Saturday, 30 January 2016

Review - Agent Carter: 2x03 - "Better Angels"


Agent Carter
Episode 2x03 - "Better Angels"

Synopsis

Distraught after the apparent death of Dr Wilkes, Peggy increases her efforts to discover what is happening behind closed doors at Isodyne Energy, raising the ire of Whitney Frost and the shadowy Arena Club. Meanwhile, Howard Stark becomes embroiled in events when his scientific know-how becomes critical to solving the mysteries surrounding Zero Energy.

Review

As with the first series of Agent Carter, Dominic Cooper reprises his role as Howard Stark but in a guest star capacity. While the plot of the original series provided a fairly credible narrative 'excuse' for his absence, it feels slightly more obvious that it's a scheduling issue in this season as Stark disappears to Peru to find one of his old mentors. However, no matter how fleeting his appearance, Stark's presence definitely propels the story in new directions as his scientific expertise allows Peggy to discover more about the season's latest MacGuffin, the Zero Matter. The writer's throw a nice curve-ball by making the viewers think Peggy has been infected by the Zero Matter, but it transpires that she's actually being “haunted” by the “ghost” of Doctor Wilkes, who is able to regain visibility, thanks to Stark's convenient inventions. I'm confused by the inconsistency of the Zero Matter and how it affects people in different ways, causing the female Isodyne worker to freeze to death, Doctor Wilkes to lose his corporeal form and whatever is going on with Whitney Frost. While it adds an air of unpredictability to the compound, it does stretch credibility somewhat.

The investigation into the Arena Club forms the bulk of this episode and I really enjoyed the tense sequence where Peggy attempted to sneak out of their inner sanctum without being seen by the security thug. It was a great way to inject some tension into an episode that was relatively free of action sequences, apart from the assassination attempt towards the end. The majority of the episode was spent developing the mystery surrounding Isodyne and the Arena Club, but also fleshing out the character of Whitney Frost, who is revealed to be a Soviet scientist masquerading as a Hollywood starlet. This incarnation of the character is quite the departure from the modern-day Marvel Comics version, giving her super-powers to go along with the shift in time-line. However, I do like that the series is concentrating on her loss of beauty with the scar on her face – hopefully it will develop further and bring her closer to her Marvel Comics counterpart with her Madame Masque persona.


The arrival of Jack Thompson in Los Angeles not only reunites the original cast from Season One, but reminds viewers how much of an arsehole he is. Clearly his insecurities surrounding Peggy's competence are driving his actions, leading him to become more embroiled in the conspiracies with the Arena Club and the Council of Nine. While he may be a bit of a dick, there seems to be some chance that he may redeem himself and help Sousa and Carter with their investigations. Much like with the Season One storyline, there are plenty of storyline elements blending together with the communist threat and this mysterious secret society both striving for control of the Zero Matter. I'm looking forward to seeing where Dottie Underwood fits into all of this when she inevitably returns to the fray – it seems that Jack's friend (played by Clarence Boddicker from Robocop!) is responsible for freeing her from custody and may have plans in hiring her to work for the Arena Club.

This was a solid episode for the series, which focused more on developing the plot further without any real standout action set-pieces. Clearly, the return of Howard Stark was the core attraction for the episode and events seemed to revolve around his brief guest-spot. I'm intrigued to see where the series is going as we've not got a clear motivation behind Whitney Frost's machinations or the purpose behind the Arena Club's Council of Nine. However, unlike Season One's more mystery-focused story-arc, this adventure feels less dense and multi-layered which is surprising considering that the season contains an additional two episodes. Hopefully, the remaining seven episodes will flesh out the story-arc without dragging the pace down to a snail's crawl. While I do enjoy the Los Angeles setting and the quick banter between the lead characters, this second season of Agent Carter lacks the same punch as the opening episodes of the original.


Score - 9.4 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Howard Stark is making a Western movie based on the adventures of Kid Colt. Kid Colt is a cowboy character who appeared in numerous Western-themed comic series from Marvel Comics, even travelling in time to the modern era at times. (First app: Kid Colt # 1)
  • When showcasing the new alarm system, Jarvis comments on how he’d hate to exist as a disembodied voice, unwittingly foreshadowing Tony Stark’s A.I. support system J.A.R.V.I.S, which was based on his father’s butler, as seen in Iron Man.

Mysteries
  • Where exactly did the Zero Matter come from?
  • What is happening to Whitney Frost?

Next Episode - "Smoke and Mirrors"
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.

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