CBS Strange Angel
Season 1, Episode 2: “Ritual of Abduction”
Directed by David Lowery
Written by Mark Heyman
* For a recap & review of the Season 1 premiere, “Augurs of Spring” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Ritual of the Rival Tribes” – click here
In the middle of the night, Jack Parsons (Jack Reynor) hears voices whispering, and a child talking in one of the upstairs rooms. He finds a boy drawing on the floor, talking to himself – “Can I get there by candlelight?” – and lighting candles in a ritualistic manner. This is likely a young Jack, many years ago dreaming of a way to get to space. Although it seems mixed up in the occultism he’s stumbled onto unknowingly. Moreover, he keeps seeing that Thelema symbol, everywhere he goes.
The days go by. But the Parsons’s are cutting corners everywhere they can, substituting for a lack of money being brought in by Jack, whose job as a janitor at the factory doesn’t particularly bring in much income. Then there’s the fact he’s spending cash to chase a dream. He promises his wife Susan (Bella Heathcote) everything’s about to change.
Poor Jac’s got truck troubles. That makes him late for a meeting with his partner Richard Onsted (Peter Mark Kendall) and Prof. Filip Mešulam (Rade Šerbedžija). Either way, he gets there, and the professor shows them around their new workspace. He’s giving them a laboratory to work in on their experimental project, and it’s quite the place— a glorified closet! I love how we see a vision of Jack’s, a quick image of a rocket built in a bigger space, then we’re introduced to the actual room that’s significantly smaller. Such excellent visuals provided by director David Lowery. Keeps us seated precisely in the perspective of young Mr. Parsons.
“Maybe we’ll celebrate our next anniversary on the moon”
After Jack gets home from a long day at the factory, he comes across Ernest Donovan (Rupert Friend), the new mysterious neighbour, fixing up his truck for him. When it’s done, Jack questions his neighbour about the possible “human sacrifice” he nearly witnessed over at that house recently. Only thing’s sure is, there are plenty of secrets hiding behind the friendly face of Ernest. Susan is very suspicious of the man, and Jack doesn’t even know what to think about it all. On her own, at church, the wife asks her priest about the presence of evil in daily life. She thinks their neighbour could be a scary individual.
At a lecture, Jack asks Prof. Tillman (Dan Donohue) a question about aerospace engineering. He’s not taken seriously. He talks about his and Richard’s project on the “science of rocketry,” while most of the class ad the professor himself scoff. This is all just a soapbox for Jack to tell others they plan to “explore the cosmos,” and hopefully get a few people to join their research and development team. It ends up with Prof. Tillman making Jack feel a bit small. Interesting he puts up that symbol Jack remembers from his childhood on the board, an equation— the one strikingly close to that of Thelema.
Susan is out in the yard doing laundry, while Ernest snoops around her house. She comes inside to find the guy just lurking, pretending he’s there to make a bit of fresh squeezed orange juice. He’s slick. He also tries driving a wedge between the married couple, making suggestions to Susan there are secrets in each other’s lives: “There are some things that you can never truly know.” Jack gets home, not pleased to see the neighbour there. He kicks him out, then Susan insists they call the police. Cops turn up to make a report, even though there’s not much to report, only suspicions. Especially curious how Ernest mentions Jack being a kid, trying to summon the devil. Was that a general sort of taunt? Or, does Mr. Donovan know more than he’s letting on?
Things get very intense once Jack goes over to Ernest’s place with a knife, looking for what the latter took while he was looking around. Donovan knows about Jack, his childhood, because he found one of the man’s old notebooks. He’s trying to dig further into his new neighbour’s psyche, offering a place for him to find his true self.
There are lots of people applying to the rocketry team, like John Carter and Buck Rogers. Luckily, Jack and Richard find a couple actual people looking to join the team for real. It’s a case of the misfits joining together, as Samson Hunt (Zack Pearlman) and Gui Chiang (Keye Chen) are smart but outside the regular social circles necessary to get in on the funding and the research. They’re kind of like Jack, only they’re more formally educated. Makes for a proper crew to start kicking in the door on new science.
Jack and Susan, along with Jack’s mother, go over to Virgil Byrne’s (Michael Gaston) home— the home of Susan’s mother and step-father. Dad isn’t altogether sold on young Mr. Parsons, he questions the idea of rockets in space, which Jack argues against using a bit of Newton. Virgil then goes on a bit about Lucifer and the sin of pride, paralleling that Biblical tale with Jack’s lofty aspirations. He has lots of shitty ideas, about women, life, and everything else.
It all affects Jack. Even with all that confidence, it’s hard to have everybody against him, thinking he’s either not smart enough to get the work done or just incapable of actually following through or crazy. Everyone’s got their own opinion.
When the Parsons’s get home, they hear noises from inside the house. Jack goes further inside with a fire poker in hand. It’s only a chicken on their bed. This sends Jack over to his neighbour’s place raging. Again, Ernest offers him some kind of altering experience. He asks Jack: “How many miles to Babylon?” Another suggestion the man knows far more than he lets on.
This episode really starts setting up the more weird, fantastical things that are set to occur. For those who know the real story of Jack Parsons, it’s filled with all kinds of mysteries and wildness. Bring it on, I say!
“Ritual of the Rival Tribes” is next time. Buckle up.