Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to another week of Agent Carter being on our TVs and another opportunity for us to talk about it. After a pretty upbeat premiere that otherwise promised good things, our third episode puts us right in the thick of it with communist plots, general mad science and powerful women.
Lets break it down:
1. The Arena Club
This episode we get a better look at the Arena Club, the hang out for the Council of Nine as seen in the premiere, and, well, they certainly didn’t skimp out on the overt sexism this season, did they? Obviously it’s on purpose putting a literal boys club in a show that stars a feminist icon like Hayley Attwell, but the show not even trying to hide there metaphors is certainly hit or miss.
Also of note is the Arena Club’s whole “we run the world” thing, as they decide what happens in all the ruling powers. This is obviously a foreshadow to the Arena Club being HYDRA, even though, according to the people who monitor these sort of things much closer than I do, The A symbol that matches the one from the Ancient HYDRA logo introduced in SHIELD Season 3 is not an implication that the Council is connected to HYDRA explicitly. Still: while HYDRA does technically formally exist at this point (we’re past World War II in the MCU timeline), it will be interesting to see how the Club grows this season to clue us into what’s happening in SHIELD.
2. The Many Faces of Whitney Frost
While she’s not quite Madame Masque just yet (we’re getting there), I like how the show is slowly developing Whitney Frost into becoming a formidable villain. It’s obvious she’s not quite a great person, but in the premiere we only got flashes of how she uses her intelligence to manipulate those around her; this episode saw her interacting with Peggy, that one Sklar brother and her husband in such diametrically different ways as to show how she controls those around her, and we’re definitely getting a good idea of the metaphorical masks she wears (before, I presume, she gets an actual mask). That she’s, you know, an actress is also wonderfully on the nose for this role.
Oh, and what about the whole Zero Matter murder bit? They’re making Madame Masque more mystical in the comics; makes sense that she’d have a power in the show that seemingly relates to mystic energy that will be relevant to Doctor Strange as well.
3. “Never Say Howard Stark Didn’t Get Behind the Suffragettes”
This episode brought Dominic Cooper back as Howard Stark, and boy oh boy do I like Cooper as a loud and unapologetically brash playboy genius is a great match for the role Robert Downey Jr defined, as far as legacies go. The line I quoted above was particularly humorous given the context of the scene, but I also really enjoyed Howard Stark’s Kid Colt film (a nice easter egg) and his frantic nature when he stops sleeping, starts over drinking coffee and science-ing out all over the place. Cooper was a highlight bit player in the last season and this season has a good reason to use him a lot more; we’ll see how it plays out over the rest of the season, and how much more Stark will embody the perfect deus ex machine when needed.
Last night’s episode revealed that Professor Wilkes did in fact manage to somewhat survive the explosion at the lab, though he’s somewhat non-corporeal at the moment. It also revealed that Wilkes is that Jason Wilkes from that one obscure Marvel comic you didn’t know about without Googling it, either. I’m personally glad that Wilkes is still around; I liked him as a character in the first couple episodes because he seemed particularly hard to pin down; if everyone on this show is here to fill an obvious archetype or genre trope, Wilkes is the one outlier; he obviously has some romantic entanglements with Peggy, but he’s also a smart and earnest character on his own. The only immediately likable new member of the cast, it’ll be interesting to see if his whole apparition-like status offers up a particular role for him to play down the line, or if his storyline will be limited to being Peggy’s scientific damsel in distress.Continued below
The whole explanation behind how they could bring Wilkes back was total madcap sci-fi, as well — and I kinda loved it.
5. Dammit, Sad Michael Murray
Oh, Jack Thompson. You’ll never not be a complete fuck-up, will you? Between constantly putting down Peggy Carter and now otherwise giving Vernon Masters and the Council everything they need to further control the world, you are literally the worst.
You have to give it up to Murray, though. All things considered he’s playing the role perfectly; it’s really easy to dislike him. And, sure, they have to have a character that makes all the wrong decisions on the show in order for us to watch Peggy overcome a greater enemy, it’s also kind of nice to see Murray play a character otherwise so supremely smug. While his inevitable downfall is coming, and with it probably some big “mea culpa” moment to Peggy, it’s going to be interesting to view the actions of the Club and the Council through his eyes as a modern day metaphor: he’s going about it the wrong way, but Thompson believes what he’s doing is right. He’s allowing himself to be manipulated by his own patriotism.
Again: the show is not subtle.