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Marvel’s Agent Carter 2.4 Review – “Smoke and Mirrors”

February 2, 2016 | Posted by Wednesday Lee Friday
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Marvel’s Agent Carter 2.4 Review – “Smoke and Mirrors”  

We got a lot of new information tonight on Agent Carter, and a few of our suspicions were confirmed. “Smoke and Mirrors” showed us flashbacks, aliases, and an assassin with a very bad cold. Spoilers for Season Two Episode Four follow. “Smoke and Mirrors” begins with what can only be little Margaret Elizabeth Carter. Michael, one of those annoying older brothers seems like he’s always encouraged Peggy to fight, and win. Her mother, like so many mothers, tells Peggy how important it is that she eventually grows into a proper lady.

At Stark’s place in the present, Jason Wilkes is having an increasingly difficult time with his new condition. He misses food, though he’s not hungry. He’s exhausted but can’t seem to sleep. He does have new info on neutron reactors and how Agnes Cully (AKA Whitney Frost) is brilliant beyond categorization. When we see Ms. Frost, she’s having rats delivered in order to get some control over her new Zero Matter powers. Remember, her husband is Chadwick, a wanna be senator who expects to one day be POTUS. Peggy and Jarvis are staking him out—though it seems obvious that he’s not among the more powerful players in the Arena Club / Counsel of Nine.

The first big revelation this week comes when Jarvis and Carter discover that Chadwick’s driver is the assassin who attacked Peggy last week—the one that she shot in the hand. Why would a budding senator need a bodyguard with that kind of melee power? The driver / bodyguard is one Rufus Hunt; and he’s a bad man. He’s also the head of security at the Arena Club. Peggy and Jarvis need to take him in without killing him, which leads us to some hilarious tranquilizer gun action. There’s a little trouble, but ultimately they get their man. Sousa is none too keen on Peggy keeping things from him. But she’s right about plausible deniability. Watch for Jarvis’s hilarious impersonation of an American cop.

Peggy’s aren’t the only flashbacks we see this week. A young Agnes Cully had a pretty rough childhood. Her mom was basically a prostitute with one client, “Uncle Budd.” Uncle Budd is kinda gross, and engages in stereotypically ugly man-behavior. No one wants to be told to smile. If we want to smile, we probably know how without instruction. But I digress… Agnes is wildly intelligent, but encouraged to use her pretty face to make her way in the world. Gross. Young Agnes is determined not to be like her awful mother, and in that, she succeeds to a large extent. No one knows why her director is missing, and her husband still thinks she’s acting. Well, he’s kinda right since it takes a master thespian to pretend to love that jackass. Slowly, Whitney’s control over her powers increases—as does the size of those cracks in her face.

It doesn’t take long for Chief Sousa to figure out what Peggy is up to. Note the look on his face when Peggy says she intends to kill Rufus Hunt. The ruse they play on him is pretty awesome, essentially giving him a bad cold while telling him he has Stark-lab super-malaria. I’m not sure Hunt spills his entire guts, but he reveals plenty of good information. Flashing back to the code-breaker’s office, we watch as a newly engaged Peggy gets an offer from the SOE (special operations executive) inviting her to become a field agent. She doesn’t think she’s cut out for it. Can you even imagine? Surely she’ll be talking this over with her fiancé, Fred. Will she “strike a blow for King and country?”

Eventually, Agnes Cully’s “uncle” throws her and her terrible mother into the street—as people like him do. We see how heartbroken Agnes is when she is rejected from University of Oklahoma’s science program, strictly because of her gender. Agnes is taught early on that her pretty face is her ticket. And truthfully, it kind of is. In the present, Whitney’s awful husband is still trying to boss her around. I gotta think he won’t live much longer. Back at Stark’s, Sousa and Peggy get enough information from Hunt to get a warrant for the Arena Club.

Viewers already suspect that a warrant for the Arena Club is impossible. As Sousa and his team are gearing up for the raid, in walks Vernon Masters and his team of War Department jerks. Meanwhile, Dr. Wilkes seems to have reached “a dead end” in his research. He’s having visions of the Zero Matter, and it might even be trying to communicate with him. It’s clear though, that everyone reacts to the Zero Matter differently. Wilkes didn’t turn evil from it because he’s not an evil man. Whitney Frost is the opposite. Vernon Master’s conversation with Agent Carter is intense. They both know full well what the other is up to, yet neither is able to fully come out with it. Oh, and Peggy is actually supposed to be on vacation. Oops. When threats of communism accusations surface, the time for playing nice appears to be over. Agent Carter isn’t having it, thankfully, neither is Sousa.

At Peggy and Fred’s engagement party (flashback), Michael (Peggy’s brother) is super bummed to learn that Peggy turned down the chance to be a spy. In fact, he’s also bummed that his sister wants to settle down with some boring guy for a life of regularness. Turns out, it was Michael who recommended her for field work. He’s right, it’s clear that Peggy has changed herself to fit the life she thinks she’s supposed to have. Michael lays it out—”You were meant to fight.” Still, it appears that she plans to go ahead with the wedding. The next time we flash back, she’s wearing a classic white dress. In the present, Sousa frees Hunt staged as an escape. He goes immediately to Chadwick’s house, where we see that Hunt is wearing a bug.

As “Smoke and Mirrors” enters the final act, one more Peggy flashback finds us in 1940. It’s supposed to be a happy time, but in this time period, there’s no doubting what it means when two soldiers come to your door and take their hats off. We barely knew Michael, but it stings like hell when we hear that he died on the front lines. Peggy honors her brother by choosing a live of adventure over conformist wifehood. In the present, Jason is worse. Peggy convinces him to keep fighting. Seems like he’s doomed.

Hunt spills to Chadwick and Frost everything that happened with Peggy. That’s when Whitney decides to let her husband see her powers—she kills Hunt with her Zero Matter powers. Chadwick is understandably shocked, probably wondering how much longer he has to live. The SSR listens to the entire scene, but have no idea why communication suddenly stops. The final flashback shows Agnes Cully, clearly having left Oklahoma. Outside the cinema, she’s approached by a leering, awful talent agent named Ned Silver. He tells her that the beauty of Hollywood is that she can be whatever she wants. Looks like she’s decided to become a maniacal supervillain. Nice work if you can get it!

I was thrilled with this episode of Agent Carter. Lots of jarvelous character development was interspersed with tense scenes and great action. The writing on this show isn’t just witty and well-paced. It has impeccable balance so we have ample time to really get to know these people, which means we’re deeply invested in what they’re up to. Right now, I adore Sousa, and enjoy Jarvis a whole lot. I can’t wait to see Vernon Masters found out and consequenced (even as I can’t help seeing a little jovial Red Foreman in him), and hope Jack Thompson loses at least a little credibility. It’s a no-brainer that Peggy will prevail, but I still can’t wait to see how. I’m curious to know what the rest of you want to happen before the season is out.

See you’s next week!

10.0
The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
An exceptional episode of Marvel's Agent Carter—"Smoke and Mirrors" offers background on Peggy's decision to become a field agent, and what inspired Whitney Frost to make the choices she did. Jarvis busted out his tranquilizer rifle as he explained the many dangers of koalas. Jason Wilkes continues his search for a cure, one that leads mainly to frustration. A warrant on the Arena Club seems imminent, while Vernon Masters does all he can to keep a tight leash on the SSR. Sousa gets tough, an assassin is revealed, and we fall madly in love with a young Michael Carter. This ep drives home the importance of upbringing in the people we eventually become.  And yeah, "Jarvelous" is totally a thing now.
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