Agent Carter season 2 episode 3 has really ramped things up from the premiere! Sexism, racism, cronyism, oh my! Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is running into all sorts of things in Oz – aka Hollywood. She’s even sort of got a Tin man and a Scarecrow to help her, not to mention a Cowardly Lion…. Before I get too crazy trying to make this metaphor work, let’s recap and review Agent Carter season 2 episode 3!
This Agent Carter episode is titled, “Better Angels” and couldn’t we all use those? However, those sparkly letter “A” lapel pins that we saw in the premiere, first when Dottie Underwood aka Black Widow (Bridget Regan) tried to steal one, and the one Peggy found in the car could be the reference. Those lapel pins are for the Arena Club. We saw a meeting of this club last week when Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham) the owner of Isodyne Energy (the company who discovered “Dark Matter”) was told the company’s research was to be scrubbed and he was to concentrate on his senate campaign. If one thinks of “A” is for “Angel” we definitely need better ones! These men, and, as it’s repeatedly pointed out, only men, are the so-called American movers and shakers that control the outcomes of everything from politics to Wall Street. We’ll talk more about them later.
The Set Up
Right off the bat we learn that the deceased Dr. Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) is being blamed for the explosion at Isodyne. Peggy, in a pair of fabulous red sunglasses, meets up with Agent Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) at Dr. Wilkes’s home where a ton of reporters are clamoring outside asking why Wilkes did it. Inside the house there Agents are pouring over everything. Peggy & Daniel quickly find a hidden compartment in the floor that contains a Russian passport, a plane ticket to Moscow. and fifty grand! That’s when Agent Vega walks in to tell them that Wilkes was a “Russian Spy.” They’ve found the gun used to kill the agents that were moving the frozen Jane Doe’s in the premiere. Peggy isn’t buying it.
A spy who hides every bit of incriminating evidence in one easily discovered place?
Yeah, no. Peggy makes an excellent point! Still, we can see that she’s upset about the death of Jason Wilkes. In later she admits to Daniel and Jarvis that she blames herself for it because she “sent in a civilian to do a soldier’s job.” Jarvis can tell it’s more than that though. Call it a rebound, but Jason was a brilliant man who didn’t treat Peggy as being less than because she’s woman – but still saw her as a woman. She hasn’t had that in a long time.
Peggy must have decided she needed to speak with her brilliant, hedonistic, caring but narcissistic friend Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) because the next scene is her and Stark’s butler Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy) on the set of the film Stark’s directing (his newest playtime/playboy occupation that if it fails he’ll use as a tax write-off)
One of the things I enjoy about Marvel’s Agent Carter is that it has a lot of fun swiping the rampant sexism of the time period, while managing to it illuminate how those issues manifest in the present. However, this is not a show that takes itself too seriously either. After Stark suggests Peggy could be a “sassy beer wench” in one of his movies Peggy says she’d rather be a cowboy.
Stark: “Oh, I like it. I don’t think the audience is ready yet.
Peggy: “But they’re ready for a movie based on a comic book? It sounds like a dreadful idea.”
I wonder how many takes they needed to get through those lines with a straight face? I love when things get meta like that! Here we are watching a TV show based on a movie, that was based on a comic book – and while Agent Peggy Carter isn’t a “cowboy,” being a super U.S. government kicking butt and taking names is close enough to her point! So the next time some highbrow cultural aficionado starts complaining about how pop culture has been reduced to “movies made from comic books” you can just say to them, “thank goodness!”
Stark is such a fun character! He’s a rich, self-centered womanizer, and really, that’s a hard character to make likable. Yet, Cooper makes Stark so likable! (It’s in the writing as well, but it’s still a hard thing to pull off,) Maybe it’s because, unlike most of the men around Peggy Stark has absolutely no doubt in her abilities – even if she would make an excellent sassy bar maid. Isn’t that one of the goals of modern feminism – to be seen and valued for your abilities without having to give up the idea that you can sexy and attractive? Perhaps that’s how come women are always falling into bed with him!
It’s Stark who fills Peggy in on the Arena club. He describes it as a social club for the L.A. “silver spoon crowd” that’s been around since 1906. Even when he says it, we can guess that the club is much bigger than he may realize. There’s no way it’s just an L.A. organization – not with a pin in a safe deposit box in New York City!
Stark: They keep their ranks male and pale. Jarvis isn’t even white enough for them.
Jarvis: I’m one-sixteenth Turkish.
Stark has been refusing to join this club for years. Jarvis makes the point that Stark would never join a club that didn’t allow women which is played for laughs. However although Starks is a self-centered genius and clearly what we’d call today a sex addict, he sees people for who they are, regardless of gender – or, apparently, color. Earlier Stark is the one that notes it’s easy to, “paint the commie label” on Dr. Wilkes because he’s black. …Sadly today that’s a thing that hasn’t changed.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is Agent Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) – he’s still a first class male chauvinist jerk. What bugs me with him – as opposed to the countless other male chauvinists milling about in Peggy’s 1947 world – is that he knows how good she is. It’s not that he believes she’s incapable, or doesn’t see her brilliance, it’s that his ego can’t deal with it. He’s the one in power and with authority and he’s using it to actively try to repress her. Note that I did say, “try.”
When Peggy and Daniel regroup at headquarters Peggy has just shown him the newspaper with the morning headline stating Jason Wilkes was a communist. He doesn’t understand how that headline could be since:
A) they’d just “discovered” the evidence that morning.
B) they hadn’t talked to anyone in the press about it yet.
Right before they walk into Daniel’s office she tells him it’s got to be the Arena Club – they have friends at the paper. They open the door and sitting in Daniel’s chair, with his feet on Daniel’s desk, is Jack.
Peggy: “What an appalling surprise.”
It’s a surprise for Peggy and Daniel, but not for us. Vernon Masters (Kurtwood Smith) from the new FBI got Jack to turn Dottie over to him with promises of power and glory in the FBI – because the SSR is being phased out (according to Masters). As soon as Jack did that we knew Masters had a new man to do his dirty work – even if Jack tries to tell himself it’s otherwise.
Jack is there to “clean up” the Jane Scott case and Isodyne Energy mess. What he means is there to cover it up. He’s rewritten Peggy’s report on the night at Isodyne so that not only is there no mention her with Dr. Wilkes, but it makes her look incompetent by chasing after – but not apprehending – a Russia spy. It’s a totally made up story! He then pulls the patronizing card by saying it’s for her own good because, well, he wouldn’t want people to think she was “running around” with that guy. People might think she’s a communist too. This was one of the many times I really wanted to smack him!
Hayley doesn’t physically hit him. Instead she reminds him of his total failure in interrogating Dottie. She has no idea just how much he’s failed, but it makes him mad. He angrily tells her and Daniel he’s shutting down their investigation. He snidely refuses to even look at the film footage Peggy tells him about and then when Peggy won’t sign his new report he signs it for her. This infuriates her and Daniel, but he could care less. Idiot. (Sorry, but, he’s being dumb about all of this!)
Peggy doesn’t realize that she may have a bigger problem. When she storms out of the office there are some pencils and other small objects floating in the air above her desk! Has she been contaminated with zero matter?
She hasn’t realized the phenomena yet, so she goes to Howard for help. The entire scene is a fun and silly bit with Howard’s place having a huge pool with beautiful women in bikini’s everywhere that Jarvis dryly tells Peggy are “production assistants” (which is an affront to production assistants everywhere). Once Howard arrives Peggy explains her plan is to put listening devices in the club. She’ll need his help though and she leads him off by taking his drink from him and teasing him with it like he’s a puppy!
Peggy: Who’s a good boy? Howard’s a good boy!”
Meanwhile, Jack has taken a look at the film footage he’d scoffed at earlier. He’s visibly shocked and moved to tears by all the destruction he sees. However, there’s a knock at the door so he puts on his stoic face. Vernon Master’s is there to see him. Now that Jack’s covered up what’s happened in the report he needs Jack to recover some “sensitive material” Wilkes stole before he ,”blew up the place.” However, when Jack asks what it is he’s told that he will, “know it when he sees it.”
At least Jack still has enough of his soul left to feel uncomfortable with this. Masters reminds him that SSR is going away anyway, and that national security is far more important that any SSR protocol. Jack still doesn’t say anything about the film, but tells Master’s that if he finds anything he’ll call him.
The plan is another Howard Stark send up moment. Howard finally takes the Arena Club up on its offer and he and Jarvis go take a tour. Then, in a scene of women’s lib turned on its head, he claims the club is too dull (he’s right) and “integrates” it having Jarvis let in a flood of young women – likely his “production assistants” – who’ve been waiting outside. In the ensuing chaos no one notices Peggy slip away from the bar area to go plant listening devices in various private areas. However, Terry, the man who had been giving Howard the tour, does make a phone call to security saying they have a “code pink.”
Peggy has now gotten to the library. She’s looking for a place to plant a listening device when the bookshelves hiding the secret room we saw in the premiere slide open! There’s been some kind of council meeting. One man, in a very upbeat voice says this to another:
I’m sure it’s hard to see right now, but you’ve just safeguarded your country’s future – and your own.
Yikes! Like I said, these guys are not some local club! They are the proverbial velvet glove with an iron fist! Luckily Peggy doesn’t get caught! Instead she’s found the perfect place to plant a listening device and slips into the secret room before the door closes.
There are two major things that happen in this room. The first is that Peggy sees on the table two different newspapers dated for the next day! The first says a senator has been caught in a “sleazy sex scandal” while the other just announces he’s resigning. The picture on the cover of both is the guy that was being told he’d made the right decision. Obviously he’s chosen to resign…That’s what the guy was talking about!
The second thing to happen is that the listening device starts emitting this high-pitched sound. It sounds like microphone feedback, but whatever it is Peggy has to smash the device to make it stop. There’s a tense moment when security comes in to check things out, but Peggy manages to get out of the secret room undetected. She almost gets caught in the hallway though. Just as she’s looking for something to say, Jarvis appears and sternly tells “Miss Wendy” that the powder room is the other way. Peggy, in a perfect American accent (I love when Atwell does that! Freaks me out every time!) replies:
Oh, I’m so sorry, I get really confused around books.
Back at SSR L.A. headquarters, Jack is not happy to learn what she’s done. Even when Peggy explains what she saw with the papers, Jack won’t budge. Daniel tries to back her but for Jack election rigging too big an issue. Since since Peggy has no physical proof – she couldn’t take the papers and all the bugs were shorted out by some “counter-measure” – Jack doesn’t want to hear it. Instead he suggests that Peggy’s judgement is being “clouded” by her emotions….big mistake!
Peggy: You’re being a coward! You are so afraid of ruffling powerful feathers that you’re doing what you always do: burying a powerful truth and hoping someone will pin a medal on you.
Peggy’s words hit hard because they are spot on – and Jack knows it. In a low seething voice he orders Peggy back to New York. She storms out.
Poor Daniel doesn’t know what to make of any of this. The guy’s a war hero, but she called him a coward?! Isn’t that crossing the line…. He goes to talk to Peggy, and notes that while he does believe her Jack could have a point about her taking the doctor’s death too hard. This is where she confides her guilt about dragging Dr. Wilkes into things.
This conversation gets cut short when Daniel notices the floating pencils from Peggy’s desk. Peggy recognizes it as a side effect of zero matter and the two rush off to Howard’s. If anyone can fix it, it’s that crazy genius!
The rest of Jacks’s day isn’t a good one. Jack ends up turning over the film to Masters, although he lies and says he didn’t watch it. He tells Master’s that he trusts him – but clearly not completely. The ensuing conversation is brutal for Jack – because it confirms Peggy’s accusation.
Masters: If it were up to me, you’d get a medal for this. You’re doing a great service for the United States.
Jack: That’s all I ever wanted to do.
Is anyone else thinking about the making of Darth Vader? Jack did have good intentions when he started, but somehow he’s ending up on the dark side. What’s sad is that we can tell from his expressions that he has some doubts about all of this. His gut is telling him he’s chosen the wrong side.
Later that evening he runs into Daniel going through some files at headquarters. After being a jerk about the files, he starts asking about Daniel and Peggy. Daniel basically says there was never anything between him and Peggy, and oh, by the way, he’s getting engaged. This news seems to cheer Jack up a bit! He then wants to take Daniel out for a drink – genuinely – but Daniel politely turns him down. Jack realizes he’s burned a bridge with Daniel (by acting like an overlord!)and is sad about this. There is that part of him that just wants to be one of the guys – but he’s not.
The Dark and the Light
Peggy and Daniel go to Howard and he figures out that Peggy isn’t contaminated, but that there’s something around her that is. (Had they said it the way I just did I might have caught on sooner, but they started talking about a gravitational force disruption and my eyes glazed over. ) They’re a whole conversation about light and film and how images are developed and then Howard starts spraying his new special film development concoction around Peggy and Dr. Wilkes starts to appear!
This was so cool to watch – and a surprising idea! Even though I knew Dr. Jason Wilkes wasn’t dead (It was a spoiler) I didn’t expect him back like this! After all, we knew Mrs. Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) was alive and fully in the world, why not Jason? His explanation for his condition is that he was closer to the stuff.
This situation poses all kinds of questions. Is this what happened to the people we saw in film? Are they all still around but not visible?
The key word here is “visible.” Jason isn’t dead, but he’s not fully back in the world either. As Howard put it, “he’s visible, not tangible.” He’s an inter-dimensional hologram, or, one might say…he’s a better angel.
At first Jason can’t be heard as he tries to talk, but Howard sprays Jason’s vocal cords so the vocal cords can work. He tells them that was there that night to get the zero matter and that it was the struggle between them that caused it to drop and break. The other piece of information was Whitney telling Jason that she knew more about zero matter than he did. (That made no sense to him at all!)
I can’t mention this whole bringing back Jason back (at least partially) from whatever dimension he’d been sent to via zero matter and not say anything about Peggy’s reaction to having him back. She is overjoyed, overwhelmed and there is serious emotional chemistry between these two. Daniel’s would have some competition – if he weren’t already engaged…. I have to admit to being intrigued by this storyline – but I like her and Daniel as well. In an odd way though she has more in common with Jason. Daniel was left out at work like Carter – which is how they bonded. However her and Jason are bonded by their life experience of always being judged because of something physical. Both have been told repeatedly they can’t do things because of their physical traits be it Peggy’s gender or Jason’s skin color. Of course, if Jason is forever going to be in this angel-like form, Peggy might need someone who is tangible. Guess we’ll have to see how this all plays out.
Unfortunately, Howard’s formula isn’t quite right and Jason fades away again. While Howard gives Jarvis a list of supplies to get – so he can tweak the stuff and make Jason more permanent, Peggy decides it’s time for a visit with Mrs. Frost.
Mrs. Whitney Frost
In the premiere the last image we had Whitney Frost was her looking completely normal – except for a black gash on the top of her forehead when she brushed her hair back a certain way. It’s still there. Earlier in the episode we see her alone looking at in her vanity mirror. When she touches it, a drop of the zero matter comes off on her fingertip, sizzles, and is reabsorbed into her body. What. The. Heck?
It not long after this that viewers are shown that Mrs. Frost is the brains behind her husband’s success. It was her idea to blame Dr. Wilkes and paint him a communist. At the same time, her husband Calvin is oblivious to this – and she keeps it that way, making sure that he thinks it’s his charm that got the Arena Club to use her idea. God forbid he remember how smart she really is. Still, she has to swallow a lot because of this, like his patronizing attitude when she suggests that she’d like to quit acting. He’s fine with it so long as it’s not during the campaign, because it would be “overshadow” it. However, once he’s elected she can quit and “have all the babies” she wants. …The man is clueless!
This takes us up to Peggy’s meeting with her. These two women square off in a conversation filled with veiled accusations and subterfuge. They are the dark and the light, the same, yet opposites. Both are: smart, beautiful, type A women, but not only are they on opposite sides of this, they’re just opposites.
Peggy knows Whitney is lying about knowing nothing about the bombing, and Whitney knows that Peggy knows. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the episode.
Peggy gets called onto set, and Peggy heads back to Howard’s. There she finds that Jason is back – and working with Howard on the formula to try to make him fully back. The sparks continue to fly – but Howard interrupts them.
Mrs. Frost goes home that evening and tells her husband that she wants him to have Peggy killed! At first he’s not willing to do it – they’ve had enough problems with the feds. Peggy, the master manipulator, then turns on the tears and says she’s “scared” of Peggy . Calvin can’t stand to see her cry, and goes to make the call putting the hit on Peggy. Dude, your wife is an actress!
Peggy Gets Attacked
Calvin’s hitman acts fast! That same evening he goes after Peggy!
Wow! That fight at the pool was good! I know we usually talk about great dialogue, but sometimes it’s the thinking that goes into these sequences that gets me. First we just saw Peggy practicing the move that she uses on Mr. Hale trying to choke her, but it’s not like she can just flip this guy. That would have been unbelievable. Instead she’s forcing him backwards as he’s choking her, right to the edge of the pool! Jarvis arrives to lend a hand – and he’s some help, but then gets knocked down. The henchman then has the chance to shoot her – but the water’s made his gun unusable!
The effects of that struggle are seen with Peggy as well. After being nearly strangled and drowned she can’t get off a perfect shot and bring the guy down – it’s on her third or fourth one that she manages to hit the guys hand! I like when scenes like this make it clear that Peggy’s not a superhero – she’s just an excellent fighter and agent!
With the attacker vanquished the next morning Peggy checks in on the two scientists (Yes, I did notice the earlier wink to Marvel comic fans about Jarvis saying he wouldn’t want to spend the rest of time as a disembodied voice.) Howard is heading to Peru to get the input from Stark’s old professor, Abner Brody.
Once he leaves, Peggy and Jason are left alone. This is some heavy stuff.
First, Jason offers Peggy a different perspective on Howard Stark:
Jason: He’s more than alright. He invited me, a stranger, into his home without a single second of equivocation. Do you know how many people would do that?
He also won’t let Peggy blame herself for what happened, pointing out that he went into his lab, to get his project – something no one else could have possibly done. He then tries to take on the blame for someone trying to kill Peggy and says he needs to leave. Peggy won’t hear of it, and because she insists, he says he’ll stay.
It’s fair to say the sparks between Jason and Peggy are flying! These two are connecting emotionally in a big way.
More About Whitney Frost: Blending fact with fiction
Peggy goes into SSR headquarters to check in with Daniel, informing him she’s not about to head back to New York with Jack. Daniel’s research into Isodyne and Whitney Frost has dug up some major information. He’s discovered that Whitney’s name is really Agnes Cully, a scientist/inventor “whose work put Isodyne on the map during the war.” It was her idea that was used to send coded radio messages across enemy lines by rotating the frequencies! Peggy is blown away.
Peggy: Every eye in the country is on her – and no one sees her.
Peggy can relate to Whitney’s plight!
Here’s the fact and fiction blend to this story. Her name wasn’t Whitney Frost, but a woman scientist who was also a famous actress actually did help invent today’s wireless communication! It’s Hedy Lamarr! So, here: anyone who thinks a woman can’t be brilliant and beautiful – you’ve just been proven seriously wrong, because the woman below is Hedy Lamarr!
The Wrap Up
His morning is worse than the previous night. Before going to the airport Masters, wearing one of those sparkly “A” pins, takes Jack to a bar to meet, “his new best friend.” He tells Jack it’s because he knows how hard it was for him to turn over the film. It’s Calvin Chadwick, who also has on a pin. Calvin wants to thank Jack for taking care of things. That’s all well and good, but then the bomb drops.
Masters: “You might want to call him, ‘Senator Chadwick.’ “
Masters gives Jack the morning paper – with the exact headline Peggy had told him she’d seen yesterday!
Whitney may know more about zero matter than anyone else – but that doesn’t mean she knows much! That morning she’s in her dressing room when her director Ken comes in to tell her the studio wants to fire her and hire a younger actress. (Hollywood hasn’t changed much – now they just hire young to begin with even if the role calls for an older one!) Whitney is upset, but then Ken tells her he stood up for her. She’s not being fired. Whitney is grateful and hugs him, but he holds that hug a bit longer than necessary. Ken’s “in love,” infatuated – or whatever – with her. He tries to kiss her, and sees the black gash on the side of her head.
To his credit, Ken is genuinely upset and worried about this – visions of domestic abuse is clearly dancing in his head. As he’s gets more and more upset a panicked Whitney grabs his arm – and things get awful! The zero matter that had sizzled on her skin earlier, doesn’t do that when it touches someone else. It engulfs them! (The special effects on this looked really good!) Poor Ken starts screaming as a horrified Whitney watches. Then, just as quickly as it engulfs him, all of the zero matter streams back into the palm of her hand!
Even worse, Whitney then sees that the crack on the side of her head has gotten a little bigger….
And, that, is where Marvel’s Agent Carter season 2 episode 3 leaves us! I’d say it’s a cliff-hanger, because I want to know what the heck just happened! I bet you do too! Let me know what you make of all this in the comments!
Agent Carter season 2 episode 3 has really ramping things up from the premiere! Sexism, racism, cronyism, oh my!