comScore Agent Carter S2E3 Recap – "Better Angels" | The Mary Sue

Agent Carter Recap – “Better Angels”

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After a dazzling, action-packed, two-hour premiere, I’m ready to settle in for the third episode of Agent Carter‘s second season. Climb aboard, folks — spoilers abound, obviously!

At the start of this episode, everybody still thinks Dr. Jason Wilkes is dead – and under mysterious circumstances. Agents Sousa and Carter arrive at Jason’s apartment with the intent to search the premises; the press are waiting outside, complete with massive in-your-face cameras, paparazzi-style.

Peggy finds a hollow board in Wilkes’ apartment floor. Beneath that board, she and Sousa find an envelope containing $50K in cash, plus a one-way ticket to Moscow, and a Russian passport. Agent Baker, who is not even listed on IMDB so I don’t think he’s going to come back, finds a Tokarev TT-33 under Jason’s mattress and becomes convinced that Dr. Wilkes was a Russian spy, since that’s the same gun that killed the agents that got overtaken while moving Jane Scott’s body. You know, the frozen body that got mysteriously stolen in the prior episode?

Of course, we saw who stole that body at the time, and it was a different mysterious dude, definitely not Dr. Wilkes – and that same mysterious dude is probably the one pulling the frame job on Jason here. The gun, the passport, the money? It’s all a little too convenient, as I’m sure Peggy will point out.

“I think Isodyne is trying to frame Dr. Wilkes and they want us to do their dirty work.” Thanks, Peggy! You always come through.

Incidentally, I refuse to believe Dr. Wilkes isn’t still alive.

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Back to the movie set. I assumed we’d be visiting our movie star villainess Whitney Frost in this scene, but instead, it’s Howard Stark’s movie set! Peggy and Jarvis crash Stark Pictures’ boring cowboy film in progress, and Howard offers Peg a “sassy bar wench” role on account of the fact that the actress he casted “called out drunk.” Peggy tells him she’d rather play the cowboy role, and Howard refuses, because he doesn’t know how to make a good movie.

Or perhaps he does. He’s adapting Kid Colt, a comic book about an outlaw – a “historical drama,” in Howard’s words. That’s right, Howard is adapting a comic book! How many “show within a show” jokes will Agent Carter make this season? As many as they can, damn it.

Howard Stark may not understand anything about Hollywood, but he does understand science – supposedly – so Peggy shows him the film reel of zero matter that Dr. Wilkes showed to her during the premiere. Howard’s as disturbed by it as anybody else would be upon first viewing. While looking through the rest of Jason’s papers, Stark finds the same hatpin/key/whatever that keeps popping up everywhere on this show – the “Arena Club” pin, Stark calls it. Remember all the old guys putting out candles? “The Council”? That’s the Arena Club.

Stark is surprised to see this pin in Jason’s possession, since “they keep their ranks male and pale.” They’ve been trying to recruit Howard for years, to no avail. Anywho, it’s the same pin that Dottie was trying to steal from the bank when I wasn’t paying enough attention during the premiere episode, but of course they re-explain all of that now to help clueless people like me. Plus it’s the same sort of pin that Agent Carter found in the back of a car last week; I do remember that part. Best part of this scene is that Howard doesn’t remember who Dottie Underwood is until Jarvis reminds him what outfit he had on when last he met her. I remember everything by my outfits too, Howard!

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Meanwhile, Whitney Frost still has a dark matter infection to worry about – or zero matter, as they’re calling it on this show. No makeup can cover that up, Whitney … but a good side-swept hairdo will do the trick!

Her husband pops in and excitedly shows her that their frame job against Dr. Wilkes worked – everybody totally thinks he’s a communist. (Well, everybody but Agent Carter, but they don’t know that yet.) Whitney suggests to him that she might retire from acting – the fact that she’s about to die from zero matter poisoning seems like a good reason to retire, not that she’s going to admit that to her husband – and he tells her she’d better stick with it until his campaign for Senate is done. Wouldn’t want anything to distract from the campaign! Your wife’s sudden mysterious death is probably going to distract from the campaign, though, dude. Oh well? She does seem to be doing surprisingly well considering that her body is packed with radiation.

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Sousa and Carter head back to the office, and Asshole Jack is waiting for them there. For a split second I thought they’d headed all the way back to New York just to see him, but quickly realized that the opposite had occurred. We soon learn that Jack is here to rewrite Peggy’s incident report so that it includes Dr. Wilkes’ supposed communist leanings. She refuses to sign it, though, since she doesn’t believe Wilkes is a communist. Jack insists that people will “get the wrong idea” about her if she continues to defend Jason. Yeah, whatever. Jack signs his name instead, which I guess will work because he’s their boss. Blech.

Peggy enlists the help of a hungover Howard Stark in taking down the Arena Club, since he can join and she can’t. This scene features Peg stealing Stark’s Bloody Mary and talking to him like he’s a trained puppy. “Who’s a good boy? Howard’s a good boy.” Have the Agent Carter writers been reading my fan-fiction … ?

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Back at the office, Jack decides to finally watch that zero matter film reel. That little movie is becoming a number one hit! Maybe Howard Stark should put it on the silver screen? Vernon, the FBI exec who met up with Jack during the premiere, shows up and demands a meeting. He implies to Jack that Dr. Wilkes stole a weapon – and he’s not wrong, given what the zero matter can do.

By the way, what happened to the zero matter after Isodyne exploded? Did it all end up inside Whitney’s body? Or Dr. Wilkes’ body (I swear, he can’t be dead)? Is the zero matter just kinda floating around in the world, unrecovered? I mean, I can certainly understand why the thing is a matter of national security, but Vernon’s acting pretty suspicious about the whole deal. Are we sure he’s a real FBI agent and not a Russian spy himself? (I’m just going to start assuming everyone is a Russian spy from now on.)

Howard Stark joins the Arena Club, makes fun of their bartender for not serving him fast enough, and complains right off that the place doesn’t allow women to enter. Then he invites a huge crowd of women into the lounge, to the shock of his hosts. Peggy comes in along with the rest of the girls, all of whom provide ample distraction while Peg covertly sneaks past the lounge and into the hallway beyond. While Peggy installs listening devices everywhere she can, the straight-laced Arena Club host calls security and tells them they have a “code pink” – presumably referring to the presence of women in the club, but not necessarily Peggy, since no one seems to have caught on to her game yet.

Peg gets lucky – she manages to slip into the candle-filled meeting room right after the Council finishes up a session together. When she tries to bug the meeting room, however, her listening device encounters some sort of electrical interference and begins to elicit feedback. Hearing the noise, one of the men steps back into the room, but since Peggy is under the table, she eludes notice. I think this guy is the same mysterious guy from the premiere — the guy who stole Jane Scott’s body. Maybe? Listen, there’s a lot of bad guys in suits on this show.

Peggy combines the feedback-sensitive listening device with a flower clip she was wearing to form … something? She leaves the device in the meeting room before slipping out, unseen. It doesn’t seem like that device did anything, though. A security guard catches her on her way back to the lounge, but luckily, so does Jarvis – and he covers for her. Since there are already women all over the lounge, it doesn’t seem so unrealistic that one of them might wander into the hallway.

Back at the SSR office, Jack learns that Peggy left a bunch of listening devices in the Arena Club, and he’s pretty pissed off, since he had already closed the whole Isodyne Energy case. Plus, Peggy installed the aforementioned listening devices without a warrant and without any legal justification, beyond her belief that “there’s a conspiracy afoot” (her words, of course). She mentions some newspapers she found while snooping around in the meeting room – I didn’t think much of them, but Peggy noticed that they had the following day’s date on them and also, y’know, described events that hadn’t happened yet. Basically, those newspaper mock-ups proved that the Arena Club planned to fix the election of Whitney Frost’s husband to Senate. Why are they making fake newspapers detailing all of their future plans? Seems like a pretty weird waste of time to me, but I guess it does serve as a fun storytelling gimmick.

Unfortunately, it sounds like the electrical interference that Peggy heard while installing the device in the meeting room meant that none of her devices worked. So was the entire operation a waste of time? She didn’t even steal any of the fake newspapers on her way out! After enduring a stern talking-to from Jack, and a plea from Sousa to learn how to accept other people’s help, Peggy notices that a lot of her office supplies have begun to float mysteriously. Suspecting that she has been contaminated by zero matter, Peggy makes haste to Howard Stark’s estate.

Howard figures out that, in addition to being able to make objects float — albeit only near her left arm rather than her right arm — Peggy’s temperature is cooler than the rest of the room. That doesn’t bode well; we already saw what happened to those frozen people in the first two episodes. But, Howard explains, Peggy isn’t contaminated with zero matter after all. And this … is when the episode starts to get weird as hell.

Howard takes Peggy, Jarvis, and Sousa over to his chemistry set, and he explains that in the course of his cinematic endeavors, he’s been developing a replacement chemical for silver nitrate, which is a binding agent used in photography and film. Howard thinks his new chemical will help illustrate whatever is disrupting the gravitational field surrounding Peggy – and he’s not wrong. Talk about movie magic! Once he sprays the chemical at Peggy’s left arm, Dr. Wilkes appears by her side, out of thin air.

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Dr. Wilkes is … alive? But he’s basically a ghost. He can talk, but no one can hear him. When Peggy tries to touch him, her hand goes straight through him. Howard realizes that if he shoots his magic chemicals down Jason’s throat, it’ll allow Wilkes’ vocal cords to work again. Which — what the hell? I can’t even explain how that fake-science works, because it’s too fantastical. Dr. Wilkes is alive, but he’s a metaphysical inter-dimensional ghost. Sure!!! Okay!?!

Once he regains the power of speech, Jason explains to the group what caused the explosion at Isodyne: Whitney Frost showed up, with a gun, and demanded that he hand over the zero matter. In the struggle, the container of zero matter shattered, and Jason says that he “was caught in the brunt of the explosion.” As he concludes this story, his image starts flickering again; Howard doesn’t have enough of his magic chemical to bring him back this time. I guess ghost-Jason is still around, although he can’t be seen or heard.

Howard sends Jarvis out with a shopping list for more chemical-making so they can bring Jason back again, and privately he asks if Jarvis would rather be Peggy’s butler instead. Apparently, Jarvis is sticking with Howard, at least for the moment – although it does seem like he’d drop anything to help Peggy out these days.

Peggy and Sousa regroup, with Sousa looking more than a little miserable about how lovestruck Peggy seems by Jason Wilkes’ reappearance. (Get over it, Sousa! You have a girlfriend!) Sousa agrees to look into Whitney Frost, since Peggy doubts she can get permission from the SSR/Jack to do much of anything on the case right now.

Except then Peggy’s the one who goes to meet Whitney Frost in the following scene. I guess when Sousa said he’d “look into” Whitney, he meant paperwork, while Peggy Carter does the legwork. Peggy questions Whitney like a champ, but Whitney’s an actress – and she’s got a whole story prepared. She doesn’t let anything slip, but now she knows how smart Peggy is, and that can’t be good.

Jack decides to hand off the film reel of zero matter footage to Vernon, who compliments him accordingly. I assumed Vernon was more concerned about reclaiming the zero matter itself, but what he really wanted was this film reel.

I’m sure Vernon would also love to know that the zero matter all ended up inside Whitney Frost … and inside Jason Wilkes, who is still in the process of recovery.

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Jason’s not yet corporeal, but Howard’s got him back to being visible and audible, at the very least. Between Howard’s brain and Jason’s brain, you’d think the pair of them could crack this one – we’ve got two supposed scientific geniuses on the case, here!

At the SSR Office, Jack catches Sousa working late and tries to figure out what he’s up to, but Sousa doesn’t let on. He’s digging into Whitney Frost, of course – and Whitney, meanwhile, is having a panic attack about how smart Peggy Carter is. She tells her husband “to let Mr. Hunt take care of her.” I assume Mr. Hunt is that guy in a suit who kills people and steals bodies and whatnot – whatever Ms. Frost has in mind. All of these people are Russian spies, right? Kidding, kidding.

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Mr. Hunt makes quick work of this gig; moments later, we see him in the bushes, spying on Peggy while she exercises in Howard Stark’s front yard. She’s going to town on a punching bag in the same little tent where we saw Jarvis exercising in the premiere. Jarvis comes out and asks her if she’s all right; this is a sweet scene, but it did make me miss Ana Jarvis a little bit. And what about Violet and Rose? Please tell me that all of Peggy’s new female friends aren’t going to disappear as quickly as they arrived. We’ve had barely any Jason scenes in this episode, either! I love all of the new characters this season, and I don’t want them to get pushed into the background so quickly.

I guess Mr. Hunt is a new character as well, and now we’re going to get a fight scene with him! It doesn’t take long for Jarvis to show up and join the battle as well, but as soon as Peggy takes out her gun and starts firing, Mr. Hunt disappears in a flash. Whitney Frost is not going to be happy to hear about this failure, Mr. Hunt!

The next morning, Jarvis helps install some new security measures for the estate, which involve his own recorded voice — a small piece of foreshadowing for the AI Jarvis to come in future decades. Howard explains to Peggy that he needs to go to Peru to meet up with Abner Brody, one of his old professors. I guess we need not two but three geniuses to crack this zero matter thing.

Seems like Howard and Jason have become fast friends, as they’ve been working on science together. Still, Jason keeps acting like he’s going to leave, for some reason. Peggy manages to convince Jason to stay – and thank goodness, I was worried for a moment that Wilkes was about to disappear from the show because of bogus “I have to leave for your own safety” reasons, or something. Why would he leave Stark’s lab, anyway? Doesn’t he need to keep spraying himself with that magic chemical, lest he turn back into a ghost? Or is he cured? Or what?

“You don’t want me to leave, so that’s reason enough for me to stay,” Jason explains. Good enough for me, too!

Apparently, Jack Thompson arranged for Peggy to head back to New York, but she purposefully missed her flight in favor of continuing work on the totally-not-closed Isodyne Energy case. Meanwhile, Sousa has done enough research on Whitney Frost to figure out that she’s also a science genius – there are a lot of those on this show – and she’s “the brains behind Isodyne Energy.”

Vernon takes Jack to the Arena Club (!!!) and introduces him to Calvin Chadwick – you know, Whitney’s husband, the Senator-to-be? Seems like Vernon is part of the Club; it’s possible that I was supposed to already know that, but I can’t keep track of all the bad guys in suits on this show. Anyway, Vernon shows Jack a copy of the fake newspaper that Peggy found, except now it’s a real newspaper. Thanks to Peggy’s snooping, Jack finally believes that the Arena Club did rig the election after all. He doesn’t let on that he’s figured it out, of course. Too bad this conspiracy goes all the way to the top, but conspiracies do tend to do that! At least now Jack knows the Isodyne Energy case isn’t closed at all, and that maybe he should stop trusting this Vernon guy and trust Peggy instead. How many times does Jack have to learn that lesson before he gets it into his thick skull?

Whitney Frost’s agent shows up in her dressing room and tells her that although studio higher-ups wanted to replace her with a younger actress, he managed to argue for her to keep her current movie role. Whitney thanks him with a relieved hug; he ensures that the hug lasts a little too long for her comfort. He also touches her hair and thereby disturbs her carefully constructed side-part, revealing the zero matter scar on her forehead – the scar that she’s been trying to hide all episode long. She grabs his arm in desperation, and in so doing, accidentally releases some of the zero matter from her system. Is this infection powered by strong emotions, or something? Frost’s agent erupts into an explosion of dark matter, all of which evaporates into thin air and/or gets re-absorbed back into Whitney’s skin. Uh … hey, at least she doesn’t need to hide a body? That’s … good? Good for Whitney, anyway.

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I’m loving Whitney Frost as a villain – she got a lot of great moments to shine in this episode. Plot-wise, though, we didn’t learn much more about Isodyne’s dealings that we didn’t already know. The main reveal of this episode is that Jason Wilkes is alive. I’m glad he’s back, but I’d like to see him hurry up and go back to being corporeal again; his ghostly, sometimes-invisible and sometimes-inaudible form doesn’t seem to afford him much power, except serving as an apt metaphor for what I don’t want to see happen to his character on this show. Maybe he’s about to turn into a Dr. Manhattan-meets-Kitty-Pryde superhero who can walk through walls? That would be cool. Lastly, let’s bring back Violet and Rose and Ana Jarvis next go-round. This was a pretty Howard-heavy episode, and to be honest, I can only handle him in small doses, so if he wants to stay in Peru, that’d be just fine with me!

What did you all think of this episode?

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).