Agent Carter: Smoke And Mirrors
February 3, 2016 5:44 PM - Season 2, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Flashbacks into the pasts of Peggy and Whitney Frost; Peggy and Jarvis discuss animal tranquilizers and felony kidnapping; Whitney Frost does Dark Matter SCIENCE.
posted by soundguy99 (17 comments total)
This felt like a rather mellow episode but I loved how Peggy and Whitney's pasts were explored and their journeys overlapped thematically. Whitney was the ambitious science girl who found success by depending on looks and femininity to get ahead. Peggy was marching down the wedding aisle towards a traditional life and ended up using science and military service to build a successful life. Either way, they ended up as two successful, powerful women.

Whitney's response about smiling made my day too.

I'm kind curious what was going on with Wilkes and the Dark Matter. I hope he doesn't get sucked into the darkness and die.
posted by toomanycurls at 6:51 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I first thought that Senator Red's blocking of their search warrant would be an obvious bad guy signal but then the comment on communism reminded me that it was maybe more common for justice to be scuttled like that. I am desperately waiting for Peggy to get drunk with Stark and go "Fuck this shit I'm creating my own secret government organization."
posted by toomanycurls at 6:58 PM on February 3, 2016

The show still continues to be a delight and we finally have some background story on Peggy. Who would have thought she would have been so ordinary, marrying such a boring, yet utterly polite, coward? It's nice that she had a good brother, but a shame that he had to get killed before she took control of her own life. But that's so very typical, right? A death of a loved one catapults us to do something we wouldn't have thought of before.

What is going with Darkforce?! It's a strange source of energy/power, but it sounds like it'll just be writer's dream, used to justify very superpower/magic/whatever.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:27 PM on February 3, 2016

I was pretty disappointed with the backstory they gave Peggy. I never thought she needed a secret tragic motivation, I always thought of her as being a kindred spirit with pre-serum Steve Rogers, that she always knew her own worth regardless of how the world saw her. Seeing her acting so meekly feminine just felt like we'd slipped into an alternate universe.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:56 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

We've had so little backstory info for Peggy for such a loooong time that getting it now is kind of disorienting. But the more I've thought about it the more I like it, after being unsure initially. It's not what I think people expected, but it makes her so much more human to know she was just a normal person who succumbed to societal pressures and needed encouragement, not a superhero straight out of the gate. Knowing her own value was a thing she had to work to arrive at.

I'm willing to overlook the "a man told her what to do!" criticisms I've been seeing around because it wasn't just some random dude, it was the person she was closest to in the world. And then he gets fridged for her development anyway. RIP Michael Carter, sorry you never got to meet Captain America.
posted by ariadne's threadspinner at 10:48 PM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

"I always thought of her as being a kindred spirit with pre-serum Steve Rogers, that she always knew her own worth regardless of how the world saw her."

Yeah, but this way means anyone can transform themselves into Peggy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:48 AM on February 4, 2016

Peggy Carter working as a field agent in the SOE makes a lot of sense since the MCU's version of the character seems inspired by SOE badasses such as Pearl Witherington or Violette Szabo.
posted by elgilito at 1:58 AM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

It was nice to see that she got to grow up in a part of Hampstead that was exactly like California, and apparantly untouched by rationing.

(Yes, I realise they don't have the budget for anything else, but that was as much England as the London Adam West's Batman visited. And her wedding dress was exactly the kind of thing that wouldn't have been available at the time. They didn't even put tape across the windows. England as authentically envisaged by Chris Claremont circa 1977. I thought it was very funny. Her Bletchley boss's accent wasn't quite Dick Van Dyke, but that level of awfulness was obviously what he was aspiring to.)
posted by Grangousier at 5:19 AM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Also, were you even allowed to talk about the SOE if you'd been recruited for it? Let alone at a garden party? It was my understanding that the whole thing was very hush-hush.

Loose Lips Sink Ships and all that.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:54 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd give this show a 7, probably. But Agent Carter, as a character is a 10. She's just a singular creation.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:07 AM on February 4, 2016

I think they were working hard to create parallels between the two women's characters. Anyway, as a woman, I've definitely had phases of my life where I worked less or more to resist fulfilling people's expectations of me--and there was presumably a lot more pressure on Peggy, so I don't have a problem with that.
posted by wintersweet at 8:37 PM on February 4, 2016

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest her brother isn't dead, just because that backstory feels like it's set up for a big twist later in the season.
posted by crossoverman at 2:03 AM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I didn't think Peggy's story was that tragic. She was in the war, her brother was in the war, he died. In WWII, that was too common to be personally tragic. But it does explain why she wasn't anxious to go back to England after the war, at least, even apart from the fact that they'd be on rationing for at least some goods until, what? 1953?

Also, I cringed every time I was supposed to believe that Hayley Attwell was really 19 or 20 or however old she was in the flashbacks.

Still sorting out what I think of Whitney's background but while I get the story they were telling and understand the parallels, I was having some of the same troubles with details that people are talking about with Peggy's story. The dates, the tech, etc. don't ring quite right.
posted by immlass at 8:10 AM on February 5, 2016

I was pretty disappointed with the backstory they gave Peggy. I always thought of her as being a kindred spirit with pre-serum Steve Rogers, that she always knew her own worth regardless of how the world saw her.

Agreed. We seem to be in the minority, but I didn't think the flashbacks added anything to either character, really - we get it, Whitney Frost is a genius who was taught her looks would get her farther than her brains. They already showed us this in previous episodes - why tell us again?

Oh well. Jarvis and Peggy are still delightful together.
posted by tautological at 9:18 PM on February 5, 2016

There's a blog post that John Rogers (Leverage) wrote after the Trek reboot came out where he talked about 2 different hero character arcs, which always stuck with me - link to full post here, selection below:
A transformative arc is the classic feel good "a bad person becomes a good person." This is the Disney arc, the classic arc, although frankly many people confuse a character's circumstances changing with a transformative arc. Star Wars is the perfect example. "Luke Skywalker is a farm boy who becomes a hero." Well, sure. But he wasn't a cowardly farm boy. He wasn't an insecure farm boy. As soon as holo-Lea shows up, he is on-mission. He didn't leave his loving family behind, he was burnt out of his shitty hut he hated anyway.

He wasn't a farm boy who never believed in the Force, once he's introduced to the idea. Hell, turning off his targetting computer during the trench run is the least surprising thing he could do. Now if HAN SOLO suddenly showed up believing in the Force, well, that's a change. As a matter of fact, Han's the one with the transformative arc in the movie...

A revelatory arc # is one in which the story of the movie is revealing how the hero (and the virtues he represents, which you the writer wish to highlight) is exactly the right person to solve the movie's problem. It's more an echo of the old school morality play. "Behold how misfortune comes unto the world. Now see what kind of man may set it right!" The protagonist of this sort of movie triumphs by holding on to whatever virtues he has, and often by becoming even more confident in them.


So, I think Peggy in S1 was a great example of someone with a revelatory arc. I get that they were trying to make some kind of contrast/parallel between Peggy and Whitney with the flashback structure, but I feel like it robbed some of the thunder from S1 Peggy. I prefer to think of her as having sprung forth into the world as a heroine from the start, like Athena born fully armed from Zeus' brow.
posted by oh yeah! at 10:21 PM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think it's an interesting combination of both arcs. Rather than her just being the "chosen one", Peggy was set on that path but distracted by what society expected of her - and then stepped up and was absolutely the right person at the right time. But even in that case, I still think she's absolutely more "revelatory" than "transformative" when compared to, say, Steve Rogers who absolutely was never the right person until he transformed into Captain America. She was already a code breaker and already offered a position (even if recommended by her brother) as a spy.
posted by crossoverman at 3:09 AM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

No, I think Steve had the revelatory arc too. Character-wise, he was already fighting bullies and throwing himself on apparently-live grenades before he got physically transformed to make his outsides match his insides. For the MCU, I think Tony Stark in the first Iron Man would be the one with a transformative arc.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:44 AM on February 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

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