Week of February 12, 2023:

Smoke & Mirrors (Agent Carter s2 e4) released February 2, 2016 (where to watch)
The Atomic Job (Agent Carter s2 e5) released February 9, 2016
Erik Bates | April 1, 2023

Smoke and Mirrors

Pedantic moment: That looks more like a boiler room than a broom closet.

While I appreciate the "How did Peggy Carter become Agent Carter" backstory, I don't really follow how it's relevant to the plot of the episode, or the series as a whole. Same with Whitney's backstory, but to a lesser degree. Did the writers just decide that "every hero needs an origin" so they shoe-horned one into a random episode?

Or was it all just to build up to her quoting her brother to Wilkes in his moment of weakness?

And Whitney's entire backstory just to lead up to her "whatever I want" closing line?

Seriously. Am I missing something here? I feel like I just wasted an hour.

Erik Bates | April 1, 2023

The Atomic Job

Whitney taking charge is refreshing. I think we knew it was coming because her husband has been a sniveling also-ran this entire time.

Once again, an offscreen Stark comes to the rescue.

And yes, Galileo was persecuted. But, to be fair, his goal wasn't the domination of the world.

I do still enjoy the "we don't know what we're doing" approach to science. It really drives home the idea how much progress has been made in the MCU timeline, and sets up the idea that big things were happening that are well ahead of the time. It makes the crazy technological advances in the more "modern" series and movies feel less out of place... they're products of their history.

The slapstick nature of the comedy is getting a little old at this point. I suppose its the charism of the show, and maybe it's just that much more of a reason why the series as a whole isn't resonating with me. It's not a bad show, but I find myself watching it more out of obligation than out of interest. It doesn't help that I'm juxtaposing this with the much grittier, edgier Jessica Jones.

I will say this -- it's nice to see an action with some serious side effect. Peggy falling on that rebar and being in an actual dire situation is a refreshing twist to the show, and much needed.

I did some very light research on Whitney Frost and found that she's also known as Madame Masque, due to a facial deformity, but ultimately she is a villain without any powers aside from heightened athletic ability. Her being influenced by the Zero Matter and having supernatural abilities is a bit of a departure from that, but not one that I'm particularly mad at. I realize we're in the 2nd and last season of this show, so I'm curious if the writers had a longer arc planned for her that might reflect her comic book origins a bit more. I suppose that all depends on what the remainder of this season looks like, and whether the writers knew that this was the end of the series or not.

Scott Hardie | April 1, 2023

Smoke & Mirrors: It's a good thing that the flashbacks turned out well here, because there wasn't much else going on. Other than Carter discovering Masters's duplicity and Chadwick discovering Frost's powers, the plot did not advance at all. (I don't consider Hunt's survival essential to the storyline.) It's neat to see Frost's revelation of her abilities framed as a feminist act of liberation with the hour's closing line, but what *is* her goal, anyway? She's amassing power, but to what end? She'll still never be able to practice science the way that she wants no matter how many people she absorbs, which seems to be a limited number anyway, given the toll that it's taking on her body. If she wanted revenge on the sexist men who messed up her life, that would be trite and predictable but at least it would be something.

However, I liked the flashbacks, dramatizing the sexism that both women have endured and drawing a clearer connection between them. So far, Frost is fairly sympathetic as villains go, and that doesn't bother me. Was it me or was that talent agent outside the movie theater just way too creepy to take seriously? Any woman, even a "bumpkin" recently off the bus from Oklahoma, should be able to spot the many red flags that he was putting up. (6/10)

Erik, if I were Wilkes I'd be most concerned that I make Carter think of her brother. That's gonna be an "ouch" from me, dawg. And great point about Stark's "broom closet," but then again, I'd expect Stark's euphemistic "broom closet" to be, I dunno, a private sex dungeon or opium den or something.

The Atomic Job: The first big problem with this episode is the lawlessness. It bothered me in the previous hour that Carter assaulted, abducted, and tortured a man (psychological torture is still torture), and at that, a man who had already attacked her, giving her a personal vendetta and a big fat reason to be yanked from the case. This episode went further, with three warrantless searches of private property, deliberate infliction of brain damage to a businessman (he's a lecherous creep but come on), electrocution of three guards, and theft of an atomic weapon (!). Carter really is the perfect person to found the MCU's version of S.H.I.E.L.D., given that she has moved beyond morally ambiguous spycraft onto rank cruelty in zealous pursuit of her side's agenda. Remember how wrong the SSR men were last season about Howard Stark's guilt, and yet how certain they were that they were right? A smarter agent should recognize that she might be wrong about some aspects of the case, and a more heroic one shouldn't behave like this. Perhaps we're meant to assume that she's in love and being irrational, but I'm not buying that if the show's trying to sell it.

The other big problem is the humor. It's… not my taste. Maybe other people really liked it? I thought that the tranquilized Jarvis in the last episode was played broadly, but the heist sequence here was worse, with the suddenly ass-kicking receptionist and the bumbling idiot tech-nerd. This show can be funny when it uses humor in small doses like a seasoning agent, such as Jarvis's embarrassment, Stark's egocentrism, bad guys' ineptness, and so on, but here it served comedy as the main ingredient and, well, I'd say it's not working. I sincerely do appreciate that the show is trying to stretch itself and grow, and maybe if it had gotten more seasons it might have gotten good at this, but for now, oof. Did anybody else enjoy the humor in this episode?

How was Violet so damn quick to figure out that Souza was in love with Carter and that's why he left New York, all from him being concerned and touching her shoulder? Sure, he's behaving inappropriately towards a colleague (would he touch Thompson's shoulder in a comforting manner if Thompson had been impaled instead?), but Violet's making some huge inferences for the sake of expediency. Speaking of moving the plot along, I found it amusing that Wilkes spontaneously developed the superhuman ability to point to the corpse of Jane Scott on a city map, because it reminded me of old times running tabletop RPGs when the players became helplessly lost and I was so exhausted of fruitlessly giving them small clues that I gave up and forced an *Incredibly Direct Clue* that barely made sense in the game's setting just because I had to get them back on track.

Meanwhile, Frost's motive remains unclear, except that she seems to want more power, the same lust that proved to be the undoing of kings, emperors, and Tim Taylor. The scene of Jarvis carefully handling the atomic bomb could make for a good episode of What If…? in which he drops it, Los Angeles is destroyed, S.H.I.E.L.D. is never founded, and the present-day MCU is very different. The "no hospital!" night-nurse scene is such a cliché that Rosario Dawson plays the living embodiment of it in multiple MCU shows, and I don't fully understand its justification here, since if the Council has compromised the SSR and made it impossible for Carter to be guarded at a hospital, then they must also know the identity of Souza's nurse financeé after he blabbed about her to the whole office. And lastly, I don't even know what to make of the unpleasant scene with Ken Marino's mobster, which seemed to be dropped in from another series entirely. (2/10)

Scott Hardie | April 1, 2023
This comment contains spoilers for Agent Carter. Reveal it.

Scott Hardie | April 1, 2023
This comment contains spoilers for Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: No Way Home, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Reveal it.

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