Review: Agent Carter “The Atomic Job”

Bernard the Flamingo is not even mentioned. Nor is the koala.

WARNING: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW
Agent Carter Season Two, “The Atomic Job”

At it’s midpoint, Agent Carter season two delivers a fun romp of an episode that’s silly to the point of occasionally becoming over the top and cliché, only to culminate with serious consequences and potentially game-changing developments.

The episode’s premise is simple: Peggy and her team are after Zero Matter because it may help Dr. Jason Wilkes become tangible again. Whitney Frost is after it too because she’s drunk on its power and she wants as much as possible. So, like any good scientist (according to Dr. Wilkes), she aims to reconstruct the variables that caused Zero Matter’s creation in the first place, also known as setting off an atomic bomb. And so the race begins with Team Whitney, trying to get ahold of two bombs held at a high security Roxxon facility, and Team Peggy, trying to get there first and disarm them.

Peggy. Agent in disguise.
Peggy Carter! Agent in disguise!

It’s a serious premise that doesn’t hit a truly somber note until the last few minutes. The episode is full of gags and most scenes are played for laughs. Peggy and Jarvis infiltrate a morgue through the ventilation system. Jarvis is frightened at the prospect of spiders and they banter back and forth. Peggy goes undercover in Hugh Jones’ (Ray Wise) office as a ditzy secretary (complete with wig) and repeatedly zaps him with a memory loss device until she finds the Roxxon facility access key (in his belt, of course). Rose hurls a one-man band against a window while Peggy and Sousa observe. It’s ridiculous but it’s terribly fun to watch.

And it doesn’t stop there. The people Peggy can trust at the SSR are few, so Team Peggy consists of Peggy, Sousa, Jarvis, Rose and Aloysius Samberly, a discontent SSR scientist. He’s shown up in previous episodes, but he feels a bit shoehorned in, as if the part was originally conceived as Howard Stark (the man with the inventions) but Dominic Cooper was only available for a limited number of episodes. Regardless, Matt Braunger performs admirably in the role. It’s also a joy to see Lesley Boone back as Rose. She gets several fun lines and it’s nice to see the show giving us another capable female agent besides Peggy.

Team Whitney, on the other hand, goes to the mob. Ken Marino plays Joseph Manfredi, an apparent old flame of Whitney’s and crazy mob boss who beats up one of his men in the middle of a restaurant just to make a point. He hires out some men to Whitney and Calvin in exchange for some favors. It’s an over the top scene, with over the top acting, and it doesn’t come across as fun as the rest of the episode, though Marino is clearly having a blast chewing the scenery.

Crazy lady with a scar!
Whitney Frost: crazy lady with a scar!

Calvin is suitably unnerved by his wife’s new abilities and spends the episode looking nervous until he loses it and Whitney threatens to absorb him. Whitney has stepped far away from the calculated manipulator of previous episodes into full comic book villain mode, complete with crazy eyes and smiling at getting punched in the face. Wynn Everett is still entertaining to watch but much of the nuance has disappeared from her performance, which is unfortunate.

The two teams clash at the Roxxon facility. Team Whitney can’t find the room with the bombs but Team Peggy has Aloysious on their side (forgetting that Whitney is supposed to be a brilliant scientist herself) to figure out where the bombs are held. The women deal with taking down Whitney’s goons (Rose even gets to make a quip about the size of her opponent’s knife) while Aloysius deals with the tech and Sousa talks Jarvis through the removal of the uranium from the bombs.

The fun romp comes to an end in the final act when Peggy at last comes face to face with Whitney. Peggy gets in a few good hits, but Whitney’s powers come into play, and to avoid being absorbed, Peggy falls over a railing and is impaled on a piece of rebar right before Sousa’s eyes. The silliness vanishes from the episode in an instant and Whitney steps into another level of villainy. She has defeated Peggy in a way no other antagonist on the show has previously managed. Her threat level just went way up, which sets up exciting prospects for the season’s second half.

Violet ain't stupid.
Sarah Bolger plays her. Of course she smart.

In between all the undercover action and strange inventions Sousa proposed to Violet in an awkwardly adorable scene earlier in the episode. And because the Arena Club is everywhere, taking Peggy to a hospital is apparently too great a risk. So they bring her to Violet. It’s a scenario that makes little sense. Yes, Violet is a nurse but Peggy has been impaled, which requires more medical attention than boiling water and wrapping the wound in linen. It does give Sarah Bolger more screen time and let’s her be smart. She instantly picks up on the vibes between Peggy and Sousa, and calls him on it. It’s refreshing to see the show not dancing around the issue and not making Violet stupid (even if it does sweep medical sense under the rug).

In the last scenes, Calvin calls an emergency meeting of the Arena Club Council behind his wife’s back and Dr. Wilkes vanishes before Peggy’s eyes. The former sets up potentially interesting plot points for the next episode while the latter falls flat. The show has done very little with Dr. Wilkes in terms of character development besides the fact that Peggy is seemingly attracted to him, and so putting him in danger (yet again) in an episode’s final moments does not provide the emotional punch that is clearly intended.

Ultimately, “The Atomic Job” is an uneven episode that nevertheless delivers several hilarious moments. It doesn’t cover as much ground as other episodes of Agent Carter but it sets up plenty of action and excitement for the season’s second half and is, despite its flaws, loads of fun to watch.

Other thoughts:

The sequence of Team Peggy striding out of the SSR headquarters to “Pistol Packin’ Mama” by Bing Crosby might be a season favorite.

It really was fantastic to see Rose, and even Violet, get more attention this episode, but Ana Jarvis is once again absent. With so many scenes taking place at the Stark residence it’s beginning to feel more like laziness rather than the character’s absence making any kind of sense.

I do believe that was a fire extinguisher Peggy used to take down the mob goon! Improvisational weapons return!

I really hope that Calvin’s plan leads to Whitney absorbing the entire Council. That scar has a lot more growing to do before she’s a proper Madame Masque!

Sousa: This is a bad plan. Jarvis: It’s a terrible plan. Peggy: “It’s a solid plan.”

Sousa: “They’re going to die.” Jarvis: “We’re going to die.” Peggy: “They’re going to be fine.”

Peggy: “How is your disguise department shaping up? Sousa: “For you? Low on evening gowns, why?”

“You arrogant plonker.”

“I’ve seen bigger.”

“For the record, that was nothing like baking a soufflé.”

Peggy: “You did disarm an atomic bomb today.” Jarvis: “Two. Two atomic bombs.”

Jarvis: “You know. These adventures. They’re only enjoyable if you return from them, Miss Carter.” Peggy: “I heartily agree, Mr. Jarvis.”

Next Week: “Life of the Party”/”Monsters”

EDIT: Read the season two reviews from the start