Aquarius is at its best when it fails. This episode was a poignant example of the “missed it by that much” cop ethos of Get Smart. Aquarius doesn’t plumb it for effect either, like The Following did, where every scene the cops showed up in time to smell the sweat of the killers, but never once in time to stop the killing. And they could have been in the next room.
Unsolved murders work on Aquarius because of David Duchovny. There’s something about him that just feels more comfortable in unsolved territories. Duchovny is, of course, an icon of the unsolved. More cases went unfinished than there were collars on The X-Files, but that was the point. Duchovny and Gillian Anderson parodied it on The Simpsons and it’s still a mystery what he saw in Gary Shandling (I laugh out loud just picturing Duchovny with the ping pong paddles at Shandling’s buzzer, my favorite of all his roles). Even his role on Californication and certainly his drag-cop turn on Twin Peaks benefited from red shoes and unseen clues.
So it isn’t a stretch seeing the former Denise Bryson as a faded grannie in the LA gay bars. Hodiak apparently went undercover in the bad days before the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Hodiak pulled his Judas Cop routine right after the midnight kiss on New Year’s Eve in 1952, if my math is correct. Los Angeles had already had their own gay antii-harrassment riots in 1959 after the Mattachine Society and DOB were busted for donning drag. The Compton’s Cafeteria riot happened in San Francisco in 1966.
It might seem that the younger, seemingly hipper, narc Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) would have adapted to the times better than the buzz-topped older investigator, but even Hollywood was behind at the time. Their “stars can be dead, but they can’t be dead homos,” even if they’ve been crucified. Maybe especially when they’ve been crucified. So when Hodiak tasks Brian with playing a “chatty no-apologies flaming homosexual” to troll for clues, he knows it’s a ready-made cold case. But he doesn’t see that the narc has already been tainted by his job. Gays are addicts, he believes. Narcs see everyone as a junkie, it’s an occupational hazard.
It’s also an occupational hazard for a cop to bear the brunt of his partner’s crimes. The episode opens with Charlie Manson (Gethin Anthony) getting the drop on Ed Cutler (Chance Kelly) and getting the temporary top cop to drop his pants. Cutler does a good job retaining his status as a character you barely care about. But he pushes that into one you’re rooting for to be shot when he continues piling on the paperwork for the policewoman with the bad poker face.
Officer Charmain Tully (Claire Holt) takes on the sexism of the squad room and Hollywood as the ever-forward thinking Hodiak pushes her to be an investigator. And she does it all to the Jungle Book rhythms of Louis Prima. While Hodiak finds out that the handsome matinee idol wasn’t looking for a leading lady through the coded language that “there were no girls” at the after-hours studio party, Tully gets nailed.
The best line of the night has to be the opening exchange between Hodiak and his life-long priest informant. The seasoned detective asks the priest if he thinks there are any religious connotations to the slayed actor, the priest says “well, he was crucified.”
I know Paul McCartney didn’t invent Mother Mary (even if he does own the song “Happy Birthday to You”), but with the Manson obsession with the Beatles well-documented, it begs some questions. This is supposed to be 1967, Susan Atkins is already known as Sadie (Ambyr Childers), albeit not Sexy Sadie. This seems to jibe with the Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter, which claimed that the song “Sexy Sadie,” itself about a horny guru, confirmed Manson’s belief that the Beatles were singing at him. He’d already rechristened Susan Atkins as Sadie Mae Glutz.
I’d heard that Atkins was part of the Church of Satan before she joined the Family and did some kind of vampire theater. I happened to have just interviewed Zeena Schreck, the daughter of Anton LaVey who founded the church. Although she renounced the Church of Satan and all it’s pomps, Zeena was able to give some kind of clarification.
“Susan Atkins first met Manson in October ’67 in San Francisco,” Zeena said. “Only a few months prior to her meeting Manson, she was hired by my father to portray a Vampire in his North Beach Witches Review, a burlesque show he ran as a side-business during the early years of the CoS. So she was living in San Francisco in 1967 and didn’t move to L.A. until she went with Manson in 1968.” Bugliosi has Atkins meeting Manson in late 1967.
Mary Brunner (Abby Miller) wasn’t only known as Mother Mary, she was also called Marioche, Mary Manson, Linda Dee Manson and Christine Marie Euchts. Brunner was the first of the Manson family. She met Charlie in 1965 after he got out of Terminal Island prison. Manson got Brunner pregnant, sorry, knocked her up, in the summer of Love,1967 and she gave birth to Pooh Bear “Valentine Michael” Manson on April 15, 1968. The name came from Robert Heinlein’s 1961 science fiction classic novel Stranger In A Strange Land.
Cherry Pop (Emma Dumont), the newest dropout from the privileged class, gets the honor of declaring Mother Mary’s baby “ours,” making Charlie a happy lighthouse keeper.
The gay slay case coda, which showed that Brian was on the right track all along, was a nice bit of frustration worthy of an X-Files entry. We just know that the crime will remain usolved because the victims are from the gay “underworld,” and not many sixties cops were that enthusiastic about solving them. The episode definitely benefited from the ambiguity.
“Cease to Resist” was written by Sera Gamble and directed by Michael Waxman.