CBS Strange Angel
Season 1, Episode 10: “The Sacrificial Dance”
Directed by Kate Dennis
Written by Mark Heyman
We find the Great Beast, Aleister Crowley (Michael Balin) injecting himself then writing a letter. Addressed to whom? Possibly our man, Jack Parsons (Jack Reynor), who’s in the process of quitting his job. He and Susan (Bella Heathcote) are coming together as one, in their relationship and their beliefs, it seems.
Jack realises he cannot give up on his dreams, staying out in the desert to experiment, where he’s invited Richard Onsted (Peter Mark Kendall), Samson Hunt (Zack Pearlman), Gui Chiang (Keye Chen), and Marvin Nickels (Josh Zuckerman). Except Richard turns up, punching his old buddy for knowing about the “deranged group” influencing his relationship with Marisol (Veronica Osorio).
What’s come together is “asphalt“— its liquid and solid states under heat may be their saviour, something Mr. Parsons found out during the fire at their house recently. Jack gives over the formula willingly. Strange. It’s all the plan of the Grand Magus, Alfred Miller (Greg Wise), who’s trying to help Jack find his true path.
Jack’s been invited to become a “man and brother of the faith” amongst the ranks of Thelema. Crowley wants the rocketeer to ascend to the “next degree.” Simultaneously, Susan struggles with the revelations from her “purging sessions” with the Grand Magus, related to her stepfather Virgil Byrne (Michael Gaston). She also doesn’t know if she wants to go further into Thelema. Her husband doesn’t want to either, unless it’s alongside his wife. She keeps returning to the Magus, who tries to help her break free of all the chains that bind her. Chiefly, it’s Roman Catholicism looming over her head, an upbringing full of shame.
The rocketry team in the desert have a military man out to watch the latest test— a plane he’s going to be piloting himself. Then the engine explodes violently, burning, which sends the pilot off pretty quickly. Gradually, the hope is Richard’s going to realise he needs Jack, or else they’ll never achieve success. But will it work? Richard is hard headed.
New people move into the house where Ernest Donovan (Rupert Friend) used to live. They give Jack a box he left behind. All that’s inside is a picture of Crowley and one of him and his wife, next to a bottle of whiskey. That’s when Richard actually calls Jack, to tell him he needs help. Seeing film of the war in a theatre drives Richard to want to let “this grudge” between him and his friend slide, so they might make progress instead. Again, Dick and Jack are back together! Yeehaw. Immediately, Jack gets his brain working. I’m starting to wonder: is he going to ask Ernest to fly the plane for them in lieu of the military man who they scared away?
At the Agape Lodge, where Ernest’s thrown himself into his work to avoid thinking too much about loss, he gets a visit from Jack. The two men talk, though Ernest’s clearly been damaged. Jack wants his help. He’s ready to embrace “the passionate union of opposites.” Only question left is, will it be reciprocated?
Susan continues having strange visions. At mass, from the choir, she sees everyone with an orange slice sticking out of their mouths like creepy smiles. She hears the voice of Virgil from the past. It looks like – believing she was doing something shameful with a boy in the orchard – her stepfather crammed a bunch of orange in her mouth, force feeding it to her. A creepy, biblical, misogynist punishment.
And Susan can’t let go. She even sees the priest at her parents’ dinner table with rotting teeth, a vivid hallucination. Religion has thoroughly damaged her, whereas Thelema’s only tried to set her free. Quite the juxtaposition. At dinner we further discover there’s more to Virgil teaching the girls “about shame” than the oranges. Dark family history emerges to set Susan free. She goes home and tells Jack: “Anywhere it‘s taking us, it‘s better than where I‘ve been.”
“You shall not eat of the fruit“
In the desert, Jack leads his companions on the latest stage of their project. They being working with asphalt under the conditions he’s deemed necessary, involving the liquid being put into tubes, all the air bubbles possible tapped out, and then storing it overnight. He works into the wee hours of the morning while the others lie down for a deserved nap. That’s when his father Marvel (Todd Stashwick) arrives, trying to get him to speed up the process. He urges him not to let others make him conform to their smaller thoughts. Dad sends “the Great Beast” running towards his son, barrelling him into the ground.
This is where Jack wakes to find Ernest above him, ready to take on their next step. Richard’s unsure of letting someone fly the plane, afraid they’ll kill somebody. His friend tries to tell him, sometimes risks must be taken – big ones – in order for progress to be achieved— sometimes, in order to just LIVE!
At the lodge, Susan is moving forward into Thelema, fully prepared to leave behind her Roman Catholic upbringing and all its shame and everything wrapped up within it. She takes part in a new ritual, taking her deeper into the occultist group. The Grand Magus blindfolds her, then they head to an altar.
Military men have arrived at the desert camp, along with professors such as Prof. Filip Mešulam (Rade Šerbedžija) and others from Cal Tech. All waiting to see the results of this latest test. Ernest gives Jack a few ominous words before starting up the plane, prepared to flip the switch.
As Susan counts down during her ritual, the countdown to Ernest’s flight is on. Without touch, Susan comes to a climax. In the desert with the aid of the rocketry team’s ingenuity, Mr. Donovan lifts off into the sky without a worry, as everyone below celebrates. More importantly, Richard sees the genius of Jack finally. And Jack? He sees a spaceship lifting off, headed for space.
Then Ernest flies right down at the earth towards Jack, who refuses to move from the makeshift runway. This is where Season 1 ends. What a whopper of a finish! Good lord. I’ve already chewed my nails off wondering about Season 2, it’s only getting worse.
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.
There is no law beyond do what thou wilt.”
This was an absolutely spectacular season, in my mind. So many wild, compelling visuals, as well as a decent, mysterious look at Thelema. It doesn’t get into overt expository dialogue all the time, rather it chooses to use imagery to draw in the viewer. We’re still left in the dark about a few things, which is great, because it gives the writers a chance to expand should Strange Angel be renewed.
I’d love to see a Season 2. Not sure how the viewership’s been, but I’m in love with the whole show. Here’s to hoping!