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Aquarius is a 2015 series airing on NBC. It tells the story of the rise of Charles Manson, from the perspective of Sam Hodiak and Brian Shafe, a pair of Los Angeles detectives trying to track him down after he kidnaps the daughter of one of Hodiak's old flames.

This series contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Disorder: The series goes to great lengths to leave it unclear whether or not Manson or any of his family members are genuinely delusional and psychotic or merely playing it up to disguise their much more mundane motives. Manson in particular is shown developing an extreme, violent reaction to The Beach Boys changing the wording of his lyrics, complaining that it completely changes the meaning of the song. Soon after, Dennis Wilson kicks him and the Family out of his mansion in a particularly humiliating episode, and exactly which of these was the greater insult is not clear. Likewise, the series provides evidence both that the Tate murder was due to his hatred of Terry Melcher and desire to get revenge on him, or that it was to spark the race war he rambled about constantly.
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  • Armored Closet Gay: Ken Karn has a wife and daughter, and seems like the prototypical straight white lawyer.
  • Attempted Rape: Charlie attempts to rape Ken in a parking garage after gloating about kidnapping Emma.
  • Book-Ends: At the beginning of It's Ok, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Hodiak says a line from "Jabberwocky" after getting slipped a drink with LSD in it. The episode ends with Hodiak talking to a man who is apparently his father, who repeats the same line.
  • Cosmic Deadline: The first season covers a reasonable amount of plot for its length. At the pace it was covering, you would be forgiven for assuming the Tate murders would take place after two or three seasons of build-up. Instead, season 2 immediately steps into setting up the conditions of the murder and then, halfway through the season, suddenly speeds up to get to the murder, leading to several Time Skips.
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  • Cowboy Cop: Both Hodiak and Shafe take liberties with the law.
  • Cool Old Guy: As Hodiak says, after revealing his jazz drummer father had plenty of pot, "You kids think you invented everything."
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: This series takes place just after Miranda rights became a thing. Naturally, the cops do all kinds of things that would be illegal in modern times. Case in point: in the second episode, Hodiak hauls in a black man in connection with a murder case, knowing full well that the guy's innocent, as part of a plan to get the real perpetrator to confess. Later, when he brings the perp in to confess, he arranges events in such a way so that he can avoid reading the guy his Miranda rights.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Charles Manson is fully prepared to seduce men and women to achieve his goals. His girls, likewise, have no problems turning their charms on women or men.
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  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Hodiak spends a lovely night chatting, drinking, and jamming out with Charles Manson in the second season.
  • False Flag Operation: The stated goal of the Tate murders is to spark a race war between white and black Americans, and to that end the murder scene is decorated with slogans intended to provoke violent response.
  • Foregone Conclusion: No matter what happens, Shafe and Hodiak were never going to take Manson down in time. In fact, the appropriately-named Helter Skelter opens in the immediate aftermath of the Tate murders.
  • Historical Beauty Update: Gethin Anthony is much taller and much more attractive than the real Charles Manson; many critics and viewers have complained about this. Played down somewhat in the second season.
  • Historical Domain Character: Charles Manson, Bunchy Carter and Dennis Wilson. Also a brief cameo appearance by Bobby Kennedy.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The DVD release of season 1 contains nudity and sexual explicitness not included in the original NBC broadcast version.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode is named after a song from the period. The second season, in particular, names each episode after a Beatles song, starting with Helter Skelter.
  • Insult Friendly Fire: Of a sort. Hodiak thinks Shafe is being a namby-pamby bleeding heart liberal because Shafe criticizes Hodiak's treatment of black people. To shut Hodiak up, Shafe asks him to drive him home, where he introduces him to his black wife and daughter.
  • In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: Hodiak and Shafe are within degree of separation with multiple famous people of the late 1960s.
  • Love Father, Love Son: Charlie had an affair with Ken Karn and then later goes after his daughter, though his intentions weren't strictly romantic...
  • Made of Iron: Ralph Church, who is poisoned, beaten over the head, and eventually stabbed to death right outside a police station.
  • Malcolm Xerox: Bunchy Carter, introduced in the second episode, is a bonafide Nation of Islam member who thinks the Vietnam War is just a pretense to kill off black men by sending them off to die in a war. Then he switches to the Black Panthers, another black militant group. Justified Trope as Bunch was a real person.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Charles Manson intends to become "bigger than the Beatles", and he can't meet with record execs dressed like a hippie cult leader, can he? So, he has Emma steal a blazing crimson red suit for him to wear to meetings.
  • May–December Romance: Emphasized in the case of Hodiak, who attracts numerous younger women due to being played by David Duchovny. In the second season, he carries on a romance with a... doctor, let's call her, and the enormous gap in their ages is brought up multiple times as being a neutral or positive aspect of the relationship.
  • Miranda Rights: Set the year after they became a thing. Neither of the cops know them, nor do they carry the paper they're written on with them. The second episode essentially climaxes with Hodiak finding the paper (he gave it to a crying murderer to wipe his nose with) and, haltingly, reading them for what appears to be the first time.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Naturally. Notably, Manson is an evil example.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Manson says "You can either be afraid or you can be the thing that makes people afraid" after Hodiak beats him up, suggesting that the groundwork has been laid for his upcoming murder spree.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Played with for both Hodiak, who despite his The '40s Values Dissonance is still willing to get justice for murdered minorities and gives Charmain chances to be a real cop rather than the station secretary from time to time, and Shafe, who is an unapologetic homophobe despite his interracial marriage.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Hodiak delivers an epic one to Manson midway through the first season.
  • Odd Couple: Shafe and Hodiak are almost diametrically opposed to one another.
  • One Head Taller: Played up with Hodiak over the course of the second season, especially with regards to Manson.
    Hodiak: I've got no patience for a short man tonight.
  • Playing Gertrude: Grace Karn, theoretically close in age to Hodiak and mother to a sixteen-year-old, is played by 31-year-old (at time of filming) Michaela McManus (Emma Dumont, who plays her daughter, is only 11 years younger than her).
  • Prison Rape: Alluded to multiple times with Charlie's past.
  • Really Gets Around: Hodiak.
  • Refuge in Audacity: How Manson operates. His clasping for a recording contract causes a swathe of death and chaos throughout LA, he sees no problem with sneaking into a police officer's house in the middle of the night for a conversation, and he stabs Ralph Church to death in front of a police station.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The Manson Family are a Left Wing version.
  • Sunshine Noir: Especially the second season. Every character is angling to get something, one lead is troubled by his son's possibly treasonous actions and his wife's suicide, the second lead is trying desperately to hide his increasingly out of control heroin addiction, and the third lead is literally Charles Manson.
  • Talkative Loon: Charles Manson.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Manson as played by Gethin Anthony, whose character has undergone a Historical Beauty Update.
  • Time Skip: The later episodes of season 2 cover several months in the span of a few episodes, accelerating the Karn family drama to Soap Wheel levels of plot development.
  • Wham Shot: Charles has Ken Karn in his lair, negotiating for his captive daughter, and suddenly they start kissing...
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