Let’s be honest here.
Agent Carter is entering the world of extreme science fiction. In arguably the most shocking moment of Episode 6, “Life of the Party”, a woman literally converts human beings into inter-dimensional dark matter and absorbs them into her body at will with, as far as we know, limited impact on her own existence and health (beyond a few aesthetic changes in her appearance). This is Marvel. Imaginative, adventurous, mind-boggling Marvel. We love the science fiction and each week, we see Agent Carter embrace the Extraordinary with skill and a genuine spirit of exploration. But despite the fantastic, mind-blowing advances in the show’s inherent Marvelness, the power of this episode has nothing to do with science-fiction.
The strength in Agent Carter continues to lie in its ability to express and explore humanity through natural, organic character progression, despite the extenuating supernatural conditions of the series. Peggy Carter lives and thrives in an absurd world filled with extraordinary circumstances, and yet, as exemplified by Eric Pearson’s absolutely brilliant episode, the series presents the natural expression of love and hate, trust and deception, ambition and insecurity, and human nature in general in a way that is both endearing to fans and conducive to exceptional character development. It’s natural progression in an unnatural world.
It’s this very mantra that tethers and grounds the series’ story arc, granting us the opportunity to enjoy the progression of the supernatural characters and circumstances of the Marvel universe without losing the tether that connects us with our core humanity. Moments such as the game of wits between Peggy and Dottie, Ana Jarvis’ growing concern for her husband, and the spicy acknowledgement of affection – or lack thereof – between Peggy, Sousa, and Wilkes continue to ground the series with realistic progression in the midst of amongst extraordinary circumstances. It’s an important point to bring up, as we too often see character stories taking flawed, inorganic routes for the sake of plot. And while no one can deny that the line Whitney crossed with the Council – and her husband – served the plot, every single scene from the moment we first met her to her fear of failure as she prepped for the evening contributes to the mural of Whitney Frost in that moment. She is vulnerable, powerful, and undeniably grey, an antagonist of fantastical abilities whose natural progression towards villainy is painted flawlessly throughout the episode.
But beyond the unnatural developments of Whitney’s zero matter, and poor Wilke’s inability to remain corporeal, we find ourselves in the midst of the most unnatural alliance the series has ever seen. Born out of necessity and, we can assume, in no small part due to the base desire to have more of Bridge Reagan and Hayley Atwell in the same room, we find Dottie Underwood and Peggy Carter striking up a deal in which neither trusts the other a single wink. Every sequence between Dottie and Peggy is uproariously funny and well-written. Reagan’s arsenal of decisive facial expressions combined with the snappy, witty dialogue electrifies the room as the two power woman attempt to outfox each other – with the full understanding that the other is doing the exact same thing. It’s a brilliant tour-de-force of writing and acting, with every word and motion layered with calculated deceit that grounds the absurdity of seeing a Black Widow working with SSR, both who know the other fully intends to double cross them .
As the story progresses and we’re granted the privilege of seeing Jarvis and Dottie working together undercover, we’re treated to an unexpected glimpse into the private life of Ana Jarvis. Her presence has been sorely missed these past few episodes, so her reintroduction felt a little hasty, but not to the point of distraction. While it isn’t until the following hour that we really get more of Ana, it’s nice to begin to understand her emotional state in the midst of these bizarre circumstances. Through her, we also become more keenly aware of the shift that is befalling Edwin who, as Howard Stark pointed out earlier in the season, is thoroughly enjoying his adventures with Peggy and may not be want – or be able – to return to the life of a simple butler.
After all, nothing is ever simple on Agent Carter. After her debilitating injury from last episode, we see Peggy physically unable to support her team, forcing the unholy discussed alliance with Dottie. However, despite how difficult it is for Peggy to bench herself, the circumstances allow us the perfect opportunity to put Daniel and Peggy in the same room. Once again, we’re treated to masterful storytelling from Eric Pearson. Peggy’s complete shock at discovering that she is the reason Violet left, followed by her vehement vows to set the records straight, lead us right to the moment that many of us (myself included) have been looking forward to since Season 1. Even with some body interrupting their [nearly] perfect moment, the mutual acknowledgement of the affection between Daniel and Peggy is clear. The next morning, we see them just a little bit closer, their eyes lingering just a little big longer on each other. The most intimate moment comes with the simplest touch of their hands as Peggy leaves the lab, desperate to maintain their physical closeness as long as possible. Their relationship blossoms in this episode, the roots from the rest of the series contributing to the a very honest chemistry between the two of them that bodes well for their future. After all, Peggy spends her whole life exploring the unknown; falling for something who knows her better than she may be willing to admit may just be the sense of security and stability she needs.
Overall, this episode accelerated the story beautifully, while simultaneously treating us to some fantastic character moments and the natural progression of more than one relationship. Of those natural developments, however, I will say that I’m still exceedingly frustrated with Thompson…whose character seem to be the only one floating in limbo. He continues to make decisions and express himself in ways that just don’t jive and I find he’s the one character I cannot define. That being said, I think it is very possible that that is a mirror of his own internal struggle to define himself. I just wish he’d figure it out already or get lost all-together.
Nothing personal, Jack.