This week’s episode of Agent Carter brings all the camp and fun that I believed was missing from last week’s premiere. As the plot of the season thickens and begins to add layers of complexity, the superb chemistry between the main cast (and the return of Dominic Cooper‘s Howard Stark) bring the life and fun that made me such a big fan of the show during season one.
This week, the fallout from the explosion at Isodyne places Peggy at odds with Calvin Chadwick, Whitney Frost, and Chief Thompson. The illuminati-esque group of men known as “The Arena Club” (identified by the pins seen in the first two episodes) have covered up the Isodyne explosion, framing Dr. Wilkes as a communist spy who was responsible for blowing up the laboratory. While Peggy and Chief Sousa know that there’s more to the story, Chief Thompson is content to accept the official story and close the case in an “uncontroversial” way.
This leads me to my biggest problem with this episode, and of the season so far. Peggy tells Thompson that he’s a coward, content to hide an ugly truth and hope someone pins a medal on him for it. Last season, this was a perfectly valid condemnation of his character. He had, in fact, hid the fact that he’d accidentally slaughtered a company of enemy soldiers who were trying to surrender and had been awarded a medal for his deeds. And again, in the final episode, he accepts a commendation and a promotion for Peggy’s hard work without saying a thing. But at least that time, he appears apologetic and conflicted about it. Apparently, whatever steps towards character growth he took through his time with Peggy last season have been erased by his short tenure as Chief. The very end of this episode suggests that Thompson is beginning to see the error of his ways, but that’s only in the face of undeniable evidence that The Arena Club is up to no good. It’ll be a real shame if this season passes without Thompson making the right choice without making a bunch of wrong ones first. In a development surprising absolutely nobody, Vernon Masters (Kurtwood Smith) is part of The Arena Club, and convinces Thompson to help cover up the Isodyne incident. With any luck, this will turn into something of a redemptive arc for Thompson and allow him to operate as a man on the inside. Still, I’m not completely convinced the show knows what to do with Thompson beyond making him play the unreasonable authority figure trope.
Just like most other Marvel characters who suffer an untimely death, Dr. Wilkes turns out to be not quite as dead as we thought. Instead, he’s in a state where he’s invisible, massless, and can only effect the world around him by disrupting gravitational fields and making things float. In other words, he’s a ghost. Howard, fascinated by this development, immediately teams up with Ghost Wilkes to figure out how to bring him back to the land of the living. Their dynamic isn’t unlike the “Science Bros” dynamic between Howard’s own son and Bruce Banner. Needless to say, it’s a lot of fun to watch.
The other character involved in the Isodyne explosion, Whitney Frost (real name Agnes Cully, a brilliant scientist and the real brains behind Isodyne), has been affected by the Zero Matter in a very different–and much more disturbing–way. She seems to absorb her creepy director, in a way that almost resembles the way the monolith on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. absorbed Simmons at the end of last season. I’m sure the two are unconnected, but it just goes to show: whether it’s Zero Matter, an alien monolith, or Gravitonium; if it’s black goo in the Marvel universe, don’t touch it.
4 cups of coffee out of 5. “Coffee! Who wants a coffee? Maybe Irish coffee! Jarvis, where’s the coffee around here?”
Howard Stark, while making a comic book movie, tells Peggy that he likes the idea of the film being led by a female ~~superhero~~ cowboy, but doesn’t think the audience is ready for it. Sound familiar?
Best line of the episode: Peggy taking Howard’s drink and leading him around like a dog: “Who’s a good boy? Howard’s a good boy!”
Howard’s description of The Arena Club’s members: Male and Pale
Whitney Frost’s ability to hide in plain sight as an actress, knowing that nobody will expect her of being a brilliant scientist, is another example of this show highlighting the power of anonymity and underestimation that women of the era could exploit.
With that in mind, Peggy’s excuse “I’m so sorry! I get really confused around books!” is perfect.
Chief Sousa’s file on Broxton, Oklahoma is a reference to the former location of Asgard when it was floating above the Earth.