Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination sets off a chain reaction

By Kelly Connolly
June 23, 2016 at 05:59 PM EDT
Chris Haston/NBC

Aquarius just collided with history: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been assassinated, and unlike the war or the looming presidential election, there’s no turning off the TV to tune this out. King’s death sets off a series of race riots across America; as tension builds in Los Angeles, the LAPD and the Panthers can agree that they don’t want to see the city burn, but that’s about where their common ground ends. Consider the Shafe household divided.

Courtesy of the FBI, the Panthers’ phone lines are down, so Commissioner Garrick sends Sam and Shafe to deliver a message: He wants the Panthers to agree not to riot. They’re on board for that part, but they don’t appreciate being asked to cooperate with any action that already has the support of black separatist Richard Tendaji. Bunchy hates Tendaji — he sees him as an FBI puppet. Shafe doesn’t help the situation. When Sam is called out to a murder scene, Shafe is left to hand over the commissioner’s letter on his own, putting his wife on the spot.

Kristin figures the LAPD sent her husband because they knew she associated with the Panthers (and she’s right), which makes her feel exposed. Shafe only makes it worse. He keeps telling her to go home, and he won’t give her any details about Panther HQ surveillance, claiming “official police business.” Bunchy didn’t even know that Kristin was married to a cop in the first place. When Shafe says that avoiding riots is “all the commissioner is requesting,” he hands Bunchy the last straw. “Your so-called officers of the peace don’t make requests of my people,” Bunchy declares, tearing up the commissioner’s letter. “You beat us, and you kill us.”

The unrest is growing in Watts, where a young black woman named Louisa Burnside is found murdered. Her cousin Steve says that he saw Jeff Snyder — a white man whose father, Moses, is Louisa’s boss and landlord — fleeing the scene after calling the LAPD. Jeff liked Louisa, who lived with Steve and his mother until Jeff practically gifted her an apartment in the same building; Steve suggests that his cousin rejected Jeff, and he killed her for it. But Louisa was dead long before Steve claims to have seen Jeff running away (“Although coming back to the scene and pretending to discover the body is the stupid kind of s— that killers do all the time”), and Sam can tell that Steve is hiding something.

The pressure is on Sam from all sides: Moses, a millionaire slumlord and prominent Reagan supporter with a lot of pull in the precinct, insists that his son is innocent, but the neighborhood is already convinced that the LAPD is trying to protect a white killer. Sam’s job doesn’t get any easier when he gets word that Louisa was three months pregnant. Jeff is the father; Steve and his mother, Clarissa, have been hiding Jeff from the crowd outside since he found Louisa’s body. But there’s a lot that Clarissa doesn’t know, starting with the pregnancy and ending with the murderer. Steve killed Louisa — he had feelings for her, and he didn’t take it well when she told him that she and Jeff were having a baby.

WANT MORE? Keep up with all the latest from last night’s television by subscribing to our newsletter. Head here for more details.

Speaking of couples in trouble, Kristin isn’t happy with Shafe for his behavior with the Panthers. (“You show up like you’re God’s gift to the world, ordering me around.”) She wants him out of the house tonight, but Shafe begs his way back to sleeping on the couch. There’s obviously a storm brewing for these two, but when Sam cracks Louisa’s case, the Shafes can at least agree that the LAPD will need Bunchy’s help if they expect to arrest a black man for her murder. Bunchy rides with Steve to the station and hands him over to Sam. In exchange, Sam makes a few promises. Commissioner Garrick has to persuade Tendaji to join the Panthers’ boycott, and Moses has to convince white business owners to give their black employees the day off in King’s honor. Moses is on board — he’s so on board that he practically blackmails Garrick into upholding his end of the deal — and the city doesn’t riot. There’s even a march of unity at Sam’s suggestion. The man has layers.

NEXT: Cheer up, Charlie

The only person not happy about peace in Los Angeles is Charlie, who would have put money on a race war if he believed in capitalism. He’s at Dennis’ place watching the news coverage like it’s a game that he illegally bet on, and he’s got thousands of dollars on the line but has to pretend to only care the usual amount. But Charlie has never successfully pretended to keep his cool about anything. He doesn’t even realize that Dennis and his friends might not want to see civilization burn. Emma outlines Charlie’s plan to Dennis, but “cleanse the world for the Family to remake the world” doesn’t sound like such a groovy idea to him, so she lies that it’s not so much Charlie’s plan as it is a terrible “nightmare” of a vision. And that’s all Dennis needs to keep making out with her.

When it’s clear from the news that Los Angeles is going to keep the peace, Charlie almost loses it, charging Sadie and pulling a knife on Tex. Emma talks him down, whispering that he should at least act like he doesn’t want a race war long enough to meet with Dennis’ big-time music producer friend, so Charlie twitches his way through the unity march at Dennis’ side. I was expecting Charlie to catch Sam on the news coverage, but this is so much better: Sam is out there quietly making him miserable, and neither one of them realizes it.

Meanwhile, Charmain is still trying to work Roy for all he’s got. She talks him into taking her along to meet with Wells, arguing that Wells will respect Roy more once he’s seen her. Charmain spins it like she’s arm candy, then seizes control of the meeting as soon as she’s in the room. It works. Wells is so impressed that he meets with her alone — but while Charmain takes the opportunity to talk up Shafe’s services as a dealer, Wells takes the opportunity to put his hand up her pants. The next night, Wells continues to be terrible when Charmain takes Shafe to meet with him in secret: He forces Shafe to sample his product.

Shafe argues that he doesn’t do drugs, but when he shoots himself up, Wells comments that it’s “just like riding a bike.” Is Shafe a recovering addict, or is that just Wells’ view of the world? In any case, this isn’t going to be a one-time thing; we see Shafe in Sharon Tate’s house in 1969, getting high to deal with the murder scene. Emma’s St. Christopher medal has him especially unhinged. Back in 1968, Shafe is fidgety and disheveled after his night with Wells. He tells Charmain that Wells wants to go into business with him and kill Roy; rather than take this to Cut, they confide in Sam.

As far as Sam is concerned, Roy is just collateral damage. Sam’s only interest right now is in saving his son, and he’s worried that time is running out — not only has Walt been moved to solitary confinement, but the military has tacked on a mutiny charge. Never mind that it’s hard to incite a rebellion when you never get to talk to anyone. Reasoning that Walt could be killed if they don’t find enough information on Wells to hold over the military, Sam asks Charmain to sacrifice Roy in order to maintain her cover, but Roy is “a human being to [her] now,” and she can’t do it. She won’t watch someone die for a scheme that might not work. It’s a fair point, but it’s still cold, and it might not be the best police work, either. You can’t go undercover if you’re not willing to make the tough sacrifices.

Adding injury to insult, Charmain’s plan to save Roy might not even work. She whips out her badge as soon as Wells draws his gun on Roy, but he doesn’t take her seriously — and when Sam and Shafe roll in, guns drawn (does Charmain not have a gun?), Wells takes a shot anyway. Roy, bullet in his chest, yells that Charmain is a “bitch,” Shafe has developed a drug habit for an undercover gig that’s already blown, and they’re no closer to saving Walt. But Sam takes Charmain’s face in his hands and tells her that she’s doing a great job, so at least the Hollywood division’s most functional relationship is still going strong.

Bit and pieces:

  • Lucille has been found dead; did Roy kill her?
  • Shafe is really insistent that Kristin isn’t a Panther.
  • I almost didn’t recognize 1969 Shafe. Suit? Haircut? He shaved?
  • “Sam wants me to be a cop. Sometimes I think he’s the only one around here who’s man enough to let me be a real cop and not a coffee cop.”
  • For someone so grumpy about the next generation, Sam is really good with young cops.
  • “Well, I respect her. And I’m happy for you, because after a kid things can get pretty stale in the bedroom, but Kristin in a beret and leather? Oh.”
  • “I’m just — I like learning new words.”
  • “Like your outfit.”
  • “Hodiak’ll take you in. He already knows you’re a fool. I just found out today.”