This review contains spoilers.
2.3 Better Angels
With the world of Agent Carter re-established, this episode followed up on the mysteries that were introduced in the first two episodes. Wilkes’ death wasn’t what it seemed, and Whitney Frost turned out to be much more than first met the eye, even as Peggy’s own organisation gets in the way – again – of her investigations.
This episode saw military coward/Peggy’s SSR superior Jack Thompson turn up in LA to interfere, and after being relatively one-dimensional for most of the previous series, he’s proving a surprisingly strong addition to the cast here – not least because we genuinely don’t know if he’s going to do the right thing or not. He knows Peggy has dirt on him and that makes their relationship interesting, especially because his coping mechanism for that isn’t to just give her what she wants, but to try and control her.
Dominic Cooper also returns as Howard Stark, producing a Kid Colt movie no less (cue metatextual in-jokes that Deadpool would be proud of). He doesn’t quite steal the show like he did last year, but only because they’ve really beefed up Carter’s own comic irreverence to a level that matches his. Not to the point where it’s world-breakingly exaggerated, but to the point where the show’s at least as funny as the average Marvel movie – and more so, when Cooper’s around. Between them, Atwell, Cooper and D’Arcy have the comic timing and chemistry to make virtually anything work.
Chadwick and Frost also make entertaining villains for Carter, which was always going to be a tough act to follow after last season. It’s hard to feel much for Chadwick’s personality, but his political wrangling makes him dangerous. By comparison, Frost is already more well-drawn than most movie villains get to be, not least because there’s something sympathetic about her position.
In her own way, Frost is subject to the same pressures that Peggy is – she’s just dealing with them a little differently. The way Frost uses her skills as an actress, both to hide in plain sight and manipulate those around her, speaks to the same underestimation of women that’s been the show’s theme since it started. The fact that she’s now got Zero Matter inside her is going to make hiding particularly difficult in the coming weeks, especially looking at the way that crack on her forehead started growing after it absorbed her, er, male admirer.
The only weak link in the cast right now seems to be Wilkes, whose personality-free portrayal as a guy who is grateful to everyone for their help (especially Peggy) is already wearing thin. He’s far from beyond salvage, but if he doesn’t display some additional traits before the next episode is out my patience is likely to run out. I almost hope he genuinely is just an incompetent commie spy, because that’d be an excellent alternative to being a boring scientist.
Oh, and aside from the Kid Colt reference (which, in establishing him as a real person, sets up the mildly tantalising possibility of one day exploring the Marvel 1800s) it’s also notable that Sousa was flicking through files marked Broxton, Ohio – Broxton being the place in the Marvel Universe that the city of Asgard once floated above when it relocated to Earth.
If anything was bad about this episode, it was mainly that we spent a lot of time waiting for other characters to figure out the things we, the audience, already knew. Normally that doesn’t make for much of an entertaining way to spend an hour, but the characters here are so fully-formed and their interactions so electric that the show gets away with it. Accident rather than design? Maybe. But if this is the baseline level of enjoyment you can get from an episode, it’s hard to get too upset.
Marvel’s Agent Carter, Thursday at 9pm on FOX