Aquarius, season 1, episode 6, “Sick City,” is named after a Charles Manson song and apparently the city of Los Angeles, where a closeted, self-loathing high priced lawyer can propel himself into national politics if he can dig up his Manson (Gethin Anthony) ties before his bosses get out their shovels.
Former Manson attorney Ken Karn (Brian F. O’Byrne), whose daughter Cherry Pop (Emma Dumont) pulled a Houdini and reapparated at the Manson ranch, gets the good news that he’s been nominated as Richard Nixon’s California campaign manager. Then he gets the bad news that the Republican National Committee is going to vet him. As if any of them could pass a background check. Being part of the political machine, they probably want to see that Ken is actually evil enough to get behind the ticket. They should probably go to the Spahn Ranch and see if any of the Satan motorcycle club might want to try their hand at it.
The first thing Ken does, of course, is jettison his family. He takes a trip to the Manson’s commune and tells Cherry Pop that he’s talked it over with her mom they decided she’s free to get herself legally emancipated. It’s funny how Cherry Pop’s mom Grace (Michaela McManus) will crush Ken’s scrotum for being a pussy about his daughter in everything else her husband does, but forgives everything and asks no questions after his manly proclamation that he wants this job. A promotion trumps parental care.
But it doesn’t trump a homicide. If only he could get that pain in the ass cop, who’s fucking his wife, off his daughter’s trail, but there is no statute of limitation. And even if there were, murder doesn’t look good on a resume. Covering up a murder is fine, but if one falls out of some rocks in the desert after 20 years, the Nixon people are going to put Howard Hunt on it. Ken’s partner Hal warns that Hodiak is investigating the 1959 disappearance of a hooker named Caroline Beecher, who was one of Charlie’s girls.
Sam Hodiak (David Duvhovny) is tracking the hooker’s death because Ken doesn’t want him to. Hodiak gets right into it. He knows a pross (did they call prostitutes prosses in 1967 or is that just a politically correct whitewash we put on it now?) named “Nurse” Martha Kendall, who could shed some light on it. And if not, at least she offers Duchovny a new fling for the episode as he tries for Captain Kirk’s sexual conquest of the week status.
Sam is more open to sexual exploration than the rat Mike, who’s getting his Peach Pussycat whipped by Lucille and thinks she’s some kind of sick bitch. But that sort of thing gets her in good with biker gangs like Roy’s Satans club. Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) plays a little devil’s advocate and unknowingly sets up budding Mafioso Jimmy Too for sacrifice.
The priest who helped Sam make sense of the gay crucifixion killing last week calls in the favor. It seems the pastor has been skimming about $500 a week off the top of the collection plates. Father Mack doesn’t want to get his boss in trouble. He wants to keep it under his robe. Hodiak seems to have unlimited time and resources to throw at the priest who heard one too many confessions from the cop. In this case, Hodiak uses a washed up gumshoe who needs a break, because old cops know everything.
It turns out Father Mac was right. His degenerate gambler of a boss got in in deep with the local mob and isn’t above breaking a bunch of commandments to pay it off. Sam warns his good friend Ed Cutler (Chance Kelly) that he’s going to need few more good men to hold him off from breaking the jawbone of an asshole murdering pontiff before he jumps his old dinner buddy.
Cutler has been showing more of a sense of humor in the past few episodes. His relationship with Hodiak seems to constrict and contract. They are obviously close enough to love and hate each other. They watch each other’s backs even as they’d love to be the first to get the knife in. If anyone else even tried, each of them would break an arm before letting them get close. Cutler’s sleeping with Sam’s estranged wife, and Sam’s sleeping with her too. But still Sam gets on the phone with Cutler’s wife to help him stick to a story, even though the buzz-topped cop was actually sticking it to Cutler’s wife. If they were part of the Facebook generation, all of their relationship statuses would say “complicated.” Tough relationships take their toll on tough cops who sometimes can’t get out of the starting gate.
Cherry Pop is a self-starter. For a new arrival, she has certainly become the center of Manson’s world and his biggest cheerleader. When she sits on the lap and shotguns hits to record producer Elliot Hillman during Charlie’s al fresco audition, he would have signed the broken guitar strings. It didn’t matter that Charlie had a cop in his head, Hillman wanted a folk rock Johnny Cash singing “Folsom Prison Blues.” It was Cherry Pop in Charlie’s head, he just dropped some letters and he ordered the former Emma to drop a double dose of Smiley Faces as penance. Maybe it’s me, but if my punishment was two tabs of acid I might be more inclined to misbehave. I’m just saying.
It’s a sick city because the politicians all have roles in a morality play they’re not equipped to play unless they pay. Ultimately, the audience is going to have to see Manson devolve further into the sociopathic narcissist he needs to be for this to work, but the seeds are being sown into why he becomes who he will be. He is a product of the city. He was paid off by the city. He was a third class pimp being handled by a first class lawyer. That means Manson’s product was either better than he gets credit for or someone in the capital building was slumming.
“Sick City” is basically a caper that moves the series forward. They gang isn’t exactly taking on the problems of the world this week. They’re staying closer to home.
“Sick City” was written by Alexandra Cunningham & Mike Sheehan and directed by Jon Amiel.