Sometimes true stories can be stranger than fiction. Strange Angel covers the life of Jack Parsons, a scientist who also dealt in the occult.
Strange Angel is a historical period drama series that is based on George Pendle’s book of the same name. This true story follows the life of Jack Parsons, a college dropout living in 1930s and ’40s Los Angeles. Jack Parsons (Jack Reynor) was a self-taught chemist and rocket engineer, who during the day worked as a janitor, but at night helped his friend, Rich Onstead (Peter Mark Kendall) develop jet propulsion.
Parsons would later become the co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Aerojet Engineering Corporation. Parsons sounded like a very grounded person, right? Maybe not. It seems that Parsons, after being introduced to a neighbor, Ernest Donovan (Rupert Friend) becomes involved with the occult. So how did this work…this interest in both science and magic?
Per aspera ad astra
“Through hardship to the stars.” From the very first episode of this two-season series it was canceled before a third series could be made) we watch as Parsons and Onstead work on their off time and with their own money to create a powerful rocket fuel. Of course, with all his money going towards their experimentations, Jack is falling behind in the mortgage, which not only upsets his wife Susan (Bella Heathcote) but also his father-in-law.
Parsons is definitely a go-getter and coerces Onstead to introduce him to Department Chair of Caltech, Filip Mesulam (Rade Serbedzija). The night before Parsons and Onstead tests their fuel theory for Mesulam, Parsons follows Ernest to an occult temple where he not only witnesses a ceremony, but also interrupts a sacrifice. Although Parsons escapes…Ernest recognizes his car.
I am still catching up on the season one episodes which are on Paramount+, but I am beginning to come to the conclusion that Parsons is a borderline mad hatter. He bristles whenever his lack of education comes up, but this man has the confidence that makes up for any lack of academia. Parson’s methods are counterproductive when it comes to learned men like Gui Chiang (Keye Chen) and Samson Hunt (Zack Pearlman)…but in truth…Parsons is the just the person Caltech needs to make things happen.
As interesting as the science part of the series is, I found myself drawn to Parson’s neighbor, Ernest. This is one scary man. He has no filters at all and with a motto of “Do what thou wilt,” we know from the start that Ernest is a very dangerous man.
The religion that Parsons becomes strongly involved in is called Thelema. It is a Western esoteric spiritual movement founded by Aleister Crowley. Thelema has its collection of gods and goddesses some of which led to the development of Wicca and modern paganism.
The combination of science and magic works in this series to keep us interested in watching, but Parsons was a real person who even though his dealings with the occult were suspect, we have to give credit where credit is due…Parsons made important contributions to rocket engineering, space exploration, and he is regarded as an important figure in the history of America’s Space Program.