a quick wit and a disdain for lies and rules. Despite his X-Files resume, I see Duchovny more in his space as Hank Moody, but he’s great in Aquarius. He’s cool, unflustered, and has problems. Not unlike a Philip Marlow or Lew Archer.
We’ll see how the revisionist history part works out. The storyline weaves a lot of fiction around Charles Manson, who is portrayed by Gethin Anthony with psychosexual charisma, but he’s really just delusional, desperate, and a manipulator extraordinaire.
“You know what I realized trying to understand people?” Hodiak says. “Don’t try to understand them. I know what I’d kill for and what I’d die for and every day on this job we get to see what other people would kill and die for.”