Last night NBC aired the first two episodes of Aquarius, then released the entire 13-episode series on Hulu for a limited time. The series follows Detective Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) and undercover officer Brian Shafe (Grey Damon), who are investigating a missing persons case that will eventually lead them to Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony).
Based on the first two episodes, Aquarius is all over the place, boring and, most of all, not a subtle show. There is a lot of dialogue of people either stating their motives or reminding everyone that they’re in the cultural climate of the 1960s. The aggressively predictable soundtrack makes this worse.
There are some strong performances in the show. Gaius Charles (Friday Night Lights) is great in an over-simplified part and Claire Holt (The Originals) is as charming as ever. But, none of the characters feel fully brought to life. It especially sticks out how much the Charles Manson character doesn’t really pop, since being a huge charismatic figure should be what makes him interesting. Their Manson feels like a more generic cult leader.
The main character of Sam Hodiak feels incredibly tired. He’s a cynical, “witty”, racist detective. In other words, he’s the most cliche and generic knock off a complicated hero imaginable. David Duchovny’s performance is fine, but not strong enough to elevate the uninteresting character.
They’re obviously going for a slow build of tension, but I wish they’d put more story and action in the first two episodes, to make us feel like we’re watching something. It almost feels like they’re banking on our familiarity with Charles Manson, expecting that’ll be enough to assure us that it gets interesting.
The visual style of Aquarius also isn’t very unique. It’s not bad, but it feels like any other summer drama. A distinctive visual style might’ve helped it overcome the generic characters and slow pace.