[Warning: there are spoilers below for the Agent Carter episode, "Smoke & Mirrors"]
Editor At Large Aaron Sagers and Contributing Editor Tara Bennett talk about the fourth episode of Season 2 of Agent Carter, which offers a backstory to our favorite SSR operative, as well as her new nemesis, Whitney Frost.
Tara: What a wonderful surprise in this episode to peel back the curtain on Ms. Peggy Carter life's before she was the assured, determined, ambitious SSR spy. Ever since her first appearance in Captain America, Peggy just seemed to exist as this fully formed character who has always known her value. However, no good hero ever comes out of the womb perfect so, as a viewer, I admit, I've often wondered what road Peggy took to become the woman we all admire so much. Finally getting to see some formative glimpses into her past, including a former engagement (I didn't see that coming!) to a milksop and a brother (Michael) who got his sister from the start and prodded her towards her true destiny really opened up Carter in the best way.
Aaron: I quite liked that Carter almost followed a more traditional path. It rounds her out as a character that even she needed a push of support from her brother, Michael. Peggy has always wanted to be the one rescuing the princess, but we all need our own rescuing once in a while. There is still more backstory to Peg that I hope we see, but this was a nice step for the series, and wasn't too overdone as it could have been. The Frost flashbacks reminded me a lot of the Dick Whitman/Don Draper ones from Mad Men. While Whitney wasn't raised in a brothel, she still had to watch her mother be taken advantage of just to get by. I still don't know if it tells us enough about why she broke so bad, but it certainly provides more insight into her brilliant mind and motives.
Tara: Playing those flashbacks in parallel to the flashbacks revealing the hardscrabble challenges in brilliant but disadvantaged Agnes Coley's past (aka Whitney Frost) was masterful. These two women are absolutely complementary adversaries and their histories represent the choices made in life that determine the moral paths tread. If Agnes' mom wasn't so beat down by life and at the mercy of men willing to take advantage of her, maybe Whitney could have been a brilliant scientist working for good like Madame Curie. Or if Carter didn't lose her brother and instead married the safe desk soldier, perhaps she would have become a selfish, self-absorbed housewife? Frost and Carter are each other's own "what-ifs". They don't know it yet, but we are privy to that compelling insight and it's adding lots of depth to their eventual confrontation.
I also enjoyed the ensemble aspect to this week's story with Carter, Sousa, Wilkes, and Jarvis all working in balance to get more intel on the shadowy Arena Club and their nefarious reach. Carter and Sousa's interrogation of the Council of 9 thug was clever stuff.
Aaron: I quite liked the Rufus Hunt interrogation scenes. Actor Chris Browning is always such a good bully; he is a bad guy and it was fun watching him push back, then break when he thought they injected him with malaria. It was also a pretty devious maneuver by Peggy. I enjoy seeing this side of her.
Tara: Aside from Frost's flashbacks, I'm a little underwhelmed with her sciencing in this episode. Yes, she's doing her experiments on what the zero matter is doing to her biology but it's pretty passive stuff. For someone so brilliant, I would have liked to see her crunching more interesting theories like Wilkes and Jarvis were doing in Stark's lab.
Aaron: This show needs to do something with Wilkes, and pronto. I want to care about the character, but the intangible man bit is wearing thin for me. Although I have hope for that big, zero matter crack he saw. Based on Doctor Who, I know energy cracks in the wall are never any good.
Carter Kicks A** Moment
Tara: Carter's throwdown in Hunt's backyard was an ugly, dirty brawl. Loved seeing her hold her own again with that beefy monster.
Aaron: Maybe not a ton of ass-kicking, but Carter susses out the kind of weasel Vernon Masters is right away. She is certainly concerned about her team, but knows this guy is bad news.
Best Jarvis Scene Stealing
Tara: Jarvelous! James D'Arcy, your improv prowess is spectacular.
Aaron: He had some great lines this week. I'll take Jarvis keeping a tranquilizer rifle in his trunk because, "the koala: Its adorable appearance belies a vile temperament."
Tara: Another solid, entertaining episode moving the case along in terms of the Hollywood cabal and Frost's zero matter scar of plenty. But the narrative really excelled in showing us the path Peggy took to become her own woman, and then laying out the same intriguing path Whitney Frost to her own nefarious fate.
Aaron: Frost's slow curtain closing around the room at the end, and then her enrgy sucking of Hunt was delightfully eeeeevil. That alone sold this episode for me. The backstories were a nice touch this week.