In the second episode of the second season of Agent Carter, Peggy gains an ally in Wilkes, and they both try to save evidence from Isodyne. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Agent Carter.
So, there’s a lot to like in “A View in the Dark,” and I have no problem admitting how thrilling the climax was. But season two is doing this thing that I’m having trouble putting my finger on, so bear with me as I try to use this review to figure it out. There’s clearly a huge, world-reaching conspiracy at foot here, one most likely organized by the weird council we’re introduced to here. They’ve got to be who Jack’s mentor was referencing, right? And it’s not like a shadowy cabal of old white dudes is an unbelievable source of power in the government. WELCOME TO AMERICAN HISTORY. The show also adds a heavy dose of science fiction with Zero Matter, a seemingly otherworldly substance that can swallow up anything as it devours all energy around it.
These things add context to what we’ve already seen. Now we know why Isodyne has been so secretive, why Jack may need to be wary of his job, why Whitney Frost is a bigger character than we though, and why Jane Scott died. I do love a good conspiracy thriller, so that aspect of Agent Carter is satisfying me. But for some reason, the show can’t seem to figure out if it’s a thriller or a slapstick comedy, and it’s… weird. I say “weird” because it’s not like season one had no comedic elements in it. It very much did! The rapport between Jarvis and Peggy always had a humorous element to it. But at times, “A View in the Dark” pushes the humor past an infrequent staple and into the territory of the actual tone of the episode. That feels jarring because this story is dark as hell, and the humor isn’t here to lighten the load; it feels distracting.
I feel like a party pooper even saying that, y’all. I don’t want a grimdark show by any means, and I love that Agent Carter can be playful. But while the show is barreling towards the horrifying ramifications of Zero Matter, I’m not sure I want to exit the Thriller Highway for Hijinks, you know? I’m just looking for a better balance, and maybe this is the only time that this happens. In hindsight, I might even feel better about this episode! Hell, the humor does give me a chance to catch a meaningful glimpse of the Jarvis’s relationship and what it’s like.
Look, this could all be rendered moot in an episode or two. It’s why I’m hesitant to complain much about the lovely introduction of Wilkes, the natural progression of his attraction to Peggy, and then his unceremonious death. Part of me wonders if Wilkes (and the scene in the Dunbar Hotel) was in part a response to the immense outpouring of criticism for how white the first season was. Which… good! Showrunners and producers actually listening to feedback! Hell, we saw more black people in “A View in the Dark” than in the entirety of season one! Plus, Wilkes is a sweetheart, and I think this episode mostly exonerates him in my mind. He knew what he was working on, but he was coy and secretive with Peggy because of what Isodyne did for him. They hired him, and they were the only company in Los Angeles willing to hire a black man. So, in Wilkes, we have a character that’s unmistakably black, whose blackness matters to his portrayal but isn’t the sole focus of it, and he’s pushed as a romantic option for Peggy.
Great! Awesome! And then he’s killed, and I was ready to trot out the same tired complaint that I’ve been making for what seems like ages: you can’t count a character as representation if they die. You can’t! However: Whitney Frost is alive at the end of this episode, impossibly so. Now, if Wilkes stays dead, you’ll get a suitable amount of ire from me about the willingness of showrunners to kill of black characters but revive or keep white characters alive, often for the same fates. But I am clinging to a small bit of hope that both characters survived the Zero Matter. What if it manifests differently in Wilkes? What if he’s suffering the same effects, but deals with it differently? Is a person doomed if they absorb Zero Matter? Why did Jane Scott freeze to death when she came into contact with it, but Whitney did not?
LOTS OF QUESTIONS. And I’m eager to find out the answers to them!
The video for “A View in the Dark” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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