Marvel’s Agent Carter 2×4 Review: Smoke And Mirrors


I have complicated feelings about this episode. Overall I enjoy Agent Carter, but occasionally it just rubs me the wrong way.

This show is consistently entertaining and Peggy Carter is my favorite character on television right now. The costuming is brilliant and the show always looks phenomenal. All these things are a constant, and as a result Agent Carter is just generally a great show. But there were parts of this episode that didn’t hit the mark for me; not because they were bad – it was more that they were bland. A show with such a fantastic premise and such an amazing cast shouldn’t be bland.

I hate flashback episodes. I am aware that they are staple trope on television, but they are lazy and often totally screw with established characterisations. Flashbacks in themselves are not bad; they can be used well, but more often than not they are dumped in as a easy way to explain backstory. When done well they can be a useful storytelling device, but most of the time they just waste valuable time.

ac3Here’s the deal: I actually kind of LOVED that they kind of acknowledged Peggy’s privilege in this episode by contrasting her origins to poor Agnes Cully. Both women are affected by sexism in different ways, but Peggy is offered an out – she is afforded opportunity that Agnes is not. Agnes has no choice but to play into stereotypes whereas Peggy’s money, access, and male family members means that she gets a choice. Peggy is offered a choice that most women, women like Agnes Cully, never get, and she tends to judge other women under the assumption they were afforded the same opportunities she was.

It was so great that they touched on Peggy’s privilege even slightly, but based on everything we know about Peggy I’m a little disappointed by the ease of her origin story. It works in a way because it reads basically like a white male super hero – someone is killed to force her into becoming the hero she was always destined to be. But Peggy always acts like this is something she’s been working towards, something she’s been fighting for all her life. I wanted to see Peggy want to be a spy, not just because her brother wanted her to.

See, this is why I don’t like flashback episodes. All they do is give you a lazy highlight reel filled with clunky dialogue that presents a fairly two-dimensional look at someone’s life. Those male heroes I was comparing Peggy’s backstory to, they get a whole movie to help people understand why they deserve to be a hero. Peggy got four scenes. Four scenes that largely revolved around her relationship with men. Her mother was there, but that relationship was not really developed at all. Peggy’s whole story is littered with men, and it’s becoming a problem.

Speaking of the lack of women, the non-flashback moments of this episode were lacking female supporting players. This is the second week we have been without Rose and Ana. I’m actually fairly sure this episode didn’t pass the Bechdel test, which is super disappointing. I don’t hate Sousa, but I’m starting to resent him a little for taking the time that could be used to develop a relationship between Peggy and literally any other woman. Good news was that Thompson was MIA.

Everything else was pretty fun. The tension between Peggy and Dr. Thunderstuck continues to sizzle. James D’Arcy somehow manages to make utterly ridiculous lines like “Jarvelous” somewhat endearing. Everything about Whitney’s slow descent into supervillain-dom is brilliant. I especially love the fact that instead of freaking out about her face, she decides to experiment on herself and then just go full murder at the drop of a hat. Basically this show is great, but it’s not everything it could be.

Author: Undie Girl

Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.

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