Thanks to the State of the Union address pushing back its premiere by two weeks, this week offers our second two-part episode of Agent Carter in a row for an exciting but uneven few hours. Something tells me that Episode 9, A Little Song and Dance, was intended to be the first part of a two-part finale, but for whatever reason it was lumped together with Episode 8 instead. While both of these episodes on their own are enjoyable, they do not work together.
Episode 8 is a tense episode that begins and ends with an exciting moment of raw emotion from Jarvis. James D’Arcy is always a highlight of the show, but his unhinged rage and desperation over Ana’s shooting is something we’ve never seen from Jarvis before. The moment at the beginning of the episode when he’s making promises to Ana if she’ll wake up, and the moment at the end when he callously shoots Whitney Frost without any hesitation are amazing book-ends to the episode.
Episode 9, on the other hand, begins with a musical dream sequence about the increasingly stupid (and by this point, pretty much irrelevant) love triangle. Look, I admire what ABC was trying to do with their crossover scene with Dancing With the Stars, and the scene makes the two radically different shows fit together surprisingly well. And hell, I’ll take any excuse to see Lyndsy Fonseca‘s Angie drop in for a cameo. But there’s a time and a place for cross-promotion, and this isn’t it. If this scene had taken place a few weeks ago, when the season was still in its set-up phase, that would have been fine. The weird zaniness of it all would have fit in perfectly with Episode 5’s whacky heist hijinks. But placing this scene immediately after the most dramatic and tense episode of the season, which featured a character dealing with the fact that his wife is now infertile, was almost jarring enough to ruin both episodes. It’s the equivalent of putting the Star Spangled Man with a Plan scene from Captain America: The First Avenger right after the part when Bucky falls off a train to his death.
The one good thing about the dance sequence this week is that it prevented Jack Thompson from being the worst part of the episode for the first time all season. Last week, I said that I was waiting for Thompson’s inevitable redemption when he disobeyed Vernon Masters at a critical moment. I thought that moment came this week, when Thompson finally realized that Masters was working for Frost and decided to help Peggy and the team stop him. Instead, he almost immediately betrays the team again by turning Howard Stark’s (or Dr. Samberly’s, if you ask him) gamma ray cannon into a bomb to use against Frost, Masters, and Wilkes. This was the most frustrating moment in Thompson’s storyline for me, because up until now, there have pretty much only been two paths for Thompson’s character: either he redeems himself and becomes one of the good guys once and for all, or he succumbs to his lust for power and becomes one of the first S.H.I.E.L.D. agents under Hydra’s control. I like both of those options, but this week showed a third, much worse option: Thompson will continue to be a basically decent person who nevertheless is a constant obstacle for Agent Carter, thus ensuring that he’ll never actually grow as a character.
Aside from those two, admittedly big, weak points, this weeks episodes of Agent Carter are filled with mostly good stuff. Dr. Wilkes turning to the dark side and helping Whitney Frost comes a little out of nowhere, but Reggie Austin sells it, and Wynn Everett continues to play a villain that has earned her place among the MCU’s best. As always, the show is elevated by its stellar performances all-around.
Next week’s finale is the last episode of the season, and quite possibly of the series. If Agent Carter gets a third season, I hope it is able to get a better handle on what exactly it wants to be, because it has the makings of an excellent show, but is weighed down by the trappings of a mediocre one.
2.5 dance numbers out of 5. Oh, and in the unfortunately likely case that Agent Carter doesn’t get picked up for a third season, I say we riot until Jarvis gets his own spinoff show, movie, and theme park.
I can’t get over this show’s inability to decide whether or not to address race. Sure, every few episodes someone calls Wilkes “colored,” but nobody says anything about an Asian-American doctor immediately after WW2.
Joseph Manfredi’s grandmother is amazing, I’m officially #TeamNonna
The scientist played by Matt Braunger‘s full name is Dr. Aloysius Herbert Samberly. Pretty sexy, right?
Wilkes: “Gamma rays? Do you have any idea how dangerous those are?”
Either science in the MCU 1940’s is decades ahead of it was in the real world (which would make a lot of sense), or the periodic table in the SSR lab is way ahead of its time.
Between the ancient alien parasite on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the trans-dimenstional energy rift on Agent Carter, Marvel Television has introduced some of the trippiest stuff in the MCU. I expect that will change in Doctor Strange.
Fun fact I learned while spell-checking this review: Ana Jarvis is the name of Edwin Jarvis’s wife. Anna Jarvis, on the other hand, was the founder of Mother’s Day.