Saturday, February 13, 2016

Agent Carter Season 2, Episode 5: The Atomic Job

After a strong start to the season, this week's Agent Carter was yet another filler episode. There were some amusing character interactions as always, but the actual storyline was advanced very little, if at all. 

The whole "heist" plot accomplished nothing of importance, and was seeming there just to fill another episode while the characters kill time waiting for the season finale.

C'mon, Agent Carter writers! What was the point of expanding this season to ten episodes if half of them are going to be filler? If you guys can't come up with enough compelling material to fill ten measly episodes, then maybe it's time Marvel Studios found someone who can.

That's not to say the episode was a total failure. There were tons of fun character interactions this week, as Peggy assembled a makeshift team to infiltrate Roxxon headquarters. But you can't spend forty five minutes watching characters trade witty remarks— eventually you need to get to the plot.

Rumor has it that actress Hayley Atwell, aka Peggy Carter, is currently shooting a pilot in which she plays the daughter of the President of the U.S. (!?). That's ominous news for fans of Agent Carter. If the new pilot is picked up, will she have time to star in both shows? Or does this, plus the dismal ratings, spell doom for the show? It'd be a shame to see the series end before Peggy and Howard Stark have a chance to found S.H.I.E.L.D., but it looks like a real possibility. Stay tuned.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Jason Wilkes, still an intangible ghost-man, wakes Peggy in the wee hours of the morning. Apparently since he doesn't have to sleep, he creeps around Stark Mansion watching her? He takes her to the lab and shows her that their sample of Zero Matter seems drawn to him. Suddenly it jumps out of its container and into Wilkesbody. He becomes tangible for a minute, and says he knows where Jane Scott's body is. Her corpse is full of Zero Matter, which is apparently calling to him, wanting to be whole again.

Meanwhile Violet comes home and finds Sousa asleep on the couch. He came to her house & fixed dinner with the intention of proposing to her. As he tries to do so, he realizes he's lost the ring in the couch. She says of course she'll marry him, and they search the cushions for the ring. They're both ridiculously cute, so you know their relationship is doomed.

Peggy and Jarvis break into a local morgue to steal Jane Scott's body. Peggy hopes that if Wilkes can absorb the Zero Matter in Scott's corpse, he'll be cured. They find the body, but just as they're about to steal it, Whitney Frost and her husband Calvin Chadwick enter. The Zero Matter is calling to Frost too, and she wants it. She grabs Scott's body and absorbs all the Zero Matter within. Frost then says she wants an atomic bomb to recreate the original Zero Matter experiment, to obtain even more of the mysterious substance. Sounds like a sane, reasonable plan to me!

Back at Stark's lab, Jarvis says there are two atomic warheads in the area, both housed within a high security Roxxon facility. Peggy says they'll need help to steal the bombs before Whitney Frost does. She rounds up Sousa, Rose the receptionist (who's really a trained field agent) and Dr. Samberly, the SSR's resident tech guru. They come up with a plan so ridiculous it just might work.

First things first— they'll need a special key to get into Roxxon. The only person who has the key is the head of Roxxon, Hugh Jones. Samberly gives Peggy a prototype gizmo that will erase the last two minutes of a person's memory. She dons a very Bettie Page-like disguise and sneaks into Jones' office looking for the key. He catches her snooping, and she zaps him repeatedly with the memory inhibitor until she finds the key inside his belt buckle. Brain damage is hilarious!

Frost visits a mob boss named Joseph Manfredi, and convinces him to loan her some of his goons to help steal the atom bombs from Roxxon.

Peggy and her misfit team use Samberly's tech to sneak into the Roxxon facility. Once inside they realize Frost and her team are already there. They find the room containing the warheads, and Samberly uses his expertise to unlock the door. Unfortunately he's a bit of a doofus, and he accidentally locks Jarvis in the warhead room. Sousa then has to talk Jarvis through removing the warheads from the bombs, which will render them useless. 

Frost and her goons approach, so Peggy and Rose take them out. Peggy spots Frost and says the SSR can cure her. Frost scoffs and says she doesn't want to be fixed. The two women grapple, and Frost grabs Peggy's arm and starts to absorb her. Peggy kicks her away, and ends up hanging from a high railing. As Frost reaches down to finish her off, Peggy lets go. She lands on a pile of debris far below, with a chunk of rebar sticking through her torso. Yikes! Frost leaves her for dead, in true supervillain fashion.

Sanberly manages to unlock the bomb room door, and Jarvis exits with the warheads. The team regroups and finds Peggy's impaled body.

Sousa brings Peggy to Violet's house to treat her. Violet, who's a nurse, patches her up as best she can. She sees Sousa's concern and realizes he's in love with Peggy, and that's why he left New York. Told you they were doomed! Meanwhile, Chadwick realizes his wife is nutsy cuckoo and calls a meeting of the Council Of Nine.

Wilkes visits Peggy, who's recuperating in Stark Mansion. She tells him that her contact with Zero Matter was much more excruciating than she imagined. He tells her that it comes from a dark and painful place, and then unexpectedly fades away.

Thoughts:
 Hardcore nitpicking time— the LA county morgue of 1947 apparently contains air ducts that can easily accommodate two people crawling side by side. That seems unlikely in any decade.

 I like that Jarvis has a "recreation tie." It reminded me of Green Acres, and how Oliver Douglas would always wear a business suit while doing his farm chores. In one episode his neighbors were watching and arguing over which outfit he was wearing, saying, "I think that's his milkin' suit." "Nah, that there's his plowin' suit!"

• Once again Peggy can't see the obvious even when it's right in front of her. She tries to figure out how to get into the Roxxon facility, as Jarvis shoots down her every idea. SO USE WILKES! She's got a goddamned living ghost standing right next to her! Why not use him?

Yes, yes, Wilkes is intangible, so he wouldn't be able to steal the uranium cores or anything, but he could walk through the walls of the facility and scout it out, providing valuable info for Peg and her crew. Why did this show go to the trouble of turning a character into a living ghost if all he's going to do is stand around in a lab and look worried?

• What the hell happened to Mrs. Jarvis? In the first episode of this season, I said I thought it was a mistake to finally introduce her in the flesh, since I thought she worked better as a classic "unseen character." Once I saw her though, I changed my mind and decided I liked her.

And that's the last we've seen of her! She hasn't made an appearance since that initial episode. So why the hell did they bother casting her for one stinkin' appearance? Better they should have left her unseen.

Maybe she'll show up at some point in the back half of the season?

• When Peggy enters the SSR office, she sees a bunch of men standing around Sousa, who's telling them about his engagement. She actually says, "What's all this then?" That may be the most stereotypically British line possible. At least she didn't start out with, "Ello, ello, ello!"

• Sousa asks Peggy how many vacation days she has left, and she tells him she has plenty, as she "hasn't had a day off since Pearl Harbor."

Peggy needs to relax a bit. The Pearl Harbor attack was in December 1941. It's currently July-ish 1947 on the show. That means Peggy hasn't taken a day off in over five years!

• Peggy zaps Roxxon president Hugh Jones with the memory inhibitor, and begins searching his office for the special elevator key that "can't be duplicated." Every time he wakes up, she zaps him again. She ends up doing so at least seven or eight times.

The whole brain zapping scene is played for maximum laughs, which just seems wrong to me.

Yes, Jones is an evil, unscrupulous industrialist, and he's a member of a shadowy group that orchestrates world events for their own benefit. He's even a sleazy womanizer. But does all that still make it right to repeatedly fry his head with an untested device that causes brain damage? And then expect us to laugh about it?

• When Peggy can't find the elevator key in Jones' office, she begins searching his unconscious body. She finally undoes his belt and finds it hidden behind his large buckle. Once she has it, she leaves Jones in his half-dressed, disheveled state. Shouldn't she have put him back the way he was, so he wouldn't wake up and realize his key's missing?

• Believe it or not, mobster Joseph Manfredi is actually from Marvel comics. He's not a 1940s Hollywood mobster there though— he's the son of Spider-Man villain Silvermane, and eventually becomes a bad guy himself called Blackwing.

• As Jarvis is taking the uranium core out of the atomic bomb, Sousa warns him not to let it tip. Jarvis then carefully places the two cores in a metal suitcase. Um... unless he carries the case perfectly horizontal all the way back to Stark Mansion, won't the cores tip inside it?

 Peggy pulls an Empire Strikes Back and chooses to fall rather than be absorbed by Whitney Frost. She lands on a pile of debris and is impaled by rebar! Yikes! I was definitely not expecting Peggy to get gored by a rusty iron rod!

How the hell did Sousa get Peggy out of that predicament and onto Violet's doorstep? And no offense to Violet's nursing skills, but Peggy really should have been taken to a hospital for a wound like that. Even if the rebar did miss all her vital organs, there's still the matter of internal bleeding and infection.

By the way, I was curious as to whether rebar would have existed in 1947. Yep! It was invented in 1849.

 If you didn't see the end of Sousa and Violet's relationship coming, then you've never watched a TV show before. They make a cute couple, but they never had a chance.

We've barely seen Violet and Sousa together all season, which sort of undercuts the drama of their engagement crumbling before their eyes. Instead of being devastated by this turn of events, the audience is left shrugging their shoulders.

Kudos to the writers though, for not turning Violet into a shrieking, hair-pulling harpy when she finds out the truth about Sousa and Peggy, as she instead accepts the news with maturity and an air of sadness.

 It was good to see Calvin Chadwick finally stand up to his psycho wife. I have a feeling he's not going to make it out of the season alive.

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