Agent Carter: “Better Angels” Review

Marvel's Agent CarterSaying “Better Angels” is the best episode yet of Agent Carter‘s Season 2 is a bit of a stretch, considering that we’re only three episodes into the season, but it’s certainly the most interesting episode thus far. There’s already a lot more chemistry between our characters than there was at the start of Season 1, where Peggy seemed constantly surrounded by a crowd of boring, white male faces, and “Better Angels” continues an intriguing journey for our newer characters.

Spoilers below the jump.

This episode gives us several new pieces of information, many of which are helped along by the reappearance of Howard Stark. First of all, he and Jarvis are able to tell Peggy that the mysterious pin Dottie was after is a symbol of the Arena Club, a club which only lets in white male members. Peggy insists on infiltrating it, and with the reluctant help of Howard, finds out that the Arena Club has friends in high places and its members are basically writing the future. She takes this information to Thompson, who’s flown in from New York, but he’s uninterested in pursuing such a high-status club.

jason wilkes howard starkAs Peggy storms out of the office, she and Sousa discover that for some reason, objects float around her. Howard’s delighted by this and after some experimentation, finds out that something is affecting the gravity around Peggy. That something turns out to be Jason Wilkes, who, after the events of the last episode, is not dead but invisible and intangible. Howard is able to make him visible, but the two of them then have to work together to find out a way to return Dr. Wilkes to his former self. At the very least, our one character of color isn’t dead, though I don’t know how much of an upgrade from dead “invisible and intangible” is. Hopefully Wilkes is the one to solve his own issues, not Howard, because having a Black man rely on a white man for the ability to even speak and touch things seems, well, a little too on the nose.

Speaking of social issues, although we don’t know much about Whitney Frost’s powers yet, I really like what we’ve gotten of her character so far. Frost is supposedly a woman at the top of her game, both in her personal life and in her career—she’s a famous actress and she’s married to a high-flying politician. She’s even an inventor—she’s basically Hedy Lamarr. However, in 1940s America, that still doesn’t mean that she has power. Her movie boss keeps sexually harassing her, commenting on her clothing and appearance and generally putting his hands where they’re not wanted, and she can’t join the Arena Club to influence policy because they won’t accept women. The closest she can get to power is by manipulating her less intelligent husband into doing what she wants. All of the institutionalized sexism she has to suffer through makes me sympathize with her, and it’s clear that she’ll probably seize on her newly developing zero matter abilities as a source of power. For a woman with no power, it’s a lot of incentive, and her motivations make her a far more interesting antagonist than I thought she would be.

On the other hand, Thompson continues to be a particularly uninteresting character, constantly letting his superiors tell him what to do and then, as Peggy says, hoping someone will pin a medal on him for it. I was annoyed by this at first, but then a thought occurred to me—we know that despite Peggy’s successes in founding S.H.I.E.L.D. in the future, Hydra had its claws in the organization from the start. What if people like Thompson are how that started? What if Thompson is proto-Hydra? Peggy thinks he’s stupid, but doesn’t suspect him of anything, and Thompson doesn’t seem like he’ll ever own up to his own mistakes or unclear thinking. Maybe he’ll keep playing the field like this and the Arena Club will be emboldened by its own successes and gain a whole new collection of Thompson-esque S.S.R. double-crossers.

daniel sousa peggy carterAnd finally, I love how Peggy and Sousa are working together this season—any romantic subtext is lessened by Sousa’s convenient fiancée and by Dr. Wilkes, and we finally get to see them working as a team. In Season 1, Sousa wanted to work with her but clearly suspected her of having ulterior motives, and Peggy wanted to work with him but was never sure if he was more loyal to the S.S.R.’s questionable aims than to her. In this season, we finally get to see their working relationship free of those issues, and it’s clear that they make a highly efficient duo who always pick up on each other’s cues. Relatedly, I also like how Jarvis is more of a partner these days with his newfound fighting skills—the foppish butler was fun for a season, but it’s good to see him as more of an equal. And he’s still hilarious, either way.

Next week, what is Whitney Frost going to do with her creepy powers? And how is Peggy going to investigate them? I can’t wait to find out.

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3 thoughts on “Agent Carter: “Better Angels” Review

  1. I do hope that Thompson doesn’t turn out to be some sort of spy or goes back to being a misogynist. He’s in this difficult position of trying to stay relevant, but from a writing perspective, it seems like the show is taking him backwards by not trusting Peggy’s instinct, when even Chief Dooley eventually let Peggy follow a hunch. But with him seeing that newspaper that Peggy spoke of, I hope he stays an ally since turning him rogue would undo his character development from the first season. Otherwise, I’d agree that it’s premature to say it’s the best episode of the season thus far, but of the three we’ve gotten, it sticks out. I think having Dominic Cooper back for a bit as Howard Stark helped, since we see more of his intellect, but also how much he values Peggy for her strength and smarts.

    • I’m not sure Thompson had a whole lot of character development in the first season, really. We certainly got enough of his background for us to see that there was more to him than just being a misogynist — we saw his less-than-stellar actions in the war and his fear of being found out, and we saw in the season one finale that he’s fine with doing some even more less-than-stellar things to stay on top when he took credit for Peggy. Now he just has to decide if he thinks Peggy can get him more fame or if Arena Club guy can, and looking at his past record, I think he might lean a little more towards the Arena Club. But I guess we’ll find out.

      • I’d disagree on him not having a whole lot of development, but I’m more speaking of the fact that after Russia, sure, he may have still been a prude, but he did see her as more of an equal compared to the pilot. Now I suppose it depends on how much Vernon Masters has him cornered.

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