CBS’s Strange Angel
Season 2, Episode 2: “The Magus”
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Written by Sarah Byrd & Mark Heyman
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “The Fool” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Lovers” – click here
In the Tarot, The Magus (a.k.a The Magician / The Juggler) has the ability to reveal the magical, creative essence of every aspect of life. If upright, it means hidden knowledge is revealed, and can herald important journeys / new creativity. If reversed, it exposes The Magician as a trickster, suggesting to examine the motives of others who aren’t what they seem— just as the conjurer enchants with magic, so can he woo with deception.
Of course the easy answer is the card’s referring to the Magus of the Agape. However, could it refer to Frater E.D. a.k.a Ernest Donovan (Rupert Friend)? He’s come home under false pretence. He’s also working with Virgil (Michael Gaston), whom he meets clandestinely in a confessional— ironic in and of itself— to discuss their plans.
Ernest has come back to the new Agape. He’s received by Grand Magus Alfred Miller (Greg Wise). He’s found his “true path” and wants help to move onward. He went to Cairo, where Aleister Crowley was visited by the “angel Aiwass” and given the “Book of the Law.” He’s been all over, searching for answers. His body is branded and tattooed with symbols related to Thelema, and to other religions, such as the Eye of Ra from ancient Egyptian mythology.
But Jack Parsons (Jack Reynor) isn’t happy to have the man who nearly ran him down with a plane in his home. The Grand Magus feels different. Susan (Bella Heathcote) tries to change her husband’s mind, though it isn’t easy— he no longer trusts the man he considered a friend.
There’s also Patty (Laine Neil) kicking around the house / lodge. A stark contrast from her sheltered Roman Catholic upbringing at home with Virgil. She sneaks in to look at Alfred’s things, getting caught. It’ll be a bad situation eventually. Patty’s curious about the Agape, considered “the serpent” by the Grand Magus. Bella doesn’t feel she’ll be trouble. Her Magus tries convincing her otherwise.
Does he have other designs for Mrs. Parsons? Something unnerving about him.
“Love is the law”
The Magus has Ernest alone, attempting to get at the truth of his journey. He directs his subject through memories, dripping blood onto a Thelema ritual object covered in sigils. Ernest was visited by a vision of fire that left him with “unquenchable rage,” and he’s desperate to see it again. Alfred urges him to go back further. He bleeds his subject more. There’s something lurking there on the periphery of his memory.
Elsewhere, Richard Onsted (Peter Mark Kendall) tracks down Marisol’s (Veronica Osorio) family history from a childhood photograph of her old home. He’s there to speak with her father, Nico (Ramón Franco). He wants a blessing, so he can ask Marisol to marry him. Nico’s not overly excited. He gets to potentially extorting money out of Richard for his blessing. The father and daughter don’t have a relationship. But her brother Matias (Christian Gallegos) gives Richard a necklace to give her before he’s gone.
At the lab, Jack and Richard are looking over the film from Nazi Germany, attempting to figure out the V-2 rocket. The team’s not sure they have enough time. Jack’s meeting with the prisoner of war who smuggled the footage out, believing there may be even better info to get from this man. Who’s in the strange car outside watching Mr. Parsons? Also, when he and Patty go home later, he has a quiet talk with Ernest, while she goes snooping again, finding a locked trunk full of recordings. Uh. Oh.
“You wake from a dream, the truth is known.
You wake from waking, the truth is the unknown.”
Jack and his team interrogate the POW. He pushes to figure out more about the “slave labour” and everything else propelling the Nazis. He knows there are things to figure out, even in the tiniest details, like whether a POW who drank “rocket fuel” died right away or if his death was prolonged— the others think he’s being rough, but the answers could allow Jack to understand something important necessary to cracking the V-2.
What Patty found on those recordings is a conversation between the Magus and Susan, among others. Jack’s a bit worried about Alfred “collecting everyone‘s darkest secrets.” There’s one specific recording Patty thinks he ought to hear— the recent one between Ernest and Alfred, speaking of “his angel” and other things. Everything at the new Agape is about to become far more complicated. All this does is send Jack back to Ernest, who’s shooting him up with drugs to help facilitate more of the rocket man’s journey. They’re coming back together after all this time. Sadly, it’s only due to Ernest attempting to ultimately destroy him.
In a diner, Jack sees Aleister Crowley (Angus Macfadyen). Not a vision— the Great Beast has come to America undercover. He’s there for “King and Country,” warning enemies are getting closer. He warns Mr. Parsons to pay attention to everybody around him, heeding the Tarot’s advice. He leaves Jack with a contact— M. Herion, referring to The Master Therion— in case they need to get in touch, should any new developments arise.
Jack has figured a few things out, now that he knows British forces have attacked a Nazi test site, setting Germany back. This gives the lab a chance to spring forward. Although it’s slightly troubling Parsons thinks he “manifested” the attack, “as if by magic.” Richard also wonders how the Nazis may retaliate.
At the lodge, Jack allows Patty a seat at the table, given she’s one of the only people being truthful with him. Over all, Thelema’s having issues. The Grand Magus is worried about the democratic approach because it means less power for him.
Another solid episode. Love having Wheatley direct episodes, elevating an already excellent series to greater heights. The intrigue of Season 2 is fast becoming even wilder than the first, so it’s going to be great to watch how things progress, especially with all the secrets being hidden and Ernest keeping watch on all the people Virgil sees as deviant within the Agape, not to mention Jack and Susan fucking other cult members.
“The Lovers” is next time.