It’s the middle of the season on Aquarius, and it feels like we’re already too late. The opening flash-forward of this episode finds Sam getting the call about the Tate murders and heading out to face them; from there, we jump back a year and find him again in the wake of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, which we (thankfully) don’t have to watch in real time. We’re caught in limbo between the aftermath of one murder and the aftermath of others. The fact that all of the violence in this episode happens off camera doesn’t soften the blow; if anything, it adds to the frustration. There’s a sense some of it could be stopped if the right people would just pay attention.
After his brush with Kennedy, Sam was rewarded with a photo of a new missing girl inside an envelope addressed to “RFK’s no. 1 detective!” Now he’s got a lead: The girl’s name is Gail, and her aunt reported her missing two months ago to a different precinct. Gail was so shy, her aunt pushed her to put a lonely hearts ad in the paper; unsurprisingly, most of the letters she got in response were from married men. One of the letters asked Gail to meet up in an abandoned storefront, but it doesn’t have any prints. It seems like checking out the storefront would be a good next step, but Sam just shrugs at the latest dead end and turns his attention to other cases, which is what Cutler wants anyway.
What does Cut have against this case? He goes out of his way to assign more work to Sam, even though Moran is totally free, just to keep Sam from digging into the missing girls. The first task on Sam’s expanded agenda is the murder of an old white lady, Ms. Spector, whose maid Dierdre found her dead when she got to work in the morning. Dierdre says the old lady fired her last cook a week ago, but when Sam questions him, the cook says he quit; Spector wouldn’t stop calling him racial slurs.
Sam suspects Spector did the same to Dierdre, wearing her down until she snapped, but he proves his theory in an awful way. After gaining her trust (it’s eerie to see him smile so much), Sam flips, launching into a barrage of racial slurs (this is much worse). “All of those things she called you, you are!” Sam yells as Dierdre breaks down crying. When Shafe drags Sam out of the room to make him stop, Dierdre pulls her pocketknife from her bag. She seems set to kill herself before Shafe grabs her, holding her as she apologizes; she just couldn’t take it anymore.
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Sam has manipulated suspects before, but this has to be the most upsetting con he’s ever played. This isn’t an isolated incident — a white cop holding a black woman on nothing more than a vague suspicion and then verbally assaulting her until she confesses — and it takes on significance that Sam’s white lies to white boys do not. Despite his insistence that Dierdre is “not a victim; she’s the murderer,” she is a victim of a racist system, so if there’s ever a case for Sam to play by the book, this is it. Her confession is beside the point. The fact Sam assumes Shafe only objects because he sees his wife in Dierdre doesn’t help; she shouldn’t need a personal connection to a white man to be worthy of fair treatment. It’s not that the show supports Sam’s approach — it’s just that picking and choosing when we can support Sam’s disregard for the rules is kind of exhausting.
NEXT: Dogs in space