UK TV review: Agent Carter: Season 2, Episode 9 (A Little Song and Dance)
Mark Harrison | On 24, Mar 2016
This is a spoiler-free review. Read on at the bottom for additional, spoilery analysis.
OK, who had “Busby Berkeley musical number” in the Agent Carter sweepstakes? However you expected the show would follow last week’s drastic cliffhanger, you probably wouldn’t have bet on the zingy dream sequence that opens the penultimate instalment of the second season.
With the entire regular cast dressed to the nines, this prologue covers both black-and-white LA noir and extravagant technicolour musicals in one fell swoop. The sequence has an overwhelming sense of being something that the cast and crew have been dying to get out of their systems for almost two whole seasons and it makes for a delightfully surreal detour from the mounting stakes of the main arc.
Snapping back to reality, A Little Song And Dance finds Peggy and Jarvis on their way back from the desert in the clutches of Whitney Frost and the mafia, following the latter’s failed attempt to kill her in cold blood. Elsewhere, Chief Thompson works his charm to the good guys’ advantage by taking Chief Sousa and Dr. Samberley into custody to get leverage over Vernon Masters, but privately colludes with both the corrupt spymaster and the increasingly unhinged Whitney in his own interests – whose side is he really on?
The B&W/musical sequence is an unexpected primer for the episode, in more ways than one. A Little Song And Dance covers more plot at the next-to-last moment than any other episode of the season thus far and it doesn’t necessarily all fit together tonally. There’s a passage, in which Peggy and Jarvis escape their captors and start heading home on foot, that could have filled a whole hour of a show that had more episodes to play with, just because it’s rare to find them so at odds as they are here.
Peggy is furious at Jarvis for his behaviour and he’s not best pleased with hers either. Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy are always good together, but we see a new side to their characters here, as both have gone through a lot in the last few episodes. “The moment we escape this desert, we can escape each other forever,” she tells him coldly. This is the nadir of their friendship, but watching these good friends lash out at each other because they’ve been bottling it up makes great drama.
But the relentless pace of the series means it’s just as eager to escape this part as the characters and the second half gets back to the espionage part of the equation. Building upon last week’s climactic congregation, the characters all want something different, no matter which side they’re on, and they’re all starting to get in each other’s way. The fireworks that ensue in the wake of double and triple crosses make for another gripping conclusion and the third cracking cliffhanger in a row.
If there’s a criticism, it’s that we’ve kind of lost track of Whitney a bit – she’s arguably swapped places with Jason Wilkes in terms of having stuff to do with her Zero Matter-ness, seeing as how he has recently become all interesting. We know Whitney wants to open another rift and experiment with a larger quantity of the black stuff, but then what? She’s certainly not as despicable as some of the men she cast aside to get to her current standing – it’s more that she’s willing to work with despicable people like Manfredi (Ken Marino is still brilliant in this role and his bruised masculinity this week is just another side to the low-key hilarity he’s been bringing all season) and Masters (Kurtwood Smith has been Kurtwood Smithing up a storm too). Wynn Everett is continually great, but of all of the conflicting motivations in play, hers is the cloudiest at this late point in the season.
It would have been altogether ballsier to make this or the finale a full-on Once More With Feeling musical, but the prologue ultimately provides levity in A Little Song And Dance, an episode that ramps up the tension between characters and delivers a number of transfixing but somewhat separate setpieces over the course of the hour. It leaves us hanging on to find out how the heck they’re going to wrap it all up in next week’s finale, but it does it in style.
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.
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Spoilers and further consideration
– Welcome back, Angie! Lyndsy Fonseca finally makes a cameo appearance this season in the opening musical number. We hope she’s back on a more regular basis, if ABC ever gets around to renewing Agent Carter for a third season.
– The episode seems to want to get out of the rough patch between Peggy and Jarvis quickly and his admission that Ana can no longer have children as a result of her injuries does the trick. It’s kind of a shame that we don’t really get Ana’s reaction to this – she’s arguably the most underused character of this season, but the tactful move away from her hospital room during the crucial scene is moving in its own way.
– Peggy decks Vernon Masters, in one of the most satisfying scenes of the episode and the season. Even without all of the residual Clarence Boddicker-ness that Smith carries with him, Masters has been a truly detestable antagonist and after Sousa’s nasty encounter with him and his thugs a couple of weeks ago, it’s good to see him get some of his medicine. Go on, Peggy, lass!
– Our heroes are left in a Mexican stand-off by the end of the episode, with Thompson trying to blow up Samberley’s big gun inside the bad guys’ waste plant-cum-laboratory, taking Whitney and Masters with it. More pressingly, right before the credits, Jason’s body is seemingly destroyed, when he explodes into an all-engulfing bunch of Zero Matter, right in the villains’ faces.
– Finally, just to reiterate, our love of Ken Marino’s eccentric tough guy performance goes on unabated. “Don’t open the door for me, I’m not a woman!”
Photo: © 2015 Marvel & ABC Studios / Byron Cohen