CBS’s Strange Angel
Season 2, Episode 4: “The Wheel of Fortune”
Directed by Sarah Boyd
Written by John Lopez
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Lovers” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Hanged Man” – click here
In the Tarot, The Wheel of Fortune signifies reaching a crossroads— the wheel can turn in a good direction or a bad one. If upright, the card heralds a major change in overall circumstance, explainable destiny, and fresh enterprises / ideas to transform one’s way of thinking / living. If reversed, it indicates an uncontrollable negative situation, but also that, as the wheel turns, better change may come.
Susan (Bella Heathcote) thinks of her rope bondage session with Alfred (Greg Wise). It was more than that: they fucked. Part of the danger in Thelema is it confuses spiritual awakening with sex. Yes, sex can be very spiritual, that doesn’t mean it’s the same thing as religion. Then there’s Ernest (Rupert Friend), telling other members of the Agape Lodge about how he witnessed Jack (Jack Reynor) become “the angel Azazel with wings of holy fire“— Azazel was one of the Fallen Angels. Not only that, his work with Virgil (Michael Gaston) is exposed.
Speaking of, Virgil is trying to get help from District Attorney Yates (J. Downing) to deal with the Agape’s attempts at incorporation. He tells tall tales of “animal sacrifice” and other madness, whereas the D.A. worries about persecuting a religious organisation in an age when America’s fighting fascism.
The rest of the lodge want to know about Jack’s experience as Azazel. Naturally, the Magus starts mentioning Aleister Crowley’s own experience with an angel. He’s sceptical, and quite jealous. He wants to get Mr. Parsons alone for a private session. Our rocket man has “a war to win.” He doesn’t have time for the passive-aggressive Magus.
In the desert, Jack, Richard (Peter Mark Kendall), and Gui (Keye Chen) ready a test for their new rocket. It flies into the sky, exploding miles away— nearly three miles, exactly. “There is no other god than me,” Jack mumbles to himself, watching the miracle of science he’s helped create. More troubling signs of his growing narcissism, aided by the limitless spirituality of Thelema.
Mix all that with rocket fuel? Dangerous.
Marisol (Veronica Osorio) is working in a diner while dreaming big of Hollywood, told by casting directors she’s either “too Mexican” or “not Mexican enough.” That evening, she receives a visit from Richard. He apologises for going to see her family and judging her. He shows her the ring he’d bought. She still pushes him away at first. She has issues because of her own father cheating on her mother.
At the office, Patty (Laine Neil) is also dreaming big— too big. She’s telling people about a “mass every full moon” and divulging lots of stuff to secretaries about the Agape Lodge. Jack pleads with her to keep their secrets.
“You have become a rudderless ship
on a dark sea.”
Ernest keeps meeting with Virgil, to string the man along. He questions the good Catholic if he ever “killed a man.” Virgil says he did, at Château-Thierry— this suggests he was at the Battle of Château-Thierry during World War I. The Thelemite quips a bit of Friedrich Nietzsche. Then he’s told he must reveal his working with Virgil, in order to complete whatever plan the man’s devised to use the law against the Agape.
As if that hasn’t already happened anyway.
He returns to the lodge, telling everyone about Virgil’s plan. Some members don’t believe Ernest’s tale of Azazel. There’s a divide in the group. Jack knows there’s “a mole.” He wants to embarrass Virgil in court. Problematic when Jack sees his wife forged his signature for the IRS. He realises the Magus is working with Susan. Afterwards, more suggestions from Susan that Virgil did horrible things to his daughters— he raped them. She goes to Ernest and asks him to teach her stepfather “about shame.”
At the office, Richard laments losing his relationship with Marisol. He’s taken to snorting his Benzedrine a.k.a bennies. He’s talking about how, to beat the Nazis they have to “be the Nazis.” Not a cool thing to say around Gui. What the scientist means is they’ve got to have a testing facility like Hitler’s doing with the V-2 in Germany. Richard wants to expand the lab so it’s big enough they’ll win “every war to come.” This is thinking that’ll lead to the moon. Also leads America to drones another 60+ years later.
Following Jack and Richard’s big proposal to the military, General Braxton (Karl Makinen) gets wind of Mr. Parsons’s writings in his little book. This worries the General. He and the federal government would be getting into bed with an occultist who has deep ties to Crowley. Loyalty’s in question.
At night, Jack talks to Alfred about “crossing the Abyss“— an aspect of the Thelema religion which helps members come into contact with the divine. It involves shedding guilt and taking an irredeemable oath. Mostly, the Magus is attempting to draw out the truth from Mr. Parsons in hopes of uncovering hypocrisy.
Is all this really just becoming a larger battle between two jealous men?
Yeah. A dick measuring contest. It’s also about power.
Each man is struggling to keep control over the Agape.
Ernest goes to Virgil’s office. He’s not there to talk, either. He has a violent purpose.
He’s going to crucify the man to his desk for being a child rapist. And at the lodge, Susan goes to the Magus again, falling lustily into bed. This is no longer sex magick, this is an affair. Jack hears his wife and Alfred fucking, prompting him to “wake the believers” for a ceremony. He’s going to help Ernest cross the Abyss, leading him through the ritual oath. The Agape’s about to crumble.
What an episode! Just, wow. All the relationships here, whether sexual or merely personal, are getting incredibly complicated, which makes Strange Angel an even more compelling show than it is already. Love the tension between Susan and Jack. There’s going to be huge fallout in the next episode, too.
“The Hanged Man” is next time.