TV Review: Agent Carter - Season 2 Episode 4 "Smoke and Mirrors"
Join us each week as we review the latest episode of AGENT CARTER. Warning: the following review contains major spoilers for the newest episode of the show.
Episode 4: "Smoke and Mirrors"
Synopsis: Agent Carter and the SSR learn there's more than just a pretty face behind Hollywood star Whitney Frost, Peggy's most dangerous foe yet.
Recap: After ten episodes and three feature film appearances, we finally get to learn just how Peggy Carter became the spy we know and love with this episode that intercuts flashbacks to the childhood of both Hayley Atwell's character and this season's nemesis, Whitney Frost. It may seem like providing origins for these two non-super-powered characters would be less than thrilling, but it informs the overall theme of female empowerment that has defined Agent Carter. We also get some progress on the contemporary story of the SSR versus the Arena Club/Council of Nine that makes for some very interesting Marvel universe building.
In the main storyline, Peggy Carter and Jarvis continue to try and figure out what is going on with the Arena Club and their connection to Zero Matter while Whitney Frost continues to develop her burgeoning powers thanks to her exposure to the otherworldly liquid. Tranquilizing Peggy's would-be assassin, a former soldier named Rufus Hunt, Peggy and Sousa learn that the Council of Nine has recorded everything they have planned for years including events like Black Tuesday and more. This is more than enough ammunition for the SSR to investigate the Arena Club, but they are quickly thwarted by Vernon Masters under the guise of protecting America from threats.
This roadblock does not dissuade Carter and company who put a tracking device on Mr. Hunt and set him loose. He immediately heads for the Chadwick residence where he reveals what he told the SSR about the Council. It is there that Whitney Frost reveals her powers to her husband. Over the course of the episode, Frost has been experimenting on herself to learn what the Zero Matter has done to her. As she absorbs rats, the scar/crack on her forehead has deepened and seemingly has her strength. With Hunt, Whitney absorbs the assassin and the listening device that Peggy had been listening in on. Her powers now revealed, Frost seems to be on the verge of becoming Madame Masque once and for all.
It is that theme of becoming that pervades this episode. Both Peggy Carter and Whitney Frost are given multiple flashback scenes through the hour that explain how they reached the point we find them in this story. For Peggy, we see her as a child and meet her brother, Michael. As a young girl, Peggy loved playing rough with the boys despite her mother's protests. As she grew, she set aside childish things and became a girly girl like any proper woman of the time. Engaged to a soldier, Peggy is recruited by the S.O.E., a covert British war department that wants to train her as a field agent. Peggy is unsure until she learns her brother recommended her for the job and feels she would be good at it. Peggy still contemplates married life until the unfortunate news of her brother's death in the field. She then decides to follow her destiny and heads off to become a spy.
For Whitney Frost, aka Agnes Cully, her story is oddly similar. Living with a single mother in Oklahoma, Frost was a brilliant inventor from a young age as her beautiful mother was a mistress to a local man who took care of them financially. Her mother instilled the belief that smiling and being pretty was her only recourse to a good life. As she grew up, their life became more miserable. Frost eventually headed for California where she was discovered by a talent agent. Frost bows to her feminine attributes and allows herself to become a sex object in exchange for getting herself a better life. This eventually would lead her to become the woman she is today and contribute to her desire for power and control.
Overall, it was very interesting to see the parallel backstories for Frost and Peggy and how their similar trials and tribulations led them to very different places in the main storyline. I am enjoying the slow build of Whitney Frost to Madame Masque and wonder if she will appear at all like her Marvel Comics counterpart by the end of this season. One of the biggest strengths that Agent Carter has had to date has been the organic way it has connected to the Marvel Universe and I certainly hope there is more of that to come. I just hope that as we approach the midway point of this season that we don't slow down narratively and keep the pace built over these four hours.
Marvel Universe References: No overt references this week.
Next on Agent Carter: "The Atomic Job" airs February 9th - As Jarvis’ precision and quick-thinking skills are put to the ultimate test, Peggy must find a way to stop an atomic explosion that threatens to destroy all of California.