Agent Carter did a double whammy this week with “Life of the Party” and “Monster,” two back-to-back episodes which flow together flawlessly and keep the various narrative strands progressively intertwining. The first is a slightly lighter romp, wherein Peggy springs Dottie Underwood from her imprisonment by the SSR in order to infiltrate a Calvin Chadwick fundraiser to get close to Whitney Frost.
During Dottie’s planned escape, she tries to outmaneuver Peggy into a real escape, but is quickly thwarted with Daniel’s help. While trying to run, she turns a corner to find Peggy and Sousa waiting to cast a net over her that seems useless at first, until it electrocutes her into submission. The sequence is both cartoony, and hilariously well-executed, a balance few shows could pull off as well as they do.
Team Peggy is after a sample of Whitney’s blood for Dr. Wilkes; while precautions are taken to keep Dottie in line during her undercover stint, they are eventually subverted, because the plot. However she initially attends the party/fundraiser as planned alongside Jarvis, whose entire presence in this episode is pure comedy gold. Indeed, while Dottie is off procuring the sample from Whitney, Jarvis distracts Agent Thompson, who is unexpectedly present along with Vernon Masters. Their conversation is full of thinly veiled snark and low-key threats, and it is the stuff of pure TV heaven. At one point Jarvis informs Thompson that Peggy is sitting pool-side at Stark’s mansion “reading a rather bawdy pulp novel,” and I swear I had to pause the episode to stop laughing before I could continue.
While James D’Arcy’s Jarvis never fails to impress, I am also often surprised by how much I enjoy Chad Michael Murray’s Jack Thompson as well. The character could easily be a total cliché, yet Murray’s performance imbues him with just enough ambivalence to make him genuinely interesting. It always seems as if he might, just maybe, at some point, be goaded into doing the right thing, and that makes him much more fun to watch. You resent him, but you also find yourself sincerely rooting for him to get his head out his ass, pardon my French.
Anyway, returning to the plot, Dottie tries to make a break for it at the fundraiser, and while hiding from Jarvis, she witnesses Whitney giving a first-hand demonstration to the Arena Club of her powers. Whitney destroys half of them, including her husband Chadwick, after it becomes clear they intended to subdue her, and then she takes over control of the remainder of the organization. While Dottie wisely doesn’t tangle with our resident zero matter femme fatal, she is eventually taken back into SSR custody after losing the sample from Whitney Frost, which Team Peggy is able to recover.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this episode was the “benching” of Peggy due to her injury. Although she does help coordinate and master-mind much of the high-jinx afoot, she is also forced to sit on the side-lines due to being barely able to walk; watching her struggle with her own vulnerability made for a good change of pace. This situation also precipitates an emotional moment between her and Daniel where they bond over debilitating injuries, and Peggy stumbles onto the fact of Daniel’s broken engagement and the reason for it. They nearly kiss, though in classic Hollywood style, are prevented at the last second by a commotion.
This unrequited romantic moment leads to tension between them in “Monsters” where Peggy is forced to deal not only with Whitney Frost’s continuing schemes, but her, as Jarvis puts it, “famine to feast of quality suitors.”
Success is finally forthcoming in the effort to make Dr. Wilkes solid, thanks to the sample obtained from Whitney Frost, and in the resulting euphoria of their triumph, Wilkes actually does kiss Peggy. It is clear she is genuinely attached to and attracted to both men, understandably, and is unsure exactly how to proceed with either one. The conversation she has with Jarvis about it on their way to retrieve Dottie is another masterclass of both writing and acting talent that is debatably unrivaled on the whole of the TV landscape. It was sheer perfection.
At first, Dottie is subjected to interrogation by Vernon Masters, who is woefully outmatched by the seemingly sweet-as-pie Soviet spy. However, Whitney Frost eventually takes over and her zero matter powers are enough to bring Dottie to her metaphorical knees. She provides information about Peggy that Whitney then concocts into a ruse to get at her new target, Dr. Wilkes.
Whitney reactivates the tracker in Dottie’s necklace, and sets a trap for Peggy and Jarvis, ultimately with the objective to lure them away from Stark’s mansion so she can get at Wilkes. At first she tries to tempt him to come with her willingly, by promises of power. However, she eventually is forced to employ brute force, and in the course of absconding with him, she shoots Ana Jarvis in the stomach.
Team Peggy rushes Ana to the hospital, with Dottie locked up in the trunk. While Peggy warns an on-duty police officer of her presence and danger, she still manages to escape, and is now the run. However, this obviously takes a back-seat in the wake of Mrs. Jarvis’s possibly fatal injury. While I doubt they’ll actually kill her, this experience probably will change the dynamic significantly. Jarvis’s love for Ana is obviously intense, and it is hard to imagine either Peggy or Jarvis will be unshaken by this event.
Additionally, Vernon Master’s takes over control of the LA office from Daniel Sousa, and all of this seems to be setting up the final showdown of the season. While there have been whispers of the show’s cancellation, due to Hayley Atwell’s casting in a new ABC show, I continue to hope and pray this season is not Agent Carter’s last. There is so much more story to tell, and to deprive prime-time audiences and Marvel of this opportunity would be a cosmic injustice, as far as I’m concerned.
Peggy Carter famously founds the organization of S.H.I.E.L.D, which is a core aspect of the larger Marvel superhero mythology, and which still seems a ways off from where her story is as of now. It would be a crying shame not to at least let her get that far.