I keep expecting this season of Aquarius to come up for air, and it keeps not coming up for air. I’m emotionally exhausted, but it’s for the best — the tone of the show, bleak as it is, has evened out this year as the Manson Family creeps toward its inevitable infamy. Since Aquarius can’t rewrite history to get rid of Charlie (if only it could), it’s decided to lean into the darkness, even when the Tate-LaBianca murders aren’t the focus of the hour. Last week’s episode tackled a historic national tragedy, but this one deals a personal blow: first to Shafe and his hair, and then, more seriously, to Sam, who just keeps losing everyone.
On Shafe’s first day as detective, he blames his withdrawal on the flu and shows up at the precinct anyway. Cutler and the other detectives hold him down for a regulation haircut; Sam marches in like he’s going to be his partner’s savior, only to grab the clipper and shave Shafe himself. (“Look at my hair, buddy!”) It’s not a good look, and Sam has fun at his partner’s expense. (“It’s just — who knew you had a chin?”) He should keep those insults coming; humor is the only medicine for this hairstyle. But the partners have barely opened their next case, an investigation into the apparent suicide of a man named Edwin Kimball, when Sam is called into a meeting with Kellaher and Commissioner Garrick.
It looked like Sam was in the clear with Internal Affairs after he went rogue to silence the guy who saw him go rogue (that’s Hodiak logic), but the Theriot murders were only one stain on his record. Kellaher has found several, and he intends to hold Sam accountable for all of them. It’s not personal; it’s business. Also, it’s personal. Sam dated Kellaher’s wife, Lillian, just a few months before they were married. There’s an obvious conflict of interest here. Garrick doesn’t want any drama, but Kellaher’s accusations are serious, so the commissioner agrees to let the investigation continue. “I’ll be back for your impartial conclusions,” he warns, as if impartiality is even possible at this point. Isn’t there another I.A. officer who could take over for Kellaher?
The Only Internal Affairs Officer in Los Angeles proceeds to grill Sam on 13 years of police work, starting with his first case. Sam and Cutler were partners, but Cut took credit for Sam’s part in the investigation, so Sam beat him to what Kellaher describes as “a pulp.” Sam doesn’t apologize. “We had a dispute as men,” he explains. “We settled it like men.” It’s no wonder Charmain is the most productive cop in this precinct. Then there’s the matter of Sam’s favorite informant, who always seems to be where the action is. Kellaher suspects Sam lied under oath; they’ll have to reopen all of Sam’s old cases to be sure, and guilty people could walk free in the process. This is, impartially, not good.
But Sam’s job status is the least of his problems right now. He’s pulled out of his meeting with Kellaher twice: first when Opal is calling (he ignores her in favor of the sports section), and then again, hours later, because Opal has killed herself. Would taking her call have made a difference? The last time we see Opal, she’s visiting Walt with Sam, who’s lost his one bargaining tool. With Wells dead and Walt’s information already in the hands of the Times — who won’t even do him the courtesy of running the piece — Sam has nothing to leverage for his son’s freedom. As Charmain and Shafe both pointed out last week, Walt is technically guilty of the crimes he’s been formally accused of, so Sam tells his wife there’s nothing to be done. Opal’s reply is retroactively devastating: “There’s always something.”
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Sam identifies her body, a scene we’re spared, and sinks back into Cutler’s office to get the rest over with. Kellaher wants a hearing, but Sam is done. “Fire me now or I’ll resign,” he says. “This is about putting my picture in the newspaper next to the words ‘crooked cop,’ and it’ll happen whether I sit through it or not.” Picking up on the fact that Sam is clearly in no place to be making these decisions, the commissioner ends the investigation, calling out Kellaher’s conflict of interest and ordering Sam to take time off. It’s a start, but Sam shouldn’t get too comfy; there are no easy wins on this show.
To add to Sam’s problems, he has to tell Walt that his mom is dead. Just as he’s about to say it, Sam is derailed by the sight of his son’s black eye, which comes with a matching ab bruise. Walt wasn’t hurt at the protest; he eyes the guard as he shakes his head. This is prisoner abuse. Sam looks crushed to have to give Walt any more bad news (David Duchovny does great work in this scene), but before he can say anything, the guard announces his time is up. It’s been one minute. Flinching when the guard grabs his shoulder, Sam manages to share the bad news he at least hopes to change: He doesn’t have a way to get Walt out of here right now.
NEXT: Shafe makes bad choices