WARNING: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW
Agent Carter Season Two, “The Edge of Mystery” & “A Little Song and Dance”
Agent Carter is heading towards its season (and possibly series) finale. Things continue to go badly for Team Peggy: loyalties are tested and friendships strained as they scramble to stop Whitney Frost in her murderous quest for more Zero Matter.
Unfortunately, like our heroes, the show is scrambling as well, though it is not without its powerful, emotional and downright fun moments. Peggy and Sousa get a couple of solid moments (something I’m always here for). Peggy gets to kick some ass. Rose pops up a couple times to be exasperated, empathetic and efficient. Ana Jarvis gets to be smart and call her husband out on his facade even as she lies in a hospital bed. There is wonderful camera work, fun but quick fight choreography, beautiful costumes and fabulous hair. There’s even a song and dance number (more on that later).
There is plenty of everything that makes Agent Carter such a wonderful show.
Warning: frustrations are about to be vented. Positives will return at the end of the review.
There are two particular problems. One, the show is taking characters not given enough attention earlier in the season’s run and trying to cash them in as central motivations for the various conflicts. Two, the show is losing track of its heroine.
The first mainly concerns Dr. Wilkes and Ana Jarvis. This episode Wilkes is kidnapped and shown how to control Zero Matter by Whitney. He ends up absorbing a whole lot more of the substance and spends the rest of his screen time strapped to an operating table while it steadily overwhelms him. It would be a harrowing sequence of events if the character had been effectively developed throughout the season. As it is, he’s been intangible and sidelined for most of the season with very little given towards his development as a character beyond his tenuous romance with Peggy, who he’s barely had any screentime with since the second episode of the season. It makes the supposedly high stakes feel more middling and the dynamic between Hayley Atwell and Reggie Austin feel forced more often than not.
Then we have Ana Jarvis. Last week, she was shot by Whitney to expedite her escape. The blow is doubled this week by the bullet wound causing irreversible damage to Ana’s reproductive system. It’s heavily implied Ana and Edwin want to have children. This is, however, another instance of the character not being given enough attention and detail throughout the season. The concept of Ana wanting to have children is never explored until she is no longer physically capable of bearing a child. Furthermore, the impact is not explored through her reaction. As viewers, we only see Jarvis’ reaction, and James D’Arcy delivers a heartbreaking performance. However, it’s a misstep for a show so centered around feminism in both its seasons to not show Ana’s point of view on something that impacts her body and is clearly implied to be devastating news for the character.
Then we have Agent Carter herself. In these two episodes Peggy gets lost in the muddle with male characters such as Jack Thompson, Daniel Sousa and even Aloysius Samberly stepping forward to deal with problems such as Whitney Frost and Vernon Masters. Jack flips on his loyalties so many times its incredibly unclear where exactly he falls but the episodes spend more time showcasing his capabilities as an agent than Peggy’s. Meanwhile, Peggy is utterly focused on Wilkes and wrapped up in the complications of a romantic subplot featuring that plot-sucking terror of a device called a love triangle. She still gets to beat down some guards and throw Jarvis out of the back of a van but Peggy often feels like a side note in these episodes rather than the hero. Throughout this season she’s been able to balance personal with professional and its unfortunate to see that lost as the men take charge.
See? I told you.
While there are problems, Agent Carter still has its strengths. Much of those lie with its stellar cast, particularly Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy. When Peggy and Jarvis are stranded on a desert road they have a confrontation with all the grief and anger from Ana’s predicament and Whitney’s machinations boiling over at each other. It’s devastating to watch out heroes lash out at each other but Atwell and D’Arcy are masterful here, portraying the rise and fall of emotions in what is ultimately, not a lengthy sequence.
And then there is the opening song and dance dream sequence of “A Little Song and Dance”. It’s random, it’s silly and it’s exactly what these episodes needed. The basis of the song is that Peggy is in the midst of a love triangle with Sousa and Wilkes. Angie (Lyndsy Fonseca) making an appearance to tell/sing to her that she needs to make a choice (and, clearly, we all know said choice needs to be Sousa) with the cast of Dancing with the Stars providing the backup dancers the whole time. It’s a perfect example of Agent Carter’s charm that it can channel the musical styles of Old Hollywood to break the tension and examine a character’s subconscious conflicts. It something nothing else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe could do in the same way and a reminder, despite an occasionally shaky second season, why Agent Carter is just so damn good.
On top of everything else, as Whitney steps more and more into comic book supervillain mode she becomes less interesting.
I did not realize just how much I missed Angie this season until she popped up in the dream sequence:
I enjoyed Peggy’s dream opening with her brother. Yet another instance where the character’s development doesn’t match the impact they are clearly meant to carry, but it’s a sweet moment.
Further to the above, the dialogue is clunky as hell in that sequence but the actors are selling it for all they’re worth.
Even further to the above, I love that Peggy acknowledges that its black and white. Great moment.
Aloysius: “Chief what do we do?” Sousa/Jack: “Do as Peggy says!”
Dottie: “Oh Peggy. I’ll always be in your head.”
ENVER GJOKAJ AS A SONG AND DANCE MAN. *SWOONS*
Next Week: THE FINALE!
EDIT: Read all my thoughts on Agent Carter season two from the very beginning!