A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Aquarius is a tense, gritty period drama about a cop investigating a runaway who's joined the Manson family. Marijuana is smoked frequently on-screen, and characters drink and smoke cigarettes. There are many sexual references, including oral and group sex (with a fearful underage girl). Women are asked to provide sexual favors as a part of bargains. Cursing includes "hell" and "bitch," plus racial language("spics" and "jigs"). Many characters, including law enforcement, use corrupt means to get information, including roughing up a suspect and planting drugs. The Manson family committed a series of grim murders; viewers can expect to see references to them on-screen.
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What's the story?
In 1967, killer-to-be Charles Manson was drifting around the fringes of the Los Angeles hippie scene, picking up the followers and perfecting the rap that would ultimately lead to the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders. In AQUARIUS, a fictionalized take on real-life events, Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) is a WWII vet and hardened LAPD homicide detective who gets an urgent message from bygone love Grace Karn (Michaela McManus). Grace's 16-year-old daughter Emma (Emma Dumont) is missing. Grace doesn't know it yet, but Emma's fallen in with some really bad-news types, including the wannabe rock star Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony). Grace enlists Hodiak to help bring her girl home. Quickly finding that a "pig" can't make much headway in the counterculture community of 1967, Hodiak taps fellow officer Brian Shafe (Grey Damon), a double agent who's infiltrated the hippie scene. Time is running out for Emma. Will Shafe and Hodiak reach her in time?
Is it any good?
On paper, this series sounds like the cheesiest of setups, and indeed, viewers should be forgiven for feeling a little weary of crime dramas. That said, Aquarius is well-written, and as usual, good writing, deft characterization, and swift plotting make up for the downsides. For example, another show would use the period setting as an opportunity to unleash primo vintage costumes and settings; Aquarius is rather visually blah. But the show does manage to wring excitement out of a truly hokey and hackneyed premise, injecting urgency by introducing a vulnerable young girl who's on a collision course with disaster. The viewer knows it, but the characters on-screen don't, which adds dramatic weight to what otherwise might be a rather rote drama. Duchovny is reliably good and well-used in a sardonic, deadpan role. Gethin-as-Manson and Damon also are live wires, fun to watch do terrible things. This one's worth a look, particularly for Duchovny fans or those fascinated by the Manson family.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the real historical events that Aquarius was based on. Who was the Manson family? What ultimately became of them? Is this drama true to real historical events?
Why are stories about serial killers so popular? What other shows or movies about murders can you name? Why do audiences enjoy this as a topic of drama?
Ask your parents what the Generation Gap of the 1960s entailed. Did Aquarius purposely cast officers with a generation gap between them for this show? What dramatic possibilities does this offer?