Sunday, June 24, 2018

Pilot Review: Strange Angel

Strange Angel (CBS All Access)
Premiered June 14

I went into this show without knowing anything about it other than that it was the first original drama to air on CBS’ premium streaming service that wasn’t a continuation or reboot of a previous series. After finishing the hour, I didn’t feel that I came away with much more knowledge, since this show is a real head-scratcher that doesn’t try too hard to explain what it’s about. I’m not at all familiar with Jack Parsons and his role in the creation and development of rockets, and I don’t know anything about the occult ritual group that it appears that he’ll soon become involved with after following his eccentric neighbor. What I did find most interesting wasn’t the plot but the presentation, with Ernest first introduced as a man with an unknown background who definitely seemed off in some way and Jack wide-eyed and watching, trying to figure out what his story was. The more standard scientific showcase of the rocket engineering and funding efforts are also mildly interesting, though Jack seems way too wild and unpredictable while the more stoic Richard exercises reserved caution at every juncture. Though I imagine there’s more intrigue to be found her, the little I saw of the community Jack seems destined to join – described in synopses as performing sex magick rituals – was substantially unappealing to me. The hook here wasn’t strong enough, suggesting a character that might be worth watching but failing to hone in and make following his story feel truly urgent and compelling.

How will it work as a series? Ernest, played fanatically by Rupert Friend, in a decent role for the “Homeland” alum, seemed very excited that Jack was following him around, while someone else clearly was angry enough to try to scare his wife off with a threat. The intersection of his scientific work and his extracurricular activities is sure to be sensational, though I’d imagine things will get weird quickly.
How long will it last? It doesn’t appear that this show is getting great reviews, though it’s not all bad. A mixed reaction means that it’s not as strong a case for renewal as CBS All Access’ other offerings, which have proven to be slam dunks. Tentatively, I’d say that this one isn’t going to get renewed, but without any sense of ratings data, it’s impossible to know and could always end up going the other way.

Pilot grade: C+

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