fri 12/04/2024

Aquarius, Sky Atlantic | reviews, news & interviews

Aquarius, Sky Atlantic

Aquarius, Sky Atlantic

Charles Manson and the squalid underbelly of the hippie dream

Bad trip: David Duchovny as Detective Sam Hodiak

"This ain't the Summer of Love," sang Blue Oyster Cult in 1975. Judging by this intriguing new drama, it might not really have been the Summer of Love in 1967 either, as David Duchovny's Detective Sam Hodiak picks his way through the dope and the kaftans and finds himself on the trail of a menacing little scumbag called Charlie Manson.

Looking older and chunkier, but also sleek and a trifle sleazy, Duchovny slips into the role of an LAPD veteran with a knowing shrug. Though the young undercover narcotics cop he ends up working with, Brian Shafe (Grey Damon, pictured below right), starts off treating him like an unhip daddy-o, he soon begins to appreciate that Hodiak may be secretly cool after all, even if he wears a suit and doesn't have a beard.

The producers are quite keen to keep reminding us that we've been transported to the epicentre of the California dream. The first thing we heard in the opening episode was the mystical jangle of The Byrds' "Everybody's Been Burned" – the song also gave the episode its title – which cut abruptly into The Who's "I Can See For Miles", followed by Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" as we arrived at a party in the Hollywood hills. Assorted psychedeliana continued to swirl away in the background as the story developed.

At the party we first met Manson (Gethin Anthony, pictured below), a manipulative lowlife with a freakish ability to exert a kind of mind control over young women (as the show's exec producer John McNamara put it, "he was a criminal who disguised himself as a hippie"). He makes a beeline for Emma Karn (Emma Dumont), and confuses her with cosmic bullshit about the sparkling lights of the freeway below being an "electric snake" that wants to devour everything (bit of a Jim Morrison moment there, eh Charlie?). Somehow he already knows all about Emma, and how she's unhappy living at home with her uptight, always-arguing parents. It doesn't take much to spirit naive Emma away into the bosom of Manson's odious coven in the canyons.

The plot inevitably thickens. Emma's mother is a former lover of Hodiak, so naturally it's him she calls when her daughter goes missing. The reason Charlie knows so much about Emma is that he has a beef with her father Ken (Brian F O'Byrne), a high-end lawyer with political aspirations who defended Manson on one of the numerous charges on his rap sheet. These range from armed robbery and assault to rape and attempted murder (and more than just attempted, by the end of episode two). Charlie wants Ken to help him break into the music business, and will stop at nothing (even anal rape with the aid of a cutthroat razor) to get what he wants.

It's a strange and murky milieu that's being unearthed here, littered with period background detail about riots on the Sunset Strip, the Vietnam War and the Black Panthers. There's undoubtedly a fascination about peering behind the self-satisfied veneer of Sixties LA, and finding squalor and delusion instead of the much-advertised chemically-enhanced enlightenment. Maybe they've just invented hippie-noir. 

Manson is a manipulative lowlife with a freakish ability to exert mind control over young women


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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