No one said it would be a good change.
Credit: Vivian Zink/NBC
S1 E5
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NBC has made all 13 episodes of Aquarius available online after the May 28 premiere, because everything is helter skelter and we have to live for the now. The show will still be airing Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET; if you’re watching live each week, come back here after “A Change Is Gonna Come” airs on June 18. If you’re watching online, read on—or view the entire episode here in all its glory.

When things fall apart on Aquarius, they really fall apart, don’t they? Just about everything that the last episode set right—Sam and Grace’s relationship, Sam and Shafe’s partnership, Emma—hit a roadblock here. And as things break down for our characters, the city and country spiral with them.

Sam is called out to South Central after firefighters find Cassius Thomas dead inside his burned store—but it wasn’t the fire that killed him. Cass was shot. When Sam worked this beat as a rookie, he and Cass were friends, and he’d like to get justice. But tension between the police and the local community is escalating in the wake of a young black boy’s murder. (1967 or 2015? You decide.) The Black Panthers believe that a cop was responsible for the death of 15-year-old Michael Younger, and they won’t help find Cass’ killer while Michael’s killer walks free.

The Panthers believe that the culprit is Officer Tolson, an obvious racist who says Michael used to run errands for him. Tolson claims to suspect Bunchy Carter, who joined the Panthers after renouncing the Nation of Islam, but he doesn’t seem particularly worried about finding who killed his “buddy on the beat.” He doesn’t even know who’s on the case. For Cass’ sake—and because he can tell that something is off—Sam looks into it. Shafe checks out the boy’s body, which shows signs of a chokehold—better known in South Central as a “cop hold.” Sam knows Tolson did it.

But the case was assigned to the legendarily incompetent Len Burns, who doesn’t seem inclined to investigate. Shafe threatens to go to Internal Affairs if Burns doesn’t step up. Sam makes the same threat to Cutler, who doesn’t want to let him interrogate Tolson, but Cutler points out that he’d only be burning himself. Someone high up is protecting Tolson; why else would Burns have been assigned the case? The department is never going to admit that a white cop killed a black kid.

Sam’s investigation into Cass’ murder hits a similar dead end. When Bunchy tells him that he won’t be getting any help from the black community, Sam appeals to his friend Nate, the diner owner with the important milkshakes. Nate reminds him that they’re not really friends. But he does point Sam in the direction of the elderly Hannah, who eventually remembers seeing Cass’ junkie nephew Jefferson leaving the store before the blaze. Jefferson killed his uncle for a fix.

Sam asks Cutler if he can at least have protection to retrieve Jefferson from the Panthers’ headquarters, but Cutler shoots that down. If he wouldn’t start race riots over Michael Younger’s case, he won’t be starting them now. Sam accepts defeat. He tells a fired-up Shafe that cases don’t all close the way you want them to, which doesn’t exactly do wonders for their partnership. And just as they were starting to hit it off, too.

NEXT: The fix is in, the sky is falling

Shafe’s friend Robbie is still looking into Walt’s situation. Robbie is a member of the anti-war movement, and he thinks Walt is here to be an informant, but Sam insists that doesn’t matter. He just wants to talk to his son. Walt shows up at Sam’s place late at night and explains that six months ago, he was assigned to covert operations in Cambodia—where they weren’t supposed to be fighting. They were killing kids. He asked his mother to bring him home because he couldn’t support it. Sam argues that winning a war requires fighting dirty, but Walt wants to go to the press, and he doesn’t want his dad to talk him out of it.

Everyone’s looking for ways to feel a little less helpless. For Sam, that means diving back into his relationship with Grace, who doesn’t think she can be with him publicly right now. On the surface, she wants to pretend that everything in her family is fine—so even though she bought Sam a ticket to her husband’s Republican fundraiser, she can’t sit with him. That doesn’t stop Sam from kissing her in the hallway. He’s really invested in this.

Sam even arranges for an ex-cop friend of his, Joe Wilson, to keep an eye on Emma. Joe catches Emma trying to sneak out of school on her first day back, but he thinks she’s getting better. He tells Grace that she’s happy to be home, which might be why Grace lets Sadie into the house when she poses as Emma’s classmate. (“I don’t understand this Nitz-chie? He is weird.”) Grace brings the girls dinner, only to find that they’ve snuck out the window.

She takes it out on Sam, accusing him of failing at everything he tries. Banished, Sam pours a drink. I yell at him, because he makes bad decisions when he drinks. He gets in the car. I yell louder. Sam drives to the Spiral Staircase, pins Charlie against the wall, and then drags him outside, where he proceeds to put on his gloves and beat Charlie bloody. Shafe, thankfully, has been working his way into Charlie’s inner circle, which puts him in the right place at the right time to tackle his partner to the ground. He whispers that Sam will be finished as a father and a cop if he doesn’t leave now. Sam drives off, and Shafe helps carry Charlie into the house. Score one for undercover work.

Bits and pieces:

  • Sam’s relationship with the Miranda rights is also on the rocks this week: “You’re not gonna read me those rights? Randy? Mandy?”
  • “I hope you go on lots of business trips, Ken. I hope you’re on the road for half the year.”
  • More of Sam doing ballet from bed, please.
  • “You know, you’re not as dumb as your haircut.”
  • “I’m a cop.” “You are?”
  • “Oh look, it reads.”

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