UK TV review: Agent Carter: Season 2, Episode 8 (The Edge of Mystery)
Mark Harrison | On 17, Mar 2016
This is a spoiler-free review. Read on at the bottom for additional, spoilery analysis.
The slightly extended second season of Agent Carter accelerates towards its end in this pivotal instalment, as the usually unified ensemble of good guys have started to find themselves at cross purposes. Season 2’s antepenultimate instalment The Edge Of Mystery picks up right after last week’s cliffhanger and wastes no time further entangling its characters’ motivations.
While Peggy, our hero, is still dedicated to stopping Whitney Frost from cultivating any more Zero Matter and taking over the world, love interest Dr. Jason Wilkes has seemingly turned heel, leaving Howard Stark’s mansion with the villain in order to compare notes on how they’ve been affected. During Whitney and Jason’s escape, Jarvis’ wife, Ana, was shot in the abdomen and the loyal butler is out for justice, or worse.
Peggy mostly has to contend with Whitney trying to get more Zero Matter again, which brings a disappointing anti-climax to Jason’s only major show of agency since the beginning of the season- the villain turns on him as matter of factly as he turned on his friends. Peggy, still sure that he’s a good man, enacts a risky plot to swap the stolen rods for him, but it goes wrong. Now, Whitney has nuclear capability and will try and re-open the Zero Matter rift with the help of Masters, Manfredi and the Council of Nine.
As the season picks up the pace, this is swept up and done with by the midpoint of an episode that covers a lot more ground. This also means that the show wriggles out of previous binds in short order too. For instance, Peggy’s injuries from Episode 5 seem to have healed in an unusually short amount of story time, but then they have fewer episodes to play with than Daredevil or Jessica Jones. She’s not fighting again just yet, but she’s instantly more mobile than she has been in the last couple of weeks, and that does seem to be the end of that chapter.
However, Jason’s sudden burst of pragmatism does give us a couple of more rewarding scenes between Peggy and Chief Sousa, as the two of them address to one another for the first time how their feelings are affecting their professional capabilities. There’s also a lot more for Chief Thompson to be getting on with, travelling from an overseas confab with a contact who might have dirt on Peggy, to the thick of the action in LA by the end.
But it’s more than a little poignant that we start the episode with a flashback to simpler times – specifically, a different perspective on an incident from the very first episode of Season 1, in which Jarvis helped Peggy defuse a canster of explosive nitramene over the phone. It’s the first Ana has heard of Peggy and in acknowledging that her friendship with her husband is obviously going to affect him, there’s another implicit jab at the poor fortune of Peggy’s friends and loved ones, redoubled by the immediate cut the hospital room where Ana now lies in critical condition.
There are bigger plot machinations going on elsewhere, but in this subplot, James D’Arcy is a revelation, all but completely shedding his more comical affectations. You can see how this hollows Jarvis out and without ever having to actually allude to his backstory with Ana and the sacrifices he’s made for her (detailed in Season 1 Episode 3, Time And Tide), his performance brings out the character that we don’t see so often.
The Edge Of Mystery ends with many of the characters in one location – their nebulous motivations have clashed and coincided throughout the season, but they’ve also been tracked with all due diligence by the writers. We’re left with another cliffhanger, but all deferred satisfaction aside, the attention to character in the script and the routinely superb performances from Atwell, D’Arcy et al suggest that the pay-off will be as rewarding as the build-up.
Agent Carter Season 1 and 2 is available on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, 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
– Just to reiterate, Jarvis is not his cheerful self this week. Ana pulls through, but her doctors tell Jarvis that the injury has rendered her infertile, putting an end to any hope of them having a family. Devastated, he insists on going along and apprehending Whitney at the end of the episode, but we weren’t expecting him to try and murder her as he does. Never mind that she appears to have become immune to bullets, it’s a dark turn for his character and we’ll bet Peggy’s not pleased, especially as it gets them both captured by Manfredi and co.
– Going back to earlier in the episode: thanks to incompetent goons, a plot to deliver fake rods goes awry and wrecks the attempted rescue of Jason, who doesn’t want to be rescued anyway. It’s telling that he holds a gun on Peggy and not Sousa, because he predictably flakes and lets Jason get away with the real uranium. Although she might like him back, she remains much tougher than he does when it comes to matters of the heart and she tells him off for it later. By involving Jason, it’s another neat up-ending of the love triangle that was threatening to get going this season.
– “This is an official document. That means it’s true regardless of what happened.” Thompson returns from London with an almost entirely redacted secret file on Peggy’s wartime actions – we don’t yet know what she’s done, but apparently it’s juicy. Masters gleefully congratulates him, but he seems either unsure of its veracity or unwilling to use it on Peggy. By the end, he seems to be on her side, after a brush with Masters and the memory inhibitor, but his ambition and insecurity makes him the outstanding wild card.
– Ken Marino’s Manfredi continues to steal scenes left and right. In the comedic highlight of the episode, he bickers with his grandmother and completely fails to notice Peggy and Sousa wiping the floor with his men through the window (a brilliant marriage of funny dialogue and sight gag), but also has a touching scene with Whitney near the end – he worships her and as we know, she’s more than ready to be worshipped. You kind of feel sad for both of them.
– “Do what Peggy says!” We can’t help but feel that Howard wouldn’t be sending Dr. Samberley blueprints for such an important device – one that can negate Zero Matter and might well be used to destroy Whitney – with so little other direction if Dominic Cooper were available for more episodes, but at least they’re getting good mileage out of the obnoxious SSR techie.
Photo: © 2016 Marvel & ABC Studios