Agent Carter: “Smoke and Mirrors” Review


There’s nothing quite like sitting down to an episode of Agent Carter after a long day of work, and it’s an especial delight when said episode delivers above the expected level of awesomeness. This week’s episode of Agent Carter was chock full of plotty intrigue as Peggy and her posse got down to business, but it also gave us a much-coveted look into Peggy (and Whitney)’s past.

Spoilers below the jump!

agent-carter-episode-4In the present day, Peggy and Jarvis successfully kidnap Hunt, one of Chadwick’s men with the intent of interrogating him for deets about Whitney Frost, the Arena Club, Isodyne, and all that good stuff. They’re caught in the act by Sousa, however, who allows himself, against his better judgment, to be roped into the interrogation process. At first Hunt puts up a good fight, but after Peggy tricks him into thinking she’s given him a fast-acting strain of malaria and only she has the cure, he spills his guts.

Even though their info is the direct result of literally kidnapping a guy—a felony, as both Peggy and Sousa are well aware—they somehow manage to get a warrant to raid the Arena Club on the basis of Hunt’s testimony. They’re about to roar out of the SSR office, guns blazing, when Thompson’s sketchy boss-dude shows up. He calls off the raid on the grounds that the War Department has asked him to audit the SSR office, and then highkey threatens Peggy with deportation and her friends with Communist blacklisting if she continues to pursue this line of investigation. The raid is scrapped, but Peggy and Sousa have another trick up their collective sleeve: they tag Hunt with a bug and allow him to think he escaped, then listen to him as he runs straight back to Chadwick and Frost.  Frost has spent the episode testing the limits of her new zero matter powers, and the episode concludes as she uses them to zap the now dangerously inconvenient Hunt.

Meanwhile, in a series of flashbacks throughout the episode, we got the very different histories of Margaret Carter and Whitney Frost, née Agnes Cully. We see Peggy as a girl, first; she plays the valiant knight in the yard, rescuing a princess and brawling with her brother Michael. Later, she takes a job as a codebreaker during the war, and is scouted by the S.O.E. to become a field agent; however, she’s just become engaged to a very nice, very boring guy and turns down the offer. Her brother later reveals that he was the one who recommended her for the job, and suggests that she would be much happier there than as anyone’s little wife. When Michael is killed in action, she (presumably in his honor, and also because she’s realized how short life is) decides to call off her wedding and take the spy job.

Frost, we learn, has always been a scientific prodigy, but her talents were shat upon by her verbally abusive mother. Dear old mom insisted that there was no point wasting her time being smart when, as a girl, no one was going to care about anything but her looks anyway. When Agnes was old enough she moved out and away, to Hollywood, where she pinched pennies to see her favorite films over and over again. It was outside a theater that she first got scouted by a slightly seedy talent agent, and the rest is history.

The flashbacks were really cool, and as I said at the beginning of the post, it’s awesome to get some backstory for Peggy especially, and to see that even as a little girl she was crushing gender roles. That said, I was sad that they killed off her brother for a few reasons. First of all, because he was a decent guy who supported Peggy’s tomboyishness and wanted her to follow her dreams toward a life of adventure, and it’s shitty to lose a cool older brother like that. Secondly, because it’s really reverse fridging; he wasn’t killed for his own sake but rather just to help Peggy’s storyline progress. And finally, it was kind of disheartening because it means that, to a given extent, Peggy’s decision to go into the S.O.E. wasn’t the result of her deciding not to let a guy’s opinion of how she should live her life shape her life—it was the result of her deciding which guy’s opinion should.

You should really get that checked out.

You should really get that checked out.

On a different note, Frost has finally shown her power to another person, even if it is just her husband, and he’s suitably horrified. I wonder if she’ll end up using it for him or on him, once they both realize that he may have political oomph but she’s clearly the more intelligent and powerful of the two. Meanwhile, Peggy et al only got to hear the zero-mattering, and the bug went with Hunt when he dematerialized. So while they sort of have a new clue to what’s going on, it’s also added another layer of mystery onto the already complicated situation.

Wilkes was, yet again, an insubstantial presence in the episode in more than one way. As happy as I am that Agent Carter has learned from Season 1’s mistakes and included a recurring character of color in this season, it’d be cool if he was allowed to do, like, anything. He’s a brilliant scientist and a worthwhile love interest to Peggy, but right now he’s stuck sitting around waiting for a white savior to help him get his solidity back. How did the same blast that gave Frost mondo superpowers have such a different effect on its other victim?

All in all, though, this was a satisfying and fun episode with a lot of meat to both its plot and its character-building. Next week looks to be similarly action-packed, and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next.

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