Saturday, February 27, 2016

Agent Carter Season Two, Episodes 8 & 9: The Edge Of Mystery And A Little Song And Dance

Once again, this week we get back to back episodes of Agent Carter, as ABC seemingly tries to burn off the series as quickly as possible.

We're in the home stretch now, as the show's setting up all the various pieces for next week's big season (or will it be series?) finale.

But just because there was a story to get through, that doesn't mean the characters were too busy to take time out for a rousing Hollywood musical number! Yep, you read right, the entire cast of Agent Carter (well, maybe not Kurtwood Smith) sang and danced their hearts out in a dream sequence in Peggy's head. 

It was a bold move to say the least, especially for a comic book spy show. I can only imagine what viewers who tuned in late must have thought when they saw the cast kicking up their heels in a chorus line. I can just imagine them saying, "What the hell is this?" just before they changed the channel!

The dream sequence also provided an excuse for the return of Angie Martinelli, Peggy's gal pal who first appeared last season. A lot of fans were disappointed that Angie wasn't a regular this year. Eh, it didn't bother me. Angie's a waitress in New York, so it would have been quite a stretch if they'd have had her follow Peggy out to sunny L.A. Much like Lenny and Squiggy just happening to follow Laverne when she moved from Milwaukee to California on Laverne & Shirley.

Believe it or not, there's a large number of fans out there who would love to see Peggy dump Chief Sousa and hook up with Angie. Hear that noise? It's the sound of thousands of fans pounding out tons of Peggy/Angie slash fiction. The world of fandom can be scary sometimes...

Ever since Whitney Frost was introduced at the beginning of the season, I hoped we'd eventually get to see her as Madame Masque from the comics (especially after she developed that big ol' crack in the side of her face). At this point it looks like that's probably not going to happen. Or if it does, it'll happen in the final seconds of the season finale. Pity.


The Plot:
Once again this "two hour event" is just two episodes aired one after the other.

The Edge Of Mystery
Picking up where we left off last week, Mrs. Jarvis is still in a coma after being shot by Whitney Frost. Jarvis sits by her bedside, promising anything if she'll come back to him. 

Meanwhile Peggy meets with Sousa, who tells her Whitney Frost is holding Dr. Wilkes hostage in exchange for the uranium rods they stole from Roxxon a few episodes back. Peggy says they'll give Frost the rods and anything else she wants to get Wilkes back. In order to find Frost, they visit her new beau, mob boss Joseph Manfredi. Peggy beats up his goons, and for some unfathomable reason he then sits down to a nice Italian dinner with her to discuss Frost and her plans. Peggy gives him a message to pass on to Frost.

Frost is examining Wilkes, asking him if he hears "it." Apparently she hears some sort of mysterious Zero Matter voice in her head, calling to her. Wilkes says he hears it too, but wants nothing to do with it. Frost wants to embrace the voice, thinking it'll increase her power. Manfredi enters and says Peggy wants to exchange the rods for Wilkes.

At the hospital, Ana finally wakes up, but the news isn't all good. The doctor tells Jarvis that due to her injuries, Mrs. Jarvis will never be able to have children. You can practically hear the sad violins. He returns to Stark Mansion, where Peggy and Sousa watch Samberly create fake uranium rods to fool Frost. Jarvis insists on coming with them, to get revenge on Frost for shooting his wife. Howard Stark sends Samberly plans for a gamma cannon that can eliminate Zero Matter. Peggy orders Samberly to build the machine. Chief Thompson arrives and tells Peggy he's uncovered dirt on her, and tries to blackmail her into returning to New York with her. Peggy simply ignores him. If only things like that were as easy in real life.

Peggy and crew arrive at Frost's place and they exchange Wilkes for the uranium. Unfortunately the case breaks open (D'oh) and since no one blows up, Frost realizes she's been duped. Peggy and her crew hop in their van and drive off. Wilkes then grabs Sousa's gun, which surprises everyone, considering he's supposed to be intangible. He holds Peggy at gunpoint, demanding to know where the real rods are hidden. Sousa tells him they're at the SSR, and Wilkes, who can apparently now control his density, leaps through the side of the van, which is actually pretty cool. He's then picked up by Frost's men.

Frost tells Vernon Masters that the rods are hidden in a wall safe at the SSR. As he opens the safe, he's confronted by Thompson. When Peggy and Sousa arrive at the SSR, they find a disoriented Thompson, who's been zapped by the mind control gizmo Samberly invented a few episodes back in The Atomic Job. Luckily he wrote down a series of coordinates before he was zapped, which makes this entire scene a moot time-killer. Peggy realizes the coordinates are where Frost will try to reopen the Zero Matter rift.

Jarvis visits Rose and asks her to look after Ana, giving her a box full of her favorite items (which also includes his will). Uh-oh.

Frost, Wilkes and Manfredi's goons drive to the coordinates, which are in the middle of the desert. She uses the uranium rods to recreate the atomic blast that opened the Zero Matter rift. Amazingly it works, and an ominous black crack opens in the sky above the desert. Suddenly Wilkes is lifted up into the sky, while Frost remains behind, shrieking that life's not fair. Wilkes is sucked into the rift.

Meanwhile Peggy and her team arrive on a nearby ridge and witness what's happening. Dr. Samberly sets up the hastily constructed gamma cannon, which he apparently built in about ten minutes. Jarvis sees Frost and jumps in the car, eager for revenge. Peggy jumps in after him as he speeds off. He drives down to the bomb site, and before Peggy can stop him, Jarvis guns down Frost in cold blood!. Day-um, Jarvis, you cold! Peggy orders Samberly to fire the cannon, which closes the rift. Jason falls out of it, which is a first, as the Zero Matter's never returned anyone before. As he lands on the desert floor, his skin crawls alarmingly for a few seconds. Frost's Zero Matter powers heal her gunshot wounds, and she captures Peggy and Jarvis.

A Little Song And Dance
While Peggy's out cold, she dreams she's in a 1940s Hollywood musical number, which, though it was fun, serves no narrative purpose whatsoever and fans are either going to love it or loathe it.

Peggy wakes up and sees she's in the back of a van with Jarvis. She tells him it's all his fault that they're in a pickle, because he doesn't treat these "adventures" seriously enough. She frees them with some SSR tech, and they start trudging through the desert.

Meanwhile Sousa, Thompson and Samberly are standing in the desert, wondering what to do next. An SSR car approaches, and Sousa recognizes the men inside as the ones Vernon used to beat him up a few episodes back. Thompson says they're coming to kill Sousa and Samberly, and pretends to capture them in order to save their lives and get everyone back to the SSR.

Wilkes, who was unconscious when ejected from the rift, wakes up in the back of Frost's car. She wants to know what he saw inside the rift and why he came back. He says all he saw was darkness, and it's not safe to be around him. Frost discovers Peggy and Jarvis have escaped. Manfredi takes Frost to her new lab, aka his waste management facility. She begins experimenting on Wilkes, trying to extract the Zero Matter from him. Boy, this sure would be a good time for him to willingly become intangible again, wouldn't it? Apparently he's lost that ability?

Back at the SSR, there's all sorts of confusing double crosses. Thompson tells Masters that the gamma cannon can destroy Frost, so he agrees to help them, since he wants her dead. Peggy and Jarvis return to the SSR, and she when she sees Masters she punches him. She doesn't believe he's really working with them, but he tells that all of themMasters, Thompson and Peggy— have dirt on one another, so no one will think of betraying the others.

Thompson then visits Frost and tells her the SSR plans to use the cannon on her. He says he'll personally deliver both Masters and the cannon to her, in exchange for a seat on the Council Of Nine. Is Thompson serious, or is this all part of some scheme?

Masters and Thompson leave with the cannon, and as Peggy and Sousa try to follow, they find their car's been sabotaged. Samberly says it's part of Thompson's plan, as he's going to turn the gamma cannon into a bomb and kill Frost, Wilkes and Masters all in one go. Fortunately the bomb has a remote trigger, so Samberly builds a jammer to stop it from being used. They take another car and follow Masters.

Peggy sees Masters take the gamma cannon into Frost's lair. At the last second she decides to go in and save Wilkes. She finds him, but he doesn't want to be saved, since he tried to kill her. Masters points the cannon at Frost, "to show her how it works." Thompson points a gun at Masters, and he realizes he's been double crossed. Peggy convinces Wilkes to come with her, but as she leaves the room he locks himself inside, as the Zero Matter begins engulfing his body. Samberly manages to jam the cannon's signal just as Thompson was about to set it off. Frost is furious with Masters, and fills him with Zero Matter. Just then, Wilkes stumbles into the room and explodes.

• Joseph Manfredi seems awfully friendly and accommodating to Peggy & Jarvis this week. Peggy enters his restaurant, beats up all his goons, and then saunters into his kitchen. Apparently he's so impressed by this that he invites her and Sousa to sit down to dinner with him in the kitchen of his restaurant! 

This is especially puzzling, considering last week in Monsters he tried to kill her! I honestly didn't understand anything about this scene.

• Dr. Samberly, the designated comedy relief, spends most of both episodes whining about how his genius is unappreciated by the SSR brass. He's particularly miffed that Chief Sousa doesn't know his middle name (!). Who would? Well, Peggy would, of course. She knows his full name is Aloysius Herbert Samberly.

Toward the end of the second episode Sousa gets so fed up with Samberly's constant whinging that he threatens to either fire him or kill him. I can sympathize with Sousa here. Samberly's complaining has gone from humorous to downright annoying.

• Howard Stark sends Samberly plans for a gamma cannon. That can't be good, as we all know what gamma rays do in the Marvel Universe.

• At the hospital, a doctor tells Jarvis that due to her injuries, Ana will never be able to have kids. Oh no! What a tragedy, considering how the Jarvises were constantly going on about having kids some day. Wait, that's not right. They've never, ever mentioned it, not even once.

Yawn. Obviously this is supposed to be a huge blow that tugs at our heartstrings, but it left me rolling my eyes. Of course it is a tragedy for some, and I don't mean to make light of it. But in popular fiction it's one of the biggest cliches there is. Hollywood believes the worst thing that can possibly happen to a woman is to become barren, because of course having a child is the only way a woman can be fulfilled, right? That's why they exist!

Given some of the other insights we've seen during the season, I thought the Agent Carter writers were better than this, but apparently not.

• At the SSR, Vernon Masters opens a wall safe hidden behind a poster of the periodic table. The second I saw this table, I knew it was going to spell trouble for the show. By my count this table contains 118 elements. Yep, I knew it! That's not right!

118 is the number of elements we have now. There were way fewer known elements in 1947. Scientists have discovered twenty one more elements since 1950, so the SSR's table is woefully anachronistic!

• Jarvis asks Rose to watch over Ana while he's away and gives her his will while he's at it. A close up of the will shows it's dated July 9, 1947. It's never actually stated, but it's implied that he made out the will after Ana was shot, when he decided to kill Whitney Frost.

Hmm. A few weeks ago in Better Angels, Peggy reads a current newspaper dated July 19, 1947. So that means Jarvis made out his will ten days before Ana was shot, and not after. July 9 was likely before all the events of this season even started, so why would he make out his will before he went on any "adventures?" Methinks the prop man goofed up here.

• Thompson somehow flies over to England in what appears to be the space of an hour (in 1947 yet). While there he he contacts an old war chum to dig up any dirt he can find on Peggy.

His pal finds him a redacted file that's mostly blacked out. Thompson uses a cool piece of SSR tech (invented by Howard Stark?) that sees through the black-out bits, and reads it.

Thompson reads two lines stating, "No civilians were spared from the massacre," and "Agent M. Carter, S.O.E."

"M. Carter" is obviously Peggy's brother Michael, who we met in Smoke And Mirrors

So why would a scandal involving Michael affect Peggy? Because they're related? Because he recommended her for the S.O.E. (the precursor of the SSR)? I don't get it.

WHOOPS! I just remembered, for some insane reason, "Peggy" is a nickname for "Margaret." So this is probably Peggy's file after all!

• So... a musical number, eh? That was certainly an interesting choice for a show like this. I'm not sure it was an appropriate one though. Yeah, it was kind of fun to see the cast displaying their other talents, but it just felt... off and very out of place to me. 

Take Sousa, for instance. Supposedly he lost a leg in the war. Seeing him twirling around and dancing without his trademark crutch only underscored the fact that he's an actor playing a part, and pretty much destroyed any reality the show may have had. For me, at least.

On the other hand, who knew Enver Gjokaj, aka Sousa, could sing and dance? Jarvis even got in on the action too, but he must have two left feet, because his big number consisted of him swaying back and forth slightly, and not much else.

• Frost detonates an atomic bomb in the desert to open another Zero Matter rift. Seconds after the detonation, most of the cast wanders to within ten or twenty feet of the rift and stares up at it. 

Um... did the rift absorb all the radiation from the atom bomb? I sure hope so, or else Peggy and the rest of the cast are gonna be dead in a month.

• After Wilkes returns from the Zero Matter rift, his skin seems to crawl for a few seconds, as if there's something moving underneath. The effect looked A LOT like the one we saw when Ward was taken over by the alien entity on Maveth over on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. a few months back. Coincidence? Probably not, since this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe and everything's connected.

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