Friday, February 19, 2016

Agent Carter Season 2, Episodes 5 & 6: Life Of The Party And Monsters

After two episodes filled with padding and wheel-spinning, it was nice to finally see some action this week.

It was good to see the return of Dottie Underwood, the proto Black Widow and frenemy of Peggy Carter. Hopefully the writers won't kill her off. Every hero needs a nemesis, and Dottie fills that function very well.

I was hoping Whitney frost would have adopted her Madame Masque persona by this point in the series. It's starting to look like she's not going to don the character's trademark mask until the season finale. If then!

As Frost tries to turn Jason Wilkes to the dark side, she points out that as a woman and a black man (respectively), they're both marginalized members of (1940s) society. Enbracing the Zero Matter is the only way either of them will ever have power, and live up to their full potentials. It was an interesting notion to see addressed in a comic book show.

So far this is the second time ABC has aired two episodes of Agent Carter back to back. I wonder if that was the original plan all along, or if they're trying to burn off these episodes as fast as possible?

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Once again, this "two hour event" was just a couple of episodes aired back to back.

Life Of The Party
Dr. Wilkes begins disappearing again. His "fade outs" are happening more frequently, and he worries that soon he'll disappear forever. He says if he had some more Zero Matter, he could build a containment unit for himself. Peggy says the only Zero Matter that she knows of is inside Whitney Frost, so she'll just have to get a sample of her blood.

Jarvis says that Calvin Chadwick's throwing a big fundraising ball, and Frost will undoubtedly be there. Unfortunately Peggy's still sidelined by her rebar injury. Peggy says the only other person who could pull off the mission is her archenemy Dottie Underwood, who's currently in prison. This is of course a horrible idea, but neither Jarvis nor Sousa can talk Peggy out of it.

Peggy sneaks into prison and frees Dottie. She somehow convinces her to help them steal Frost's blood. Dottie tells Peggy that no matter what happens, she will eventually escape. Jarvis and Dottie attend the fundraiser, outfitted with communication devices so Peggy and Sousa can listen in and talk with them. As insurance, Dottie's wearing a necklace that will explode and decapitate her if she gets out of line. Yikes!

Everything's going fine until SSR Chief Thompson shows up at the ball. This is a problem, since Thompson is the one who put Dottie in prison, and she's not supposed to be out and attending fundraisers. Jarvis distracts Thompson while Dottie sneaks away. She "accidentally" bumps into Whitney Frost and gets the blood sample (by pretending to stick her with a hatpin). Dottie then starts snooping around the Arena Club, and enters the Council Of Nine's secret boardroom. Suddenly the Council enters. Dottie hides in the most obvious place possible and spies on them.


Chadwick introduces Frost to the Council Of Nine. She's excited, as no woman's ever been allowed to meet with them. She demonstrates her power by absorbing a rat, believing this ability will change the course of history in some way I don't quite understand. The Council members seem less than impressed and order a couple of guards to capture her. Frost goes ballistic and absorbs the guards, five or six of the Council members and her husband Chadwick. She tells the remaining Council members that they work for her now, and they're going to help her achieve her goal of unlimited power.

In the surveillance van, Sousa tells Peggy that Violet broke off their engagement. He says she did so because she thinks he's still in love with Peggy, which of course is true. They come thiiiis close to kissing, but suddenly Dottie throws a guard out the window, who lands on their van, which kills the moment. Dottie almost gets away, but is captured by Frost's men. Fortunately Dottie leaves the vial of Frost's blood behind, where Jarvis finds it.

Monsters
Whitney Frost holds a press conference, saying her husband died in a "boating accident." I guess that's the go-to excuse whenever a celebrity dies unexpectedly in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Vernon Masters is interrogating Dottie. Masters is a top agent in the War Department, but to no one's surprise really works for the Council Of Nine. That means Frost is now his boss. Masters tries torturing Dottie, who all but laughs at his puny efforts. Frost then takes over for Masters. She fills Dottie with Zero Matter, stopping just short of killing her. Dottie, in excruciating pain, spills her guts and tells her Peggy's plan.

Peggy worries about how to get Dottie back, since it's her fault she was captured. Wilkes doesn't understand why Peggy's worrying about Dottie, when she should be helping him build his containment unit. He flies off the handle at her, then apologizes, saying the One Ring, er, I mean the Zero Matter is affecting him. Is he telling the truth, or is there something more going on here? Jarvis and his wife Ana act as Wilkes hands and build his containment device. Jarvis injects the Zero Matter into the device and starts it up. Wilkes enters, and becomes tangible again. He kisses Peggy.

Meanwhile Masters visits the SSR and tells Sousa he knows he stole the warheads from Roxxon last week, and wants them back. Sousa tells him to get lost. That night Sousa's worked over by men who are obviously Masters' goons. The next day he hobbles back to work, where Masters tells him he's taking over the SSR's LA office. 

Peggy (who's now apparently full recovered from her injuries) and Jarvis go to rescue Dottie. Ana stays behind and keeps Wilkes company. She worries that something bad will happen to Jarvis. Uh-oh! Do you want Jarvis to die, Ana? Because that's how you get Jarvis to die. By tempting the screenwriting gods.

Peggy and Jarvis' rescue attempt fails, and they're captured. They're thrown in Manfredi's (the mob boss Frost met with last week) basement, where Dottie's also being held. They all manage to break free, and Peggy realizes the whole thing was a setup— Frost captured Dottie to lure Peggy away from Wilkes, who's the one she really wants.

Sure enough, Frost appears at Stark Mansion, and confronts Wilkes. She tries to pull the Zero Matter out of him, but it turns out he's stronger than she is, and he absorbs a good amount from her. Frost tries to get Wilkes to join her, but he refuses. Manfredi knocks him out and hauls him away. Gosh, if only Wilkes was still intangible, he wouldn't be able to be hit in the head!

Ana sees them carry Jason off and rushes outside to stop them. Frost sees Peggy and Jarvis coming up the driveway, so she shoots Ana to buy some time and get away. Jarvis rushes Ana to the hospital. Dottie, who was tied up in the trunk of Jarvis' car, naturally manages to escape. Jarvis and Peggy sit on a bench in the hospital, waiting for news about Ana.

Thoughts:
• When Dr. Wilkes first said he was going to build a containment unit to make himself tangible, I have to admit I thought he was talking about some kind of clunky, 1940s Iron Man-type of suit. I was a little disappointed when the unit turned out to be a weird art deco phone booth.

• When Wilkes is sucked into the Zero Matter universe (or Dark Realm, or whatever Marvel's calling it), he looks like he's in an unpleasant, black and white void. It looked a lot like the effect used when Frodo put on the One Ring in The Lord Of The Rings films. Maybe Sauron's hiding out somewhere in the Zero Matter universe?

• Peggy poses as psychiatrist Dr. Katherine Wexford in order to break Dottie out of prison. As near as I can tell her alias is just a made up name, and not some obscure reference to any Marvel Comics character.

• You know, for a series that's set in 1947, there are a lot of modern phrases thrown in. 

Case in point: Peggy visits Dottie in prison, and says neither Leviathan (remember them?) or the USSR have called for her release. Dottie comments, "This is my surprised face." I guarantee you no one ever said that in the 1940s.

• Just last week I wondered why they bothered to introduce Mrs. Jarvis in the first episode if they were never going to use her again. Ask and I shall receive! She's back this week.

• When Dottie's getting ready for the ball, she sits under a hair dryer that's labeled with a large "No Man" logo. Is that supposed to be a joke? If so, I must be too thick to get it.

• It was nice to see that Peggy didn't immediately recover from being gored by rebar last week. So many times on TV shows characters are shot in the arm or worse, and somehow manage to walk it off, so it was nice to see someone take a bit of time to heal.

Of course Peggy seems to be A-OK in the second hour though, but hey, at least they made an effort to address the situation.

• The interaction between Jarvis and Dottie was a lot of fun (actually interaction between Dottie and anyone on this show is pretty great).

I particularly liked when Jarvis said, "Miss Underwood," and she replied with, "Jeeves."

• As Dottie dances with Jarvis at the fundraiser, she wears another "black widow" looking dress. She wore a similar dress last season, when she was working with Dr. Ivchenko.

• It doesn't have anything to do with the plot, but for trivia buffs, actress/supervillain Whitney Frost starred in a film called The F Stands For Freedom.

• Whitney Frost takes over the Council Of Nine by absorbing five or six of its members. Of course she just happens to spare Roxxon president Hugh Jones, the only Council member who's played by a recognizable actor (Ray Wise). Funny how that worked out, eh?

• Apparently there was no money in the effects budget this week, because whenever Frost absorbed anyone, it happened offscreen. They'd show a quick shot of Zero Matter emerging from her hand, and then cut to a closeup of her face as she maniacally watched the person being absorbed.

• In addition to killing the Council Of Nine members, Frost also absorbs her husband Calvin Chadwick. I knew he wasn't going to make it to the end of the season alive. He might as well have been wearing a red shirt.

• When Masters tries torturing Dottie, she acts as if she couldn't be less concerned. Frost takes over, and fills Dottie with Zero Matter, taking her right to the brink of death before stopping and removing it. A shaken Dottie then tells her everything she wants to know.

This was a very effective scene, and really elevated Frost's status as a supervillain in my eyes. Dottie's was actually terrifiedIf Dottie, who's not afraid of anything, is scared stiff of Frost, then she must be a formidable foe indeed.

• Peggy seems surprised that Jarvis is able to help build Wilkes' containment unit. Jarvis says, “One doesn’t spend years in the company of Howard Stark and not pick up a thing or two about electrical engineering.” Peggy says, “Luckily you didn’t pick up the clap.” Yikes. Thanks for introducing the idea of sexually transmitted diseases to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Peggy.

• Peggy and Jarvis attempt to rescue Dottie from Frost. Jarvis brings along a piece of Stark tech that can send out shock waves that will knock an army on its collective asses. He enters the numerical code into the device, but it doesn't work, and he and Peggy are captured.

Later, while tied up, Jarvis realizes his mistake. He mistakenly entered Barbara Stanwyck's measurements of 33-23-33, instead of Carol Lombard's, which are 34-24-34. Gotta love that Howard Stark!

• When Vernon Masters sees Whitney Frost, he acts like he's repulsed by her and quickly averts his eyes. Why? It's not like she's horribly scarred or she's covered in suppurating boils. She's got a small crack in the side of her face. What's the big deal about that?

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