Agent Carter: The Atomic Job
This season, Agent Carter was expanded to ten episodes from eight. This was one of those episodes that probably would have been cut in a shorter season. An odd detour from the main plot, this is one of those “monsters of the week” type adventures that Agents of SHIELD peppers between the main arc of the season that Carter wasn’t allowed to do before. (Well, ok, “Atomic Bomb of the week” perhaps would be more accurate.) For those who like Agent Carter because of the tightness of storytelling that comes with a mini series length run, this episode will probably be disliked. Unnecessary to the plot, it moved nothing forward that couldn’t easily have been done next week, other than perhaps to rush us through Agent Sousa proposing to Violet and then Violet figuring out he’s really in love with Peggy in very short order.
Samberly: “That pie was you? Your pie was in me? I like pie….pie is good.”
But for those of us who are more into Carter for the character building, who wanted to see some of those characters who never get any attention have their moment in the sun, this was a delightful hour. Not only did Rose finally get the promotion to field agent we’ve been dying to see ever since we saw her transplanted to LA, but we even got to see her kick ass as well. Perhaps not on Peggy’s level of ass kicking, but certainly worth the price of admission none the less. And as for Samberly, the lab tech nobody likes, yes he remained a walking cliché for the entire hour, but actor Matt Braunger threw himself into it with such gusto that I all but forgave him.
The one-off adventure in atomic bomb based capers this week centered around Whitney, having revealed her zero mattered self to Chadwick, deciding she needed an atomic bomb to recreate the experiment that created the stuff in the first place. Peggy, who happened to be at the right pace at the right time at every turn to follow her plan, puts together this total oddball team of Jarvis, Sousa, Rose and Samberly to break into the facility as get to the bombs and defuse them before Whitney can steal them and blow them up. Pretty simple stuff.
Whitney: “People thought Galileo was insane.”
Because this week wasn’t focused on the main plot, the show decided to treat the entire caper like a zany 1940s screwball comedy. Nothing was taken seriously–not even the introduction of the person I thought would ultimately be this season’s big bad, crime boss Joseph Manfredi. Perhaps the fact that the show has openly advertised he will turn out to be supervillian Blackwing that the Godfather like parody introduction to the character seemed off. Though, it should be noted that this reveals that though Chadwick’s pals are the same shadowy group Agents of SHIELD will be chasing 70 years on, Whitney is no slouch in the bad-guys-for-friends department. In some places the comedy stylings did work, the same way Carter and Jarvis’ banter did in the first season–the scene inside the van, for instance, as Sousa and Jarvis insist this was going to be a disaster, while Peggy insisted it would be fine. Samberly locking Jarvis in with the bombs, so that Sousa had to talk him through disarming them. The “Reservoir Dogs” walk out of the agency to the car…which Jarvis parked down the block in the other direction.
But the scene everyone will probably be talking about was Peggy’s one on one with Hugh Jones from last season. Not only did it give Hayley Atwell another excuse to play undercover dress up and sport a completely different 1940 style for a scene, but also one to really work her comedic chops as she kept zapping him with the two-minute memory wipe while she searched for the key to get into the lab where the atomic bombs are kept. It was in his belt buckle, of course, leading her to leave him looking like he’d just had a very fun lunch hour indeed–albeit one he had zero memory of.
Secretary: “Did you have a nice lunch?”
Jones: “I must have.”
Perhaps this lack of seriousness for the hour is why the ending, with Peggy losing the fight to Whitney when confronted with her zero matter powers was so jarring. Not only did we see Peggy lose a fist fight–not something we’ve seen happen a lot, expect when she’s up against a Black Widow–but she then fell to stories to be impaled by a rebar spike sticking out of a cement block. I understand the point was to show that Peggy is not infallible, that Whitney is far more dangerous than advertised, and to have a scene where Violet will be the nurse to the rescue and figure out her newly engaged man is really still in love with someone else all in a neat little package. But to have something that serious happen at the end of an episode that up until that moment was lighthearted fun was a bit of whiplash. Especially followed up by Jarvis: “These adventures… they’re only enjoyable if you come back from them.”
And with that bit of After School Specialing, the show took a left hand exit off this diversionary track and back onto the main highway of plot. Chadwick is sneaking around, calling the Council together without Whitney’s knowledge–partly to reveal her powers to them, and partly because he’s terrified of her. Jason Wilkes, who was hoping to get his hands of some more zero matter in order to be made corporal, instead found himself disappearing into thin air by the end of the hour. With next week promising a return of Dottie Underwood, it looks like the wounded Peggy and the Russian spy might have a common enemy in the Council of Nine. I’m personally looking forward to that unlikely teaming up of last year’s adversaries even more than I am to see just how badly double-crossing Whitney is going to go for Chadwick.