“AQUARIUS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON” (Blu-ray Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
When AQUARIUS debuted earlier this year, positing itself as a genre-friendly lead-in to HANNIBAL’s third season, this writer took a shine to the show. It wasn’t the greatest procedural on television, but the characters were interesting, the writing went into curious directions and the Manson element brought a sense of perpetual horror to the show. But nevertheless, there always felt something off about AQUARIUS upon broadcast, almost as if the show was struggling to find its voice even though there appeared to be a great amount of creative freedom on display. However, upon revisiting the show on Blu-ray, where every episode is now offered in extended, unrated editions, and suddenly, it’s almost like watching an entirely new show, as AQUARIUS is clearly a premium cable show stuck in the format of a broadcast network program.
When AQUARIUS is given room to breathe on Blu-ray, the storytelling becomes much more fluid, patient and even intense, especially when paired with the added nudity, cursing and violence to capture the tension of the time period. But even beyond that, the removed restrictions and extended scenes reshape almost every element, from character dynamics to perspectives on situations to even specific plot points. And luckily, the additions and extensions work entirely for the better, with the show attaining the gripping, at times hypnotic feel that the broadcast variation was desperately trying to be.
Granted, in the bigger picture, 90% of the old AQUARIUS makes up the season on Blu-ray, and to its credit, the show still worked pretty damn well. David Duchovny, Emma Dumont, Grey Damon, Gethin Anthony and Claire Holt are all among a damn excellent cast, and John McNamara’s writing and vision for the show feels more unique than some other TV period pieces over the years. But whereas the broadcast show felt a bit too safe, the show erases all concerns by adding the edge back to the series on Blu-ray and allowing the performers & writing the opportunity to be seen in a new, frankly more impressive context. With that in mind, AQUARIUS makes for an excellent repeat viewing on Blu-ray, for those who may feel that the season run-through on TV might have been enough.
AQUARIUS also sports impressive AV specs as well, which should make collector and fans of the show very happy. The picture is crisp, capturing the unique, somewhat saturated look of the show and presenting it with gorgeous clarity. Meanwhile, the audio transfer is actually incredibly impressive, as the new audio mix is more dynamic and deep than its television counterpart; those with great home theater set-ups will get some serious mileage out of the sound on this bad boy.
While this extended, unrated version of AQUARIUS is almost a special feature onto itself, the only major drawback to this high def set is the lack of substantial features. The addition of the Manson-centric “webisodes” is a nice touch, providing some interesting subtext to an interesting subplot on the series. However, outside of a “first look” feature that feels out-of-place on a full season set, there’s nothing really else in terms of special features; no commentary tracks, TV spots, nada.
Overall, while the lack of features is somewhat disappointing, it’s more than made up for by the complete, uncut presentation of AQUARIUS. The show really does take on new life on Blu-ray, and fans of the show can not only see the extra, not-safe-for-network content but just a more patient and well-rounded cut as well. And on Blu-ray, fans can experience the show with excellent picture and sound quality as well, earning this set a high recommendation.