This week’s Agent Carter finds Team Peggy attempting to retrieve atomic bombs from one of Stark’s business rivals – Roxxon– while Team Whitney Frost is on the same beat for far more sinister aims. Both Whitney and Jason Wilkes are drawn to the atomic core due to some mysterious force of the dark matter, and the episode is a rat race to see who can infiltrate the company first and retrieve the incredibly volatile substance.
As should be no surprise, Team Peggy is ultimately the winner, but at no small cost. Peggy has a disastrous fall, and gets impaled on a spike, after a violent confrontation with Whitney. She lives, obviously, but I appreciated the more serious address of the dangers of her work in this episode. Often the show is a bit light-hearted about her spy craft, framing her tussles as more of an inconvenience a great deal of the time, rather than a serious threat. I enjoy this more fun-loving approach usually, but when Peggy starts to seem perfect and invincible, rooting for her has less gravity. I want our heroine to win, but for those wins to be satisfying, it also has to occasionally seem like she could lose; it’s good for the show to remember this once in a while.
Although the episode of course features our regular aids to Peggy, Daniel Sousa and Jarvis, Rose the receptionist and scientist Samberly also become accessories to the SSR’s extracurriculars under Peggy’s direction. At first Sousa is skittish about bringing Rose along but Peggy insists she is quite capable and would be an asset on the mission. Her argument eventually bares fruit when she says cuttingly, “It’s funny, I’m seeing Daniel Sousa but I’m hearing Jack Thompson.” Burn.
Not all of Rose’s material was top-notch (it got overly farcical at times), but I am happy to see the show making better use of her character. She has a lot of potential, and actress Lesley Boone elevates the material she is given to make Rose very entertaining and three-dimensional, even in her more banal moments. And speaking of farce, Peggy also finds herself embroiled in one of her undercover missions to retrieve the single access key to the Roxxon lab from the company’s smarmy CEO, Hugh Jones. She is given a device that creates very short-term memory loss which she must keep applying while she searches for the key, first in Jones’s office, then on his person.
Although the sequence goes on a bit longer than it probably should, Haley Atwell is endlessly entertaining in her capacity to embody these undercover personas. Her transformations into shallow masquerades of feminine dulcetness display both Atwell’s enormous talent and Peggy’s true assets as a spy. Yeah, she can kick ass when necessary, but her chameleon capacities are also extremely well-honed, and it is immensely satisfying to watch her work that particular magic, especially on men whose sexism she often very knowingly plays into to her own advantage.
The romantic subplots of the series also surface intermittently, with Sousa proposing to his nurse girlfriend towards the beginning of the episode after having lost his engagement ring down her couch accidentally. However, their betrothal is short-lived when they bring the badly injured Peggy back to her for medical aid, and she sees how devoted Daniel still is to our leading lady. I’m still on the fence about the Peggy/Sousa romantic angle, personally. On the one hand, I think they have good chemistry and I can see what works about them as a couple. But on the other hand, I am also still very smitten with Jason Wilkes’ character and I think he has outstanding potential for Peggy as well.
Love triangles are an over-done plot device in general, and I don’t exactly know that the show would benefit greatly from one. However, they bother me less when there is a genuine conflict over who our apex ought to choose, and when both of the competing admirers are important to the story independent of their romantic potentials. Both are the case in this instance, and so I am still very open to these developments. While I don’t think the show should transform itself into a soap opera, it is impossible to believe a woman like Peggy would ever be without romantic prospects, and she is not the type to wallow in self-imposed isolation.
Though she is equally bad-ass, Peggy Carter is not Bruce Wayne. All I can see her having for the Batman-esque martyrdom of overwrought superhero solitude is eye-rolls.