Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from "Better Angels," Season 2 of Agent Carter.
The plot thickens in the aftermath of the Isodyne zero matter explosion. Agent Peggy Carter has a bad case of regret and remorse regarding the violent demise of Wilkes in the blast. Now she's determined to clear his Isodyne sullied name and find out what really happened. She enlists Chief Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) and Jarvis (James D'Arcy) to help her in her mission. Meanwhile, Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) is in L.A. to assist his FBI crony, Vernon Masters (Kurtwood Smith), in finding what Wilkes had in the lab, which means more trouble for Carter.
Tara: The case of the zero matter got a lot more interesting this week with the scientific ramifications explored via Howard Stark's experimentation and that killer last act reveal of what Whitney Frost can do with it when she's not very happy. The creative team is doing a stellar job mixing the period era technology with the unfolding weirdness. What could have quickly become way too sci-fi of a storyline has been well grounded by, of all people, Howard Stark. Lest we forget, while Howard makes us think he's only good for skirt chasing and Scotch, the show reminds us that he is one of the world's most brilliant scientific minds, and bringing him back into the mix for this episode brings his skills to the fore again. Matter of fact, it was quite the brainiac session going on in Stark's lab with Carter, Sousa, Stark, Jarvis and the newly corporeal Wilkes crunching the science in a very attractive fashion.
And amongst all of that, the writers are always throwing in great character moments that make Carter's world more complex and interesting. Some favorites were Stark and Jarvis' mutual admiration party of Carter that revealed how much they love that lady, Carter rightly calling Thompson a coward for his weasel behavior, and, just when we hate him more, Thompson gets a vulnerable moment with Sousa where we see he's really a friendless, lonely guy isolated by his own insecurities. Hopefully, there's some self-realization coming for that guy. And I did kind of love Frost getting in some alternative justice when groped by her sexist, ageist director ... the visual metaphor was bloody great.
And just from an aesthetic point of view, I am eating up the architecture, Universal backlots and colorful costuming that just fill every frame with delicious production value.
Aaron: Dominic Cooper's Howard Stark is quite simply one of the best things to happen to the MCU, and I'm thrilled he is continuing to guest-star on this show despite lead duties on the upcoming Preacher series. And of course Stark would become Hollywood director and studio mogul (who sees a lucrative future in comic book-based movies)! It also makes total sense for him to not be a joiner with the "male and pale" Arena Club, and to subvert the establishment by introducing a bevy of buxom beauties into the austere environment. But more than being comic relief, it was nice to see the genius use his brains to bring back Wilkes (who is apparently like a Force ghost now). Sure, the explanation of what happened to Wilkes, and the method to "develop," played out like a bit of retro sci-fi with a side of cheese -- but that's precisely what this show can do so well. The science-y scenes were so goofy, and I was just getting a kick out of them.
I am intrigued by Frost as a rising villain. As manipulative as she is, she also seems legitimately terrified of what's happening to her. She appears to be building into a well-rounded threat that's more than just a Dottie redux, and I am optimistic the show can see it through. The scene in which she blasts the gropey agent is excellent, but really enjoyed the tense interaction between her and Carter.
I continue to quite enjoy the Los Angeles setting for Season 2. The power players and pretenders moving about out there gives Carter and Co. a lot to work with, and the show just looks so much better. Science-fiction, spies, sinister actors: Agent Carter is taking many great lessons from The Rocketeer (a movie Disney owns the rights to, by the way).
Easter eggs can be a tricky thing. I enjoy call-outs, yet don't want them to come with a wink and feel forced. But they worked this week. It was cute that Stark was directing a Kid Colt adaptation, a comic published by Timely, the pre-cursor to Marvel Comics. And the introduction of the Jarvis 1.0 home security tech was a nice nod to what Tony would develop later on.
Aaron: Thompson falls flat as a character. I know we're kind of supposed to hate him, then feel for him, but his arc isn't doing it for me. I don't think the show will turn him into a villain, even though it shows him clearly attracted to power. And he'll likely follow his moral compass and eventually rebuke his dad's old pal in the FBI. It was satisfying seeing Carter call him out, but beyond that, I kind of just wanted him to get out of there. I would like to see something a little more compelling for him, but currently think he is just taking up space.
I am admittedly concerned about the concept of zero matter. It strikes me as a force that needs to be pinned down more in terms of its definition within the show. It is already the cause of much weirdness, but tell me why, exactly. I worry it will just become the big, bad power that we can blame everything on.
Tara: The repercussions of Carter's exposure to the zero matter was a great visual but it's left a little murky as to whether there's a problem with her being seven degrees cooler than everyone else, or will that just go away? I mean as far as upgrades in Los Angeles go, that's a serious perk in my book (it's HOT here). And obviously this zero matter is brand new for everyone to absorb (especially Wilkes!) but I'm worried we should be worried for Peggy more than the narrative addresses. Once Stark and Jarvis were able to corporealize Wilkes, the story moved on from Peggy's exposure like a hot potato. Hopefully, it will come back to be addressed and not just left as a plot hole.
Carter Kicks A** Moment
Tara: Anyone else have a moment watching Peggy's stress reducing bag pummeling? I got half smiley/half sad realizing her fate-snatched soul mate is in the future also finding his inner Zen the same way. Aww, Cap and Peggy. However, you've got to respect Carter's form and impact on the bag, and then minutes later going in the drink to save herself from being suffocated by a masked assailant.
Aaron: That whole scene with the punching bag, followed by the skirmish with the would-be assassin was a solid piece of action. Carter is such tough cookie. The show continues to succeed in allowing her to have moments of emotional vulnerability followed by substantial butt kicking.
Best Jarvis Scene Stealing
Aaron: It was a brief moment, but I was thinking "Classic Jarvis" when he was teaching the bartender in the Arena Club how to make a Stark-appropriate drink. But my favorite Jarvis scene this week was between him and Howard as they sweetly discussed how great Peggy is.
Tara: Jarvis working the lab in those Coke-bottle lab goggles was priceless. But I also loved the sneaky introduction to Version 1.0 of disembodied Jarvis, as human Jarvis introduced Carter to the Stark Mansion alarm system that now features his British intonations. Brilliant.
Aaron: I applaud the show for progressing the story in a purposeful way instead of slipping into a case-of-the-week episode. It feels like Agent Carter is taking us somewhere, and I remain interested in that trip. Frost is indeed pretty cool as a villainess, and the zero matter has a lot of potential energy. I am sure Cooper doesn't come cheap, and I don't think the series could sustain his character every week, but I loved having Howard Stark around this episode, and look forward to his future appearances.
Tara: The show is cooking with gas! The mythology around zero matter is building nicely. Carter's circle of trust is proving to be a great ensemble of interesting characters, though I miss this week Carter having a little more of her girl power group helping too. And Whitney's coming out party certainly ups the game and stakes for the story to come.
What do you think about the unfolding case? What about the Frost twist?