Marvel's Agent Carter Review by Henry Tran

Marvel's Agent Carter 2.08/2.09: The Edge of Mystery/A Little Song and Dance

Marvel's Agent Carter 2.08/2.09: The Edge of Mystery/A Little Song and Dance

Written By:
Brant Englestein, Michelle Fazekas, Tara Butters, and Chris Dingess
Directed By:
Metin Huseyin and Jennifer Getzinger

The airing of four episodes in the space of two weeks has contributed to the feeling that this show is rushing to get to its conclusion. Yes, there are other mitigating factors at work, the principal one being the return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I was really hoping that the series wouldn't lose its charm and great character development along the way to its inevitable conclusion. That's the chief problem with these two episodes. The end of the season (and the series, most likely) is coming fast, and so the writers have had to sacrifice those two elements to move the plot along.

               


 

There is so much plot and so many moving parts in these two episodes that it threatens to overwhelm everything else. Case in point, look at the evolution of the Whitney Frost character. While she was scheming in the background as her Senator husband thought he was the power broker as a member of the Council of Nine, both her background and her thirst for power (fueled by the zero matter slowly taking over her body) were fascinating character traits that added to the overall feminist tone of the whole series. But all that nuance and intrigue was jettisoned the moment Frost made her power play, dissolved half of the Council, and then went megalomaniac in learning about and desiring all the zero matter in the universe. She was once a famous movie star with a scientist mind hiding in plain sight in old Hollywood, then she became a super-villain that needed to only move the plot forward.

 

At least the series does handle the aftermath of Frost shooting Ana, nearly killing her, rather well. Jarvis is, understandably, quite upset at this turn of events, and it drives him to indulge in his darker impulses throughout the two episodes. Unfortunately, this kind of thought process is rather common in comic books (called "fridging," where something dire happens to a female character so that it provides sufficient motivation for the male hero to take on the villain), and the throughline to that plot is rather predictable. It is still jarring to see someone so proper and so unassuming as Jarvis to coldly shoot Frost at the end of "The Edge of Mystery" but that only occurs because the standards of the plot demand as such. He's clearly upset not only because Ana nearly died, but justified in his actions because the shooting left her unable to bear children. A series of wonderful dramatic scenes play out of the narrative choice to make Ana infertile, but this show should be more subversive than that. It should not have to rely on the most basic of comic book tropes.

 


 

Much of the great quality in these two episodes lies in the latter episode "A Little Song and Dance." Aside from the wonderful titular song-and-dance number that opens the episode, the dramatic scenes pack enough power to carry through the entire episode. The episode opens as a dream sequence playing out as Peggy is unconscious in the back of a truck with Jarvis, and contains an original song coupled with a brilliant dance routine that harkens back to the movies of Hollywood in the 1940's and 1950's. Within this whole sequence, we get the return of Lyndsey Fonseca as Angie (who's dearly missed, but makes a nice impression, even with a brief cameo), the famed Automat, and an actual thematic resonance surrounding what Peggy wants in her life. She blames her brother for getting her into this mess in the first place by dying and having her take up his stance. It's certainly a relevant question, as the future of Peggy Carter (and this series) hangs in the balance, but it isn't fully explored.  Everyone in the dream asks Peggy what it is she wants exactly, but remain frustratingly obtuse about it. That's the fault of the time they all briefly have.

 

Instead, the show pivots to the question of the price one often pays for even associating with Peggy. This isn't something new, as that question has been explored through the previous season as well as here. This is just the first time a character in the show has said so outright. The thing is, Jarvis wanted to go on the missions with Peggy as her support. He had to know of the inherent dangers in being around her orbit. It's only when someone so close to him gets hurt that he has the temerity to question the fact that people die around Peggy, It started with Captain America (although we know that he isn't really dead), and now, Ana could have been the latest victim caught in the crossfire. Peggy understood long ago that there was a cost to being a hero, and she had already made her peace with it. She may not be comfortable with it all the time, but that's the cost of being in this business. Jarvis is now just beginning to understand what that truly means. It's the reason why she keeps trying to save Dr. Wilkes, even as he may not want to be saved.

 


 

Ultimately, the episodes come down to what Frost really wants to do with the zero matter once she somehow figures out how to extract it from Wilkes. Since she is in full-on supervillain mode, it had to be determined long ago that she had to be eliminated in some fashion. Only, the series waits until literally the very last moment for that to perhaps occur. The convoluted way in which the show got to that point was rather unnecessary. There's all sorts of twists and stunts and double crosses that occur amongst the men in the SSR (with Dr. Samberly merely being an innocent bystander), so much so that it was difficult to keep track of who was on the up-and-up. At first, it seemed like Chief Thompson bent to his conscience and was working on a plan to rid the world of both Vernon Masters and Whitney Frost, but using Sousa and Samberly as allies. He's truly out for himself though, seizing an opportunity to take out Frost by being her ally, giving her Masters, then blowing up the gamma cannon.

 

That plan goes completely awry, which some could say is the ultimate comeuppance for one of the series' more despicable characters, but that's not all. While the gamma cannon may not have exploded in time, Wilkes conveniently sacrifices himself by releasing all of the zero matter that had been stored up in his body, and directing it at a terrified Frost, presumably killing him (or perhaps sending him back to the Darkforce space). The main issue is in the show being unclear about what exactly happened to Wilkes when he entered the rift at the end of "The Edge of Mystery" instead of Frost. The whole story doesn't really come together in the end, which is ironic for two episodes so loaded with plot. There's only one episode left in the season, and I fear it won't be able to fully explain everything and close off the story in a satisfying kind of way.


Our Grade:
B
The Good:
  • That dance number is truly inspired and one of the most memorable moments of the series
  • The exploration of the price one must pay to work with Peggy Carter is well-done
The Bad:
  • Will the season (series?) finale really be able to wrap things up satisfactorily?
  • Ana’s fate comes dangerously close to the infamous “fridging” mentality

Henry Tran is a regular contributor of review for Critical Myth; The Critical Myth Show is heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @HenYay

Marvel's Agent Carter by - 2/26/2016 10:33 AM151 views

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