HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Aquarius: Season 1
HTS Overall Score:75
It’s the Age of Aquarius, or at least the time period for that type of thing. It’s the 1960s, and there is more sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and hippies that you can shake a stick at. It’s the time when love is everywhere, even when some use that “love” create a reign of terror that will be immortalized almost 50 years later, creating one of America’s biggest serial killer legends. Everyone remembers Charlie Manson and his “Manson Family”, a group of hippies led by a psychopath who terrorized the Los Angeles greater area for years. The entire nation was shocked when Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by Manson. “Aquarius” acts as a prequel to these tragic events, chronicling the start of the famous serial killer and the detective who tried to take him down (albeit a fictional cop).
While Charles Manson is most certainly a historical figure, much of what happens in “Aquarius” is heavily fictionalized. While that is true of most historical recreations, it’s much more so in “Aquarius” as the character of Sam Hodiack (Duchovny), the lead detective in charge of tracking down Manson, is completely taken from the creator’s minds rather than from the history books. To put it succinctly, “Aquarius” is a cop drama set in the 60s and based upon a scenario where a 45+ year old cop is having to solve a missing person’s case and looking at all the crazy “hippies” invading the U.S. of A. Hodiack is your typical hardnosed cop with a crop top, doing his thankless job day to day. Called in by his ex-girlfriend to solve the case of their missing daughter, he gets in a bit over his head. Little does he know, his ex’s daughter has actually hooked up with none other than Charlie Manson. At this point just a petty criminal with dope infused dreams of chasing the nation.
Thus begins a cat and mouse game that will have Hodiack and Manson playing a game of cop/criminal chess for the rest of the season. Manson is something this world had never seen before. A hippie with the mind of killer, he’s somehow been able to influence dozens (and soon hundreds) of deluded youth into forming a commune and follow his every word. Even by the first episode you can see the foreshadowing, with Manson mentally manipulating young women and men into following his every depraved whim, and it by the second episode we already see the bath of blood starting as a trickle. Interestingly enough, “Aquarius” is not just about Manson and Hodiack’s cat and mouse game. Hodiack has himself a brand new narcotics partner by the name of Brian Shafe (Grey Damon), who acts as the foil for the older and rather lawless cop. Duchovny plays Hodiack as your typical rule bending cop, who does what he has to in order to get the bad guys, even if what he has to isn’t exactly coloring within the lines. Shafe is the direct opposite, young and “hip”, ready to follow the letter of the law, even if it’s completely ludicrous in the situation.
Fleshing out the themes of the series, we see issues of feminism and racial tensions, both of which were HUGE hot spots in the 60s. In the second episode we see Hodiack using race baiting and a few underhanded tactics to twist a confession out of a suspect, and there are recurring themes about the oppression that went on for colored people in those days. Surprisingly, it goes both ways, showing not only the oppression and societal fears during that time period, but also some of the overtly over the top fanatics for those people as well. A seedy side that shows that even good intentions can come with some nasty front runners.
With all of this turmoil and drama boiling away under the surface, “Aquarius” suffers and falters, because, when you really get down to it the show is just another police procedural. The cat and mouse game between Manson (played to a T by Gethin Anthony) is a hoot to watch, but unfortunately takes back seat to many a “bad guy of the week” episode. As frustrating as that is, the characters of Manson and Hodiack are ironically what saves the show. Gethin Anthony is equal parts crazy and creepy, playing Manson in an over the top manner that just fits the grandiose ideals of the cult leader. However, the character that actually has me clicking the play button for the next episode is Duchovny himself. The man just exudes charisma in everything he does, from an F.B.I. agent with a penchant for the supernatural, a college professor who’s looking on taking out some aliens with shampoo, to a whacked out author who gets in waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much trouble for his own good. It doesn’t matter WHAT he’s in, David Duchovny is just a whole lot of fun to watch. His cliché ridden role as Sam Hodiack is big cheesy grin worthy, as you just wanna see WHAT the nut job detective is going to do next. Even if you wince when he actually does it.
The episode list:
Everybody's Been Burned
The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game
Never Say Never to Always
Home Is Where You're Happy
A Change Is Gonna Come
A Whiter Shade of Pale
Cease to Resist
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Your Mother Should Know
(Please Let Me Love You and) It Won't Be Wrong
Old Ego Is a Too Much Thing
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=53922[/img]Here’s where it gets interesting. “Aquarius” looks almost “gauzy” with a heavily desaturated color palette that uses very dirty shades of brown and yellow to imitate that “feel” of the 60s. That naturally tends to rob some of the detail and “pop” that one would be expecting for a new Hi-Def release. That isn’t to say there is a lack of fine detail, as there is plenty to go around. Up close shots look very nice, with plenty of little nuances to the picture, outside of the odd color palette, and long shots usually look very nice. There’s some haziness and softness to the image due to that gauzy texture, but it’s nothing egregious. Black levels are usually decent, but sometimes look washed out due to that color grading that is going on. Definitely solid enough ,and looking rather nice, the encode just doesn’t sparkle and pop like a shiny digital release would be imagined.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=53930[/img]The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track, on the other hand, is not lacking in any way shape or form. The aggressive track is a wonderful mix of 1960s original music, blended in with some truly exceptional mixing of dramatic moments with scenes of explosive violence. We can go from a quiet moment where Manson is soothingly trying to sweet talk a convert, to the crash of feet hitting doors, and Hodiack slapping someone around the next. Bass is deep and guttural, adding a nice weighty feeling to the more action oriented scenes, as well as kicking hard with the burgeoning 60s rock music score that permeates the series. The back channels never have to worry about job security, as they get quite the workout with plenty ambiance from the busy Las Angeles cityscape, or the score winding its way in and out throughout the episodes. Truly superb from beginning to end, and I don’t say that very often about TV show mixing.
• First Look: "Aquarius"
“Aquarius” is a series that has a lot of fantastic ideas, but gets mired down with the realization that they couldn’t get most of those ideas off the floor outside of the well-worn path of a police procedural. I’m not saying that it’s a bad police procedural, but the psychedelic and definitely star reaching of the ideas just aren’t as fully realized as they could be in that particular genre. The actors do a fine job, and the writing is well done. It’s just been done before. Audio is simply fantastic for the release, and while the heavily stylized video can be a bit off putting for those of you looking for eye candy, it still is more than capable of rendering the visual aspect of the creator’s Catharsis. At the very least an interesting rental.
Starring: David Duchovny, Gethin Anthony, Emma Dumont
Created by: John McNamara
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Runtime: 546 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 15th, 2015
Buy Aquarius: Season 1 Blu-ray on Amazon
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