This week’s Agent Carter delved deeper into the past of both Peggy, and her current arch nemesis Whitney Frost. The episode was punctuated by a series of flashbacks of both women’s childhood, adolescence and formative adult years to reveal how they came to be where they are, and how they each dealt with the gendered expectations that weighed upon their upbringings. We discover Peggy worked at Bletchley during the early part of the war, and was almost married before joining the SSR after her brother was killed. Conversely, Whitney (aka Agnes), after being shut out of formal higher education due to her sex, left her Midwestern entrapment in Oklahoma for Hollywood, discovering her pretty face was a more viable means to her own ends than shows of intellect.
The episode clearly is meant to parallel their experiences to a degree, and particularly to give Whitney a more sympathetic origin, rather than just keeping her a one-note villainess. Indeed, it left me wondering if she isn’t actually being set-up for a redemption arc, which I would certainly be interested in seeing. While she seems fairly ruthless and power-hungry, I would not yet characterize her as irredeemable. Her skills as a scientist are top-notch, and she would no doubt be useful to Peggy in her forthcoming establishment of S.H.I.E.L.D, but we’ll see.
In the meantime, our hero is still fighting the noble fight against the powers that be to hold the Arena Club responsible for their sinister doings, and as the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. Their SSR office gets audited by the War Department the very moment they are due to raid the Arena Club in search of the tapped evidence that would incriminate its members definitively. Much of the episode follows her exploits to uncover information about the organization by kidnapping Chadwick’s bodyguard, aka her would-be assassin from last week. She and Jarvis end up taking him out with a combination of tranquilizer gun and brute force, the former being otherwise employed to corral the more errant members of Stark’s mansion menagerie, namely the koala. According to Jarvis, “Its adorable appearance belies its vile temperament.” LOL.
When they finally have Chadwick’s thug in their clutches, Peggy doses him with a concoction of Stark’s that brings on severe cold symptoms, but which she convinces him is a particularly virulent and powerful strain of malaria, to which she will only provide the antidote in exchange for information. The tactic is successful, but for naught, when Peggy is prevented from acting on the intel due to the interferences of the higher-ups. She is not to be dissuaded in the long-term, but in the short term it is a roadblock, and it leads to an emotionally satisfying confirmation between Peggy and Sousa that they have each other’s backs, no matter what. Whether romantic or not, their dynamic is always well-used screen time, in my opinion.
Speaking of romance, Peggy’s mutual attraction with the currently intangible good Dr. Wilkes becomes a bit more fraught this episode, as we discover he is experiencing an unknown effect of his quantum state that seems to be endangering his continued existence. He is being drawn towards some sort of black void that appears ready to swallow him up. His joint work with Stark has not yet yielded any useful results that would return him to his former state, and his situation is apparently growing direr. I sincerely hope he is not destined to bite it any time soon. I really love Wilkes as an individual character, and his dynamic with Peggy, and it would be a tremendous shame to so quickly eliminate the one main member of the current cast who is a person of color. Drama needs real stakes to be compelling, so to make the threat is a legitimate move, but I, for one, really hope they do not follow through.
Although this episode was not quite as action packed, or plot heavy as most others before it, it did a lot of work flesh out certain characters, and give depth particularly to our antagonist, who definitely deserves to be treated with a bit of nuance. One of the nice things about this show is its willingness to go a bit beyond surface-level stock characters to bring a bit more depth to people’s motives, which always makes for a more rewarding viewer experience. Although it may not have been to everyone’s taste, I certainly enjoyed the backstory building that I sense will actually render a significantly more satisfying pay-off by season’s end.