Agent Carter: Better Angels

“Do you have time to talk about the real world for a bit?”

Last season, Agent Carter emphasized the difficulties of being a woman in a man’s world. This season, the emphasis seems to be slightly different. From the studio system to corporate cronyism, Peggy and her sidekicks are forced to confront the difficulties of being—as Whitney Frost explained—“just anyone” while attempting to contend with wealth and power.

This episode featured three different situations in which powerful, well-connected men manufactured a false narrative out of warped facts: Howard Stark and the comic-book movie version of history; Agent Thompson’s revisions to Peggy’s report; and the Arena Club cabal’s false headlines that become true, thanks to their shenanigans.

It’s the little guys, like Peggy and Dr. Wilkes, who have to struggle to tell the real story about the real world. (Whitney Frost’s way of describing this problem, from the other side, was that “women like [Peggy]” can’t be stopped using “official channels.”) And that struggle is part of what makes Howard Stark so appealing: despite his wealth and power, he’s still fighting the good fight. When he’s not busy having a different sort of fun.

Even though she had lots of villainous lines, Whitney Frost is displaying an ambiguity similar to Howard Stark’s. She’s more than just a pretty face: like real-life movie star Hedy Lamarr, she’s an inventor and a brain. That makes her current situation, in which she is considered too old for a leading role, even more poignant. Was her attempt to take the zero matter also an attempt to establish herself in a new career? That it wound up making her both dangerous and physically scarred is more than ironic.

So is Dr. Wilkes’s situation: his decorporealization evokes, in rather uncomfortable ways, the current cultural dialogue about black bodies. He no longer has one. I certainly hope he gets it back soon. (And I’m very happy he is not dead.)

It’s not all doom and gloom identity politics, though. The foray into the Arena Club was hilarious; I loved how Torrance the maĆ®tre d’ freaked out when confronted with a bevy of women. Watching Stark and Dr. Wilkes work together was a great deal of fun, as was Jarvis backing up Peggy when she was attacked.

All in all, this was a strong episode that kept things moving, even if we didn’t move very far. It left me with a few questions: How much more do we know about what is happening? Why didn’t we get any hints about how Sousa’s girlfriend is totally evil? At what point will Thompson realize that Peggy is right and he is wrong? Where can I get Peggy’s red-striped dress?

At least some of those questions—although probably not the last one—are sure to be answered soon.

Zero Matters:

• Peggy: “They’re ready for a movie based on a comic book? Sounds like a dreadful idea.”

• Howard on the Arena Club: “I’ll tell you what they talk about: buying low, selling high, and gout.”

• Peggy: “Oh, I’m so sorry! I get really confused around books.”

• Peggy’s first dress—the purple and green—did a pretty phenomenal job of emphasizing her breasts.

• Fun nod: Jarvis saying he doesn’t want to be just a disembodied voice. Oh, Jarvis.

Three out of four code pinks.

Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

5 comments:

sunbunny said...

You can have the red striped dress, I want that sparkly clutch.

I found myself really missing a scene where Wilkes fangirled over Howard Stark. Wilkes is a scientist, Howard Stark is a celebrity and one of the most famous intellects of his time. You think there would be a little moment of "OMIGOD YOU KNOW HOWARD STARK!?!? OMIGOD!!!" Just a cute little missed opportunity.

I'm already headcanoning that one of the jobs Wilkes applied for and was denied after the war was with Stark Industries and that, when Howard finds this out, he will promptly fire whichever idiot was in charge of that decision.

Jarvis and his tortoise of fury. Gets you every time.

No Ana and no Bernard make me a sadbunny. :(

migmit said...

Wilkes starts to annoy me. He is too obvious. "You want me staying, and so I'm willing to stay"? Come on. It makes me, again, think Wilkes is evil.

Thompson, I think, already knows Peggy's right. And he is already playing his own game, which does not align with Arena's — he watched the movie and lied about it. Now he has an additional proof: the headline.

jencat said...

Did it feel a bit odd that all the female characters from the previous episodes suddenly vanished in this one, except Whitney? They did such a nice job setting them all up, and then Rose, Ana and Sousa's girlfriend didn't feature this time at all (I kind of wanted to see her sass Thompson and stick up for Sousa). It's making me miss Angie now :-(

Patrick said...

migmit - I agree that Thompson knows at this point Peggy was right, and I think part of him probably knew all along, but his ambition and general a-holishness got in the way. And seeing that headline really made it sink in, that he should have backed Peggy, but he's too proud to admit it, so he'll probably try and work his own angle and get himself in trouble.

I do have to say I thought Peggy's crack at him about getting a medal, referring to how he got his Navy Cross, was >this< close to over the line in my opinion. It just felt like a cheap shot coming from Peggy. The problem is that Thompson has been acting like SUCH a jerk this season(even more than last year) that he makes it impossible for me to have any sympathy for him.

Marianna said...

I actually felt kind of sorry for Whitney Frost with everyone treating her like she's old. I'd like to think that was an exaggeration, but sadly it probably wasn't much of an exaggeration.

Also where is Angie? I was expecting her to at least get mentioned.