Mark Watches ‘Agent Carter’: S02E03 – Better Angels

In the third episode of the second season of Agent Carter, Whitney struggles with her new condition, while Peggy gets in with the Arena Club. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Agent Carter. 

So, let’s talk about reviewing and critical analysis. It’s not possible most of the time for me to fit every thought I have on a work of fiction into a review. I try my best to represent my feelings in these pieces, and in a strange way, I’m thankful that the live videos became a part of the standard Mark Does Stuff post. They provide an instantaneous element to my site that you more or less cannot provide in a written text, which means that many times, I don’t address that kind of stuff in a review. The video and the written piece are two halves a whole, and only through both of them can you get the fullest sense for my reaction.

Yet I’m always aware that the reviews are read more than the videos are watched, so I keep that in mind as I compose these things, as I initially outline them with huge, info-dumping bulleted lists and then turn them into what I actually post on the site. Sometimes, though, it becomes easy to do the criticism and not think how that’ll come off. Maybe I’ll wax in longform about a certain trope or stereotype or storytelling device, and the bulk of that will take up the review, and it gives off the impression that I hated something. Which is rarely the case! (Oh, trust me, you will always know when I dislike something. I tend not to be subtle then.) Media consumption has always been a complicated thing for me, and I imagine it’s complicated for a lot of you. You can feel entertained by a show, but maybe a thread or two makes the story feel ragged and unkempt. Maybe there’s a subplot you despise while another one fills you with joy.

The point being that we are complex people who have complex reactions to things. I’m saying all of this because I was entertained by large portions of “Better Angels.” This show is beautiful, expertly cast, and well-acted, and I certainly wasn’t bored watching this episode. But I can’t help but feel like something is off with this season so far. Some of that, I can define, and I’ll start off with that. But then… I don’t know. I start feeling less sure of my opinions, which is a whole lot more challenging when your whole job is to write about your perception of something. Agent Carter feels like it’s going through the motions this season, and I hope I can explain why I’m sensing that.

Jack Thompson

I certainly feel more concrete about this subplot than anything else. I wasn’t surprised by Jack’s story intersecting more obviously with Peggy’s, but I was hoping for so much more. On the one hand, I’m just tired of the idea that he has to be so acrimonious towards Peggy. At this point, he knows that Peggy was TOTALLY RIGHT about the last major case she was on, and she helped save Manhattan. So when she brings a new case to his desk, he goes through the exact same bullshit as last season. And I thought he’d grown some since season 1! Yet the writers need to stick an obstacle in front of Peggy so that she can have a conflict here, and Jack fulfills that role. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really make sense to me.

I suppose that’s also due to the fact that his major impetus as a character comes off as familiar. Expected. It lacks the dynamic of every other plot in this show because it’s all about Jack quietly doing what he’s told or quietly questioning what he’s told. When he acts, it’s to be a jerk or to do as his mentor orders him. That’s not exactly the most entertaining thing imaginable, is it? Plus, I just could not care about the Arena Club at all. They’re boring, and there are enough old white men meeting in secret to affect world policy in this reality for me to care. It feels weird when the show makes a huge deal about how “male and pale” it is when this entire cast is pretty damn white, too. You’re not exempt from this criticism just because you’ve got white women, too!

Anyway, call me when Jack does something that doesn’t make him a huge coward. (I HOPE THE END OF THIS EPISODE IS A SIGN THAT THIS WILL HAPPEN.)


I guess the easiest way to state this is that I felt lukewarm about Peggy’s story in this episode. Oh, there are plenty of thrilling little moments, like her infiltration of the Arena Club. Like I said, this episode is entertaining, but with the exception of one story, it never quite reached anything fulfilling. Was it nice seeing Howard Stark again? Absolutely! Did he provide anything besides humor and a chance to move the plot forward? Well… not really. It was a treat watching her insult Jack Thompson, especially since he deserved it.

But I wonder if this was all by design. Maybe we’re supposed to feel listless, especially since Peggy is a bit disconnected herself throughout “Better Angels.” She’s ordered home, she lost the case she was pursuing, and she was still plagued by Dr. Wilkes’s death. But hey, at least he gets to come back! Well, sort of, since the whole non-corporeal thing complicates matters. Yet even in the scenes between the two of them, the writers dance around their attraction to one another without addressing it head on. I worry it’s a bait and switch. What if this isn’t really who we should be paying attention to?

I don’t know, I just don’t feel strongly one way or another about Peggy’s story here, though I guess that means I want more.

Whitney Frost

AND THEN THE SHOW KNOCKS IT OUT OF THE PARK WITH THIS CHARACTER. Whitney is complex, layered, and difficult. She’s just the right amount of sympathetic that the audience feels conflicted about her. Her husband doesn’t really seem interested in her beyond what she can do for him, yet she’s also manipulative. She has a SECRET SCIENTIST PAST, yet has chosen to work in Hollywood. And she’s victim to the vicious misogyny in the industry, so I don’t exactly feel terrible when the disgusting director is absorbed into her body through the Zero Matter.

Here is a character who is determined, ambitious, and frightening, and yet I WANT TO KNOW SO MUCH MORE ABOUT HER. Why did she leave a career in science behind her? Why Hollywood? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS. What does she know of Zero Matter? What is she going to do now with her powers?

Yes to Whitney Frost, antagonist or not. I’m so thrilled with her!

The video for “Better Angels” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon! There are various levels of support, from $1 up to whatever you want! You’ll get to read a private blog, extra reviews, and other such rewards.
– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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