Snark Tank; Recap
Agent Carter Season 2, Episode 4: Smoke & Mirrors Recap
Whenever I imagined Peggy’s life before we first met her in Captain America I always imagined she was probably a little anti-social, angry, defended random woman being harassed by men like we’ve seen before. I assumed she struggled to find her place in the world and in the war, much like Steve did, because people didn’t take her seriously for different and similar reasons, but when she finally made it she found her calling and some control.
Oh boy, how wrong I was.
Our episode starts with a flashback to young Peggy, playing knight in a garden and saving the princess, only to be interrupted by her brother.
You remember, that brother that has never been mentioned over the three movies Peggy featured in and the first season of Agent Carter, but was apparently her closest friend. I should have been expecting this, considering we randomly found out he taught (full trained Agent) Peggy to fight a couple of episodes ago. Peggy’s mother makes an appearance too, telling her that one day she’ll have to start acting like a lady. Cut to Peggy stuffing her face and getting food everywhere, but we’ll get back to that later. That part, at least, I enjoyed.
The other little girl in this story is Agnes Cully (later Whitney Frost), fixing a radio in a hour in Broxton, Oklahoma. Her mother is all dressed up for “Uncle Bud” and Agnes is lucky she’s managed to fix the radio because the two soon disappear upstairs. Agnes gets told to smile a lot in these flashbacks, something that another Marvel show, Jessica Jones, recently used perfectly. I don’t know if the callback was intentional, but it stood out anyway.
Our next flashback is to a twenty-something Peggy, working as a code breaker in Bletchley Park. She’s engaged and surrounded by the giggling woman of the office. Her boss soon calls her into his office to offer his congratulations, but also to pass along a letter from the S.O.E. a war division that wants her as a field agent. Great! Here we go, Peggy is going to find her place.
No, wait, never mind, she doesn’t believe she’s cut out of that kind of work and besides, no way is her husband going to want her doing that. Sigh. What’s Agnes up to?
Agnes is still sat at the same kitchen table, working crazy science already as a teenager. Uncle Budd has himself another woman and Agnes and her mother have to get out of the house. I guess he owns it? Agnes is instantly blamed for the man leaving, for not being nice enough. She’s never going to get anywhere as a scientist, her mother says, because she’s a girl, her looks are the only thing that will ever get her anywhere.
It seems like Agnes takes these words to heart, as the next time we see her she looks a lot more like the woman we know. She’s at the movies but quickly realizes she doesn’t have enough for a ticket and begins to walk away. After a brief exchange with the woman at the box office, she’s slipped a free ticket, and I believe this less than the fact Jason Wilkes is currently incorporeal.
Just as she is about to enter the movie, Agnes is stopped by yet another man that thinks she must be pretty when she smiles. She relents this time, apparently having already lost that fight, and the man tells her he can get her work as an actress, she’ll just have to change her name. Whitney Frost has been made.
Okay, I’ve had time to calm down, lets check back in on Peggy!
Peggy is having dinner with her brother and her soon to be husband. Michael, the brother, is on the front lines, while Fred, the fiance, works at the home office. Peggy lets slip that she was recruited to be a spy but Fred quickly talks over her. WE said no, OUR Peg isn’t suited to that life.
Fred disappears off for more drinks and Michael reveals he recommended Peggy for the job and reminds her this isn’t her, this isn’t her life. Why did we need to invent a brother for Peggy just to tell Peggy who she is? It’s not even convincing either. Peggy doesn’t seem at all conflicted here, and if I didn’t know her future self I’d think all she wanted was to stay put and get married.
This scene and this character weren’t needed. Even if Peggy did get engaged to someone like Fred it would have been so much more fitting to see her struggle with what is expect of her and what she wants herself, instead of having a brother step in out of nowhere to fix her life for her.
We next see Peggy in her wedding dress and get very confused for a moment thinking it’s her wedding day. No, she’s just trying the dress on. Soldiers show up at the door and Peggy breaks down at the realization that her brother has died at war. The scene and the transition to Peggy’s wedding dress hung up, her wedding ring abandoned, might be beautiful anywhere else but here it just feels false to the character. This whole plot feel false to the character, who doesn’t even really look like herself throughout. Even her sense of style was stolen by almost getting married, apparently. We don’t see Peggy find herself anywhere in this story, we see her give in to her brother’s last wishes because he died and now she must honour his memory.
If this was the plot Marvel always had in mind for Peggy’s past (something I very much doubt since her brother just appeared out of nowhere) I’d rather not know it. The fact is Hayley already did this storyline much better back in 2012 in a tv movie called Restless, and you should all watch that instead.
The Present (for Peggy at least)
Back in LA, where Peggy is stuffing her face, she and Jason talk about the fact he doesn’t need to eat or sleep in his current state. They flirt some more and make it very clear it’s frustrating they can’t kiss, before we focus on the plans Jason is looking at, a reactor that Whitney created. A woman beyond a genius.
At Whitney’s home a cage of lab rats have just been delivered, and Whitney quickly begins to experiment with the Zero Matter currently inside her. She already accidentally absorbed her boss, but she’s having trouble doing the same at will. It finally works after one of the rats bites her, and I find this process even worse to watch when it’s happening to something cute and furry. With every being she absorbs Whitney’s scar seems to grow, and she’s going to have to really work that hair flip to keep hiding it.
Peggy meanwhile is on Chadwick’s tail, and quickly discovers his driver is the one that attacked and tried to kill her, a fact completely lost on oblivious Mr. Jarvis for a moment. With help from Rose the two discover the man is head of security at the Arena club, and hatch a plan to kidnap him that involves a tranquilizer and Jarvis’ american police officer voice.
Since we’ve already talked about the show butchering Peggy’s past I have to ask if anyone thinks the show has made her weaker this season? She shoots a guy with a tranquilizer here and still struggles to take him down.
Back at Howard’s Peggy runs into Sousa. It seems Peggy has taken vacation days after Jack ordered her back to New York a few days ago, and all of this kidnapping is certainly off the books. Sousa quickly notices Jarvis unconscious in the car, having been hit with a tranq dart, and discovers the man in the trunk of the car soon after.
The two argue, there’s a lot more love triangle subtext I don’t care about, and we cut to Sousa interrogating Hunt about his work at the Arena club. After his good guy routine fails Peggy injects Hunt with malaria… no, that’s just a lie, it’s an extreme fast acting version of the common cold, but he thinks he’s about to die in twenty minutes.
Whitney meanwhile has cancelled her photoshoot with Life magazine, to the protest of her husband. The Zero Matter scare is a lot bigger than when we last left her and there’s no squeaking to be heard, I have the feeling she’s finally got some control over her powers.
If she’s lucky it might be in time for when Peggy comes for her, as Hunt has finally broken and begins to give out names from the Arena club. He also confirms that the men we saw, the Council of Nine, is very much Agent Carter’s version of the illuminati. They control everything, and get rid of what they can’t, and all their meets are recorded on tapes kept in a storage closet at the club.
Sousa and Peggy race to a phone, interrupting Jason and Jarvis in the lab, where Jason seems to be losing his cool and seeing into the Zero Matter void. Considering his problem hasn’t been solved quickly I can only assume he’ll be sacrificing himself by the end of the season, and I won’t be the only one that isn’t happy about it.
Back at the SSR office Peggy and Sousa are about to lead a raid on the Arena club, only to be shut down by Thompson’s suspicious friend. Vernon Masters! He does have a name. They don’t have a warrant, in fact they’re now being investigated themselves. Peggy has made quite a name for herself, Vernon knows who she is and makes it clear a foreign spy can quickly find herself branded a communist if she doesn’t fall in line. Peggy doesn’t back down, at least here in the present the show knows how to keep her in character.
Vernon’s men finally leave and though they think they’ve taken all the evidence Sousa has managed to hide away a sample from the first Zero Matter victim. Sousa pays another visit to the kidnap victim, and the two let him think he’s escape so they can get a microphone near Whitney Frost. Then it’s just a waiting game, and in the meantime Jason is struggling to keep himself present instead of slipping away into whatever is waiting for him. Peggy brings up her brother yet again, and how he said she was MEANT to fight, and I hope the show quickly forgets him again because I’m sick of the “I’m tough because I had a brother” trope already.
Whitney’s husband is finally home and Hunt begins to talk. Whitney wants to know what he told Peggy, and when he makes it clear he gave up names Whitney closes the curtains and makes quick work of him. All Peggy and the gang hear is screaming as Whitney absorbs yet another person. She has complete control of her powers now and her husband is terrified.
I think I’ve already made it clear enough that I hate the backstory the show chose to give Peggy here, and it only reinforces how much this season seems to be about the men in Peggy’s life rather than Peggy herself. I don’t have a problem with the idea of Peggy finding love again after Steve, and if Jason was the only person we were dealing with here it could be great, but Agent Carter was the last show I wanted to see tainted with the dreaded love triangle.
That being said the present day storyline isn’t going too badly, and Whitney Frost is becoming an interesting villain for the season. Knowing who she is (spoilers) I can’t wait to see the full extent of her powers, however.