SMOKE AND MIRRORS – 7.5
The term ‘feminist icon’ gets thrown around a lot when it comes to fictional heroines, with names like Ellen Ripley, Wonder Woman and our own Peggy Carter put forward. As always with the internet, debate follows and by debate I mean insults, death threats and other unpleasantness. Personally I don’t feel qualified to decide who is or isn’t a feminist icon, but I do know a strong female character when I see one and that’s what Peggy Carter is. She’s had to fight for everything she’s achieved, both figuratively and literally, and she’s done it all with dignity and integrity. Agnes Cully AKA Whitney Frost has fought a similar battle, however somewhere along the way she lost sight of who she truly was. Which is a tragedy for a woman whose genius is so brilliant it defies categorisation.
Destiny formed the central theme of this week’s episode with flashbacks showing us key moments in Whitney and Peggy’s lives. From Peggy’s childhood spent play fighting with her older brother, Michael to her days as a code breaker, engaged to a pleasant but boring military bureaucrat. Recognising that this was not the life Peggy was destined to live, her brother recommended her for the Special Operations Executive. Sadly, it wasn’t until Michael was killed in action that Peggy decided to take his advice. Where Peggy was encouraged, Agnes was stifled and belittled despite her incredible genius. Agnes’ mother chose to ignore her daughter’s brilliance, instead forcing it upon her that brains are meaningless compared to beauty. Perhaps this was why Agnes swapped her dreams of college for a ticket to L.A. where she was discovered by a sleazy talent agent.
Back in 1947, Peggy uses her ‘vacation time’ to gather more information on Whitney Frost, Calvin Chadwick and the Council of Nine. While tailing Chadwick, Peggy notices that his chauffer has the same hand injury as her would be assassin from the other night. The heavy is revealed to be the head of security for the Arena Club and a former soldier named Rufus Hunt. Peggy and Jarvis concoct a plan to incapacitate him using a tranquiliser rifle that Jarvis keeps for wrangling Howard Stark’s koalas. The plan mostly works apart from Jarvis getting stabbed with a tranquiliser dart and Sousa discovering Peggy’s less than legal activities. Meanwhile, the Darkforce continues to affect Whitney Frost as she tests her new power on some lab rats causing the Darkforce vein on her face to spread.
The Darkforce also continues to affect Jason Wilkes, who works desperately in the lab to regain his corporal form. Peggy repeats the words of encouragement spoken to her by her brother in the hope of inspiring him. However, she is unaware that his connection to her reality is starting to fade as the Darkforce calls him closer. Desperate for a solid lead, Peggy tortures Hunt by injecting him with a deadly strain of Malaria, at least that’s what she tells him. It is in actuality a concentrated dose of the common cold. Needless to say the bluff works and Hunt gives up the Council of Nine, handing over names and details of where they hide recordings of their clandestine meetings at the Arena Club.
This time Sousa convinces Peggy to do things by the book and they apply for a warrant to raid the club. Before this can happen Vernon Master appears, shutting down the investigation and issuing thinly veiled threats to both Peggy and Sousa. Of course they ignore him, choosing instead to let Hunt escape with a bug on his clothes. He heads straight to Chadwick’s home where he threatens to blackmail Whitney and Chadwick unless they protect him from the Council. But it is not the Council of Nine that Hunt should fear as he soon discovers when Whitney uses her powers to absorb him. Horrified, Chadwick asks his wife what she is, Whitney repeats the words spoken to her by the sleazy agent that first spotted her in Hollywood; she’s anything she wants to be.
This was yet another solid offering from Agent Carter. It was nice to learn more about the events that helped to shape Peggy into the woman that she is. Even more interesting was the juxtaposition against Whitney/Agnes, who was forced to hide her natural talents and let others take the credit for her brilliant work, something Peggy is all too familiar with. The show continues to successfully blend genres, with the action, comedy and horror elements all working nicely in unison. In terms of comedy, James D’Arcy’s Jarvis continues to shine without ever seeming ridiculous. Shows live and die on the likability of their characters and it is easy to feel a lot of affection for the entire cast of Agent Carter.
As we approach the halfway point in the season it seems more and more likely that the Council of Nine is linked to Hydra, particularly after Hunt’s insistence that they are “in everything”. Vernon Masters couldn’t scream Hydra anymore unless he was wearing one of their fancy pins. Also, with Whitney growing more powerful it seems like her years of frustration will soon be taken out on someone, perhaps her husband, maybe even the Council of Nine, but Peggy will most certainly be in her crosshairs. Ultimately everything is building towards a showdown between two very intelligent, very powerful women who are determined to take their destinies into their own hands. Does that make them feminist icons? I couldn’t say, but it definitely makes for some compelling television.
POINTS OF INTEREST
- This week we learnt that a koala’s adorable appearance hides a vile temperament.
- Jarvis’ attempts to pull off a tough American accent were absolutely hilarious, I especially loved his threats to break down the door and “start squirting lead.”
- Still on Jarvis, his reaction to being hit with a tranquiliser dart was simply “Jarvelous” as was his fevered cry of “OH MUMMY, IT’S THE BIGGEST HORSEY EVER!”
- The Peggy, Jason, Sousa love triangle continued to grow this week with both men clearly yearning for Peggy.