CBS’s Strange Angel
Season 2, Episode 1: “The Fool”
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Written by Mark Heyman
* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “The Sacrificial Dance” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Magus” – click here
Pearl Harbor’s being attacked by Japanese kamikaze pilots. Jack Parsons (Jack Reynor) and Richard Onsted (Peter Kendall) are celebrating their success while planes are being used to destroy their own country. They’ve got no clue what’s soon going to occur, that technology will become the catalyst for some of the worst violence humanity’s ever had to offer— the shadow of the future looms large over the show, as the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima would occur just a few years later.
One of Hitler’s vengeance weapons— the V-2 rocket— is “on the verge of completion.” This means our rocket boys are being pushed by the military to work harder. They get more money to build an “operational missile.” Also means the military’s going to look through the lives of its scientists. Could be sketchy for a Thelema acolyte.
At the Agape Lodge, Jack and Susan (Bella Heathcote) are pledging themselves to Thelema and to one another. A ceremony’s conducted. The married couple have sex while everybody watches in a circle around them. It’s all interrupted when Virgil Byrne (Michael Gaston) and others from the diocese turn up with an eviction notice. The order must vacate. So it’s more than common knowledge Mr. and Mrs. Parsons both are part of Thelema. Certainly going to make for an interesting Season 2.
“If we’ve got to kill a few Nazis on the way to the Moon,
so be it.”
Susan and Jack live in a nice new bourgeois home. They’re not quite those types, though they’re among those types. Mother Ruth (Hope Davis) is around with her snooty friend, a Van Buren, talking about people who lost everything when the Depression ruined them without much human concern. Always pressing about grandchildren, of course.
Meanwhile, Jack spends time with Grand Magus Alfred Miller (Greg Wise). They talk about what will happen with Thelema, now that the Agape is shut down. Miller wants to “be left alone.” He’s sick of moving from city to city. Jack suggests they make their home the lodge. Susan doesn’t think it’d be a great idea with her younger sister Patty (Laine Neil) living there. Even Alfred wonders if it can all co-exist— the lodge and the couple’s marriage under a single roof.
Ernest Donovan (Rupert Friend) returns home from off a berth at sea to discover the lodge is no more. Not a man who does well when totally on his own. He breaks into a store and the owner confronts him with a gun. He beats the guy near to death with his own gun. He sees his hands on fire in a surreal vision. He’s sniffing powder— cocaine?— to make it go away, then passes out as cops arrive. When he’s arrested he spouts Thelema rhetoric: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” There’s a note along with his record at the station to call Virgil if he’s found.
The military are vetting Jack and Richard. They bring up Aleister Crowley and Thelema, questioning Richard about whether he knows of Jack’s involvement with the “fringe religion.” They’re concerned about Gui Chiang (Keye Chen) and his allegiance to America. It’s a tough process. Simultaneously, Alfred and Susan are discussing the potential use of the Parsons home for the new Agape. They’re also bringing in new followers. Among them a couple black musicians, a Jewish woman suggested to be trans, and a lesbian couple, among others at the edge of 1940s society, all of whom have found their own safe haven in the relative liberal haven of California.
Against all odds, the rocket boys get their clearance.
Onward further towards glory, towards war, towards space!
Patty calls home one night while Thelema are doing a ritual. She holds the receiver out so Virgil gets to hear a bit of the madness. She enjoys taunting him and his Christian sense of morality. Her parents are worried sick. What’s father going to do now? He’s headed down to the jail, so he can talk with Ernest, whom he blames for the ruin of his family. He’d like to try using the man to get back at Jack.
General Braxton is showing the rocket team footage shot at Peenemünde, which was “the base of the Nazi secret missile project.” It shows early V-2 rocket tests. The military hopes their American scientists can race to “put words into action” and use their technological wizardry to beat Hitler to the punch. Despite Jack being passed for clearance he doesn’t have everybody on his side. One fella doesn’t like Crowley particularly, who, at one time, had “pro–German” sympathies.
During a night at the Agape, Jack starts leading people in their master’s “Hymn to Pan.” They all recite it together. Until there are knocks at the door. Jack hears them as the Great Beast beating its hooves, breathing heavily right outside. In a way, it is— Ernest has come back to the Parsons place.
“And I rave, and I rape, and I rip, and I rend
Everlasting, world without end…”
Amazing star to Season 2. Father Gore was worried last year there wouldn’t be another season, and this has finally come. Ben Wheatley’s directing helps to start things off right. There are many new paths in this season, so it’s going to be a compelling watch. All the performances continue to pull things along, as well as the surreal and eye-popping imagery that continues to turn up.
“The Magus” is next time.