TV Review: Agent Carter: “The Edge Of Mystery” (2X08) and “A Little Song and Dance” (2X09)

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On this week’s double dose of Agent Carter, not only did the cards get set in motion for the climax, but many of the major themes that the season has explored finally came to a head. Since the show hasn’t done a particularly great job of making the actual plot itself anything to write home about, it was the latter task that did most of the heavy lifting here. Fortunately, as we get closer to what will likely be Peggy Carter’s last ride (if ratings are any indication,) the writers are finally getting a bit creative as to how those themes are being presented. As it turns out, the most affecting and interesting of these devices is Jarvis’ arc, which has panned out really nicely from the singular use of him as bluntly simplistic comic relief at the beginning of the season.

This arc was given particular attention in The Edge Of Mystery. We started with a flashback to a moment from season one left unseen, the day Ana learned about Peggy Carter. As Jarvis prepares to embark on a caper with his new friend, Ana worries that Jarvis is going to get himself hurt in the process. Jarvis promises her that this will not be the case, and that Peggy “won’t interfere with [their] lives.” Well, that promise certainly went to shambles last week when Whitney Frost shot and hospitalized Ana, and with one look at Jarvis’ face over her bed, the quirky, kind hearted man we’ve known has gone completely away. James D’Arcy’s performance in this episode was nothing short of heartbreaking, especially when he found out that Ana (who as it turns out survived her attack) will now not be able to have children.  We saw a bloodthirsty, reckless side to Jarvis that could have seemed drastic in the hands of a lesser actor, but it becomes clear that his loyalty to those he loves can drive him to extreme anger, and his thirst for revenge became Peggy’s greatest worry in her next assault on Frost.

That very assault involved the rescue of Doctor Wilkes from Whitney, by trading her fake versions of the uranium rods she needs to trigger the weapon. Naturally, this did not go well, as some moron on Whitney’s team dropped the fake rods during the trade, revealing the fakeness. Wilkes, who barely found himself rescued, decided to turn on his friends and return to Whitney to further understand the zero matter and the “voices” inside of them. It’s a move that felt completely out of character for him, especially in the moment where he threatened Peggy at gunpoint to the point of almost shooting her, but frankly, that character has become such a plot device that he’s basically devoid of personality at this point. By inverse, Jack Thompson finally grew some common sense shortly after this sequence, finally realizing in the midst of trying to blackmail Peggy that Vernon has been playing him for a fool all along.

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Peggy now found herself with two secret weapons. The crafty and deceptive Thompson, and the technical specs for a gamma cannon sent by one Howard Stark, that luckily the ever reliable Dr. Samberly was able to whip up like a quick batch of pancakes. The final confrontation mounted itself in the desert, with Whitney and Wilkes opening up a black hole of zero matter that only Wilkes was sucked into. Luckily, the gamma cannon worked like a charm, and sent that black hole packing and Wilkes back to earth. However, this was not enough for Jarvis, who decided to go rouge and end Whitney Frost himself. Although it proved to be in-fatal, watching Jarvis directly disobey Carter and pump Frost full of lead at a moment’s notice was both unexpected and completely bad ass. It certainly didn’t do them a great deal of good though, as Whitney ordered their capture as the episode capped off.

And then…things got really weird, really quick.

A Little Song And Dance began with an extended dream sequence for Peggy. The first part was a welcome return to Smoke & Mirrors’ establishment of her brother, Michael soaked in black and white. While I don’t think the arc has been as fully realized as this moment seemed to think it was, it was nice to see her and her long lost brother validate that Peggy does in fact do her job for herself, and not others. If anything, it was a sequence lacking a bit of emotion on Attwell’s part, who fell a little short of conveying just how much she had been craving this conversation with her brother. Then…it transitioned to perhaps the strangest moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. All of a sudden, locations and characters from both seasons (including the very welcome return of Angie) took form on a large soundstage, and a musical number straight out of Singing in the Rain began. It’s Up To You put the love triangle between Daniel and Wilkes directly into the forefront, as the two men  sang and danced for Peggy’s heart. On one hand, this was a respectably bold and rather entertaining choice from a show that’s played it way too safe over the course of this season, but it also felt a little desperate. We’re in the most intense, and dramatic stage of the story, and I’m not sure Peggy would be dreaming about her romantic woes right at this moment. If only this came up earlier in the season when the tone was lighter, as the number would have worked much better there. Still, props to these weirdos for going there, it made me smile.

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The strangely comedic sequence seemed all the stranger considering the incredibly dramatic argument between Peggy and Jarvis that came to follow. After escaping the clutches of Whitney’s truck, these two finally got to have the conversation that has been building all season. Peggy, furious at Jarvis for his recklessness, finally addresses the fact that he has been treating these missions as “larks” the entire time, and that he ultimately lives a fairly sheltered life. It was a wonderful emotional breaking point for both characters, as Jarvis acknowledged that he has yet to experience the loss that Peggy has, and that his recklessness has no use. Atwell and D’Arcy really nailed this scene, making the argument suitably intense, while never loosing sight of the fact that this friendship isn’t ending anytime soon.

If I’m being frank, the episode unfortunately peaked there. The rest of it was mostly maneuvering chess pieces for the finale, and honestly, it was all a bit convoluted. This mostly comes from the still vague actions of Jack Thomson, who seems to switch sides every few pages. One moment he’s  organizing a ruse to trick Vernon into helping the cause, the next he’s sabotaging everybody and trying to use the now stolen gamma cannon as a bomb. Whitney still hasn’t evolved into the threat the show seems to think she is, and unfortunately Joseph Manfredi isn’t quite the shot in the arm that the henchmen side of things needed. He’s just a slightly more charismatic drooling idiot, and he’s about one more bowl of meatballs away from being a Mario level Italian stereotype. Things certainly ended in a promising way though, as Wilkes seemingly exploded from his mega dose of dark matter, consuming both Whitney and Vernon in his mayhem, and thankfully, only Whitney will likely come out alive.

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While most of these episodes served as set up for what should be a pretty hectic finale, they were saved by some wonderful character moments. Seeing a revenge fueled Jarvis was just as satisfying and interesting as I predicted it would be, and even the stranger moments (the musical number in particular) felt as though the show was at least trying to break up the monotony a bit. I just hope that as we move into the final battle, things can just go crazy, while giving us a satisfying conclusion that could serve as Peggy’s swan song if need be.

7.5/10

When Michael Fairbanks first saw Sam Rami's Spider-Man film back in 2002, everything changed. The experience began a lifelong passion for cinema that has gone undeterred since. In 2009 he began reviewing movies on Youtube, which ultimately sprang into a lifelong passion for film criticism and entertainment reporting. He is currently studying screenwriting at Chapman University. Aside from seeing movies, Michael enjoys making bad puns while playing video games, going on long late night drives, and socializing over large plates of food. For more of Fairbanks' movie reviews check out: https://fairbanksonfilm.wordpress.com