Strange Angel: Augurs of Spring
June 14, 2019 12:16 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

In 1930s Los Angeles. Jack Parsons (Jack Reynor) works as a janitor at a chemical factory by day, but, by night, he nurses a secret ambition: to build rockets that will take mankind to the moon. The pressures of his double life are further complicated when Jack and his wife Susan (Bella Heathcote) are confronted by a mysterious new neighbor, Ernest Donovan (Rupert Friend), who appears to be leading a double life of his own.

Strange Angel (Wikipedia) is an American historical period drama web television series that premiered on June 14, 2018 on CBS All Access. The series is based on the biography Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons (Goodreads; Amazon) by George Pendle.

STRANGE ANGEL Series Premiere Recap: (S01E01): Augurs of Spring (Geek Girl Authority)
posted by filthy light thief (8 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've recently gorged on this, and I'm up to the last episode of this first season. The second season debuted yesterday (June 13, 2019). I'll make one post per day per episode until I'm caught up, partially because I want to post my thoughts on each episode (and be a geek who celebrates and nitpicks the details).

I've started reading the book, but I haven't gotten too far into it yet. I'll make a book post when I'm done with it.

Some background details for this episode:
posted by filthy light thief at 12:56 PM on June 14, 2019

I definitely want to watch this! I get a Thomas Pynchon vibe from what you wrote about it.

But I think this post is a case where you were very careful to keep a Great Revelation out of the show description, and then gave a lot away in the Tags...
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:23 PM on June 15, 2019

I get what you're saying, but this isn't that show (that show, or at least one of them, is Lodge 49 [FanFare post for the first season], which comes back for its second season this August).

The Great Reveal was only one for the first episode, and it's somewhat given away in a season 1 trailer, or if you read the first sentence of Jack Parson's Wikipedia bio. Which is to say, it's not really a secret, but the first episode builds up so you're unsure about a lot of details that are well documented if you've read anything about Jack, rather like experiencing these things with Jack, instead of starting at the end, like the biography on which this show is based.

That's also my very wordy way of saying there's more to this show than learning about Earnest, and you learn more over the course of the first season. I haven't gotten around to posting more episode threads, and I was thinking I'd post a Season One umbrella instead of doing individual episode posts, but reflecting on all the reveals that come through the show, I'll probably do a slew of them later this week in case people do want to discuss what comes up or about in each episode, unless someone else does so first.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:12 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Haven’t watched this show, but I did grow up in Santa Clarita Valley.

City of SCV was formed in 1989 out of a bunch of unincorporated areas (Canyon Country, Newhall, Saugus, and Valencia).

Bermite is definitely the real place. It was located directly next to the Saugus Speedway on Soledad Canyon Road. They built explosives during the war, and because they just buried their waste, a developer that brought the land later is on the hook to clean it up and my cousin the geologist who is supervising the clean up for LA County says they’ll never make it clean enough for humans to live there.

Fun fact: some workers there “disposed” of a bunch of rocket fuel by igniting it at 2am or some other godly hour in the early 90’s. The explosion blew out every window a half mile around and made my house like 2 miles away feel like it was falling down. It was louder than the ‘94 earthquake and frankly scarier.
posted by sideshow at 10:54 AM on June 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

A book recommendation: Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by one of the rocket scientists that was brewing for real at the time.

pssst, if you're an aspiring terrorist skip the anarchists handbook, this thin volume explains all the failures, basically two categories, toxic sludge and rocket fuel candidates that have a inordinately rapid and hot reactions, the authors advice for those experiments is to be wearing good running shoes.
posted by sammyo at 7:04 AM on June 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I started watching this -- just the first episode -- and I like it a lot. Thanks for handling this program as a series of episode posts, because Unfolding Mystery shows are badly served by whole-season FanFare "umbrella" posts. The Lodge 49 post is a great example. You don't want to read the whole thread lest it spoil any of the fun along the way, yet by the time you've watched the entire season, you can't remember the intriguing episode details you wanted to comment on.

So... I really like the dramatizations of the magazine story Jack is reading. The weirdly-lit and slightly-fake depiction of the world captures the "pulp fiction" style. The way the show is filmed and presented feels like Prestige Television as done by an old-school CBS broadcast TV crew, if that makes any sense; it's well-done mainstream '90s (pre-Sopranos) TV show style, but given room to tell a long story with sex and stuff. I dig the dirtbag Thelemite -- he reminds me of Joaquin Phoenix's main character in the Philip Seymour Hoffman movie The Master. And I'm going to predict that Susan, who is clearly bored and hungry for spirituality (which she has to hide under the mattress), will ignite like methanol when she encounters that Aleister Crowley cult...
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:53 AM on June 22, 2019

Harvey, I'm glad you liked the episode, and my episodic posts. I tried to remove as much of the details that might give away details from earlier episodes in later posts.

One more link: The legend of Wan Hu, the Chinese official — supposedly of 2000 BC, or else the middle Ming dynasty (16th century) — who was described in 20th century sources as the world's first "astronaut" by being lifted by rockets into outer space. The crater Wan-Hoo on the far side of the Moon is named after him. (Wikipedia)
posted by filthy light thief at 10:13 AM on June 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I totally thought this was like a Stranger Things / Evangelion mashup.
posted by weed donkey at 3:06 PM on July 11, 2019

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