NBC has made all 13 episodes of Aquarius available online after the May 28 premiere, because everything is helter skelter and we have to live for the now. The show will still be airing Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET; if you’re watching live each week, come back here after “A Change Is Gonna Come” airs on June 18. If you’re watching online, read on—or view the entire episode here in all its glory.
When things fall apart on Aquarius, they really fall apart, don’t they? Just about everything that the last episode set right—Sam and Grace’s relationship, Sam and Shafe’s partnership, Emma—hit a roadblock here. And as things break down for our characters, the city and country spiral with them.
Sam is called out to South Central after firefighters find Cassius Thomas dead inside his burned store—but it wasn’t the fire that killed him. Cass was shot. When Sam worked this beat as a rookie, he and Cass were friends, and he’d like to get justice. But tension between the police and the local community is escalating in the wake of a young black boy’s murder. (1967 or 2015? You decide.) The Black Panthers believe that a cop was responsible for the death of 15-year-old Michael Younger, and they won’t help find Cass’ killer while Michael’s killer walks free.
The Panthers believe that the culprit is Officer Tolson, an obvious racist who says Michael used to run errands for him. Tolson claims to suspect Bunchy Carter, who joined the Panthers after renouncing the Nation of Islam, but he doesn’t seem particularly worried about finding who killed his “buddy on the beat.” He doesn’t even know who’s on the case. For Cass’ sake—and because he can tell that something is off—Sam looks into it. Shafe checks out the boy’s body, which shows signs of a chokehold—better known in South Central as a “cop hold.” Sam knows Tolson did it.
But the case was assigned to the legendarily incompetent Len Burns, who doesn’t seem inclined to investigate. Shafe threatens to go to Internal Affairs if Burns doesn’t step up. Sam makes the same threat to Cutler, who doesn’t want to let him interrogate Tolson, but Cutler points out that he’d only be burning himself. Someone high up is protecting Tolson; why else would Burns have been assigned the case? The department is never going to admit that a white cop killed a black kid.
Sam’s investigation into Cass’ murder hits a similar dead end. When Bunchy tells him that he won’t be getting any help from the black community, Sam appeals to his friend Nate, the diner owner with the important milkshakes. Nate reminds him that they’re not really friends. But he does point Sam in the direction of the elderly Hannah, who eventually remembers seeing Cass’ junkie nephew Jefferson leaving the store before the blaze. Jefferson killed his uncle for a fix.
Sam asks Cutler if he can at least have protection to retrieve Jefferson from the Panthers’ headquarters, but Cutler shoots that down. If he wouldn’t start race riots over Michael Younger’s case, he won’t be starting them now. Sam accepts defeat. He tells a fired-up Shafe that cases don’t all close the way you want them to, which doesn’t exactly do wonders for their partnership. And just as they were starting to hit it off, too.
NEXT: The fix is in, the sky is falling