Aquarius: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray Review)

AquariusLos Angeles, 1967. Welcome to the Summer of Love. Aquarius stars David Duchovny (“The X Files;” “Californication”) as Sam Hodiak, a seasoned homicide detective whose investigations dovetail with the activities of real-life cult leader Charles Manson in the years before he masterminded the most notorious killings of a generation, the Tate-LaBianca murders. A small-time but charismatic leader with big plans, Manson has begun to build up his “family”, recruiting vulnerable young men and women to join his cause. Teaming up with a young cop who will help him infiltrate Manson’s circle, Hodiak is forced to see things through the questioning eyes of someone who came of age amongst the current anti-establishment counterculture. Edgy, addictive and visually stunning, the Age of Aquarius is here. Special features: Webisodes, “First look: Aquarius”


The Series 

Don’t let the curious name of this police drama serial throw you off – the glittery-astrological title of the show is anything but. David Duchovny stars as Sam Hodiak (rhymes with Zodiac) a Los Angeles police officer that has to navigate through the mean streets of the city cracking down on crime. Gethin Anthony stars as the would-be infamous serial killer Charles Manson.

What we have to do on this show is take a step back and call it by its real name: Manson Rising – or something to that effect. Yes, the character of Charles Manson and his crazy followers are featured in every single episode but their paths do not necessarily cross with Sam’s. The easiest way to define the show is like that of some other films from the past that supposedly featured the main plot point of a serial killer but also had many subplots dealing with other characters and major events happening simultaneously.

In Aquarius the Manson clan is gathering their strength so to speak. Manson is a charismatic musician who wants a record contract, loves women, and is a master manipulator, hustler, extortionist, and every other word in the book. The creators of the show have also made him bisexual by suggesting that that Manson would have had to either sell his body for money and to coerce people to do favors for him thereby “owning” them outright. These were the 60’s, so not all is fair in love and war.

The mean streets are also filled with corrupt cops, blatant racism, the Black Panther group, cop killers, family problems, and much more. It’s the type of show that just because it has a centered focus on Charles Manson – it doesn’t just focus on him. It moves around and focuses on the people around him and away from him. Sam Hodiak, in addition to being a cop, is a WWII veteran and amateur boxer, who plays by his own rules most of the time. He also likes to partake of libations. Hey, who doesn’t, right?

Aquarius looks great from technical point of view but it was one of those shows in recent memory that I could not binge watch. I can normally watch a single season of television show in a day but for whatever reason this first season of the show took me almost 3 days to knock out. It does meander sometimes and needs to tighten up in parts. It may also have something to do with Manson not going into full kill mode just yet, so there’s a sense of internal brewing going on, as well. I’m going to go on a hunch and say that the second season will most likely focus on him unleashing hell in Los Angeles. Until then, this first season of foreshadowing will have to do.

I should also point out that Aquarius: The Complete First Season is featured in its UNCUT version. The Blu-ray is not rated and contains restored scenes of violence, sex, drug use, and various other things that were not included on the original television broadcast run. This is a good thing, because it lends a bit more credibility to the subject matter and it makes it feel like a premium series as opposed to something they (the network) may have whipped up for a series of the week showcase.



Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: Aquarius on Blu-ray looks above average. Sharpness and contrast fluctuations were not a problem at all. I could detect any postproductions anomalies either.

Depth: The Manson compound and its inhabitants really stand out amidst the fields and roads leading up to the house. L.A. looks groovy.

Black Levels: The black levels were murky in parts, which was really weird to see. The blacks would appear washed out as well.

Color Reproduction: The color palette shifts in tone. It’s quite colorful at the Manson compound but once in Los Angeles it turns downright cold. There’s a shift in color aesthetics.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones look great

Noise/Artifacts: Noise and artifacts are not a problem.




Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Aquarius sounds great on Blu-ray. I don’t pretend to know what it sounded like via network television but I suspect that the original broadcast  did not sound anything like this fabulous 5.1 lossless track does.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE subwoofer channel gets some love on this Blu-ray audio mix. It gives the action scenes some added “oomph” when needed.

Surround Sound Presentation: The surround channels carry ambience really well, as does the “rock n roll” of the show. Bullets, splinters, guitar riffs, etc., all get some love in the rear channel surround sound field.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crystal clear.




The supplemental materials have been skimped on a bit. We get a very short talking head featurette, with some “webisodes” that serve to be slight origin tales mixed in with “interviews” from some of the characters. These would be cool but they’re roughly 2-minutes in length and play out as VH1 Behind the Music segments instead. You can’t win them all.

  • Webisodes (HD)
  • First Look: Aquarius (HD)




 Aquarius: The Complete First Season is a decent enough series but I really hope that the eventual second season picks up the pace and gets to the “meat and potatoes” portion of the whole case, which is Charles Manson. The Blu-ray has peculiar video, above average audio, and very little in the way of special features. I would still give the show a recommendation, because David Duchovny is quite captivating in his role.





Aquarius: The Complete First Season is released on Blu-ray & DVD September 15!






Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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