NBC has made all 13 episodes of Aquarius available online after the May 28 premiere, because a snake of traffic is coming for us all 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 “Cease to Resist” airs on July 2. If you’re watching online, read on—or view the entire episode here.
It isn’t really a Los Angeles cop drama until a celebrity turns up dead, is it? Actor Raymond Novo is found murdered in his dressing room, his hands nailed to a wall. The image evokes a crucifixion, but it’s inexact, so Sam takes a few crime scene photos to his childhood priest. “I’m trying to determine if this is a deeply, explicitly Catholic thing,” he says, “or maybe just a violence thing that happens to look really Catholic.” He might as well be talking about the experience of living in the ‘60s or watching this show. Is there sense to be made from the chaos? Can the madness send a message, or is it just mad? Where is our moral compass in all of this? What I’m getting at is that Shafe is homophobic, and I’m not taking it well.
The line between Sam and Shafe has never been as clear as either of them imagines it to be. Despite their perceptions of each other, Sam isn’t all that rigid, and Shafe isn’t all that wild. They’re usually able to meet each other in the middle, but when Novo turns out to be a closeted gay man, the partners swing to opposite ends of the tolerance spectrum. Sam doesn’t care who people love. His advice to Shafe is simple:
“You know what I realized trying to understand people? Don’t try to understand them. I know what I killed for and what I’d die for. You served. You do too. And every day on this job we get to see what other people would kill and die for, and I used to think it was different, but it’s not. It’s the same: love, hate, with a side of stupid.”
Sam makes sense of the chaos by keeping his goals small and not trying to change people. But Shafe is a big thinker; his ideals should be everyone’s ideals. Today, that’s a problem. Sam goes to the local gay bar looking for a lead on Novo’s murder, only to run into a bartender he’s already offended. Years ago, Sam went undercover and kissed him at midnight so the cops could raid the bar and arrest everyone for being gay. “I don’t make the laws,” he shrugs, “but I do have to enforce them.” Since he’s been made, he asks Shafe to go in his place.
For a cop whose strength is supposed to be undercover work, Shafe is terrible at this. He flinches every time he’s touched and finally gets told off for being so standoffish. Just as he’s about to make a connection with a man who turns out to be wearing Novo’s ring, Sam calls to let him know that they’re off the case. The studio doesn’t want word of Novo’s sexuality to tank his latest movie, even if it means letting a murderer walk free. Shafe isn’t happy about that last part, but judging by his locker room rant to Sam later that night, he’s more upset that these “otherwise nice-seeming” guys are living such “deviant” lives.
NEXT: Let it be
Is there anyone on this show we’re meant to unequivocally relate to? Shafe holds too strongly to his imperfect principles, while Sam hardly fights for his principles at all. He just blames the system and moves on. He’s also drinking again, covering the scent with gum (and then drinking while the gum’s still in his mouth, which seems like it would defeat the purpose). Emma should be our way in, but did anyone even miss her in the last episode?
For those who did, Emma’s back. She and Sadie have gone to San Francisco to recover their golden ticket back into Charlie’s good graces: “Mother Mary,” the first of his girls. True to her moniker, Mary is pregnant—with Charlie’s baby. She looks hesitant to return to the fold, but Sadie and Emma convince her that Charlie misses her. And they need her money. The girls drag Mary back to the Spiral Staircase, which is a bad decision from the start, but it gets even worse after Mary reveals that Charlie beat her. He’s not even sorry about it. Emma looks hesitant but says nothing.
Emma could use a sit-down talk with Charmain, who might just be her opposite: a character we need a lot more of than we’re getting. Sam enlists Charmain’s help in Novo’s murder investigation, but Cutler keeps pulling her off the case. Rather than give in, she tries to win over Lieutenant Priori, miraculously back from his near-death experience. Priori still wants her to get his coffee—but he also asks for minutes from the meetings he missed. Progress. If there’s anyone we’re all supposed to root for in this madness, Charmain might be it.
Bits and pieces: