Let’s start with that opening number. Why not? It was wonderful. Song and dance. Hair and costumes. The return of Angie. Enver Gjokaj can sing! (Of course he can!) It was also a bold choice that seems to amount to the show simply saying “Hey, new viewers. I don’t know what you’re doing starting so close to the end. So enjoy the glamour, but prepare to be confused.”
A new viewer would have been confused. Not just by the emotional content of the musical number. Not just by the existence of the musical number. But by the way this episode started hot on the heels of “The Edge of Mystery.” The fallout from the desert showdown in that episode was not inconsiderable. There was a boatload (or waste-management facility) worth of plot, but also some nuanced emotional conflicts between characters.
Specifically, between Jarvis and Peggy. Two people wandering through the desert, forced to reconceptualize their previously-strong relationship in the light of dramatic changes—it’s not a new trope or a new visual. But it always gets me, perhaps because I have affection for the desert. It’s such an unforgiving landscape that it seems the appropriate place for Peggy and Jarvis to yell at each other about responsibility, guilt, and blame. I am not surprised that they reconciled. But I am pleasantly surprised that Agent Carter let these two disagree for a bit. Their honest emotions were a nice contrast to the double-crossing shenanigans everyone else was up to, especially at the SSR.
Last season, the SSR was a hotbed of old-fashioned ways of doing things. This season, it has gotten much worse: the SSR has become an even hotter bed of treachery, double-crosses, and secret motives. Peggy and Sousa have been working off the books for most of this season, and their boss Vernon Masters was essentially one of the men they were hunting. The result has been a bit clunky, since it makes the SSR look like a snake that might as well eat its own tail to solve the problem.
But some of that murkiness—of loyalties, of motivations, of plans—began to pay off in this episode. It briefly looked like everybody might work together, which was a surprising twist. But it turns out that both Thompson and Masters were tricky enough to trick even Peggy Carter.
Thompson has always been a difficult character for me to like, but this season he’s also been a difficult character for me to understand. Evil? Not evil? Just self-interested? Unable to realize that playing for Team Peggy Carter is the fastest path to success? His plan to go behind Peggy’s back to kill Frost, Masters, and Dr. Wilkes was bizarrely complex. Some people on this show spend so much time scheming that it’s no wonder supervillain movie stars get so far along in their evil plans.
It’s always the forgotten characters who save the day, though. (Or don’t: I’m looking at you, Samberly.) Dr. Wilkes, filled to the brim with zero matter, managed to explode in a useful way, killing only the people we’re supposed to be rooting against. I think. There is one more episode and it must need a villain: will Whitney Frost become even stronger? Will Wilkes survive his explosion?
Those are good questions to have going into the season (series?) finale. A few more I’d like to see answered include, but are not limited to: What will Rose make of her new beau’s cowardice? What’s up with Sousa’s former fiancée, and when will she turn evil? Last but not least, why can’t all of my shows have a musical number at the start of every episode?
• Vernon Masters: “Agent Vega, would you care to explain why these men are not in a shallow grave back in the desert?” Just in case we were unclear on how evil Masters is, now we know he advocates killing SSR agents off the books.
• Peggy: “I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the habit of climbing into bed with snakes.”
Thompson: “I don’t care who you’re climbing into bed with.” Stay classy, Thompson.
• Peggy Carter has Disney Princess hair in her dreams. I have Disney Princess hair in my dreams, too!
Two and a half gamma rays out of four. (I'm deducting half a point for needless complication of plot.)
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?)
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