With a second-season order and a hefty collection of drama behind it, NBC’s “Aquarius” brought it all to a head in episode 8. Finally, after spinning its wheels for so long, the drama behind Charles Manson and the Karn family is finally revealed.
The episode begins with Ken Karn’s (Brian F. O’Byrne) law partner visiting him in his office to tell him that he’s been asked to be the California campaign finance chairman for none other than Richard Nixon. It’s welcome news to him professionally, but personally it’s a nightmare since Nixon’s people will be vetting him and all those around him. Not only does this mean he has to find a way to hide Emma’s (Emma Dumont) recent runaways, but also his relationship with Manson (Gethin Anthony) and the reason he is so in debt to him in the first place.
Cut to Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) investigating the disappearance of one of Manson's girls, Caroline Beecher. The police arrested and jailed Manson but his lawyer, Ken Karn, got him off. Hodiak puts himself on the case in order to make good on his promise to his pseudo girlfriend Grace Karn (Michaela McManus) despite their little spat last week.
Before Hodiak can get the investigation underway, his priest comes to the station and drops something else in his lap. He tells Hodiak that he believes the new priest at his church, Father Rowe (Chris Paul Davis), has been stealing money from the collection. Being a member of the church, Hodiak can’t investigate the crime himself, so he asks his friend to do it for him while he goes looking for Beecher.
Meanwhile, Emma is back at Charlie’s compound with the rest of his group when a record producer drops by. It turns out Manson was successful enough in promoting himself as a musician to catch the ear of someone who might be able to help him. Unfortunately for him, and those around him, he chokes and breaks a string on his guitar. The record producer doesn’t seem upset, but Manson pulls Emma aside and tells her that her father and Hodiak coming around all the time have infected his mind with fear. He threatens her to make sure that the producer stays no matter what or he’ll be very upset.
Emma takes the guy in a room with her and, rather than sleep with him, convinces him that Manson’s love is more important than the music. It’s unclear if the record producer actually believes her or is just looking for an excuse to run away, but he leaves and Emma is left terrified of what the unstable Manson will do next.
Surprisingly, Manson wasn’t the scariest thing to come out of this episode. Manson’s muscle, Roy (David Meunier) is in control of the local biker gang and Shafe (Grey Damon) decides to further his undercover investigation by hooking him up with his new mobster contact Jimmy Butano (Michael Drayer). The two got into a scuffle last week so it takes some convincing, but he eventually gets them to agree to meet at the brothel, owned by madam and former drug kingpin Lucille (Clare Carey).
While Shafe is doing his deal, Hodiak’s guy returns with his intel on Father Rowe. Turns out he is stealing money to fund his underground gambling habits. A good cop would have arrested the priest, but Hodiak furthered his moral ambiguity by allowing his priest to go talk to Rowe first. It turns out to be a fatal flaw when, the next day, Hodiak overhears detectives talking about a murder case at a church where a priest was strangled to death. Obviously he can’t reveal that he let the criminal go, but he does use the chance to go to the crime scene as an excuse to attack Rowe.
The episode then focused on Ken as he made decisive moves to protect himself against the coming onslaught of vetting. He makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, to Grace that he’ll stop at nothing to ensure that Nixon becomes the next president of the United States. To do so, he brings an emancipation notice to Emma at Manson’s compound. With her no longer legally his kid, her actions won’t have any bearing on Ken.
Grace seeks comfort in Hodiak, the only man she has left in her life. She goes to his house just in time to discover him in bed with a hooker-turned-nurse that he’d been talking to for information about Beecher. Without a husband, boyfriend or daughter, Grace leaves a defeated woman.
The episode ends on three massive cliff-hangers. The first sees Manson retaliate against his followers for his inability to impress the record producer. He tells them all that they need to refocus on why it is they’re all there and take two very big doses of what is presumably LSD. Emma voices her concerns only to be physically dominated by a very violent Manson. She finally decides she’s had enough and walks away from the drug-fueled group of hippies and off to parts unknown. After all, her family disowned her.
The second cliff-hanger took place at the burlesque house. As it turns out, Lucille isn’t the retired drug kingpin she appeared to be. As Shafe is walking with Butano, Roy guns the mobster down in what is apparently a power grab on Lucille’s part. They both give Shafe a horrifying look that simply carries the subtext: “Are you in or are you out?”
Finally, the big reveal of the night occurs. Ken Karn drives out to the middle of the desert to dig up, presumably, the body of Caroline Beecher. It’s heavily implied in the final moments that Manson merely took the fall for the crime and that Ken actually killed her.
Looks like fans will just have to wait until Episode 9 next Thursday at 9 p.m. EDT to find out for sure.