Review: Agent Carter S2 Ep4 – ‘Smoke & Mirrors’

By February 3, 2016

On this week’s episode of Agent Carter, Peggy and Sousa get some actionable intel, Dr. Wilkes is starting to lose himself, Vernon continues to be a scumbag and we get flashbacks. Loads of flashbacks. Let’s talk about ‘Smoke & Mirrors’.

This was a filler episode. And that’s not necessarily always a bad thing. Sometimes you need an episode here and there to catch your breath and give us bits of information that we can store away for later. We also learned, not only more about Whitney Frost, but we learned even more about Peggy Carter.

Peggy and Jarvis are keeping a watchful eye on Ms. Frost and her husband now that they of their connection to Isodyne. In doing so, Peggy notices that their driver/bodyguard, Mr. Hunt, is sporting the same injury that she gave to her would be assassin. This leads to more Peggy and Jarvis shenanigans that we’ve all grown to love.

Jarvis just so happens to have a tranquilizer rifle in the trunk for whenever the animals in Mr. Stark’s preserve get out of hand. And as Jarvis points out, it’s those pesky Koalas that you have to watch out for. The two of them track down where Mr. Hunt lives and Jarvis pretends to be the police by using a particularly horrible American accent forcing Hunt to run from his home. Peggy must use a couple tranq darts to take him down. Of course that’s still not quite enough as Hunt is able to stick Jarvis with a dart before Peggy is able to knock him out. 

With Hunt bouncing around the trunk and Jarvis all loopy, Peggy tries to sneak one past Sousa as she tries to get them into Mr. Stark’s residence. But Sousa isn’t no fool. And Peggy wasn’t exactly smooth about trying to ditch him. While the abduction of Hunt is of course illegal, Sousa is more upset with Peggy not letting him in on her plans so that he could have provided backup. Through a bit of clever interrogation techniques, they are able to trick Hunt into giving them some key intelligence on the members of the Arena Club and where they store recordings of their meetings. Well, one might call it torture rather than a straight of interrogation. Peggy injects him with a serum that Stark created giving Hunt the common cold all while telling him she was giving him a deadly strain of Malaria. Clever girl.

However, just as Sousa was rounding up the troops, Vernon and the FBI raise their ugly heads with an executive order to audit the SSR. Vernon, as we know, is in with the Arena Club crowd (and a scumbag) and tries to pull Peggy’s source out of her. She’s on to him of course. He hurls a sugar coated threat at her pretty much saying to watch her back and that she has no idea what’s coming. Sousa heard the same spiel but he’s not about to budge either. He was able to secure some evidence before it was all confiscated by the FBI, so he and Peggy are off to continue their investigation on their own.  Go Team Peggy!

On the Zero Matter front, Dr. Wilkes has started seeing that Zero Matter breach(?) and he feels himself slipping away. He is feeling himself being towards something and he doesn’t know if he has the strength or will to go on. Peggy consoles him and reassures him that they will find a way to help him. Wilkes is longing for Peggy and she definitely cares for him but as we see so does Sousa. He may be engaged but the flame for Peggy has not quite died. And speaking of Zero Matter, Ms. Frost has begun testing out her new abilities to see exactly what she is capable of. We exactly what she is capable of when she murders Hunt after his “escape” from Peggy and Sousa. Her new found power coupled with her intelligence is making a force to be reckoned with.

This was all good stuff that pushed the overall plot of the season along, but I thought the meat of this episode was in the flashbacks. We learned a great deal about Agnes Cully and her transformation into Whitney Frost.  We also got backstory on Peggy that I didn’t even know I wanted until it happened. Let’s dive into the lives of these two women.

Both Agnes and Peggy grew up with the desire to be something that society deemed that there was no place for. Strong, smart and extremely capable women. Agnes was a genius from a very young age. She was a tinkerer, interested in science and technology. Her mother on the other hand told her she was not going to make it in this world unless she put on a smile and acted how everyone else perceived that she should. Peggy longed for adventure and thrills. Something that was not exactly encouraged behavior for a lady.

Agnes grew up fighting and rebelling against what the perception of her should be. It wasn’t until she moved to Los Angeles where she was confronted with the fact that for her to make it she was going to have to put on a “smile” and become someone she was not.  She saw this as the only way to get to a place to where she could be whoever she wanted to be. Peggy, on the other hand, took a completely different path.

Peggy shed the desire for adventure and started leading the life everyone thought that she should.  Well…everyone except her brother, Michael.  She became a code breaker and was engaged to be married. That one came out of nowhere! I didn’t see that one coming. He fiancee, Fred, was nothing like the other men that we have seen her life. He was nothing like Steve (who is?), not like Sousa, Dr. Wilkes or even remotely close to the Howling Commandos whom she has formed strong bonds with.

We learned that she had be nominated to be a part of the SOE where she would be trained as a spy to be out in the field. You could tell she was conflicted as she had been conditioned through most of life that this wasn’t the right path for her, but there was still a twinkle of young Peggy deep down that wanted to do this. Michael nominated his sister for the SOE as he knew his sister better than anyone and this was the opportunity Peggy had been waiting her whole life for. Even if she didn’t know it yet.   We saw that they had an extremely close bond as children and he knew that she would be perfect for the SOE and that this life she had setup for herself was not for her.

This episode then decides to hit us with the major feels. Having never heard Peggy mention her brother before, when he showed up and the fact that he was a soldier, I had a feeling he died in the war but I was not prepared for what they showed us.  When we saw the soldiers speaking to her mother you knew what was coming but it was Peggy’s reaction (more specifically Hayley Atwell’s performance) that really landed the gut punch. Her slow realization of what had happened followed by the flood of emotions over the loss of her brother was absolutely crushing. Those few scenes of her and her brother together established their relationship so well. It was as if we had known of him this entire time. Seeing her breakdown caused me to go all misty-eyed. Heck, I’m starting to now. That was an immensely powerful scene. Michael’s death propelled her into the SOE and to becoming the Peggy Carter that we know and love today.

These dual flashback showed us the masks that these women put on through the years in order to get them where they are today. It’s what shaped them into the strong characters that they are now. These flashback scenes may not have been important to the main story arc of the season, but they were extremely relevant in further defining these characters. Like I said earlier, this episode may have been filler but it was extremely satisfying.

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Christopher Skalicky
Chris, a film and television junkie, grew up on Star Wars, all things Disney, Stargate SG-1 and a healthy dose of John Wayne. When not thinking about movies he is busy being an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. He will also argue that Surf Ninjas is the greatest movie about surfing ninjas ever made. Tweet him at @Schlick51