UK TV review: Agent Carter: Season 2, Episode 3
Winks and nods6
Mark Harrison | On 11, Feb 2016
This is a spoiler-free review. Already seen Episode 3? Read on at the bottom for spoilers.
“Every eye in the country is on her and no one sees her,” says Peggy of genius physicist-turned-Hollywood starlet Whitney Frost in this week’s Agent Carter. After Season 1 followed Peggy’s difficulty in getting her dues in a man’s world, it feels like a natural progression for the show to pit her against a villain who has similar woes and seems powerfully peeved about it.
Her Hollywood environment really comes to the fore in Better Angels, an episode that also heralds the return of special guest star Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark. As previously mentioned, Howard is out in LA producing movies (specifically, one based on Marvel’s Western hero Kid Colt, true believers!) and Peggy ropes him in to helping her break the ancient traditions of the men-only Arena Club and follow a lead.
He also brings a pair of fresh eyes to zero matter and reveals an unexpected side-effect of last week’s apparently fatal incident involving Whitney and Dr. Jason Wilkes. But Whitney doesn’t want any eyes on Isodyne Energy at all and she’s willing to take extreme lengths to avert the SSR’s gaze, including framing Jason as a spy. Peggy is desperate to clear his name, but even finds renewed opposition on her own side, in the form of Chief Thompson, who has come to LA to take her off the case.
There’s a lot of catching up for our heroes to do this week but the characters are so well drawn by now, it’s still highly entertaining just to watch the show sort of jog in place for an episode. The weighting of villains’ screentime this season has been closer to that of Marvel’s Netflix show, Daredevil, which also suffered a bit of lag in the corresponding investigation, and so it goes here, with our antagonists at work before they’re known to Peggy and company.
The pace is matched again by the end of the episode, as more of Whitney’s back-story is revealed and, crucially, Peggy meets her adversary. Wynn Everett’s wily performance continues to beguile and we’re thus far getting the impression that her acting skills are wasted on flicks like Tales Of Suspense (Marvel title shoutout #2), as she repeatedly proves herself to be an arch-manipulator, particularly when it comes to her husband. It’s telling that most of her scenes so far have been shot through mirrors, emphasising the importance of her image, and it’ll be interesting to see how events in this one affect her.
But there’s no slouching on the side of the righteous too, especially with Cooper back in the frame. His guest appearances are always good value and this one’s no exception, whether channelling Father Dougal McGuire in his failure to recall a memorable brush with Dottie Underwood (handily, Jarvis is on hand to remind him of his wardrobe choices at the time he met “the Russian knockout with the killer back-hand”) or doing his science bro thing later in the episode.
The weird science is one of the most enjoyable parts of this one – as Chief Sousa remarks early on in the episode, the SSR is the Strategic Scientific Reserve and it just takes a few daffy sequences of exposition and experimentation to bring that second S forth for once. As much as you enjoy his self-involved playboy act, Cooper is especially good in his super-smart Downey Sr. mode, belting around his laboratory and dropping truth bombs.
Again and again, the show makes exceptional use of a network TV budget and the Hollywood glamour of this run is really something to behold. It’s ratcheted up in this one with a cavalcade of costume changes (fans of Hayley Atwell are particularly well served here) and studio backlots. Although it’s noticeable, even a stock footage establishing shot of Anvil Studios, which was probably used as a cost-saving measure, blends in naturally with the period and doesn’t take you out of the episode.
However, there’s an unusual self-referential streak in this outing, starting when Peggy deplores the idea of a movie based on a comic book being easier to fathom than a movie with a female hero (still a sore point on the cinematic side of things) and going through to funny foreshadowing references to Jarvis’ legacy, with plenty in between. In fact, it’s quite laden down with Marvel references, considering that the rest of the episode doesn’t really develop the arc very much.
Nevertheless, Better Angels is another enjoyable episode of Agent Carter, even if it’s one that wouldn’t exist as part of a shorter season. What it lacks in efficiency, it more than makes up for in style, with the character of Whitney at the crossroads between Hollywood glamour and sci-fi substance. It’s far from drifting off, but it’s reassuring to see how entertaining the show can still be at its least urgent.
Agent Carter Season 1 and 2 is available on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 Sky Entertainment Month Pass subscription – with a 7-day free trial. It is also available on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
Where can I buy or rent The Good Fight online in the UK?
Spoilers and further consideration
– Dr. Jason is back, albeit separated from his corporeal form, after a nozzle-toting Howard finds a way to make him visible. Echoing similar scenes from Doctor Who and Pushing Daisies, he and Peggy can’t touch, but they can interact some more and the spark is just as powerful. There needs to be more development of his character, but he’s a valuable addition to the cast this season.
– Let’s talk about Thompson too: Peggy’s comeback to his chauvinistic posturing hits him where it hurts, given what he told her about his war record in Season 1, but despite his behaviour, there’s real pathos to his later scene with Sousa. There’s a palpable sense that he needs to connect with someone, more than he needs to control, but he puts people off in the latter regard and we’ll be interested to see if he does the right thing or turns his back on the SSR in favour of Masters.
– In regards to the quote at the top of the review, we learn that Whitney is Agnes Kelly, “Marie Curie of the Mid-West”, but nobody even recognises her as anything other than a movie star. There’s a real theme of under-appreciated folks being literally invisible going on here.
– “I don’t want to spend the rest of time as a disembodied voice.” Jarvis will later be replaced by the electronic and decidedly more Paul Bettany-sounding JARVIS and there’s even a point at which Howard gives the butler his blessing to move on whenever and wherever he pleases. He also gets to kick some bottom, finally, when Mr. Hunt makes an attempt on Peggy’s life, so good for him.
– There’s no sign of Ana or Rose in this episode, unfortunately. We’re also missing Lynsey Fonseca’s Angie from Season 1 – we assumed she’d be out in Hollywood with Peggy, trying to make it as an actress, but she’s M.I.A thus far. The campaign to Bring Back Angie starts here…
Main photo: ABC Studios & Marvel / Patrick Wymore