Agent Carter 2.03 Review: “Better Angels”
Welcome to my review of Agent Carter’s newest episode, “Better Angels,” — in which Peggy must recruit the help of Howard Stark to solve the mystery of the deadly Zero Matter!
“Better Angels” was written by Jose Molina, who also wrote the Howling Commando episode, “The Iron Ceiling”, of Agent Carter season one. Since I like to do my reviews in sections, let’s call this “Lauren’s Top Five Moments from Better Angels.”
Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) is shaping up to be a perfect match for our girl Peggy (Hayley Atwell). Frost wears an impeccable mask around everyone — her husband, her agent, her fans — fooling everyone into thinking she’s just another Hollywood socialite. The truth is, thanks to a discovery by Chief Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), Frost is really a genius — an Okie named Agnes Cully — who helped Isodyne make a name for themselves during the war. This development makes so much sense, since Frost told Wilkes that she was the only person who understood the true nature of the Zero Matter. What I love about Frost being a secret smarty, is that it draws such a comparison to both Wilkes and Peggy. Peggy knows exactly what it’s like to hide her brilliance under the guise of getting coffee for her superiors. Peggy may not be wearing the “mask” of a Hollywood starlet, but she does use her femininity to her advantage, like when she said “books confuse her” at the Arena Club. Frost’s secret also parallels that of Dr. Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin). Wilkes is a brilliant scientist but couldn’t get hired because he was black. He too knows what it’s like to not be seen for who your truly are. Speaking of not being seen…
2. Dr. Wilkes is the Invisible Man
When the items on Peggy’s desk began to float I knew immediately that Wilkes had to be there, just beyond the spectrum of visibility. When Howard figured it out and sprayed him, it reminded me of that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, when Mikey asks his mom, “Am I coming in clear?” I love how Howard used film developing chemicals to make Wilkes visible again. What I love about this is the subtle yet bold statement Agent Carter is making about racism in America. The only Black man on the show is not literally invisable. That metaphor was not lost on me. It can also be assumed, metaphorically, that cinema (i.e. the film development chemicals) can be used as a tool to bring forward the visibility of minorities, like Jason Wilkes, so that they are no longer invisible to the white population, which is a very applicable statement to make regarding today’s racism (cough cough #OscarsSoWhite).
3. Jack: Boy Scout Soldier or Men’s Club Medal?
A lot of people don’t like Chief Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), but I really do. I don’t like the choices he makes, but I respect that he’s not 100% #TeamPeggy. It wouldn’t be a true representation of the real world in the ’40s if all of the men in Peggy’s life trusted and respected her. Jack fills those arrogant, sob shoes very well, and is a very entertaining character to see on screen. What I love most about Jack’s character is that he is the definition of man torn in two directions. On one hand, he wants to serve his country, he wants to make the right decisions, and he wants to be a good leader at the SSR. On the other hand, he wants to be respected by his superiors, he likes to be praised, and he doesn’t want to be “obsolete”, as Vernon Masters (Kurtwood Smith) told him in the premiere episode. Jack walks a tightrope, and this week he got to see everyone’s true colors first hand. Peggy, the consummate defender, was willing to go to any lengths to clear her friend’s name. Masters, on the hand, is the consummate bully, willing to go to any lengths to cover up Wilkes death and the power of the Zero Matter. Hopefully, now that Jack knows the truth about Masters and the election rigging, he’ll infiltrate the Arena Club and blow the whole conspiracy wide open.
4. St-ARC-k Reactors and Jarvis’ Disembodied Voice
No episode of Agent Carter would be complete without a few juicy Marvel easter eggs, and this episode had five that really caught my attention:
1.Kid Colt Comics
Kid Colt was a Marvel comic book character that debuted in 1948. Issues of his comic, Kid Colt Outlaw, can be seen behind Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) in his office. Kid Colt is also the movie that Howard’s filming when Peggy and Jarvis arrive on set. “But they’re ready for a movie based on comic book? Sounds like a dreadful idea.” I have no idea how Hayley Atwell delivered that line with a straight face!
2. Iron Man’s Arc Reactor
If you were able to look around Howard’s work lab you may notice a few items that are reminiscent of Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) lab from the Iron Man films. You can see a Jukebox, gasoline decals, and a stained glass window that contains the shape of the Iron Man arc reactor. Say what? It’s true! Another reminder that this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe and everything really is #itsallconnected.
3. Whitney’s Masks
When Peggy is questioning Whitney Frost in her dressing room, you can see two theater masks above her vanity. These masks are a perfect nod to that Marvel character Madame Masque, who’s moniker Whitney will be taking on this season.
4. Jarvis’ Disembodied Voice
As many Marvel fans already know, Tony Stark’s A.I. interface is named J.A.R.V.I.S., albeit after his father’s butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy). While Agent Carter season one never directly tied the real life version of Mr. Jarvis to Tony’s A.I., tonight’s episode did! When Jarvis informs Peggy that Howard installed a new security system, the voice that plays is Jarvis: “Warning, you are not authorized to access this area.” When Peggy jokingly says that it’s, “Terrifying,” Jarvis retorts with, “It’s a temporary measure. I have no desire to spend the rest of time as disembodied voice.” Hahahaha, oh Mr. Jarvis, you have no idea!
5. Peggy’s Punching Bag
Peggy and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) have so much in common. Not only did they single-handedly take out Red Skull in WWII, but they also blow off steam in the same way. How do they do this? By beating the daylights out of a punching bag. Steve can be seen laying into his trusting punching back when Nick Fury recruits him for The Avengers Initiative. Peggy takes her aggression out on Stark’s punching bag after dealing with Thompson, Frost, and Wilkes’ drama all day.
5. Whitney Frost is a Stone Cold Killer
When the Zero Matter hit Peggy, it made the atmosphere around her colder and lighter in gravity. When it hit Wilke,s it made him invisible. When it hit Whitney, it went inside of her body, and somehow transformed her DNA. Last week, it manifested as a small black crack in her forehead. This week it sucked an entire person out of existence! When Whitney’s boss tried to get a little too cozy with her, she reacted forcefully — somehow this force triggered the weaponized version of the Zero Matter — which leaped out of her body and consumed her boss. Considering this Zero Matter is also the Dark Force, the same energy-sucker that Blackout used to drain people’s life force in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s possible the Zero Matter sucked the life force out of her boss, then returned to dwell inside Whitney. Whiteney was terrified, obviously, but once she learns how to control it, will she turn into a full-blown Marvel villain? Only time will tell.
Overall I give this episode a solid two-thumbs up. It set up a fantastic moral dilemma for Jack, it allowed Peggy the peace of knowing Jason was still alive, it further progressed Whitney’s storyline, and it shed some more light on the back table dealings of the Arena Club (who I still think are Hydra). I can’t wait to see what happens next week on “Smoke and Mirrors”!
Agent Carter airs Tuesdays on ABC at 9/8C.