Agent Carter went full funny pages this week in another aces episode that had Peggy and the gang trying to clear Doc Wilkes of a bum rap while ankle deep in the mystery of the shady fellas at the Arena Club. Not to mention getting to the bottom of that wacky Zero Matter biz. You can lay your peepers on Doug’s review of the episode here but keep hoofing for the keenest moments from “Better Angels.”
1) A Whole Heap Of Hen Fruit
For the opening, I tried finding some fun 1940’s slang to use in the spirit of the newspaper headline in tonight’s episode. Unfortunately, most of the terms are so well known or even commonplace now that nothing jumped out beyond what I already knew. Until I came across the slang for “eggs” which, apparently, people called hen fruit. It was like Easter morning. But how could I possibly work the term into my article? The answer was staring me right in the face like a big, fat, fan-pleasing Easter egg. And luckily, this episode was chock-full of ’em.
The first few come with the return of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) who is shooting a Western when Peggy and Jarvis show up. After the duo interrupt the film, Howard decides to break for lunch and we get this meta exchange.
Howard: You want to play a sassy beer wench?
Peggy: I’d rather be the cowboy.
Howard: I like it. I don’t think the audience is ready yet.
Peggy: But they’re ready for a movie based on a comic book? Sounds like a dreadful idea!
Aside from the obvious tease about comic book movies, there’s the slightly more subversive one about audiences not being ready for a female lead in said films. Luckily that’s less of a problem on the TV front, present company included. But the somewhat less obvious reference and more Eastery egg is that the comic book being adapted, Kid Colt, is an actual Marvel character. This is likely the closest we’ll ever get to seeing him on screen, unless a Western revival coincides with a superhero fatigue and Marvel decides to ride the wave.
Later in the episode, when Sousa is researching Whitney Frost, we learn that she’s originally from Broxton, Oklahoma. That’s probably the last we’ll ever hear of it, but in the comics Broxton becomes the temporary home of Asgard and figures prominently into a number of major stories and events. The reveal of Frost’s birth name, Agnes Cully, is something of an anti-Easter egg as her real name in the comics is Giulietta Nefaria.
Our final two eggs come during the post-Peggy strangling at Château Stark when Jarvis installs the new security system complete with his dulcet tones to ward off intruders. After Peggy jokes about their effectiveness, Jarvis meta-quips that he has no desire to spend more time as a disembodied voice. This is of course in reference to Howard’s son Tony using his old butler’s voice and sensibilities as the first A.I. for his Iron Man suits. And as Howard departs for the Amazon, we get our final reference with a shot of a stained glass window with the unmistakable likeness to the arc reactor.
2) Howard Stark, That Old Wolf!
While Peggy and Jarvis make a great duo, Howard completes the shows perfect trio, together again for the first time since last year’s finale. Howard is in typical Stark fashion, making rye jokes, cavorting with bikini-clad women, and even finding time to get hopped up on caffeine and do some honest to goodness science.
Dominic Cooper does such a fantastic job of channeling a proto version of what Robert Downey, Jr. does as Tony, that it’s always a joy to have him back on the show. But given his less than desirable qualities, it’s nice that our star still shines brightest and Peggy can put Howard in his chauvinistic place. The best instance of this being when she treats him like a trained dog, complete with puppy talk, by using his favorite vice: a cocktail. And while that was one of the best moments of the episode, Howard might have won my Best Line of the Night Award when he described the Arena Club’s ranks as “male and pale.”
And since his departure to the Amazon means we won’t be seeing Howard for a few episodes, he gets a bit more time in the spotlight, first using his smooth-talk to distract the poor man’s Jarvis in the Arena Club while Peggy goes to plant bugs. And then later when he gets his science on to discover why things float around Peggy: they’re being manipulated by Dr. Wilkes, now a full-on Force ghost. After the incident at Isodyne last week, Wilkes is incorporeal, until Howard whips up a new filming substance that can let him be seen and heard (but, sadly, not touched). The two then spend the rest of the episode as Mark I Science Bros and try to tackle the mystery of Zero Matter before Whitney Frost can use it for her own nefarious purposes.
3) Zero Matter Takes The Cake
Even before it was revealed that he was tied to the Arena Club, it was pretty obvious this episode that Vernon Masters was up to no good. With the AC clearly a side operation of the now-dormant Hydra, Masters and his talk to Thompson about bigger fish definitely mirrors Garret indoctrinating Ward into Hydra over on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that Masters and his future-fixing buddies are the villains of this season. But they’re not the only who will be giving Peggy trouble in the weeks to come.
While she prefers working behind the scenes, Whitney Frost’s new-found powers and her hidden genius are likely to position her as the true big bad of Season 2. The corrupt g-man and his secret society cohorts are going to be a major problem for Peggy and the SSR to overcome, especially now that we’ve seen how much influence they have over politics and the media. But a powerful and underappreciated female character makes a much more captivating foil for Peggy, meaning we’ll be getting a lot more screen-time and nuance from Frost as the story unfolds.
Last week, I felt that Zero Matter might not pop up again for a few episodes, but I was happily wrong as it figured quite prominently into the plot this week. Early in the episode, we learned that Wilkes exposure to Zero Matter didn’t kill him but made him intangible. Whether that same thing happened to the soldiers and equipment that was sucked into the original blackhole, we don’t yet know. But it’s possible that Wilkes is merely on another plane of existence and Howard’s formula simply allows him to appear to those in his original reality. Either way, Zero Matter proves it is a powerful substance. And while we now know that Frost was the brains behind Isodyne and their work with the energy, it’s clear that even she wasn’t aware of the full extent of its power.
After fairing better than Wilkes last week, Frost is nonetheless scarred by her experience with the mysterious energy. When her sleazy director attempts to take advantage of her, the full-range of her new abilities is unleashed as the Darkforce inside her consumes her assailant and increases the mark on her forehead. The producers have said we’ll never see Frost don her famous golden mask, but if she decides to start taking matters into her own hands (literally) and go after Peggy and the SSR, she might need something stylish to cover up with.
So, what did you think? Let us know in the comments what your favorite moments were and what you’re hoping to see next week. You can check out the promo for episode 4 titled “Smoke and Mirrors” here and for all things Agent Carter, follow along here. For more MCU related news and features, make sure to follow us on Twitter.