Tensions are flaring in South Central LA this week.
While most of Aquarius Season 1 Episode 5 was spent on setting up episodes to come, it also worked as a character study of Hodiak. He was assigned to investigate the murder of a man he had considered a friend, which led to examination of his own feelings about race.
Cassius "Cass" Thomas is murdered before his barbershop is burnt to the ground. With a threatening message left in front of the building, the initial assumption is that the fire was set by the Black Panthers as intimidation. Hodiak, of course, susses out what really happened.
As Hodiak tries to work the case, he runs into resistance from both the Panthers and the police. The Panthers (correctly) believe there is a cover up with Michael Younger's murder, and want the neighborhood beat cop arrested before anyone cooperates on Cass' murder.
This opens the door on intra-culture conflict of the Black community. Bunchy may have complained about lack of police action before, but now he's the one stopping an investigation.
Bunchy's defection from the Nation of Islam to the Black Panthers is more than just an expression of his growing frustrations. While he tells Hodiak that he helped "push out the contradictions," his complete rejection of his former group for the new one says something else.
He's changed everything – his hair, his clothes, even his patterns of speech. He's a young man who is frustrated with the world around him, but doesn't know how to deal with it. He's trying on ideologies like a suit. Exchange the Nation of Islam suit and bow tie for the Black Panther beret and sunglasses. It rings false to Hodiak.
I don't know what you're talking about, Bunchy, and I don't think you know what you're talking about.Hodiak
Of course, Hodiak doesn't really have a grasp on the situation, either. He thinks that because he frequents Nate's diner for milkshakes or used to drink with Cass, he can't be a racist. He's not the one choking kids or burning stores, after all.
But sometimes what you don't do is just as important as what you do. While Bunchy may be joining these groups as an emotional reaction, that doesn't negate that there are real injustices prompting him. That Hodiak doesn't see them as problems he should get involved with sets him up as a collaborator in Bunchy's eyes.
While Hodiak is trying to solve two murders, Grace is trying to get her life back to normal. Too bad she doesn't realize that her obsession with image is what drove Emma to run away in the first place. Still, she has some words of wisdom for her daughter. Too bad Emma is too enthralled to hear them.
Grace: I know about boys who break the rules. Boys who don't care what the world thinks of them. Here's what I know about the bad boys that you don't: They do care about the rules. They care so much they can't stop thinking up ways to break them. And you know what ends up broken? You.
Grace has her own version of a bad boy in Hodiak. Or at least she did. Of course, she ends up being the one that breaks him. She lashes out at him when Emma disappears, and he dives back into the bottle.
I still can't decide if Manson's obsession with Emma has to do with Emma herself or with the control it gives him over Karn. After his attempted blackmailing of Banyin in the parking garage, it's clear that what he gets off on is power over other people. Breaking the rules is just a way to gain and exercise that power.
As for what's going on with Walt, he's also making his father face the idea that sometimes not speaking up is just as bad as doing something. Walt is determined to publicize the bombings in Cambodia, which finally makes me like him and his storyline.
And Shafe make's headway on the drug case, which is now connected to Manson. I do think this is starting to push the bounds of believability, but it's convenient for both detectives that Shafe is at Spiral Ranch to keep Hodiak from killing Manson. Shafe cements his undercover credibility, and Hodiak doesn't go to jail.
On a side note, one thing I appreciate about Aquarius is that secondary characters are not introduced exactly as they're needed and then discarded. For example, we met Nate in Aquarius Season 1 Episode 3 simply as a guy who makes a mean milkshake, and tonight he sheds light on the case while explaining Hodiak doesn't really understand race relations.
Nate: You know what, Sam? You're right; I'm a black man.
Hodiak: Yes, and Nate, I'm your friend.
Nate: No, no no. You are not my friend. I like you, Sam. But yet and still we ain't never gonna be friends for real.
This episode was mainly lacking because Tully made no appearance, and Shafe was only minorly featured. The fact that Tully is only used when the writers deal with female specific issues is a detriment to the show. Even if she is just in the background, at least she'd be present. She's the only chance to pass the Bechdel test, and she shouldn't be wasted.
Watch Aquarius online and tell us what you think in the comments. What will the fallout be from Hodiak's beat down? Will Emma ever come to her senses? Have we seen the last of Bunchy?
Elizabeth Harlow was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She left the organization in October 2018.