EW staffers share their thoughts on Tuesday's dance-inflected doubleheader
EW was so excited about the return of Agent Carter that two staffers — Gina McIntyre and Andrea Towers — decided we wanted to talk through Peggy’s L.A. adventures together. (You can read the full episode recap here.) Below, read a discussion about what we loved about “The Edge of Mystery” and “A Little Song and Dance.”
ANDREA TOWERS: I know it’s not Zero Matter, but I need to talk about Peggy and Jarvis because wow. Talk about a friendship that earned its stripes. As we watched the tension between them unfold (ending in that amazingly heartwrenching but emotionally charged argument in the desert), it made me wonder why we haven’t seen this type of fallout with people in Peggy’s life before. I then realized it’s because we’ve never seen someone who has willingly thrown their “normal” life into one of her adventures. Steve, Sousa, everyone at the SSR…all of those people were accustomed to the risks and knew what they were getting into. They understood Peggy’s plight. But Jarvis, we forget, is the simple whole-hearted butler who thrives on adventure. This is what I love about Agent Carter — the evolution of relationships. By the time we’re watching them fight, it’s a fight that feels like it’s been a long time coming, but in a good way. (Also, off topic but props to Peggy for walking through the desert in a pantsuit.)
GINA MCINTYRE: Yes, the pantsuit might truly be worthy of its own separate conversation though, I gotta say, the costume design on this show is almost always unfailingly divine. But back to the really important stuff. That was some staggeringly straight talk in the desert, particularly for two stiff-lipped English characters who address one another by title and surname. This is a bit of a tangent, too, but I actually feel like it’s a rare thing to see such a wonderfully rendered male-female friendship on screen. There’s no exhausting will they/won’t they speculation, just two adults who love and respect each other sans sexual tension. Peggy, tragically robbed of her friendship with her brother, has seemingly discovered something similar with Jarvis, and that is what helps the scene in the back of the van — where he lashes out at her in his grief over Ana’s shooting — resonate with such force. You have so much sympathy for each of them — Peggy, who’s suffered such unspeakable loss, absolutely understands what Jarvis is experiencing, and she’s largely willing to accept the brunt of his anger. That is, until his words push her past her limit, and she’s forced to remind Mr. Jarvis that he did, in fact, join her on her missions of his own accord. It’s a jolt and one that reminds him of his culpability for Ana’s injuries, which have cost her the ability to have children — a fact that “he’s too much of a coward” to share with his own wife.
Also, let’s just talk about how that unbelievably intense interaction is sandwiched between a Dancing With the Stars-inspired dream sequence and an action scene? I think we probably need to talk about that dance sequence, too, yes? Hayley Atwell and Enver Gjokaj were a regular Fred and Ginger, wouldn’t you say?
ANDREA: Oh my god. That dance sequence was everything. I didn’t expect to have it start off the episode or to accompany that emotional exchange, so I was totally taken off guard. It might end up being polarizing for fans, but I truly loved it. It was different, it was fun…and seeing Hayley Atwell sing? Is there anything that girl CAN’T do? (Maybe a foxtrot. Can she do the foxtrot?) Everything about the sequence was pretty much as perfect and crazy as it could have been: Jarvis with the feathers, Dottie showing up, the return of Angie (!!)…and Rose! What’s a dream sequence without Rose punching you out? Plus, my little “shipper” heart did a skip, beat, and a jump when Sousa and Peggy danced together. (Less so for Wilkes. I like the guy okay, and he’s charming, but Sousa/Peggy all the way…or, you know, Angie.) Really, I’m just so impressed with the fact the show pulled this off. The choreography, original composition, and precision of the whole thing showed that everyone put a lot of time and effort into making this sequence something special. No matter how it’s received, I think it was a great, fun moment and, hey — if you can’t have fun in the 1940s, when CAN you have fun?
GINA: I agree that it will likely be polarizing. I maybe didn’t love it quite as much as I wanted to — it was absolutely well done, top to bottom, but I think I prefer it when Peg’s in the field doing what she does best. The imminently capable, tough-as-nails agent dishing out the banter really does it for me, but I certainly don’t fault her for dreaming of a more surreal world in which she has the time and inclination to burst into song. Heaven knows she’s rarely afforded those opportunities in the course of a regular day. And the flashback did afford her another scene with her brother, which, alone, is enough for me to enjoy it.
ANDREA: Speaking of Peggy doing what she does best, can we talk about Thompson doing what THOMPSON does best? One of the things that I loved about this episode (and credit where credit is due to Fazekas and Butters, who wrote “A Little Song and Dance”) was how craftily Thompson played his game. I really couldn’t figure out for awhile where he was going with his allegiance — did he really trust Vernon? Was he playing Vernon? Was he playing Whitney? Was Vernon in cahoots with him so that both of them were playing Peggy and Sousa? As such, when it was finally revealed Thompson was, as usual, looking out for HIMSELF, I was kind of thrown, but in a good way. It was refreshing, at least, to see Thompson come out of the villain role a bit and take a stand…and realize that sometimes, not everyone in your life is a good egg, even if they mean well. And could he be swayed a little by Peggy’s good charm? I think so.
GINA: Agreed! I really was impressed with how expertly the double (triple? quadruple?) cross was crafted. It just made so much sense, ultimately, that Thompson wouldn’t suddenly fall in with Peggy and Sousa — that might just be a little too out of character. A guy with a plan to take down Whitney, who maybe isn’t so concerned if others are taken out in the process? Now, that’s our Thompson. You’d figure he’d write off any unfortunate casualties (especially if any of them were named “Jason Wilkes”) as collateral damage, victims of poor timing or bad luck, and not give it a second thought.
ANDREA: And that collateral damage, a.k.a Whitney Frost, really is coming into her own as a villain. I feel like I say that every week, but the truth is, Marvel has a real gem with Wynn Everett. With each episode, Whitney becomes more and more evil, but not in the Obadiah Stane way. I’d liken her more to Loki: a smart, cunning, masterful mind, who is determined to have power, so much so that she starts losing sight of everyone else around her. I loved that line to Peggy about two powerful women like themselves being in opposition of each other. It just further proves how she sees herself: as someone who wants as much power as possible, rather than someone who is focused on being a good person, like Peggy is (as she rightly throws back at her, mentioning how she shot Ana for no reason.)
GINA: Back to Whitney in just a second — do you think Jarvis will tell Ana the true nature of her condition? (Shout out to Rose for her excellent stand-in nursing skills.)
ANDREA: Well, we did see in the second hour that Jarvis finally overcame his fear of telling his wife something — though we weren’t privy to the details. I suppose it’s definitely left up in the air, since that conversation could have been anything. I like to think that Peggy’s talk with Jarvis in the desert did something to make him realize that he doesn’t have to be scared or worried of the person he is. So what if he’s not a Peggy or a Sousa or even a Howard? He’s Edwin Jarvis, and that makes him special and worthy all on his own. And his wife will still continue to love him and stand by him, even if he makes mistakes and does things like run off on missions and lies about important facts. Ana constantly tells him throughout the episodes “don’t make promises you can’t keep” when Jarvis tries to apologize or make up for all his mistakes. We should all strive to be Ana Jarvis.
GINA: Okay, Whitney. Random, but I did love the moment when Whitney’s so proudly sharing her Zero Matter research with Jason, and his response to her findings is that she’s essentially “a mass murderer of rats.” I also found it oddly moving when Manfredi told Whitney not to hide her face, that the fissure growing from her temple is a mark of her power and he found it beautiful. Perhaps that suggests something a bit twisted about my idea of romance, but to see a character that is the Tough Guy incarnate deliver that line to Whitney, it really caught my attention.
ANDREA: You caught that strange, tender vibe, too, right? I mean, all credit to Manfredi for doing the right thing technically and telling her what all women should hear more often: You don’t need to be perfect in order to be beautiful. But knowing that Manfredi isn’t exactly, well, the epitome of a tender and loving boyfriend and knowing that Whitney is someone who is so desperate for affection and love and power, it made me feel a little strange. Maybe that’s the point, though — after all, this show has certainly made it clear it has no problem touching on all the aspects of the time period that were a little uncomfortable, like race relations and the treatment of women. Whitney is such an interesting character to me, and I really can’t wait to see what happens in the finale.
Notes From the L.A. Bureau: