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‘Agent Carter’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 2, Episode 5: ‘The Atomic Job’

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With Agents of SHIELD taking a much-needed winter break, Marvel’s other spy adventure series, Agent Carter, is back for a two-month engagement, with Hayley Atwell reprising her role as Peggy. Our AoS recappers Agent Ziah Grace and Agent Chris Haley are on hand to review the highs and lows as Agent Carter relocates to Los Angeles to bring down new foes.

This week Peggy and the gang have to plan not one, not two, but three heists, get some new help in the field, and deal with a serious construction related injury. Also, there’s a proposal! “The Atomic Job” was directed by Craig Zisk and written by Lindsey Allen.

Ziah: Chris, I love three things in a life otherwise dominated by negativity and criticism: heists, period pieces, and Hayley Atwell doing things, and this episode delivered all of it. We finally get hi-tech spy shenanigans, and Daniel Sousa finally gets to do something other than be a less charming Jarvis. Overall, what’d you think of this episode?

Chris: Well, obviously I loved it. I can’t believe it’s only been a week since the last episode, though because it feels much longer. This show is great! I don’t know if the readers are sick of me saying that, but if they’re reading this they probably watch the show and know how great it is and are just sitting there kind of nodding in agreement with a satisfied look on their face knowing that they’re better than everyone who isn’t watching this show. Leave a comment if that’s exactly what you’re doing right now.

You know, Ziah, I didn’t realize we had so much in common before we started doing these reviews, but I also love those three things! And this week’s episode certainly delivered on them. Especially in the “Hayley Atwell Does Things” department. She’s basically a force of nature and a wonder to behold every week, but I think she had to do even a little more than usual this week. I’m sure we’ll get into all of that shortly. I still think you’re being too hard on ol’ Daniel, but I was glad to see him have a little more to do this week too.

Ziah: It’s crazy how much we’ve bonded over talking about a not-terrible show, huh? And man, I absolutely agree. This was an excellent showcase for Atwell, who just continues to single handedly justify Marvel’s TV work.

And speaking of justifying TV work; I’ve been a fan of Ken Marino since The Slate, so I might be blinded by my nostalgia here, but Marino’s a fun addition to the show, huh? A charismatic, gangster ex-fling of Whitney Frost’s with a quick temper and a weird sense of humor is exactly what the villainous side of things needs, especially now that Peggy’s got her heist team together. Chris, what’d you think of everyone’s third-favorite Party Down actor joining the cast?

Chris: This continues the show’s comedians/comedic actors in smaller roles gimmick and I couldn’t be happier about it! Big time The State fan here as well, though hearing that we have this in common too, I’m now convinced you must own a time machine you haven’t told us about. Not only did we get Ken Marino doing some great “change gears so fast you’re going to ruin the transmission” acting, but from what I understand (AKA I looked at IMDB), we haven’t seen the last of mob boss Joseph Manfredi. This also adds another obviously controlling and manipulative man from Whitney’s past that she’s managed to escape. This only makes me like her more.

 

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Ziah: Oh definitely, the casting for Whitney Frost: Secret Genius Movie Star is really heating up with the addition of her old flame. Once again, I’m really pleased by this show’s ability to either cast likable, charismatic actors or write the heck out of these bit parts so that even run-of-the-mill characters feel new and exciting.

Chris: Speaking of the comedians gimmick and couples, we also got the return of Matt Braunger as Dr. Samberly and Lesley Boone as Rose. What’d you think of their little light-hearted interactions?

Ziah: I thought they were fun, but mostly forgettable to be honest. Rose getting bloodthirsty and not actually being all that interested in Dr. Samberly was fun, but I wasn’t blown away by them. Still, they fulfill a fun pair of roles on the show, so I’m definitely not against them reappearing.

Chris: Yeah, it was what it was, but it wasn’t bad. The only thing about it that bothered me was when Rose said, “You got this” to Dr. Samberly, because I’m fairly certain that phrase was not around in the 40s. Correct me if I’m wrong, Readers Over the Age of 70!

We mentioned the heists and our love of them earlier, so let’s get into those. Jason has a weird interaction with some Zero Matter and can suddenly feel where Jane Scott’s body is being held. Peggy and Jarvis try to break into the cold storage facility and sneak her out, but wouldn’t you know it, Whitney and Calvin show up at the exact same time!

Ziah: Yeah, this Zero Matter stuff has honestly ended up being the same kind of McGuffin-magic that the Marvel movies use, and it’s starting to really bore me. It’s so archetypal and vague that it basically just exists to move the plot forward. Why does Whitney need more Zero Matter? The show doesn’t really make it clear! She can already explode a man. Why did it affect Wilkes differently? It doesn’t really matter. Like the infinity gems in the movies, it exists to do something until something else happens, and that’s fine. I watch this show to see Hayley Atwell do cool stuff and be charming, but we might as well note some BS when we see it.

Chris: I don’t know, I think calling it boring is a little much. I mean, we know it’s going somewhere, but can you blame the plot device that’s driving the bus that gets you to your destination? The journey is part of the fun!

When the first heist doesn’t work, the gang has to pull a second heist to get a key so they can pull the third heist! What’d you think of Peggy’s Kelly Sue DeConnick disguise?

 

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Ziah: Yeah, I was debating whether to mention this, but man, it is so clearly Kelly Sue DeConnick, huh? Crazy. I loved this scene. Atwell playing a ditzy secretary and continually zapping Ray Wise’s Council of 9 Boss over and over again was hilarious.

Chris: And finally, the third heist that goes from fun and cute and funny to tense and then to slightly more tense and finally to downright brutal when Peggy loses her first fight with Whitney! Ziah! Thoughts!

Ziah: This was really good. Peggy’s brief fight with Whitney did a good job of showing how dangerous the latter has become, and when Peggy got impaled by the steel rod, I genuinely gasped. That is a horrific bit of violence to inflict on Peggy, especially in a largely-bloodless show, and I think it really got across how effective Whitney can be, even under duress.

Chris: I forgot to mention it earlier, but Manfredi’s beating of his stooge was pretty brutal as well. I’m sure I gasped as well when they did that slow reveal on Peggy’s wound. I know she’s tough, but jeeeeeez. She should have gone to the hospital. Or, you know, gone back to the Stark compound and let Howard bring in a team of private doctors. No offense to Violet, but I think “impaled by rebar” goes a little beyond a nurse’s capabilities even if it did miss all of Peggy’s vitals. (Correct me if I’m wrong, Readers Who Are Nurses!)

Ziah: Speaking of, I know fans of season one might still be holding out hope that Sousa and Peggy remain the show’s OTP, but I actually way prefer his relationship with Violet. She’s smart and compassionate, and the actress does a really great job of getting across a lot of emotions in a really short time. This episode definitely put their relationship to the test, first with a frankly adorable proposal and then the unfortunate truth that Sousa might still have the hots for our favorite British secret agent. Chris, what’d you think about this development?

 

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Chris: Well, you’re absolutely right about the actress that plays Violet, Sarah Bolger. She has the incredibly unenviable task of having to be a lady you believe stands a chance for someone’s affections against Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter.

With all the (duly earned) praise we heap upon Hayley/Peggy every week, you know it takes someone special to pull that off, but Sarah/Violet does it. Similar to what they did with Whitney, the writers take a character that a lazier show would be happy to just write as flat and unlikeable, and give her the kind of emotional depth and character texture that makes you want to root for her. Even though both of these women are in direct competition with Peggy (in very different ways), you don’t hate them. That’s amazing!

Ziah: Absolutely, it’s the little touches that the writing and the actress give to her character; her cautious wielding of a baseball bat when she thinks she’s been robbed to her immediate attention in helping Sousa find the lost ring, it makes Violet feel well rounded in a way that we haven’t really seen in many other shows in a similar vein.

Chris: That whole scene where she’s trying to help find the ring was just so great.

If I had to complain about anything with the Violet subplot, it’s that her realization/reaction/accusation of Daniel’s possible feelings was a touch overdramatic. But then again, it was the 1940s, and I’m led to believe things were more melodramatic then. All TV and movies set in the past have to be 100% factually accurate, right?

That said, that’s being really nitpicky just to try to stay objective, and if I’m being honest, if I was Daniel’s girlfriend and Peggy showed up anywhere in the same state, I’d be flipping out, because who wouldn’t be in love with her?

Ziah: It’s also true that Sousa probably could’ve been up-front with his fiance that he’s currently working with his ex-crush, but that’s why people love Sousa, I guess: his strong moral fortitude and forthrightness.

Well Chris, the writing’s starting to appear on the wall that Agent Carter may be doomed. While I can’t say I’m surprised, it’s still a shame that such a competently made show with such an energizing lead actress might be on the chopping block, and I really can’t say I’m looking forward to getting back to those other Marvel Agents we review. But while the months ahead may be long and arduous, coming up soon we’ve got more Ken Marino, more Hayley Atwell, and more period piece spy adventures, so it’s not all bad!

Chris: Man, you have got to stop saying doom and gloom things like this every week. This is why people don’t watch. People are like, “I hear that show is good, but Ziah said it’s already been cancelled so why bother.” Then they just go sit in a dark room and stare at a wall or watch Big Bang Theory or whatever.

Yes, the show’s ratings aren’t as good as they should be, but the times they are a-changin’ and things like interest on Hulu and Netflix and iTunes and DVD sales and serious Twitter chatter can make a big difference. And even though Hayley Atwell is doing a pilot for another show on ABC, it’s already been explained that because of where Agent Carter fits in the annual schedule, if both shows get picked up, ABC will schedule the filming around her so she can do both.

So let’s do what Peggy would do and stay positive and resolute in our belief that good can be done! If you like this show, tell a friend about it. Invite a few friends over to watch it with you every week (for the next two weeks)! Make a whole little weekly party out of it. Dress like you’re from the 40s. Tweet about how great the show is. Make your voice heard!

 

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