Agent Carter is coming to the close of its sophomore season a little too safely. It continues to be novel and charming character-based drama and it excels at what it knows best, learning from the few mistakes of a Cap-centric season one. The show is on the bubble – the awkward tightrope between renewal and cancellation – and ABC’s President has just been shown the door. Agent Carter aired another pair of fine episodes but it needs something a touch more shocking than the Carter-Sousa happily ever after.
Episode Eight begins with a flashback to Mr and Mrs Jarvis before Peggy Carter entered their lives. The scene is nothing to marvel over (unintentional pun!) but it’s sweet and gives us more time with the fierce Lotte Verbeek. She’s the perfect foil to our favourite butler and enhances his heroism considerably.
The writers have made a point of putting her in situations where she could display weaker character traits, through jealously, fret, blame or control and instead continue to empower her. She does not place blame on Peggy or Jarvis for the fresh bullet in her stomach despite some worrisome foreshadowing, and she does not jerk at the notion of the many sleepless nights spent between Peggy and Jarvis. Ana Jarvis is the unsung hero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The episode spends time in mourning and shows the incredible friendship developed throughout the sleepless nights. Jarvis is a wreck and his humanity is showing. When Pepper Potts was kidnapped Tony Stark rushed to confront his antagonist. Jarvis has no super-suit and he wrestles with the morality of it all (something the extended prose of television allows a hero to do). Ultimately he abandons Peggy’s plan to extract his vendetta on Whitney Frost – a major turning point for the character.
An eye for the eye sees Jarvis shoot Whitney at close range multiple times. He hits, but her zero-matter powers prevent her from being harmed. The fallout from this makes excellent drama. After Whitney captures the pair and they escape it’s Peggy and Jarvis wandering through the desert. Breaking Bad parallels are there whether it was intended or not.
Dehydrated, overheated, emotional and exhausted, the pair let out some truths. Jarvis tells her that he stands by his actions unequivocally while she tells him that he should take responsibility for his actions and that her job is not the fanciful adventure he imagines. It’s cathartic and shifts the balance of the show to something more sombre, allowing the pair to remember the serious threat that Whitney poses.
Sousa continues to flourish as a formidable ally and likable love interest. It’s impressive how quickly the show has been able to posit an altogether different happily ever after for Agent Carter, despite the whole show being built around the popularity of alternative Captain America.
The third love interest is Dr Wilkes, who finally succumbs to the evil I predicted dormant in the season premiere. Though he recompenses and eventually becomes a martyr – with a touch more plot left yet – it’s good to see him reach his full potential. It also speaks to the predictability of it all. At times Agent Carter can be a little by the numbers. Jaw-dropping moments are too far between.
Villian Whitney Frost’s plans to gain more power go awry when the rift she creates takes Dr Wilkes and not herself. He is imbued with extra power and rejects her proposal for an alliance, only to be captured and experimented on all the same. In the end he escapes and becomes a black-goo bomb. If the audience believes all involved with the explosion are dead than there will be no antagonist for the finale. Wilkes, Frost and maybe even Kurtwood Smith still have some kick in them yet.
It’s a shame they broadcast two episodes per night now. It’s a little exhausting, and there’s only so much forties’ prudishness one can take before it becomes too much. I’m invested in the story and the characters and I believe the series should be renewed for a dignified finale – even if it’s abbreviated – but I don’t want it to be a chore to watch.