Agent Carter's Origin Story Helps Us to Love Our Hero Even More

Wednesday, 03 February 2016 - 10:15AM
Marvel
Agent Carter
Secret Wars
Wednesday, 03 February 2016 - 10:15AM
Agent Carter's Origin Story Helps Us to Love Our Hero Even More
Last week saw the return of Howard Stark, an incorporeal James Wilkes, and the rapid progression of Whitney Frost's new Zero Matter abilities. But this week was all about the flashbacks as we get a glimpse into the origins and backstories of both Frost and our own Peggy Carter.
 
This week we got a revealing look at what life was like for our heroine before her exploits in Captain America: The First Avenger, starting with a scene in which an adorable little Peggy beheads an imaginary dragon and saves a princess in her backyard. That Peggy has always been a hero at heart wasn't much of a revelation for her fans, but it was surprising to learn that she was formerly engaged to be married and walked away from her wedding dress in order to work as a field agent for the S.O.E.

As the episode digs deeper into Peggy's history, we learn that Steve Rogers was not the only loss she suffered. The tragic loss of her brother, Michael, in the war played a significant part in Peggy's induction to the S.O.E. We learn that it was Michael who recommended her to the S.O.E and encouraged her to seek out the "life of adventure" she always wanted. Despite working as a code breaker at Bletchley, Peggy wasn't always sure that she was "cut out" to be a field agent. During the scenes of her early days, it felt odd to see a more reserved Peggy concerned with being ladylike, which goes to show that society's expectations for women at that time had a profound impact on her. But as her brother says, she was meant to fight and, as we know, Agent Carter goes on to accept her destiny as a metaphorical dragon slayer. While occasionally clumsy, these flashback scenes brilliantly demonstrated Peggy's remarkable evolution into one of the greatest role models currently gracing our screens.
 
Those same restricting expectations that almost deprived the world of Agent Carter also led a young Agnes Cully to hide her brilliance behind the mask of Whitney Frost. Despite the fact that Frost's genius "defies categorization", she was rejected from the school she applied to on the basis that she was female.  Frost is told that her looks are the only thing worth pursuing and so her brilliance is doomed to remain unrecognized by the world. However, by hiding behind her fame she still managed to achieve scientific success, although that mask seems to be quickly slipping away over the course of the episode.  
 
Back in present times (or the 1940s in this case), Peggy and Jarvis catch sight of Mr. Hunt, the assassin from last week. Using some handy rhino tranquilizer, the two wrangle him into a trunk and drag him back to the mansion for questioning. After some creative interrogation techniques the team gets the evidence they need only to have it confiscated by corrupt government official Vernon Masters, a member of the Council of Nine (aka Arena Club). With this, it would seem that the Council of Nine is even more of a threat than previously thought as Masters brags/threatens that the Arena Club was responsible for President McKinley's assassination, Black Tuesday, and presumably numerous other shady historical events. This was a nice development as it continues to send the show deeper into a mythology that could have repercussions in other MCU properties, further solidifying Agent Carter's place in Marvel lore.


Peggy, being the independent thinker that she is, once again takes matters into her own hands and plants a bug on Mr. Hunt before letting him run back to Frost and Chadwick.  Meanwhile, Frost has been honing her powers using rats as test subjects before deciding to get rid of Mr. Hunt in a demonstration of her powers that will show her husband what she's capable of all at once. 
 
With Frost embracing her human/rodent absorbing powers it seems that she won't let anything stop her quest for domination- especially now she is slowly realizing she can do "whatever she wants" with the help of her Zero Matter abilities. However, her motives still remain somewhat unclear. Whether Frost's increasingly murderous tendencies are due to her strengthened resolve or the effects of Zero Matter is debatable, but the idea of a Carter/Frost match-up is certainly one to look forward to as the season continues.
 
This week the show delved into the compelling origin stories of Agnes Cully and Peggy Carter. The lack of the show's traditionally action-packed fight sequences didn't stop "Smoke & Mirrors" from being perhaps the most engaging episode of the season. This week saw Agent Carter do what is so often excels at, focusing on the development of its complex female leads and the many obstacles they must overcome to achieve their goals.

This episode also continued the trend of poking fun at some of the social issues of the time period, (quite a few of which are still problems today), but even though the flashbacks were a perhaps an all too convenient tool with which to explore these themes, these issues were approached with a softer touch than usual. Threats of communism, rampant sexism, and the "invisibility" of people of color are just some of the instances of injustice that the show has addressed this season using a well developed mix of sensitivity and satirical humor. These subtle digs at societal issues are a testament to the strong writing of the show, and they continue to be one of the key elements that make Agent Carter such a unique piece of entertainment.
 
With tranquilizer guns, spooky rat absorption, and interrogation by means of the common cold, "Smoke & Mirrors" was yet another stellar episode in what has so far been a season that is showing every sign of improving on its predecessor..
 
Next week's episode jumps back into to the action in a race against the clock in "The Atomic Job".
 
 
 
Best Lines:
 
"What a coincidence! He's got the same wound you inflicted on that attacker the other day."
 
 "Not the flamingo?" "The koala. It's adorable appearance belies a violent temperament."
 
"You gave him a cold." "An intense cold"
 
"We caught a possum on this property earlier this morning. Vicious little creature. Or… I have a man stashed in the boot."
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