The Aquarius we’re leaving at the end of season 1 isn’t the same as the Aquarius we met earlier this summer. In my recap of the series premiere, I said that it felt like the show was looking at the symptoms rather than the cause of the era’s unrest, but only because the characters did the same. What else could they do? As it turns out, that’s been the question of the season, which has traded the symptoms for the cause — or at least found so many patterns in the symptoms that they start to look like the cause — for those characters willing to pay attention. But they also have to be willing to pay the price.
After “selling the last shred of his soul” to Ken last week, Sam is still having trouble convincing Walt to lay low; even Shafe can’t get through to him. Just as Sam and an officer named Halpert (who got his orders “from top of the top,” because Ken secretly runs the country) finalize a deal for Walt’s immunity and dishonorable discharge, Walt calls. He took the documents to Salazar anyway and then turned himself in. Halpert and Sam both compromised their standards for nothing. It’s not even clear what Salazar did with the documents, but Walt is satisfied. “Soldiers need to know the war we’re fighting,” he says. “We all do.” If there’s a message behind this show, that might be it, but now a murderer is walking free for no reason. Is this just a matter of weighing the many casualties against the few? Talk about a war.
And the murderer in this scenario isn’t even the infamous one. Via flashbacks, we learn that although Charlie was the orchestrator, it was Ken who actually ended Caroline Beecher’s life, stabbing her in the throat repeatedly with a shovel. Now, he’s got another dead body on his hands: Hal accidentally killed one of Charlie’s girls. It involved hitting an artery; don’t think about it. He left her at Charlie’s place when he went to find Ken, which was an awful plan — Charlie now has the body, with Hal’s DNA all over it, and he won’t give it up.
Ken deals with this problem the only way he knows how: with more murder. He spikes Hal’s drink with pills until he’s all but passed out, then drives him to a secluded area, locks the doors of the car, and pulls out a fake suicide note. But the pills didn’t quite do the trick — Hal rouses himself and fights back, grabbing for the gun. It goes off twice, but this is where we leave them. Was anyone shot? Were they both?
Those aren’t even the only ambiguous gunshots of the hour. Using DeMurray’s description, Charmain finds a match for Raymond Novo’s killer: Richard Theriot, a 28-year-old with multiple arrests for robbery, solicitation, and sexual assault. He’s their guy. Sam and Shafe stage an expertly coordinated raid, but there’s someone else in the house: Richard’s brother, who may have helped him kill Novo. Sam uses Richard to draw the brother’s fire, killing Richard, then fights the brother and snaps his neck. Ken’s assertion that he and Sam are the same isn’t looking too far off base at the moment.
Since neither suspect is left alive, the police commissioner is called in to investigate. He asks if both men had to die. Shafe insists that they did, but Sam cuts him off: They didn’t. He used Richard as a decoy. As for this brother, Sam says, “I wanted him to die.” Shafe looks like he’s contemplating unemployment. He still doesn’t know the world he lives in; the commissioner announces that they’ll both be receiving the medal of valor for closing this case so neatly, which is to say that they kept the sordid details of the killings from coming out in trial.
NEXT: Valentine’s day