CBS Strange Angel
Season 1, Episode 5: “Dance of the Earth”
Directed by Matt Shakman
Written by Dana Adam Shapiro
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Sage” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Mystic Circle of Young Girls” – click here
Real engineering work is being done, as the Cal Tech rocketry team begins trying to build their first big piece of machinery. Richard (Peter Mark Kendall), Jack (Jack Reynor), Samson (Zack Pearlman), and Gui (Keye Chen) watch while it all comes together. Only Jack believes “it‘s not gonna work” after holding his hand over the prototype motor, like some mystic. He believes he has to take it apart, though the others aren’t quite sure. Particularly Richard. But Jack warns the motor is no motor, it’s “a bomb.”
Either way, Jack’s having troubles. He worries he’ll be the “scapegoat” if the motor blows up, because his area of expertise with chemicals is less stable than all the precise mathematics in their proposal. Susan (Bella Heathcote) tries telling her husband to relax, take a breather.
At that very moment, Ernest (Rupert Friend) and Maggie (Elena Satine) turn up. They want to know if the Parsons’s will go camping with them someplace, an activity they often do together. Apparently they’re looking for “the Queen of the Night,” a particular moon flower that only blooms for one night every three years. Interesting to see this whole exterior v. interior theme now. Susan finds comfort in home, ow she’s going out with people she barely knows into the unknown wilderness, where safety and comfort aren’t guaranteed. Just as she’s ever so gradually departing the very Christian-based world in which she’s existed her whole life.
“It can’t be easy. Always having to prove that you belong.”
The two couples go camping. The women do a bit of campfire cooking, the men do a bit of shooting and beer drinking. When it gets dark, they all go together walking, looking for the special flower. Around the fire later, Maggie and Susan get to know each other more, bonding over men and lipstick. Jack and Ernest have a drink of “medicine“— peyote.
It isn’t too long before ole Jack starts seeing things, either. He hears voices, sees little visions. His mind is wide open to all the possibilities of the world. He finds Ernest by the fire, talking about the “four elements” and ultimate freedom. After that Ernest’s face transforms, monstrously, eventually becoming the dark red devil-like mask we’ve seen before in an earlier episode. Jack freaks out and punches him, taking off in the car through the desert. He pictures himself launching into space, seeing the Earth behind him. He crashes. Only to discover he’s on the Moon in a crater. Quite the peyote trip. At the same time Ernest’s looking for his buddy, talking to a scorpion to find the way. He starts talking to a tree later, “the Grand Magus“— reference to Thelema and Mr. Aleister Crowley. I believe Alfred Miller (Greg Wise) is official Grand Magus of the lodge where Ernest attends ceremonies.
On the Moon, Jack runs into a man and his dog. In fact, the man is none other than Jack’s father, Marvel Parsons (Todd Stashwick). He’s been waiting for his son up there. They have a walk, a chat. The young man’s curious about things from his childhood. Dad only reassures him of being a confident person, following his dreams. That’s when he goes into a dark passage between some rocks and Jack follows on to another area of the Moon. Soon he comes to a pit where there’s a massive rocket sticking up from out of the ground. He climbs up to have a look, seeing inside as if it’s truly a fully complete machine. He looks across to see his father standing next to a large base telling him: “You did this.” Delusions of grandeur, or visions of greatness?
While Jack’s on the moon, Richard gets a brief look at the Queen of the Night flower before it wilts in the daylight. Just a few seconds, then the magic’s gone. He’s soon picked up by Jack, who’s ecstatic about what he saw in his peyote dream. Jack is grateful for being given this gift by his new friend.
“You are a beast and a beast knows no bounds“
At Cal Tech, Richard speaks in front of everybody gathered to watch the “first test–firing” of their prototype motor. He displays confidence and then prepares to set it off. Everybody steps back, including some military men and other professors who’ve joined the demonstration. Richard suddenly has reservations, wondering if Jack was right. But he goes ahead anyway. The gas ignites, the pressure holds, and everybody claps! They go for a whole minute, ratcheting up more gas— later, we see the thing exploded, leaving only a shell and random pieces.
Jack shows up on campus to see the results, finding Richard in their lab lamenting their prototype. Richard’s expecting him to be angry, when in reality he’s only hopeful for the future. Things are bad at the college after the prototype went, literally, up in smoke. Jack’s new revelations from the peyote may prove to be a help. However, he discovers they’re being booted from campus after the incident. Yikes. Back to grassroots, I guess. And this time they’ve got Mr. Parsons and his unlimited, unbridled imagination. They’re gonna head to the desert on their own this time.
GOD DAMN I LOVE THIS SHOW! I really don’t understand why people don’t dig this more. To each their own. Strange Angel is so weird, it’s just suggestive enough, and it’s tackling some stuff we haven’t seen a whole lot of in movies or television, from rocketry to peyote and Aleister Crowley. Cannot get enough. “The Mystic Circle of Young Girls” is next. That’s an intriguing name.