Mark Watches ‘Agent Carter’: S02E04 – Smoke & Mirrors

In the fourth episode of the second season of Agent Carter, YES. Y E S. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Agent Carter. 

This is the first episode of this season where I felt utterly enthralled by the story, so BRAVO, Agent Carter! Seriously, this is an impressively strong episode, and I’m seeing now how season two can shape up to be exciting and insightful. The script for “Smoke & Mirrors” brilliantly compares the origin stories for Peggy Carter and Whitney Frost, showing us how similar they are, and yet demonstrating how their paths diverged in adulthood.

Look, I just adore a well-written antagonist, especially one who slowly comes into that role throughout their life. Agnes was not born into Whitney Frost. The glimpse we get of her life helps explain her interest in science, as well as her current personality. Again, there’s not a whole lot to go off of, but Agnes was largely neglected as a child. And like Peggy, she was expected to behave a certain way because she was a woman. In case, her interest in science is treated as a silly hobby and, later in her life, as a pointless career goal. Over and over again, she is told to be someone else. She is told to conform.

It’s a fascinating choice for the show because Whitney becomes far more sympathetic than I expected her to be. I feel like I understand why she decided to become an actress. In that career, she could be anyone. And it explains her friction with her husband, who expects her to be confined to the role of wife, to do everything so that his Senate campaign is practically guaranteed. Chadwick isn’t creative, and he certainly doesn’t care about his wife in any meaningful way. At least not outside of how she can help him, you know? And when she contains the Zero Matter inside of her, her possibilities open up. They’re limitless. For the first time in her life, she can choose anything she wants without someone telling her to otherwise.

It’s a direct parallel (and an ironic one) with Peggy, but this script rules because it shows us how an internal force kept her from pursuing her dreams. Indeed, everyone aside from Peggy’s husband encouraged her to do something that was not expected of women in that period of time. Yet Peggy Carter – the same woman who tricks a man into spilling secrets through a fairly violent bluff – believes that she doesn’t have it in her to be a spy. Peggy!!! And the show knew this would be surreal to see, but it works so damn well. Peggy didn’t believe in herself, whereas Agnes absolutely did. Peggy needed external forces to get her to where she wanted to be, and unfortunately, it took her brother’s death in the war for her to realize what opportunity she was going to leave behind.

Both women were told to be more ladylike, to do what others expected of them, and they both found their own paths to their own personal truth and freedom. And it’s just so tragic that they’re now at odds with one another. Well, they will be, once Peggy finds out what Whitney can do.

AND HOLY SHIT, SHE CAN CONTROL THE ZERO MATTER. She can use it as a weapon! What else can she assume into herself? Does it give her any special power? WHAT DOES SHE WANT? Honestly, that’s the most important question here: Now that she knows her potential, what does she do next?

Meanwhile, I love that the plot involving Masters has had a much more chilling effect on the main characters. What’s Jack doing during the events of this episode? Plotting, I hope, but who cares when Peggy and Sousa are hiding the Arena Club’s muscle in a goddamn broom closet below the audit that the federal government is running??? IT IS SUCH A BOLD THING TO DO AND I LOVE IT. How satisfying is it to see Sousa back up Peggy like this with less and less reluctance? It’s this edginess, which skirts the line from what we normally see, that gives this episode a thrill beyond the invigorating flashbacks. This is not Agent Carter going through the motions; this is a story about these characters realizing they’ve stepped into a disaster and desperately trying to find a way out of it, all while solving the mystery before them.

And about that mystery: What the hell is Zero Matter? Why is Dr. Wilkes experiencing that weird… thing? I don’t even know how to describe it aside from using his own words. Is it extra-dimensional? Is it pulling him somewhere or is it just trying to consume him, too? WILL HE AND PEGGY GET TO KISS AGAIN AND FORM AN OT3 WITH SOUSA.

Yes, that’s clearly the answer.

The video for “Smoke & Mirrors” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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