‘Agent Carter’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 2, Episode 3: ‘Better Angels’
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.
Intrigue, suspense, suspicion, attempted assassination, and science are all afoot this week! “Better Angels” was directed by David Platt and written by Jose Molina.
Ziah: Okay, Chris, I gotta say, three episodes in, and this show is fantastic. The old-school Hollywood aesthetic still rules, the cast and writing are incredibly charming, and the fight scenes are well shot and choreographed. I can’t imagine anyone who enjoys Agents of SHIELD (period), who doesn’t watch this show, but according to ratings, there’s quite a few.
Guys. What are you doing? Agent Carter has everything you like about AoS --- the Marvel logo at the beginning --- with an actually good TV show following. Chris, how #blessed do you feel to be reviewing this show instead of Agents of SHIELD?
Chris: Honestly, I think my biggest problem with this show is that I enjoy it so much I forget to take notes and then I forget what all I wanted to talk about while I was watching it. This is a good problem to have!
Ziah: Most of my notes this episode were focused on how delightful everyone was and how Howard Stark sells the hell out of his charming d-bag role.
Chris: I did like that they had a few little moments in this episode that sort of balance out the over-the-top aspects of his public (and private, I guess) persona with his redeeming qualities. You know, the things that make him not just a loathsome, rich d-bag. They don’t beat you over the head with it though, which I think shows an appreciation for their audience’s intelligence.
Speaking of an appreciation for an audience, man, do we appreciate the commenters on last week’s column! You wonderful folks were great!
Ziah: Not only is this show a huge improvement over AoS, even you commenters are better and more helpful!
One of the commenters last week pointed out that Doctor Wilkes is based on an old Tales of Suspense character that was turned invisible and intangible due to a science experiment gone wrong which is… exactly what he turned out to be. I still hope that he becomes Blue Marvel, but I’m pleased he’s still on the show proper regardless. Speaking of, how about that chemistry between him and Peggy? I ship it like a singles cruise, buddy.
Chris: I wouldn’t hold my breath on that Blue Marvel bit, but there’s no denying the two of them make for a very handsome couple.
Ziah: Should I not hold my breath because I’ve been rendered intangible and thus can’t breathe?
Chris: Well, I’m no scientist, but I’m almost certain that’s definitely how that would work. I appreciate (I seem to say that a lot when I’m talking about this show) that this show seems to go to a little bit greater lengths to try to really science up the explanations for some of these crazy situations. Like, I said, I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure a lot of it is just fancy filler masquerading as believable science talk, but that extra effort is not wasted on me.
Ziah: And speaking of extra effort, I really love how Peggy Carter is established to have all these skills and strengths, but that’s balanced enough that she’s still a vulnerable heroine that needs her pals.
Even though she took out three dudes last episode, I was sort of tense watching her and Jarvis’ fight scene against the masked assassin! The close-up of her being choked and the obvious effect it had on her recovery time and marksmanship at the climax of the fight was a great subversion of the usual action hero shrugging off knife wounds and bullets while the fight’s still happening. She clearly got hurt and needed time to recover, and that attention to little details rather than going for easy rote tricks is part of why I love this show so much.
Chris: And not just her occasional physical vulnerability, but (jumping back slightly to Peggy and Dr. Wilkes) Hayley Atwell also imbues Peggy with not necessarily an emotional vulnerability, but an emotional depth, as with her desire not to lose Dr. Wilkes again after going through the psychological torment of thinking she was responsible for his death. I may sound like a broken record, but I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of talking about how wonderful Hayley Atwell and Peggy Carter both are.
Ziah: It’s just fantastic. She really sells every ounce of the character, and it’s so much fun to watch her play off of just about every member of the cast, even if she does hate comic book movies. (It’s okay, Peg, I think 2016 would agree with you at this point.) And how about that movie Stark’s directing? Nice reference to old Marvel history, and that cover was by amazing artists Chris Samnee and Jordie Bellaire! Fun little detour, I thought.
Chris: Whoa, what? Did I miss a better look at the cover of the Kid Colt comic or are we talking about something else?
Ziah: Nope! That cover that Stark holds up to the camera was drawn and colored by those two. You can tell because it looks fantastic.
Chris: Man, I completely missed that! I’m happy to have an excuse to rewatch the episode though, because I love both of them.
Ziah: So, how’d you feel about Peggy’s kinda-evil, definitely-misogynistic boss? I like that he still thinks he’s a hero, even when Peggy calls him out gloriously, and I actually found his awkward attempt to bond with Sousa sort of sweet. They’re probably setting him up for a redemption by the end of the season or something, but I really do appreciate how even characters that are pretty clearly cruddy people are given more than just broad strokes of personality, whether it’s through the writing or the acting or both.
Chris: I’m glad you brought Jack up, because my wife and I actually had a conversation about him and how he’s clearly a guy that acts like a dick, but that isn’t a bad person.
Like, he’s just a guy that’s been surrounded and manipulated by people that he’s had no reason to question, and that Peggy and the events unfolding around him are forcing him to question for the first time. His world view is getting shaken up, and he’s struggling to figure out what it all means. You hate how he treats Peggy sometimes, but you can see he has a respect for her that he’s not sure how to come to terms with. He gives Daniel a hard time, but you can also see that his attempt to apologize for some of that dickishness by way of taking him out for drinks to celebrate Daniel’s upcoming engagement is sincere.
It’s like you said, they absolutely didn’t have to make him this three dimensional, but that’s the difference between this show and Agents of SHIELD.
Ziah: That is exactly it. It really makes it feel like a world that’s lived in. It’s just little touches to make the characters feel like they have internal lives, instead of just being characters the writers thought of at 3 AM the day of because they didn’t have time to sit and think on it.
Like the (probable) season villain, Whitney Frost. They’ve done a great job adding layers to her character --- the brilliant scientist, skilled actress, manipulator --- without taking away from her inner life. For example, when Whitney gets protected by her director friend who immediately makes a pass at her, she’s clearly hurt, and she’s got moments of humanity even while she’s murdering people and hiring assassins that make her an interesting season villain.
Chris: Exactly. You’re sitting there just dying for Peggy to bust her one minute, and then you can’t help but feel for her as she’s threatened with being replaced with a younger actress so that director can be a creep at her. People that aren’t watching this show should be ashamed of themselves.
Ziah: Speaking of, did you catch the two masks prominently displayed in the background of Whitney Frost’s scene at the end of the episode? Nice little subtle foreshadowing there for the comic nerds in the audience. Any cool background deets you noticed this round?
Chris: Oh wow, man, I did not notice that at all! Good catch! The only Easter egg-y kind of thing I was focused on this episode was marvelling (pun possibly intended) at the fact that they went to the trouble of replicating Kid Colt’s costume so accurately.
Ziah: Well, here’s hoping they don’t replicate Kid Colt II’s costume so accurately (or even mention him at all).
Chris: The kinds of Easter eggs and little winks and nods to Marvel’s history this show finds ways to work in really makes them feel like more than just fan service. Does that make sense? They put the effort into working these little tidbits into the show in ways that enrich the main story instead of detracting from it by just being a big glowing distraction in the background.
“Effort” seems to be a word we use a lot when talking about this show also. I think the people working on this show know how special it is and want to do it and the characters justice at every step of the production. I really like this show if that’s not clear yet.
Ziah: If there’s anything I haven’t loved in the first three episodes, it’s Sousa’s character. I don’t feel a ton of chemistry between him and Peggy, primarily because they haven’t really had a lot of scenes together as of yet (I assume they had a budding romance in the first season). He also just hasn’t done much beyond tell Peggy, “Hey, we can’t actually do that”, which is a boring role for any character to play in an ensemble cast. Hopefully he gets more to do soon, because right now he’s the most boring part for me. What about you, Chris? Any negativity?
Chris: I get what you’re saying, and I guess I just have a little more patience or sympathy or whatever you want to call it for Daniel because of he and Peggy’s history on the first season. You really need to track down the first season, man! You’ll enjoy it!
Ziah: I’m definitely going to! I think it’s on Hulu, so that’s my plan for this weekend, and I’m sure it’ll make me like Sousa. But this season, he’s been a little bland. Other than that, I have no complaints; I like the gradual buildup of the season villain(s), the cast chemistry, the period-piece style. This is a good show, dude. Hopefully more people watch it so that we get another beautiful reprieve from Agents of SHIELD next year.
Chris: Well, the bad news is the first season is not on Hulu, so you may have to spring for the DVDs (which are currently on sale for $22.99 at Amazon, or as a digital download for $19.99). I think my biggest complaint is having to wait a week for another episode. I literally said “Nooo” out loud when this week’s episode cut to the end credits. I didn’t want it to be over yet, Ziah. I hope that the people that read our Agents of SHIELD reviews read these and see the difference it makes when we’re watching a show we can really enjoy and get into.
Ziah: Yeah! I’m having a good time chatting about this with you and getting my hopes up (not that reviewing Agents of SHIELD isn’t it’s own sort of “fun”) for what comes next. I’m definitely trusting the writers to go somewhere cool, and I’m really excited to watch it happen. Fingers crossed for Peggy Carter to adapt "Capwolf," but with Peggy Carter as Cartwolf!
Chris: Bringing my love of werewolves and Peggy Carter together at last!
Ziah: Alright, we’ll see you next week, Carter Crew!