AGENT CARTER 2×03 Debriefing: Frosty relations

peggy wilkes

Hot on the trails of last week’s disaster, Peggy and the SSR are on the hunt for clues about what happened to Dr. Wilkes and Whitney Frost. Can they find out what happened to the Zero Matter before it starts another ice age?

What they do in fact find is a lot of evidence pointing Wilkes towards the communists; could he have been a Soviet spy? Peggy refuses to believe it, both because of her knowledge of the scientist, and because, for a spy, he sure left everything out in the open– as though maybe someone wanted him to get caught. Peggy suspects Isodyne is framing him, and using the SSR to clean up for them. (She’s also feeling extremely guilty over his death — poor Peg — even though everyone assures her it wasn’t her fault.)

Off she and Jarvis go to seek Howard Stark’s help — he does exist! — by way of interrupting his movie shoot. His “historical drama” (aka Western) is no match for the mystery of Zero Matter, and the millionaire playboy even solves another riddle, by informing them that the curious pin they found on the henchmen (and which Dottie tried to steal) belongs to members of the Arena Club, the most exclusive society in Los Angeles, where the ranks are “male and pale.” (Jarvis isn’t even pale enough for them! After all, he’s 1/16th Turkish.)

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Meanwhile, Whitney Frost seems to be adjusting to post-Zero life, though clearly on edge about that ominous scar on her forehead. She even asks her husband, the would-be Senator Chadwick, if she can retire from acting for good — of which he approves, only after his campaign is over. Once he wins, she can quit the business and “have all the babies” she wants, which probably isn’t exactly the angle she was going for, but something tells me Chadwick’s ambitions won’t last very long if his wife has any say in the matter. Just like last season’s Peggy, Whitney’s being seriously underestimated and stereotyped by the men in her life, and there’s no doubt she’ll be a force to be reckoned with when she embraces her power.

At the SSR, Peggy and Sousa arrive to find Jack Thompson waiting for them; New York’s most irritating headed west to clean up their “mess,” which means doctoring Peggy’s report to reflect the party line about Wilkes’ supposed spy tendencies. She refuses to sign it, and clearly hits a nerve when she spits back that the only communist in this equation is Dottie Underwood — who Peggy doesn’t yet know is now in the FBI’s custody. That makes him snap, and he orders her back to New York, throwing her off the case. She storms out, just like old times, but not before the audience witnesses her keys and pen floating above her desk. Spooky!

Off to Stark Mansion we go, where we find Howard doing what he does best — entertaining women and nursing a hangover. Peggy’s hatching a plan to break into the Arena Club for a little reconnaissance work, and needs his help, but he isn’t too amenable, given the lack of female presence there. In other words, it’s boring. Peggy assures him otherwise, and he reluctantly follows. (That may be due to her stealing his drink. Gotta love her beckoning him like a dog!)

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Thompson gives in to curiosity, and watches the Isodyne movie reel about the Zero Matter explosion, on Peggy’s cue. He’s definitely shaken by the footage, but before he can delve into it further, he’s interrupted by Agent Red Foreman Masters, who we learn invited him out to the west coast for this spot check anyhow. He wants the Isodyne evidence that Wilkes stole back, but Thompson is confused, because he was under the impression that nothing was recovered (or at least acts that way). He’s also suspicious about how the Isodyne incident falls under a breach of national security, and seems like he’s beginning to understand the depths of this investigation. At Masters’ urging, he agrees to hand over anything should he find it, but this case is definitely getting murkier by the minute.

Meanwhile, Peggy’s sting op is well underway: Howard, who has been courted by the club for years, pays them a visit, bluffing about wanting to join. The joint is every bit as dull as he imagined, so phase 2 of this plan begins, by way of a “code pink” — aka Howard inviting all of the women from his pool party into the hallowed halls of the men-exclusive club. It’s anarchy with a martini! This causes enough of a distraction for Peggy to get to work, sneaking through hallways like a pro to plant bugs. Inside a library, she’s nearly caught when a hidden door opens and a bunch of men exit, having just finishing a meeting; this is the same room where Chadwick was urged to play nice last week. We’ve just discovered where The Council meets, and another puzzle piece falls into place!

As they leave, we see Chadwick tell a crestfallen man that he’s just “secured his country’s future”. Once Peggy’s in the clear, she sneaks into the secret chamber, and notices a newspaper identifying the man as a senator who steps out of the race — only, the newspaper is dated for tomorrow. But before she can do some more sleuthing, someone returns to the room, and she has to act fast to hide under the table. The bug she tries to plant screeches, so she immediately tries to destroy it before she gets caught. It’s a cat and mouse game, because Peggy realizes it’s the same man who was after her last episode. She manages to escape by causing a distraction by way of setting the broken bug on fire, and is further assisted out of a tricky spot with a nosy waiter by Jarvis and a charming Howard.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

At the SSR, Thompson is livid that Peggy and Howard infiltrated a private club without a search warrant in America. Peggy reveals what she learned, about them “knowing” the future because they controlled it through the media, with a little help from Sousa on reading between the lines in the article. (“I speak Hollywood now.”) It was a warning — play nice, and Senator Anderson gets to go gently into the night while Chadwick takes over, but if he doesn’t, they can tarnish his reputation with a fake sex scandal. Thompson doesn’t buy it, not the least reason being because Peggy’s bugs all shorted out due to the club’s counter-measures and they have no evidence.

Thompson accuses her of having her judgment clouded by her emotions over Wilkes’ death, and digging where there’s no story. On the other hand, Peggy accuses him of being a coward, afraid of ruffling feathers and burying the truth so that “someone can pin a medal” on him. That’s the last straw, and her “boss” sends her back to New York. Peggy refuses to back down, and even Sousa thinks Thompson isn’t wrong, because she’s being reckless. (Even if he’s always ultimately on her side.) Just as she’s about to go on another tirade, Sousa notices that objects are orbiting around her, for lack of a better word. She’s seen this before — a side effect of Zero Matter — and begs him not to come any closer, but instead they both rush to Howard’s to see what can be done.

After a few party tricks, Howard lectures that Peggy isn’t contaminated, so to speak, and thus will not freeze to death, but rather that something is disrupting the gravitational field around her. After a bit of a chemistry lesson by way of photography, he theorizes that using a silver nitrate compound mist will reveal whatever is around Peggy that is making things float around her, like developing a photograph. He gives it a shot, and it turns out to be none other than Dr. Wilkes!

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Because he’s “outside of the visible spectrum,” his doesn’t actually occupy mass, so everything can float right through him, but he can still speak once Howard coats his vocal chords with the same substance. (Uh huh.) It’s enough for Wilkes to explain what happened with Whitney Frost, but the formula doesn’t last long enough for the scientist to stay at this party. Howard goes to work, and makes up a laundry list of supplies he’ll need to bring Wilkes back amongst the visible, but not before noticing that Jarvis has a “spring in [his] step” now that he’s working with Peggy again. The butler assures his boss that he’s happy with his current job (“I know, I’m great!”), but Howard  recognizes that Jarvis may need to spread his wings, especially with someone as great as Peggy.

Since she can’t help Howard with the science, Peggy decides to go “poke the bear,” aka Frost. By sweet-talking her way onto the studio lot, she visits the star in her dressing room for a not-so-friendly chat, and manages to irk the actress through fake smiles. Peggy indicates to Frost, through not-so-thinly-veiled overtures, that she knows she’s up to something, but Frost is saved by her director summoning her back to set. Better watch your back, Agent Carter.

At the SSR, Thompson hands over the Isodyne reel to Masters, who assures him he’s doing the right thing. “Nobody will remember this meeting taking place in the history books, but I will,” the older agent assures him, and it seems like this exchange is fulfilling exactly what Peggy accused him of — especially once Masters says he’s going to get a medal for this one day.

 

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

On the other side of town, Howard and Wilkes have been busy, the playboy having found a temporary reprieve for the doctor. While Howard runs off to find more coffee to solve this riddle, Peggy and Wilkes are able to have a heart-to-heart; he’s worried they don’t know the full scope of what’s happened to him or the consequences it will bring, and he’s also concerned that he might not have anything to return to if he finds his corporeal self. Peggy assures him that he’s got a place with them when he does: “In a very short space of time, you’ve managed to do what very few have managed to have done. You’ve impressed Howard Stark, and you’ve impressed me.” Some loaded looks are swapped before Howard interrupts with a bottle of something that definitely isn’t coffee — right through Wilkes. (If this goes on much longer, are we going to get a ’40s-version of Ghost?)

Sousa is burning the midnight oil on Isodyne, and finds a file about “Agnes Cully” of Oklahoma which is of interest, but Thompson butts in just in time, wanting to chat — for real. He, like Rose, raises the Peggy question, noting how they seem to have “patched things up” after last year, which gives Sousa the opportunity to mention his near-engagement. Thompson is surprised, and wants to take the chief out for a drink to talk about it, but Sousa is too invested in the case for socializing. Poor Jack, nobody wants to come out to play tonight.

Whitney Frost is rattled by Peggy’s visit, and implores her husband to do something through non-official means to deal with her. When he doesn’t jump at her complaints, she takes it up a notch, proving what a good actress she is by turning on the waterworks and claiming Peggy made threats against her — which could get back to The Council. He gets on the horn to send for their henchman, and we know our agent is in trouble now!

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

As Peggy is sparring — to impressive effect — against a punching bag at Howard’s, said henchman grabs her from behind and attempts to choke her, but Peggy is too quick for him. She eventually manages to get out of his chokehold (by way of the pool), gets a hold of her gun, and shoots him before he flees. This prompts Howard to reinforce his security, under the guise of a new alarm — which sounds suspiciously like Jarvis politely warning people about unauthorized access to the home. (“It’s a temporary measure. I have no desire to spend the rest of time as a disembodied voice.” The meta is strong in this one.)

Howard is now convinced that he needs to go to Peru to meet with a former professor of his, in order to solve the Wilkes conundrum. Off he goes, which gives Peggy and Wilkes the chance to talk; the houseguest is wary of Stark, but Peggy reassures him that Howard is a good friend. She also apologizes for putting him in harm’s way, but Wilkes reminds her that it was his office he went into to steal his own work. She still feels bad, though, that he got hurt, and he understands. But he also feels the need to leave, because he thinks he’s putting them in danger if Frost is behind it all. Peggy is hearing none of it and believes he is their best shot at defeating her, and also tells him it’s “Peggy” to him, thank you. That works for him, because it means she wants him to stay, and that’s reason enough for him. Ooh la la, you two!

Sousa’s sleuthing has paid off: when Peggy returns to the office the next morning, he divulges that Agnes Cully was a genius inventor who worked for Isodyne and played a pivotal role in World War II by creating modulators for frequency hopping for the Allieds’ communications. She also happens to be none other than Whitney Frost. (Is this a nod to Hedy Lamarr?) “Every eye on the country is on her, and no one sees her,” Peggy exclaims at the brilliant cover. Gee, remind you of anyone? No wonder Frost was so intimately acquainted with Zero Matter!

On his way out of town, Thompson stops by for a drink at the Arena Club with Masters, who introduces him to Chadwick. Masters chuckles that he should get used to calling him “Senator,” as he is now running unopposed, and hands him a newspaper with a headline of “Anderson Ankles Election,” just as Peggy had claimed. The plot thickens!

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Back at the lot, Frost’s director drops by, telling her that the studio was going to replace her on this project, but that they folded at his insistence on keeping her. She’s scared of the threat, but relieved that he appears to be her ally. When she hugs him in gratitude, he takes the embrace too far, indicating that he expects payback for his loyalty. Frost rebuffs him, but he freaks out when he notices the scar on her forehead, and when he gets physical, she grabs his arm — and watches him perish just like we’ve seen the previous victims this season. She’s horrified at what she’s just done, and more so when that scar stretches even further across her face. (Like pinocchio’s nose, but evil.) How soon before she gets over the fear, and embraces her powers? Not long is my guess.

This was another humdinger of an episode. Maybe it’s just my love of all things nostalgia and movie-making, but I’m genuinely riveted by this mystery, and love the juxtaposition of the glitz of Hollywood and the corruption underlying it (and keeping it afloat).

Despite how heavy-handed it is, I find myself enjoying the parallels between Whitney Frost’s predicament, and Peggy’s last year. In some ways, they’re two sides of the same coin. Both are dismissed because of their gender, both are being relegated to traditional roles in public, and neither are content to sit idly by and let the men rule. The fact that Whitney, like Peggy, held a prestigious role in the war effort, only to be sidelined as just a pretty face when the boys came home, was particularly on the nose. Yet, where Peggy’s chosen to use her skills for the greater good, even when the greater good doesn’t appreciate it, Frost has already chosen to use her skills for nefarious purposes — for now, ensuring her husband’s senate race win, but in the future, there’s no doubt she’s going to use her frostiness (pun intended) to ill effect, too.

Surprisingly, I was somewhat intrigued by what we’re seeing from Jack Thompson. He’s still a jerk, not only to Peggy but to Sousa too, but there’s some conflict building within him, between wanting to advance his career with Masters, and his spidey senses telling him there’s something amiss with the whole investigation. Plus, it seems as though he’s maybe feeling a little lonely out in New York while his former co-workers are having all the fun out in Los Angeles. Maybe his heart is growing three sizes, who knows?

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

As always, I’m loving the SSR Scooby Gang’s exploits, particularly now that we’ve got a couple of extra members helping out. Sure, Febreezing Wilkes into existence is far-fetched, even for this show, but frankly, I’m rolling with it, because I love the wide-eyed wonder he brings to the case, and I especially like the flirting between him and Peggy. (It’s about time she have a little fun!) Howard is a bit of a caricature, but there’s no denying he brings a high-octane energy (or mania) to the group’s dynamic, and my interest is piqued by the changes he’s seeing in Jarvis, too. I’ve long suspected our butler may be looking for a career change, and I’m hoping we get to explore that this season. (Character development for all, huzzah!)

Apologies for the long post, everyone! How did you enjoy “Better Angels”?

Other odds and ends:

  • SO much meta in this episode. My favorite bit, other than Jarvis‘ prescient comment about being a “disembodied voice”? Peggy and Howard’s debate over movie genres:
    Peggy: I’d rather be the cowboy
    Howard: I like it. I don’t think the audiences is ready yet.
    Peggy: But they’re ready for a movie based on a comic book? That sounds like a dreadful idea!
  • Howard [to Arena Club host]: You know what Terry? I think I might have been a little harsh about your place. You aren’t half bad.
    Jarvis: Mr. Stark, it’s time to go.
    Howard: Actually, your club is terrible, and I’m never coming back.
  • Sousa, upon seeing Peggy’s post-strangulation bruises: Usually you have to go to France to get a hickey like that.
  • Sousa: I thought you had a flight to catch with Thompson today?
    Peggy: I thought I’d miss that flight.

All photos found at Daily Agent Carter.

 

Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: