Aquarius: Season 1

Sorry for the gap in postings, between Christmas and moving into a new house, i didn’t have much time for writing! Hopefully a bit more back to usual now.

aquariusThe concept is that this is “inspired by” the story of Charlie Manson. It’s a setup that immediately grabs attention because it’s the kind of story that tv series and films are made of, and this one is true to boot. I thought the whole thing was going to be told though from the police point of view, so focusing on the investigation of his crimes. But the series in fact starts in the early days of Charlie’s group and the narrative is divided roughly evenly between Charlie and the police who will eventually investigate him, but for now have relatively little contact. Apparently the full plot will take 6 seasons, which seems optimistically ambitious.

The bad news is that I didn’t actually get along with the Charlie Manson chunks of the series. It was sort of conceptually interesting, but watching it play out was a bit tedious. It’s one thing to read accounts of his belief system, philosophy and musical leanings, but it’s quite another to have to sit through his witterings and his dopey, mostly interchangeable followers.

On the other hand, the police procedural bits work quite well, the 1960s Hollywood setting brings a hefty noir tone and has all the contrasts of glamour and success alongside civil rights issues and poverty. The local politics factor in quite heavily, as do the attitudes towards race and sex. The problem is that the cases sort of meander around, some spanning multiple episodes and others seemingly incomplete. I know I wasn’t paying the greatest attention which wasn’t helping, but I often lost track of characters and investigations.

What made me stick through the thirteen episodes was David Duchovny as the lead detective. He is having a great time with this role, blending humour and depth just as he managed in the X-Files. The character is a bit of a mess admittedly, a mix of “of his time” police brutality and racism, but also open minded when it comes to supporting his female colleague for example. Objectively, it’s a fudge, trying to make a character of that age a realistic period character, while also making him likeable, but each individual scene with him works in isolation and is interesting and fun to watch.

Overall this series is a bit of a muddle. Some bits work really well, others not so much. David Duchovny just about holds it all together and makes it watchable, but it’s a close run thing. I think they’d have been better off being less ambitious in scope, either dropping the Manson angle altogether or coming in much later in the story and telling it solely from the investigators’ point of view. David Duchovney leading a procedural set in 60s Hollywood would have been a good enough set up for most people and would have been easier and ultimately more successful I think.

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