TV Recap: Agent Carter, ‘Smoke & Mirrors’

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‘SMOKE & MIRRORS’ PLOT SUMMARY:

Determined to get some answers, Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Jarvis (James D’Arcy) track down the assassin that attacked Peggy. In flashbacks, previously unknown details of Carter and Frost’s (Wynn Everett) pasts are revealed.

When I reviewed the season premiere I wrote that Peggy has grown into more than just Captain America’s girlfriend. But it turns out, as shown in this week’s flashbacks, Carter was always more. We just didn’t know. And while Agent Carter doesn’t usually have flashbacks, the writers understood that they can work as long as they don’t feel too intrusive or forced. It’s unclear if this was a story that they wanted to tell for a while, or if it was crafted specifically for this episode. Either way, the revelations about Whitney Frost in the previous episode made this episode the best fit.

I had never imagined Peggy loving someone before Steve Rogers. She’s always been portrayed as very focused on her career and she obviously wasn’t looking for romance when she fell in love with Cap. That’s why it’s such a surprise that she was once engaged and came extremely close to going through with it. She didn’t actually start out the way we saw her in The First Avenger.

Coupling Carter’s flashback with Frost’s was a good decision, because unless some part of this season’s plot is going to tie into Peggy’s past, there’s no other appropriate time for it. Carter’s flashback is definitely more interesting, but it needs Frost’s to work. This is because Whitney’s life choices contrast Peggy’s. It might be a little bit preachy as a statement about female empowerment, and it might be undermined by the fact that Atwell is a beautiful actress like Frost, but overall it’s a solid message. More importantly, it provides Peggy with even more depth. That’s never a bad thing when it’s done this well.

Although the flashbacks are the highlight of the week, there’s a good deal more to discuss. In fact, I think I know who this season’s main villain is. While his inclusion in the premiere seemed insignificant, Vernon Masters’ (Kurtwood Smith) run-in with Carter makes me think he might become her biggest adversary of the season. That’s right. It’s Agent Carter versus Red Forman! But for now, Peggy has to deal with his lackeys and assassins.

The assassin (Chris Browning) doesn’t have it easy once Carter and Jarvis find him. Aside from some good comedy interspersed throughout his capture, his faceoff with Peggy is intense. For the most part, it’s also well written. Even though the Japanese didn’t break him during the war, I can believe that he would betray the Council of Nine if he erroneously thought he was going to die. Furthermore, he’s mostly just confirming their suspicions. Plus, it also makes sense when you consider he had a backup plan to blackmail Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham). It’s not perfect logic. These things rarely  have it. But it’s good enough.

One would have thought that the incorporeal Dr. Wilkes (Reggie Austin) and superhuman Whitney Frost would been the main focuses this week, but while some interesting things happen to both, the assassin’s ordeal and the flashbacks take up most of the run time. But that’s alright. It’s already obvious from the promo at the end that Killer Frost (wrong show, I know) will be featured more prominently next week. In fact, this is probably better, in terms of pacing.

All in all, another strong episode, one that makes it clear the show is still full of surprises. If Agent Carter keeps this up, the second season could very well surpass the first.

RATING: 8 OUT OF 10 (GREAT)

AGENT CARTER AIRS TUESDAYS AT 9PM ON ABC

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Aaron Sarnecky is Pop-Break’s television editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, among other things. He is a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in Television and Film. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed. Follow him on Twitter: @AaronSarnecky