Agent Carter: 203 “Better Angels” Review
Reviewed by Ollie Gregory.
Better Angels (the title of the third episode of Agent Carter, which I’m 99% sure you could have figured out) consists mainly of fallout from episode 2. Isodyne have painted Dr Wilkes as a Communist spy in an attempt to stop anyone caring about his death, and Whitney Frost is trying to get used to having a black mark on her forehead which gives her the ability to absorb people. Meanwhile, everyone’s favourite Jack Thompson comes back and it is revealed that the old man in episode one who Jack was talking to is somehow involved in the council that pulled the plug on the ‘Zero Matter” experiments (That is the worst name for something ever! Can we not just officially rename it ‘Evil Goo’). Oh, and Howard Stark is back, which is fantastic!
First and foremost, one of the things that struck me during this episode is how fantastic the 1940s setting is. Everything from set design to costume to dialogue to mannerisms to music just screams 1940s, and that makes you truly feel like a part of what is going on. Far too many of these period TV shows are held back by their budgets (I’ve no idea what the Agent Carter budget is to be honest, but I’d like to know) resulting in them feeling like something pretending to be from a different period in time, rather than actually being from a different period in time. I know all TV shows are pretend, but this show truly makes you feel like you’re living in the 40s.
One issue I have to address is the fact that Peggy (Hayley Atwell), despite being so noble, is the worst. First, in episode one, she says she doesn’t like movies. Okay, I understand that you live an exciting life so watching something on television probably isn’t as interesting to you as it is to us, but this episode you made it personal. ‘Basing a movie off a comic book. What a stupid idea!’ (Or something like that). Excuse me, Peggy, but me and a large number of my friends have to put up with people spewing that type of nonsense on a daily basis, and could do without our favourite character saying the same thing. Fortunately, Carter is likeable regardless, due to Hayley Attwell’s fabulous portrayal. I won’t go into it for a third time, but long story short, she’s consistently great.
One person I haven’t been able to sing the praise of thus far is one Dominic Cooper, Mr Howard Stark himself. This episode he makes his long anticipated (1 week) return to the show and he’s quite simply put, the best. He’s incredibly witty, got great presence, and is the perfect way for Agent Carter to be full of laughs without becoming silly. I feel I have a duty to love any character who loves films, but I’d love Howard Stark regardless. Regardless of their moral compass, any character who boasts charisma, and is so smug that if you knew them you’d definitely punch them in the face, should have as much time onscreen as possible. Give me more Howard Stark, please.
The reason this episode is as strong as it is, is the fantastic chemistry of Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper and James D’Arcy, who play Peggy Carter, Howard Stark and Jarvis respectively. All three actors are fantastic one their own, but together they gel so well. While all three actors are great in their own right, they’re even more fantastic when they’re together. Throw in a weird ultraviolet Reggie Austin as Jason Wilkes (Look I know it sounds odd, and it is odd, but if you watch the episode it oddly works) and you’ve got a situation where you can entertain your audience by merely putting four of your main characters in a room together. If that isn’t a sign of a great show, then I don’t know what is.
Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) continues her transformation into Madame Masque this episode, and we learn a little bit more about this council thing. It’s hard to properly understand the relationship between Frost and Chadwick (Currie Graham) at this point, with it seeming that Chadwick presumes he’s in charge as it is the 1940s and he’s a man, while Frost is truly the one in charge, as she is able to manipulate him. Her use of acting skills to work her way around Peggy’s interrogation was a nice scene, highlighting that she might not be as easy to crack as Peggy first anticipated.
My biggest complaint about this episode was the way Peggy just kept blaming herself throughout. Sure, it was probably the only realistic way for someone to react to what happened, but I grew tired of hearing ‘It’s all my fault’ or ‘What did I expect would happen?’ The fact she continued, even after we found out that Wilkes wasn’t dead made it more annoying still.
Other than that though, this episode was near flawless. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but we got a great scene involving Peggy actually being a spy. You can’t beat a highly tense sequence, involving someone hiding under a table while another armed person looks for them in ever place, other than under the table. On top of that, the fisticuffs by Stark’s pool was pretty great, with Mr Hunt (Shoutout to one of my teachers!) getting away unscathed, presumably to face Peggy again.
Despite all that was great with this episode, nothing really seemed to happen. A few pieces of information were given here and there, which I’m sure will amount to something huge towards the end of the season, but no major plot developments. This episode will forever be remembered as the one where Whitney Frost ate someone, Jarvis made a great joke about not wanting to be a disembodied voice, and Peggy said the greatest line in the history of television, ‘Oh, don’t be a ninny!’