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Agent Carter – S2E4 – Smoke & Mirrors

Previously on Agent Carter, ‘Better Angels’

Starring: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj, Dominic Cooper, Wynn Everett, Reggie Austin, Currie Graham, Kurtwood Smith | Director: David Platt

IN THE DOSSIER

Agents Sousa and Carter bend a few rules to learn more about the shady wheelers and dealers that comprise the Arena Social Club. Their efforts are hampered by Vernon Masters and resolved with a not-so-veiled threat. The zero matter begins to affect Dr. Wilkes and Whitney Frost in frightening ways. Lastly, the childhoods of both Carter and Frost are revealed to better understand how they developed into dynamic women, for better and worse.

Images: ABC

Images: ABC

A PRODUCT OF ONE’S ENVIRONMENT

“Smoke & Mirrors” opened with an adventurous, adolescent Peggy Carter brandishing a cape and sword, pretending to be protector of the realm. Her fun is ruined by her older brother Michael, who acts like all siblings do and gets her in trouble for no other reason but to mess with one’s head. During the episode, viewers are peppered with critical moments in Agent Carter’s history from her childhood, her tenure as a codebreaker, Peggy’s pending nuptials and lastly, her decision to join the SOE (Special Operations Executive).

HAYLEY ATWELL

The one figure who was in every moment shared was Michael (Max Brown), who appeared to be the sole individual to know the real Peg. Their rivalry seemed to have ended during their formative years as the pair had become adept in their respective talents and essential to Britain’s early war efforts. Still, Michael realized early on that Peggy was an exceptional person and her skills should be honed and implemented to maximum effect. Naturally, when young we’re all unsure of our place in the world or what we truly want. Peg was willing to leave her career behind to wed a safe man and live a safe life. Sadly it sometimes takes a tragedy to find one’s purpose; Peggy flipped her switch when dear brother was killed in action. Once hesitant and uncertain, Carter was newly determined to live up to Michael’s expectations and draw upon her own strength to build a new life.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Whitney Frost’s maligned past. It’s clear her genius may be potentially unparalleled – as Dr. Wilkes attested – given the schematics she was drawing at an early age. Sharp though she may be, her household, namely her mother, definitely wouldn’t be mistaken as a source of inspiration. Before establishing herself as starlet and media darling Whitney Frost, Agnes Cully endured a childhood of considerable hardship thanks to her mother’s jaded and extremely limited view of the world. Instead of encouraging her children and hoping to propel her from an environment where a woman’s body is her sole currency, Mother Cully belittles her daughter’s desire to become a respected scientist.

Flash forward a few years later and mama’s as sour as ever. Jilted by her landlord because he found someone younger, she takes her frustrations out on Agnes by revealing her rejection letter from U of Oklahoma. Then for good measure, forces her in front of a mirror to pound into Agnes’ brain a final time that her beauty is the only way to get ahead in life. Young Cully learned a hard lesson that day which compelled her to Hollywood and well… we all know how that turned out. Unfortunately for all, her days inside that dusty Oklahoman home twisted her potential into an unyielding rage no one – not even Whitney herself – can contain.

A TIDAL WAVE IS COMING, YADDA YADDA YADDA

This week’s guy-to-hate was Vernon Masters (Kurtwood Smith), the Arena Club’s alleged source inside the War Department. Now that Chief Thompson is back in New York and likely causing all kinds of headaches for his team, ol’ Vernon has taken the reins in Los Angeles and shut down Chief Sousa’s raid on the Club minutes before the SSR depart their headquarters. While he has Sousa tangled up in red tape and paperwork, Masters takes the time to familiarize himself with his intimidating rival Ms. Carter.

HAYLEY ATWELL, KURTWOOD SMITH

If anyone was born to play a villain and deliver lines so convincingly it compels folks to walk on the other side of the street, it’s Kurtwood Smith. The veteran actor has portrayed a number of dastardly rogues in his career and his talents are well-suited to play the right hand of the Council of Nine. Masters has been biding his time with the agents, occasionally creeping out from the shadows and revealing his toothy grin while his goons infiltrate the SSR and other agencies. Vernon’s threat wasn’t taken seriously by Sousa or Carter but their brass may cost them in ways they cannot fathom in the near future.

THE CALL OF THE VOID

While Ms. Frost conducted experiments on her power, Dr. Wilkes (Reggie Austin) is displaying some worrisome behavior that leaves Peggy distressed. The eerie “scar” that adorns Whitney’s profile has also creeped into Jason’s thoughts, compelling him to leave this dimension for whatever is beyond our perception. It was a race against time already but now the gravity of the situation has accelerated to precarious levels.

Carter, Jarvis, Sousa and Wilkes were able to discover that Chadwick and Frost were responsible for all that’s occurred in the season so far. Regrettably their ace-in-the-hole, the recently interrogated “liquidator” Rufus, was absorbed by Whitney in the presence of her traumatized hubby Calvin. While the gang attempts to figure out what the hell they just heard, Frost assures her husband on who exactly wears the pants in their arrangement now. Whitney may believe she’s in control but there’s little doubt the zero matter has a grasp on its two victims they haven’t yet realized.

Agent Carter S2E4
  • 7/10
    Plot - 7/10
  • 10/10
    Dialogue - 10/10
  • 9/10
    Performances - 9/10
8.7/10

Summary

The flashbacks for Peggy and Whitney were fine moments for further understanding their motivations. While Carter’s rehashing revealed her surprising passiveness years before she became THE Peggy Carter, it was Whitney/Agnes’ backstory that was effective in conveying the bleak, nature of her upbringing. It doesn’t justify her character’s actions and agenda, but it gives the audience an understanding on why Cully saw no other choice to become a whole person – the charismatic sociopath Frost – to protect her true nature.

That aside, not much happened in the present during “Smoke & Mirrors” except for a couple chaps getting shot up with tranquilizers and a fast-acting virus. Carter and Frost’s character development is decidedly critical, given the upcoming stand off between the two in next week’s episode “The Atomic Job”.

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About Rexlor Graymond (493 Articles)
Rex Graymond is 24.6kg tripolymer composite, 11.8kg beryllium-nickel-titanium alloy. Constructed in Northern California. Loves comics and films almost as much as pancakes. ALMOST.
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