The gravely underrated-in-every-sense Aquarius concludes its first season on Saturday night with an episode that closes out some cases and leaves others open like gaping wounds. We get more details in the backstory that connects Charlie Manson to corrupt lawyers Ken Kam and Hal Banyin, and it’s a really sordid, violent tale. “He lets us be who we can’t,” says Hal to Ken. And be who they don’t want to be as well.
Meanwhile, back at the (Spahn) ranch, Charlie gets the baby he’s always wanted for his commune family dynasty, and in the process Aquarius proves that even the birth of a child — whom Manson christens “Valentine” — can be an occasion for fear and dread.
The key song in this episode is “Sally Go ‘Round The Roses,” by the Jaynetts, which hit number one in 1963. The moody, spooky song is soaked in mystery — no account exists, for example, of precisely how many female voices contributed to the multi-tracked vocal, which is a fine little metaphor for the way Manson kept an ever-shifting group of young women cycling through his cult.
As for Sam Hodiak, David Duchovny brings his portrait of a cop compromised by work, marriage, and parenthood to a peak that leaves you hanging on his final words here. Given its ratings, Aquarius is lucky to have a second season, but when it comes to creating a world within real-world events, it also deserved its renewal. I’m psyched for whatever changes creator John McNamara will ring from this semi-true-crime phantasmagoria next season.
Aquarius airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.