“Aquarius” – a television series review by Gary Chew
David Duchovny of X-Files fame is back on broadcast television with Aquarius. It made its two-hour premiere last Thursday evening on NBC. He’s still looking for a missing girl. No, not his younger sister who was abducted by space aliens, but a young woman named Emma Karn, played by Emma Dumont. You see, Fox Mulder isn’t Duchovny’s character. Now, it’s Sam Hodiak and the young Emma has been kidnapped by — of all villains — Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony). It’s 1967, Los Angeles.
Emma comes from an upper class family. Her father (Bryan F. O’Byrne) is a lawyer. Grace Karn is Emma’s mother (Michaela McManus). Looks like Hodiak and Grace are former lovers. Currently, Grace is traumatized by Emma’s sudden disappearance. Hodiak is on the case but his approach for putting bad people away is more in the style of Dirty Harry; not at all like the cosmic and rather soft spoken Mulder who had an interesting thing going with his lovely but sassy sidekick Dana Scully who, now history has revealed, is Gillian Anderson.
The X-Files did routinely get creepy, but not the kind of creepy that Aquarius maintains in its first broadcast. After all, what we have here is Chuckles Manson and his nutso female entourage. And how can we forget the high-sounding rhetorical BS attributed to the real Manson spouting his evil homilies.
Aquarius is more your typical commercial network TV cop procedural; less imaginative and humorous than Chris Carter’s memorable series of two FBI agents with a hard ass FBI boss and a “cigarette smoking man” whose name is never spoken.
With just two hours under our belts, I would guess that Aquarius’s angle is more akin to Mad Men, recalling actual times past. The cars in the street, the clothes, the Nam news coverage — Hodiak has a son fighting in Southeast Asia. And you have to know what time it is with Mick Jagger blurting out the Rolling Stones hit of ’66 called “Paint It Black,” etc.
The series opened with a written message that goes something like this: This story is based on actual events that are combined with fictitious characters and events. So that means, as well as I can recall, those unpleasant Manson Years of the former Vacaville “resident” didn’t actually kidnap a teenage girl who Sam Hodiak is determined to fetch back for her mother … who, in turn, also happens to be Sam’s old main squeeze. It all sort of fits together as a police procedural that commercial broadcast network television might have it.
For me, there are too many scenes with such a paucity of lighting that I couldn’t tell who some of the characters were that spoke, especially those in the cast with new faces. Lots of background music and sound are also ridden at a high enough volume to cover words of dialogue.
Next Thursday, NBC settles Duchovny into a one-hour Aquarius at the 10 o’clock hour, preceded by the third season premiere of Hannibal with Mads Mikkelsen and (Whoops!) Gillian Anderson. That it can’t be long before aging X-Files freaks get to see (this time) two middle-aged FBI agents known as Mulder and Scully doing the good work they ought to do, I so want to believe.