After last week’s murder finale, “Aquarius” proved it has graduated to a different caliber television show. It continued that trend in Episode 9 -- “Why?” -- by tackling every hot issue, including race, gender and police violence.
It’s Christmas in LA, 1967, and there’s a storm brewing. The most brutal episode of the series kicked off with Ken Karns (Brian F. O’Byrne) visiting Manson once again. This time he’s there to break ties with him. Last week’s episode ended with Ken digging up the body of the girl he apparently killed and for whom Manson took the fall. Without the burial site to lead the police to, Ken no longer has to fear Manson. Rather than be enraged at the news he’s lost his leverage, Manson is inspired. He makes a speech about people being trapped in their own worlds and not allowing his love to set them free. The rant ends with him asking Ken directly if he loves him.
Meanwhile, Shafe (Grey Damon) is still covered in blood from witnessing Jimmy Butano’s murder last week. He’s back at the precinct telling Hodiak (David Duchovny) and Cutler (Chance Kelly) he’s not willing to make himself a witness to the murder if it means blowing his cover. He wants the entire drug trafficking operation, not just one guy. He and his informant Mike (Jason Ralph) go back to the brothel to get in good with Roy (David Meunier) and Lucille (Clare Carey), who are taking over the drug ring. He’s just making some headway when he gets a call from Hodiak, bringing the worst kind of news.
Charmain (Claire Holt) was out on her first ride along with two male police officers. They were getting breakfast at a coffee shop in a Black Panther-friendly neighborhood when a hooded gunman walked in and mercilessly shot the two male officers. Charmain, through a combination of luck and training, escaped unscathed. With two cops dead, it’s all hands on deck as the entire force converges on this one investigation.
Hodiak, who has proved time and again to be the honorary mentor and father figure to Charmain, manages to snap her out of shock and rely on her detective training to give him the clues he needs to track down the shooter. She didn’t see much but, in an emotional scene between the two characters, she was able to provide a description of the getaway car and that the shooter was white.
From there, the hunt was on. Detective Ed Cutler sums up the rest of this episode in his rousing pep talk to the department saying: “No theories. I see anyone waste a single second on tears, fire yourself. … Time is the enemy. This guy is our prey, and we hunt with God’s fury until he is either caged or we’re dead.”
As the police track down every lead, Shafe pulls Hodiak aside to reveal he’s got a member of the Black Panthers in the neighborhood at the station. In a surprising move, Hodiak lays his cards on the table and gives up every bit of information they have on the shooter, including the fact that he believes it's a white man. Hodiak managed to get him to use the Panther's power to help the police canvas the neighborhood. He convinces the Panthers leader that the only way to keep SWAT teams from being a constant presence in the area is to catch the killer. As the police continue to chase leads throughout the night, word comes that two more police officers have been shot to death in the same area.
With the Panther’s help, Hodiak and Shafe make it to the residence of Glen Lesick, who is absolutely the shooter given how very villainous he looks. Shafe approaches the house with an excuse about owing Lesick money. His cover confirms Lesick is in the house but forces him to go inside. Hodiak goes around back and manages to bust in at the right moment to save Shafe from getting his brains splattered all over the kitchen wall.
Here is where things get really out of control. Lesick’s lawyer makes it clear to police he’s going to tear their case apart in court because they have no hard evidence linking him to the crime. Hodiak immediately pulls Charmain into the men’s locker room and, right in front of everybody, tells her that sometimes being a detective means breaking the rules. He tells her he needs her to lie and say she is able to recognize Lesick from the coffee shop even though he was wearing a mask at the time. She’s hesitant about lying, but once Hodiak makes it about being a real detective or a fake one, he manipulates her into violating her ethics.
The intense episode ends with Hodiak alone at a bar sipping a margarita with a little surprise floating in it. After Ken convinced Manson he can’t go after Hodiak with a gun without bringing the fury of law enforcement down on him, his followers and Ken himself, Manson decides to try and open Hodiak’s mind. He has one of his girls slip, what is presumably, LSD into Hodiak’s drink as he takes a big long gulp from the glass.
“Aquarius” airs Saturday nights on NBC at 9 p.m. EDT.