First, let’s get one thing out of the way:
ANGIE ANGIE ANGIE ANGIE ANGIE ANGIE.
(Spoilers after the jump.)
The fleeting appearance of Ms. Martinelli this week serves as another chance to talk about her absence this year. It’s been an oddly sour note in an otherwise enjoyable season.
Angie’s obvious—and reciprocated—crush on Peggy Carter was one of the warmest storylines in all of the MCU. It was sweet and cute in a world that is so often characterized by violence and loss. Thankfully, Angie escaped from any harm, but she was still left behind in Manhattan as the show moved to L.A.
In her absence, Peggy’s romantic life has refocused on Sousa and Wilkes, a love triangle which is pushed to center stage this week. Conspiracy-minded fans attribute the shift to a burst of intolerance on behalf of Marvel, Disney, or someone else in authority. Angie made it all too obvious that Peggy is bisexual, and the MCU is notorious shy about featuring queer characters.
With that in mind, Angie’s cameo is rather perplexing. The spunky waitress turns up in a dream sequence when Peggy’s briefly rendered unconscious during a fight. Dream Angie then sets up a charming song-and-dance routine, a guide from somewhere in Peggy’s psyche. Except the song is about whether Peggy will choose Sousa or Wilkes, a somewhat aggressive reassertion of heteronormativity. All is not lost—Angie appears just as flirtatious here, and Dottie even appears for a moment, in Angie’s costume, reminding Peggy that she’s always in her head. So that’s a musical number about Peggy choosing one of two men, also featuring the two women who have appeared to catch Peggy’s fancy. It’s either a beautiful celebration of bisexuality or yet another example of network queerbaiting. You understand my confusion, here.
To make matters worse, it comes in the middle of a particularly tense showdown with Whitney Frost. Romances with any gender seem to be the last thing on Peggy’s mind; there’s a world to save. While her love triangle has featured in the plot this season, it really hasn’t been central enough to justify this angsty fantasy sequence.
Or I could just shut up and enjoy a bunch of beautiful, lovable people singing and dancing. Yep, they all sing: Angie, Peggy, Sousa, Wilkes, and for a moment, Jarvis.
And that means I have to talk about Jarvis. I love this dashingly awkward butler to pieces, but he felt out of character this week. His devotion to Ana is darling, and his pain and fear is very real, watching her struggle to recover from a gunshot wound inflicted by Whitney Frost, purely as a distraction. His desire for vengeance still strains belief. The man is not a murderer by nature, so his willingness to sacrifice his own life in pursuit of Ana’s assailant is unusual and jarring. It would be one thing if she had died, and he acted out of despondency. But Ana is on the road to recovery, and growing strong again as she imagines resuming their life together. Losing Jarvis, either to Whitney or prison, would be devastating. It’s hard to see Jarvis’s actions as anything more than selfish or cruel, and he is neither.
Peggy, of course, gives him the righteous dressing-down that he deserves, but her fury is interrupted as Jarvis confesses the true motivation for his rage: Ana may have survived, but the bullet destroyed her ability to have children. Peggy turns on a dime from anger to sympathy, and Jarvis is forgiven.
I’m fully willing to believe that the Jarvises would be heartbroken to learn that they couldn’t have a family of their own. But Mr. Jarvis is treating this as a fate worse than death. Ana’s fertility must be avenged, as though its loss were equal to her own life. Jarvis is in love with a woman, not a womb, and it’s simply unbelievable that he is momentarily unable to tell the difference. That Peggy accepts this from him is worse still.
In an unreconstructed bit of era-sexism, Ana’s diagnosis is given by a male doctor to her husband–who then hides it from her for the rest of the show. As a result, the entire plotline is about Jarvis’ manpain; Ana remains an angelic, bedridden figure. There’s no entail on Jarvis Abbey, it’s not like he needs an heir to keep his family off the street or something. While I’m all for an exploration of Jarvis’ sense of his own masculinity, given his roles in a deeply sexist society, this wasn’t it.
On top of all that, it’s 1947. This is a world with many orphaned refugee children who could use a good home, including some from Ana’s home in Hungary, where nearly three-quarters of the Jews were murdered by the Nazis. There could be survivors of the Red Room, too, which was at least partially liberated by the Howling Commandos. Worst case, they could end up taking in one of Howard Stark’s bastards. (Well, I suppose they do.)
This all distracts from a really bang-up adventure this week, as Thompson, sporting the ugliest tie in the history of the world, reunites with Team Carter to take on Whitney Frost and her allies on the council. Thompson is either a double- or triple-agent in this mess, providing a solid bit of character work as his own biases and ambitions clash with his well-buried-but-inescapable respect for Peggy. His apparent willingness to sacrifice Wilkes to the greater cause conflicts with Peggy’s nobility in defense of all innocents, although this is muddied somewhat by Thompson’s belief that Wilkes is complicit. We also get another dose of the adventures of Rose and Dr. Samberly, the goony scientist who ineptly flirts with the hypercompetent secret agent who staffs the front door of the SSR’s secret operations. Both are enjoyable sidekicks, and they help keep things focused on the main plot.
Ultimately, our unlikely band of misfits forestalls a zero matter apocalypse, while Jason Wilkes starts looking like a potential superhero, at least if he survived the cliffhanger gamma ray bomb explosion.
But these plot points all fall into the background, thanks to the very odd politics and characterization this week.
Season finale—and possibly the series finale—is next week! Let’s hope we get something that lives up to the high standards this show has set for itself.