CBS Strange Angel
Season 1, Episode 6: “The Mystic Circle of Young Girls”
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Written by Silka Luisa
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Dance of the Earth” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Glorification of the Chosen One” – click here
Jack (Jack Reynor) is taking the rocketry project into the desert, out of Cal Tech, where Richard’s (Peter Mark Kendall) being mocked for his “explosive findings” recently. His old pal’s already on the move, with help from Samson (Zack Pearlman) and Gui (Keye Chen). It’s amazing to see the differences between Jack and the others. While they’re busy contemplating mathematical equations he’s deep in the pulp magazines, reading wild tales of busty redheads, werewolves, and all kinds of strange stories. It makes him no less of a brilliant rocketeer. And he’s so optimistic it’s almost upsetting, if he weren’t so goddamn smart.
Of note: one of my favourite directors, Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers, Down Terrace) directs this episode. Love it! He directed Reynor previously in the movie Free Fire, which others didn’t dig but I couldn’t get enough of, lots of fun!
We see Jack go back to the Agape Lodge, by himself. He finds Ernest (Rupert Friend), who introduces the man to everyone there. It’s quite the crowd. Everybody’s drinking absinthe, made by the Grand Magus. Jack is going to be further introduced to Thelema. “Love is the law” and other phrases are uttered in call and response. A man performs oral sex on a woman who recites a bunch of madness for everybody while she reaches climax. Doesn’t hurt that they’re all on absinthe, tripping out. That good sex magick. Inside him, Jack feels the beast awakening. He’s only allowed to see so much until he can “ascend high.” He’s sent off with a book given to him by the Minder (Rob Zabrecky).
Outside, Jack listens to Neville Chamberlain declare war on Nazi Germany. This suggests the timeline is now at September 1939. That doesn’t sit quite right with a couple episodes ago when Jack was listening to Wells’s War of the Worlds on the radio, which aired in ’38. Unless the passage of time is longer than I assume.
Afterwards, Jack goes home. There he goes down on Susan (Bella Heathcote), but her Roman Catholic upbringing shames her. She feels it’s “disgusting,” which her husband takes as a personal jab. He’s being infected by Thelema, its hooks are in him, and gradually he’s getting pulled away from himself, into the cult. The absinthe is still working on him, too. He sees himself more as a beast with every passing minute.
In the desert, the team are working. Ernest comes along to film the whole thing, as well as later tests. Jack and Richard are doing some “trial and error,” though Ernest reframes it as “destruction and rebirth.” We see that Richard isn’t quite thrilled with the new approach his partner’s proposing, so, again, they’ve hit a wall.
Threat of war looms over the country. Nobody knows what will happen next, and everybody’s fearing the worst, many wondering if they’ll be drafted, wives wondering if their husbands will have to leave the home for an undetermined amount of time in a country across the Atlantic.
“But the more people grasp their true selves, the more they come into focus.”
Grand Magus Alfred Miller (Greg Wise) receives Jack at the Agape Lodge. He has the young man in to take his picture, as we’ve seen before with Ernest. He asks the engineer some questions, about the general “frustration” of life and such. “Great men cast even greater shadows,” he says, wondering if Richard feels inferior to his confident partner. They also talk about Susan, though Jack gets incredibly fierce about it. But that’s because it’s where the truth lies. Alfred sees that Jack has a “rare clarity,” believing he only needs to make others follow. He further offers a bit of magick to help the married couple’s sex life.
Maggie (Elena Satine) enjoyed her time at the lodge. She’s trying to be a loyal partner to Ernest. That’s a hard feat, surely. He’s a wild dude. She even tries to get sexy with him at her workplace, backstage on a movie lot, yet he seems slightly disinterested. At the same time he has a love for her. It’s weird, man. And, like anyone sane, Maggie worries he’s found somebody else to love.
Later that night, Jack takes Richard to a science fiction/fantasy meeting. They listen to a man read his werewolf story. It’s a “Freudian image of the id” thing, y’know? In all seriousness, the werewolf short story from the magazine ties in wonderfully with the rest of this episode, as Jack feels the beast inside him truly coming to life. At home, Susan’s trying to get more sensual, in touch with her own body. Or, maybe the magick’s working. She winds up finding the little potion her husband hid under the bed, as well. Yikes. First thing she does? Go to her priest.
At the meeting, Jack eyes a woman— Marisol (Veronica Osorio) from the lodge. She babbles about the “true path.” She’s there to help with bringing Richard around. Worlds collide! Doesn’t hurt Marisol’s impressively smart. She can talk a good talk, mesmerising Richard easily. It gets his excitement for work going, and also his mojo.
When Jack leaves the two to an impromptu date, he finds himself becoming more a beast. Simultaneously, Maggie sees the developed film of what her husband shot in the desert. It’s basically an obsessive indie experimental film centred on Jack as he works alone in the desert, digging the hole, among other images. Beautiful. Probably disturbing to Maggie. She wonders about her husband’s intentions with Jack.
Out in the desert, apparently there’s been a change of heart concerning the lads and their rocketry ambitions. The military wants to know about their connection to Wernher van Braun, who’s working for the Nazis now. American military and government are concerned, they want to see the correspondence, so Richard hands over his letters. He’s disappointed in his former hero. (He’ll be even more disappointed when his own country secretly moved Braun to the US so he could work for them. OOPS!)
There’s also a questionable attitude in Jack. He’s less concerned about the Nazis, more concerned about how much “closer” they are to the moon. This shows the horrific ambition lurking in him, that beast under his skin trying to get out. After the others clear out from the desert lab, Jack undergoes a transformation, imagining himself turning into a werewolf, the beast finally tearing through his skin and howling at the moon. SO MUCH GREAT THEMATIC WORK!
God, I love this series. Gimme more. Anybody who doesn’t dig it, fine. But I consider this such a unique, weird, disturbing, and fun show. This Wheatley-directed episode was utterly amazing. Continuing with the work in the previous episodes he does interesting things with the imagery here.
“Glorification of the Chosen One” is next time.