CBS’s Strange Angel
Season 2, Episode 5: “The Hanged Man”
Directed by Christina Choe
Written by Dana Adam Shapiro
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Wheel of Fortune” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Tower” – click here
In the Tarot, The Hanged Man represents an unorthodox, upside-down view of life, signalling change in perspective. If upright, the card suggests old ways of thinking need to be put aside, subconscious wisdom is at work— in a more literal sense, it can mean hanging around, awaiting the outcome of a major decision. If reversed, the card signifies a limbo of conflict, and that one is bound to the earth, fettered by materialism.
Ernest (Rupert Friend) has guilt for what he’s done to Virgil (Michael Gaston). He sees a vision of the man in his bedroom at night, showing off the holes in his hand. Susan (Bella Heathcote) and Alfred (Greg Wise) continue their affair behind Jack’s (Jack Reynor) back while he’s at work. It’s less about Thelema, more about fucking each other. It certainly “feels forbidden,” yet they’re all about living their lives openly. Sure, Mr. Parsons isn’t perfect, but all this is definitely hypocritical.
At work, Jack’s finding out General Braxton (Karl Makinen) and the snooping Agent Wallace (Matthew Barnes) know of his connection to Aleister Crowley, whom the Americans believe may have tried to meet Adolf Hitle himself. What does this lead to? Braxton and Wallace are invited to the lodge to see there’s “absolutely nothing to fear.” Not quite right, considering Jack goes home and has the place slightly redecorated, such as having the Great Beast‘s painting taken down from the foyer. Perfect time to get a telegram from Crowley, including a new writing called Liber OZ.
“Everything out in the open—
Finally, General Braxton and Co. have come to the Parsonage. Quite the meeting— occult and military under one roof for an evening. It’ll be an interesting night for many reasons. One being the Magus and Jack’s relationship, slowly decaying— Alfred’s worn Susan’s underwear in his lapel— and then there’s Richard (Peter Mark Kendall), among others, who’ve never been quite so close to the Agape. Parsons has even recruited his mother, Ruth (Hope Davis), to make things look more normal. Outside, Jack embraces the “coming together of opposites” in hopes of joining Thelema with the military ranks. Inside, he’s shocked to find Crowley’s portrait hanging in the foyer again.
There are devious things afoot. The underwear supposedly left by Susan were actually not, and Ernest slyly told those serving the drinks to put in some special “Parsons‘s Poison Punch” for everybody. Yikes. Susan and Alfred slip away together. She’s scared her husband’s found out their affair. She doesn’t want the lodge to crumble because of their personal business, whereas the Magus is happy banging another man’s wife.
Not long and Ernest reveals Liber OZ to the party. He takes everyone into the garden, reciting Crowley’s new work. He wants the true Magus to step forward, and Alfred does— very clear Frater E.D. is creating a divide, pushing Jack and Alfred towards a larger confrontation. In the midst of it all, Jack sees Aleister (Angus Macfadyen) upstairs lurking. They have a private chat about the military and Thelema “fused as one” to make a greater power, no matter what the personal cost.
In the garden, Alfred performs sex magick while everybody watches, including Susan, jealously. She rushes off to divulge all her secrets to her husband. Then there’s Richard, who’s beginning to feel his business partner / friend is a pervert, concerned JPL is going to suffer because of his personal life.
“It must be exhausting
serving two masters.”
People are finding the gates to the Parsonage locked.
General Braxton is busy tripping off the punch. Ernest finds him in the dark, talking of “war and misery” in the real world versus “a garden of earthly delights” within the lodge. Thelema is descending into full-on bacchanalia. Everyone’s drinking and snorting and getting horny. Even Agent Wallace is hooking up with Brigitte (Joslyn DeFreece), surprisingly not judgemental for a conservative government man when she tells him about her personal history. It’s actually a pretence to interrogate her about Crowley. He finds a picture showing Brigitte was a Nazi herself, before she was able to be herself.
Jack finds General Braxton in a suggestive position with his mother, which helps grease the wheels: the military man wants to move ahead with JPL, under Jack’s care. The wild party’s actually worked in his favour, in spite of all the madness. A scream draws everyone to a trail of blood. Jack heads into the dark house, where Ernest sits in a pool of gas with lit candles around him. He tries to convince his friend not to light himself and the mansion on fire. Frater E.D. urges him to fulfil his destiny as the Magus. Then he drops a lighter, letting flames consume him. Jack barely makes it out before the place explodes. This was the sacrifice of which Crowley spoke earlier.
“A man of fire should not be bowing
before a man of clay.”
What an episode! Just, whoa. Somehow, the series manages to step it up a notch with the strangeness, but then with all this intensity, too. Great to watch the story move in new directions while also building off the reoccurring themes and the plots that have become so compelling. No telling what’ll happen now with ALL these latest developments.
“The Tower” is next time.