[Spoiler warning: The following discusses details from last night’s two-part episode of Agent Carter, “Life of the Party” and “Monsters.”]
Well, that was two solid hours filled with violence, romance and more than a little darkness for this ABC series. While the villain known as Whitney Frost has truly risen and come into her own, we also saw the return of an old threat, Dottie Underwood. Meanwhile, Peggy has to contend with them both as well as two suitors and, eventually, the potential death of one of her own. So, let’s break it down, shall we?
Dottie (Bridget Regan) has been sitting this season out following the premiere, and her return was by far my favorite component of this two-parter. Regan delivers an excellent performance here. From the moment Peggy (Hayley Atwell) first approaches Dottie in her cell to the moments following her torture when the two are tied up, she is a delicious joy to watch. Wearing a Cheshire grin, she always says the meanest, sharpest things but in the sweetest way. Plus, she has the best read on other characters and frequently appears to have the upper hand. Regan plays the highly trained assassin without a country as a woman who is constantly observing, learning, chronicling. I both love and am unnerved by her.
In fact, I worry Peggy is not quite a match for the character – and that’s a good thing, to have a villain who isn’t easily defeated by our hero.
With all that said, I felt for Dottie when -- after toying with Vernon Masters as he tried to torture her (“Like mother’s milk”) – Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) emerges to do her zero matter soul-sucking thing on her. Seeing the black goo spread across Dottie’s face, and gurgle up in her mouth looked gruesome and excruciating. Plus, more than anything else I’ve seen with the zero matter, it makes the stuff actually seem scary for the first time.
I know the escaped Dottie will be returning soon enough, and hope this show doesn’t put her on the side of angels with Peg, or team her up with Whitney. I look forward to Dottie having a nefarious agenda all her own.
Side note: Dottie reminded me so very much of Black Widow in these episodes. From her black-and-red evening dress to detailing all the ways she has tortured herself, she made me think of a Natasha before she broke good. I guess the evil assassin curriculum at that school for girls hasn't changed much.
The dialogue this week also hit a high note for me. It seemed to have more edge than we’ve seen this week.
Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin), a character I have not particularly enjoyed this season, became a little more interesting as he tiptoed ever closer to the zero matter abyss. He becomes irritated, then angry, that Team Carter are trying so hard to hunt down Dottie instead of simply killing her (via rigged necklace) and helping him with his plight. My interest in Wilkes continued this week when he shared a quiet, tipsy dinner commiserating with Ana Jarvis (Lotte Verbeek). Then, the scene where a tangible Wilkes faces down Whitney, and they argue about being brilliant minds, but always second-class citizens, was quite powerful and convincing. He knows much of what she says is true, but he refuses to join Whitney and become a villain.
The scene also revealed so much about Whitney Frost as a baddie; we’ve seen it in flashbacks, and how she is constantly used by others, or has to rely on her looks to get by. But this angry, powerful woman finally has her chance to pay it all back, and destroy anyone who tries to stand in her way. She means business, and is a helluva threat. Instead of a megalomaniacal Red Skull type, her anger is earned, and her course of action is not so difficult to understand.
Verbeek had a chance to make Ana shine this week, and she nailed it. I got more of a sense of this character who appears demure but is certainly not weak. At first, I thought we were building up to a moment where she confronts her husband, jealous of his relationship with Peggy. But instead, she is a worried wife who knows how much Jarvis (James D’Arcy) needs the adventure, and how much Peggy needs Jarvis. She does need her moments of handwringing and concern.
All this worked for me, but I just wish it played out more over the course of this season. Instead, it felt suspicious that we were getting so much Ana, and that we were leading up to a big moment. Whitney’s cold-blooded shot at Ana still had an impact, but it would have stung more had we been able to hang out with her more in the last few eps.
And let’s talk about Peggy’s kiss, and her almost-kiss. That kiss with Wilkes was awk-ward. You have to feel bad for the guy; at the beginning of the episode, he’s popping in to Peg’s bedroom to say hi, and still thinks they can figure things out (once he’s solid). But nope. And the almost-kiss with Sousa was such a tease. I kind of don’t want these two to get together, because I enjoy the potential energy between them, but I was kind of stoked to see it happen. Still, in a great episode filled with action and character development, these two moments hit home the least for me. It is a minor quibble but they were distractions when our characters are trying to stop a huge threat.
And Vernon Masters: What a bastard. Played by Kurtwood Smith, he is a mustache-twirling bad guy who just wants to tear anyone down that is not under his thumb. He is not the most compelling part of the show, but it will be nice to see him get his. Especially after what he did to poor (resilient, heroic) Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), a man fighting back against corruption in his own agency.
A final complaint. The Council of Nine boardroom scene where Frost sucks up the life of her hubby, a few goons, and council members was fun because we got to see her let loose. But the reaction was the remaining council members was so cartoonishly bad – more “Oh, my!” and less “Holy effin ess!” I guarantee you, when a Hollywood starlet shows up to reduce my buddies to black goo and then absorbs them, I will be slightly more reactive.
Carter Kicks Ass Moment
In many ways, Carter made one bad call after another this week. Her missteps with Dottie led to a lot of collateral damage. Though physically weakened, she was overconfident in her dealings with her old foe, and knowingly led Jarvis into a trap (which, it turns out, was meant for Wilkes and led to Ana getting shot). Can no one deter her or talk her out of an idea once she settles on it? I even thought (hoped) she might take a chance on trusting Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) just a little more. Her hubris was her weakness this time around. I think she kicked the least ass this week.
Still, it was pretty great watching her give an extra little shock to Dottie after Sousa had netted her, and the assassin was down on the ground. Nasty move, Peg.
Best Jarvis Scene Stealing
D’Arcy is always good for a laugh with his physical comedy. Asking for a gun, or a cane with a sword in it, during his mission with Dottie was hilarity, especially as he acted out how he may kick butt – all while Dottie watches him under the hair dryer. Plus, it was sweet watching him both tease (“You blushed!”) and support (“You underestimate your allure”) to Peg as she fretted about her gentlemen suitors.
But this week, I’m giving my favorite moment to determined, husband-first Jarvis as he let his anger out and rushed home to Ana. His pain upon seeing her on the ground, and concern in the hospital, was palpable. We have gotten so used to comedic Jarvis moments that it is easy to forget how good D’Arcy is at drama as well.
So much happened over the course of these episodes, but it worked as a stand out pairing, and perhaps my favorite thus far. For the first time this season the stakes feel real, and lives are on the line. The dialogue was top notch. I was reminded again how fleshed out these characters are when Dottie and Peggy, then Dottie and Whitney share scenes where the dynamics are entirely different, and fresh. The humor was still there, but this was the darkest episode of Agent Carter this season, and I think the one that showed Peggy at her worst.
What did you think of the two-part episode? Did we get it right or were we way off?