Agent Carter: 204 “Smoke & Mirrors” Review
Reviewed by Ollie Gregory.
With its fourth episode, Agent Carter begins to delve into some of its main character’s backstories, namely Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Whitney Frost/Agnes Cully (Wynn Everett), as we learn about how they came to be the people they are today. We also get more detail about the different affects that Isodyne is having on Frost, and Dr Wilkes (Reggie Austin), and how the characters are learning to deal with the changes to their body.
As soon as Smoke & Mirrors begins we’re introduced to a young British girl, running around pretending to slay dragons and beating up her older brother. It does not take long to realise that this young girl is everyone’s favourite, Peggy Carter. Surprisingly, the incredibly young actress playing Peggy (Gabriella Graves), was pretty good. I can’t do an in-depth analysis of her performance, as she was onscreen for maybe a minute, but she wasn’t terrible.
Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said of the two young actresses playing differently aged version of Agnes Cully (Ivy George and Olivia Welch), who were both fairly terrible.
Child actors aside, the stories of Peggy and Agnes were both interesting, and nicely paralleled one another. As usual with these types of show, we learn that Agnes was a victim of circumstance, who was constantly told to ignore her intelligence and focus on using her attractiveness instead. Peggy, on the other hand, was told by many people to become a field agent, yet wanted to get married and go and live peacefully instead. Although these side stories didn’t really fit with the rest of what was going on, it was interesting to see the ways women of different class were treated differently during this time period, and also gave us a stronger sense of who the characters were.
While Howard Stark wasn’t back (it’s really hard to put a crying face inside of brackets), the chemistry between Jarvis (James D’Arcy) and Peggy was as excellent as ever. Surprisingly great this episode, and coming into his own for the first time this season, was Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj). With the love triangle put largely on the back-burner, Sousa was given a chance to properly be an SSR agent, teaming with Peggy to get information out of Rufus Hunt (Chris Browning), and even delivering some great comedic lines.
One of the things that, at least to me, was really interesting was the exploration of what Wilkes was going through. The vivid descriptions of how he couldn’t touch or feel things and the way he couldn’t sleep or eat, yet didn’t get tired or hungry, were fairly uncomfortable just to listen to. This, however, didn’t stop him flirting with Peggy, claiming that it was all worth it, just to get to spend time with Peggy. As much as this did slightly lack believability, it did make you want to give Wilkes a subtle fist bump and a wink of approval.
What was even more horrifying then the description of what Wilkes was going through, was the way Whitney Frost used her power. Whether it was when she was using it on mice towards the start of the episode or using it on Mr Hunt towards the end, the result was pretty much the same, with the victim excreting a black liquid with a syrup-like consistency out of every hole. It was unpleasant to watch, but a nice little effect regardless.
Although the episode was enjoyable, there were some very evident problems. This was the first episode where I felt the episode crossed that line of silliness. I can’t actually remember what the exact event was (sorry), although I know it wasn’t Jarvis being passed out in the car, or Mr Hunt not going down after taking a tranquilliser dart that could subdue a Rhinoceros (Did anybody else think the way Peggy said ‘Rhinoceros’ was amazing?) because both them moments were great, but there was definitely a moment where things got too much and I turned from laughing to cringing.
There was also the incredibly clichéd notion of Peggy not being lady-like. For a show that’s so far made Peggy a fantastic independent character, without patting themselves on the back for having a female lead, it was a shame to see the writers take the character down such a boring and predictable road. Writers, no one finds Peggy shoving food in her mouth funny or clever!
I also have a slight problem with Whitney Frost. It’s nothing huge, and I’m really enjoying the character as a whole, but even after the reveal that she’s some sort of super scientist, she just doesn’t come across as intelligent. Manipulative, yes, but intelligent, no. While this is largely due to her trying to hide who she is, thinking back to old scenes, such as the one in the Isodyne labs with Dr Wilkes, or any scene where she’s by herself, she still doesn’t come across as that generation’s Einstein. This may change as the season progresses, but as of right now, it is bothering me slightly. As a whole though, I’m really enjoying the character. Wynn Everett is fairly chilling, and the final scene, where she grabs Mr Hunt by the throat and stares him dead in the eyes while absorbing him was absolutely sensational. This episode was the first time we saw the Madame Masque emerge from Frost.
Other than that pretty cool torture scene and the choreographed escape, there was little to no action this episode, not that this is a bad thing. There were a few scraps here and there, but it didn’t follow the formula that every other superhero show seems to follow, with there being 20 minutes of exposition followed by a small action sequence, in which the hero loses, followed by another 20 minutes of exposition and then a big action sequence, in which the hero wins. It’s great to see a show of this genre that can maintain the audiences interest without throwing cheap excitement onscreen.
There was a lot of fun, and a lot of reveals this episode. Kurtwood Smith’s Vernon Masters (Scary old guy who has been corrupting Jack Thompson) showed his dominance over Peggy, stopping her from searching the chemical plant that was full of evidence incriminating Calvin Chadwick and his pals. Peggy’s annoyance at such a decision and argumentative response to Masters is the type of thing that made Peggy such a popular character to begin with.
A well written, well acted, exciting forty minutes of television. While it doesn’t leave you craving more, it’s a solid episode, showing that Agent Carter doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.