Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Marvel's Agent Carter 2.04: "Smoke & Mirrors"

“I’d sleep better if you’d stop pushing me away and let me help you.”
- Sousa

This was a very interesting episode of “Agent Carter”, not only because it advanced the plot a bit but because of the history we became privy to on both Peggy and Whitney. Many of us likely thought we knew Peggy’s history thanks to Captain America; The First Avenger but we get a lot more intel on our leading lady and I thought it was great. From a very young age, Peggy Carter was a tomboy, always playing in the yard and pretending to rescue the princess and slay the dragon. She lost a bit of that drive to fight when she got engaged to a soldier named Fred (but at least she was working as a Code Breaker). During her work with the war effort, she gets the offer to be trained as a spy and go behind enemy lines. She turns it down at first, thinking that’s not what her life is going to be. But when her brother, Michael, points out that she’s destined to be a fighter (and he recommended her for the position), she starts to question her path. Her fate is sealed when news comes that her brother has died on the front.

By contrast, Whitney (born Agnes) had a much colder upbringing. Her single mother took up with kind of an abusive man and neither adult really cared that Whitney was so smart. After her mother’s lover leaves her, she forces Whitney to stop focusing on being smart and use her beauty to her advantage, claiming that’s all she’s got that’s worth anything. In the end, she gets discovered by a talent agent and decides that using her looks may get her what she wants in the long run.

Both of these backstories serve to highlight what each woman is going through in the present. Peggy is determined to find out what’s going on with the Arena Club and Whitney and so she and Jarvis are surveilling Mr. Chadwick. Peggy notes that the driver of Mr. Chadwick’s car has the same gunshot wound to his hand as her assailant. So with a little time to prep a felony, she and Jarvis go to the would-be assassin’s home (his name is Hunt) and try to take him down. It requires Peggy to almost get choked out again and stabbing him with a tranquilizer twice to knock him out. Unfortunately, Jarvis also gets knocked out. Oops! And Sousa is waiting for Peggy when she gets back to the house. He’s dug up some more dirt on Whitney and he is rather unhappy when he discovers what Peggy’s done. He’s a little miffed she broke the law but he’s more upset that she didn’t include him in her plan. So she’s going to sue him to get some information out of Hunt. The plan actually works fairly well. Peggy injects Hunt with what she claims is a strain of malaria (but is really just a supersized cold bug) and then convinces him he’s going to die without the antidote. He gives up a bunch of names which Sousa and Peggy use to try and get a warrant.

The warrant doesn’t come through, though because Jack’s FBI buddy shows up and shuts the whole thing down. It’s pretty obvious he’s involved with this Council of Nine (which I’m thinking is Hydra) and so was the judge that Sousa tried to get the warrant from. I’m really hoping by the end of this season this guy is dead. Or at least Peggy takes him to task for being a condescending pig. I’d say he’s a misogynist too but he was kind of a dick to Sousa as well. He just thinks he’s better than everyone and clearly he’s not.

Lucky for the SSR, Peggy and Sousa still have Hunt locked up and they use to him to get some information that they didn’t have before (thanks to planting a bug on Hunt). He goes straight to the Chadwick residence where Whitney has been moping around and exploring her powers. She’s ordered a bunch of live rats (and I swear I thought she was going to eat them) and ends up absorbing one. It’s all very odd. But it results in her showing off her powers to her husband to keep Hunt quiet after he threatens to go to the Council and rat out the Chadwicks. At least our team got some of the confession that the Chadwicks sent him to kill Peggy! Now they just have to figure out what Whitney’s done and stop her. Along the way they should probably figure out what is making Dr. Wilkes feel like if he just closes his eyes and lets go, he’ll disappear. I have a feeling it is linked to the fact that Whitney has absorbed all the Zero Matter. I bet he’s being sucked into her or something and if they can’t make him corporeal he’ll disappear forever. Which is sad because I like him and Peggy together (they have a moment where they almost kiss) and it’s kind of frustrating. Peggy and Sousa are also frustrating because I could be happy with her ending up with either of them. Knowing what we know now about her past, it makes sense to some extent that she would not want to rush into something. But it’s so painfully obvious that she and Sousa have feelings for each other! Why must they make the shipping so difficult?

I have been very pleased with how this season is unfolding (just as I enjoyed season 1). I think the setting of the 1940s and in this case Hollywood is doing the show a great service in making it glittery and magical. Plus it doesn’t hurt that Peggy is such a strong female lead. I know the ratings aren’t what they were last season (and we were lucky to get this season) but I sincerely hope the network realizes what they have on their hands with this show and allow Peggy and the rest of the SSR team (including Jarvis) to come back for another season in 2017 because there is so much more story to tell. At least we still have half a season to go.

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