With only a few episodes of Agent Carter left (there’s another double episode next week, so brace yourself), we’re ramping up both the story and the intensity. And whereas last season focused on gender issues and Peggy’s attempt to reclaim her life after the war and Steve’s death, this season has dealt with diving deep into the complex lives of the characters we’ve come to know and love. Tonight’s double feature explored those relationships and feelings, and left all our characters facing the question of what happens when the world leaves them on their own, for better or for worse.
When we last left Jason, he was disappearing into the void. He’s still there (he’s caught in something that looks like what happens when you put on the One Ring) but Peggy manages to pull him out. This is also the episode where we spend half of our time yelling at Peggy to take it easy, but “there’s no rest for the weary and wounded until the job is done.” Jason’s losing control over Zero Matter and Peggy helps him realize that if he can build a containment chamber for himself — like the one he built at the lab — he might be able to make himself whole again. The problem with this brilliant solution? He needs more Zero Matter, and the only person who has that is Whitney Frost. Speaking of Whitney Frost, she isn’t exactly having a good day. But for once, Chadwick is coming to her rescue: he’s arranged a meeting with the Council. Yes, the Council that never meets with women. He’s convinced that they’ll give her whatever she wants once they see what she can do with Zero Matter. And once she convinces them? They’ll both be unstoppable. (Remember last week, when I said I was having a change of heart about Chadwick? I spoke too soon. Slimy little thing.)
Peggy goes to the lab, where she finds Sousa looking even more terrible than she feels, if that’s possible. (Someone please give these two a REAL vacation.) After explaining Wilkes’ situation, she proposes her plan: There’s a campaign fundraiser for Chadwick, which is the only way they can get close to his wife. A modified vacuum syringe will allow them to puncture her skin and get the Zero Matter, and Wilkes will have everything he needs in order to finish his containment module. The only problem with this plan is that there’s no one to carry it out. Peggy’s too hurt, Sousa can’t go undercover, Rose is on a flight home, and there’s no one they trust anymore in the SSR.
There is, however, a woman named Dottie Underwood, who has made a life out of disappearing into thin air.
Peggy arrives at Dottie’s cell undercover, and Dottie reads her immediately. (“This is my surprise face!”) I cannot express how happy it makes me to watch Hayley Atwell and Bridget Regan share the screen together — and if Marvel wants to give me a show about just Peggy Carter and Dottie Underwood, I would be all for it. Peggy tries to get her to talk about the lapel pin she was trying to steal, and when she doesn’t talk, she offers her opponent a deal: Help them with their mission, and she’ll help Dottie. Even though Dottie knows Peggy’s lying, she accepts the proposal and uses the magnetic lock openers to get out of her cell. Predictably, she tries to run, only to run straight into Sousa and Peggy, who capture her with an electrocution net: a black widow caught in a web. When Dottie wakes up, she’s dressed in her Widow best (kudos to costume designer Giovanna Melton for those colors). Peggy gives her a choker equipped with a tracking device and briefs Dottie on the mission (hope you like your date, Jarvis) while Dottie’s attempts to play coy with Wilkes fall flat once she realizes he’s not tangible.
Ana Jarvis, meanwhile, is having about the same bad day as Whitney is. I always wondered what her life was like when her husband wasn’t playing the Bonnie to Peggy’s Clyde, or when he wasn’t chasing flamingos around the yard. In this episode, Ana gets a really, really big window into what it means to be a part of Peggy’s world. She works closely with Wilkes to build the containment chamber, she helps make the modified syringe, she listens while Wilkes explains, in no uncertain terms, how badly this particular mission could go if things end up going wrong. For the first time, Ana sees just how dangerous her husband’s life is — from bullet wounds to secret missions to plans with no back-up. And Ana is among the most supportive wives out there, but like any man who goes off into battle, she worries. We met Ana as someone who seemed frivolous and easygoing, and I like that the show has peeled back her layers and shown us what lies underneath the surface of those fronts.
NEXT: Let me know if real power wants a magazine or something
Chadwick’s event is in full swing — there’s dancing Jarvis (in glasses), there’s Whitney Frost (not wearing the golden mask but rather a large headdress that conveniently covers her face)… and there’s Jack Thompson. Thompson is engaged in a conversation with Vernon who is pointing out all the Important People of Los Angeles like we’re in first class on the Titanic. Hugh Jones interrupts their conversation and tells them about Peggy’s break-in to Roxxon. Jarvis wants to abort the mission, but Peggy refuses because otherwise there’s no chance of helping Wilkes. What’s a butler to do? After both losing and finding Dottie (and giving her a very no-nonsense pep talk of awesome), he distracts Thompson so Dottie can hopefully complete her task. Thompson both blows Jarvis off and threatens him, but Jarvis holds his ground. What’s more? He accurately assesses Thompson is out of his depth, which, as we’ve seen, he very well is. Jack Thompson might be terrible, but he isn’t Vernon Masters, and he isn’t Hydra. Dottie, meanwhile, completes her job with considerable ease after bumping into Whitney, but instead of making good on her promise and delivering the sample to Peggy, she intentionally loses her hat and her comm unit in the bathroom. She then finds her way into the Arena Club’s secret lair, but is forced to pull a Peggy and hide herself during the meeting. (That’s one way to attend these affairs.)
A power hungry Whitney approaches the Council, and if this weren’t about to end badly, it’s a scene I would want to applaud. But we should applaud the fact that Whitney does get up in front of the Council to show her powers. It all goes downhill from there: Chadwick tries to kill her, but you just don’t mess with someone that can do something like absorb you into… wherever you go after being absorbed by Zero Matter. An enraged Whitney kills a bunch of Council members as her power grows (she doesn’t even need to touch people anymore) and then focuses her sights on her husband. Chadwick, we hardly knew ye.
Everyone sees this display of violence, including Dottie. After calming down, Whitney calls the remaining Council members to order, asking for unrestricted access to Roxxon facilities and also for help in covering up her husband’s death. Whitney’s still not Madame Masque, but she’s definitely ascended to full villain. It’s her Council now, and they’re just living in it. And if they’re good to her? She’ll bring them power. Unlimited power. (Whitney’s learning her negotiation tactics from Asgardians, it seems.)
Peggy’s worry over Dottie’s disappearance leads her to tear her stitches, which in turn leads to a quiet conversation with Sousa about Violet. Sousa finally admits that he broke up with her…and the reason why. Aside from the fact I’m on the “Sousa ends up as Peggy’s husband” train, I hoped that Agent Carter would address this elephant in the room, and I’m glad they did. How does Peggy react to being told that Violet thinks Sousa is (rightly) in love with her? The poor girl is shocked and guilt-ridden — after all, if she didn’t come out here, none of this would have happened. We are SO close to an actual Peggy and Sousa kiss, everyone. But alas, we can’t have nice things, and the moment is interrupted by a body falling onto the roof of their stakeout van. Dottie, realizing what power she holds while being in possession of Zero Matter, has taken matters into her own hands and is taking her opponents down Black Widow style. Unfortunately, her fight ends with Thompson getting the upper hand.
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Jones tells Vernon everything that happened in the Council room, while Vernon tells Thompson about Peggy’s meddling. At least Thompson seems to have some dignity left, refusing to kill her. The ability to disgrace her, however? Well, that’s something he may be able to be coerced into, if bribed with threats and promises of power. Meanwhile, Team SSR is licking their wounds. Jarvis has managed to rescue the lost sample of Zero Matter, but Dottie’s still MIA. To add insult to injury, Thompson pays Peggy a visit and tries to power-trip her. (It’s going to take more than a threat from her former boss to take her down.) As for Dottie? Whitney’s got her in her clutches, and I’m pretty sure this is the first time Dottie is actually terrified of what awaits her.
NEXT: Here be monsters
A grieving Whitney puts on a rather spectacular performance for reporters and press about her husband’s very “accidental” boating death. Peggy and Sousa aren’t fooled, though. They know she killed him. They know Dottie’s probably not dead, either. Also, Sousa really, REALLY wants to talk about that almost-kiss but Peggy is going to avoid that as long as possible.
Vernon attempts to torture Dottie, which is about as amusing as watching a dog chase its tail. As Dottie explains, “I’ve pulled out my own teeth, my own nails, my own hair. I’ve burned my own flesh with a blow torch.” In other words, you can’t just torture a Black Widow, who will not only withstand all your civilian methods, but fight back at you with coyness and smarts. Vernon tries in turn to break her down with the fact that she’s all alone — no family, no friends, Peggy doesn’t even want her — but is interrupted by the budding Madame Masque herself. It’s time for the woman of the house to take charge, and remember that fear Dottie had earlier? She tries to act tough, but she’s seen Whitney, and she knows she’s capable of doing things that Dottie can’t outrun or outwit. She plays to her captor anyway, until Whitney very nearly kills her and then in a rare breakdown of Dottie Underwood, everything comes out… including the fact that Wilkes is alive. I love watching all these moments between the ladies on this show, all of whom spar with their powers in unique (and intense) ways.
Meanwhile, Ana is continuing to make herself useful by helping Wilkes build the containment chamber, and Jarvis is continuing to make himself useful by trying to fix the transformer so they can track Dottie again. Wilkes is continuing to make himself useful by lashing out about his situation and essentially admitting his feelings for Peggy. (Oops.) But the mission is a success: Wilkes immerses himself in the chamber and becomes tangible again, which leads to an emotional kiss between him and Peggy through the glass. I’m not sure what I love more about this moment: Wilkes apologizing, or Jarvis and Ana looking on in amusement. Their gleeful celebration is interrupted by the appearance of a signal, and Peggy calls Sousa to let him know they’ve found Dottie. Sousa can’t really talk, however, because he’s engaged in a fight of his own: trying to placate Vernon, who’s looking for the uranium they stole. It’s up to Peggy and Jarvis to walk into the trap that Whitney is setting for them, which, understandably, makes Ana more than a little nervous. (Even with the Jitterbug machine.) When Jarvis notices for the first time how worried Ana is, she finally admits her fears. She wants him to have adventure, but can she also be worried about her husband? Ana Jarvis is the Laura Barton of Agent Carter: She’s willing to let her husband go out and fight because she knows that’s what makes him happy, and she’ll always be there when he comes home.
The time alone gives Jarvis a chance to have a heart-to-heart talk about Peggy and her suitor issue. He admits he knows about Sousa’s feelings for her (that’s what happens when you have conversations during a secret mission) and she doesn’t want to talk, but well, sometimes you just need a friend. Peggy says she never intended to like them, or for Sousa and Wilkes to like her. It just happened. “You underestimate your allure, Mrs. Carter,” Jarvis says wisely in the understatement of the night.
Their mission doesn’t quite go as planned once they arrive at Whitney’s property — the Jitterbug machine refuses to work properly, and Jarvis and Peggy get captured. At least they’re reunited with Dottie. Now that Whitney’s gone, Dottie is back to her old self, refusing to answer Peggy’s questions. After Peggy and Jarvis manage to free themselves, they realize both good news and bad news: The Jitterbug machine did its job after all (thanks to a delayed detonation) but the trap wasn’t set for Peggy. It was set for Jason. And Jason is currently enjoying himself in his chamber after a Hungarian feast with Ana, where the poor Mrs. Jarvis finally got to air her frustrations about the danger her husband faces in his adventures.
Jarvis’ security measures prove to be no match for Whitney, who breaks in easily and admires all of Howard’s experiments. But she’s in for a surprise: When she tries to grab Wilkes, he manages to absorb the Zero Matter from her, sucking it out of her body. We now know that Zero Matter works differently for each person, and maybe Whitney’s not the scariest person in the world after all. As for Whitney, this changes everything. She tries to coerce Wilkes into coming with her — together they can use their powers to change the world! And when Wilkes resists, Whitney pulls out all the stops, using his race and talent against him.
The night goes from bad to worse: Sousa is attacked at his apartment so Vernon can take him out of commission, and while Whitney and her associate Joseph are taking Wilkes away, Ana spies the breakout and attempts to stop them. The scuffle ends up with Whitney shooting Ana just as Peggy and Jarvis return, and Peggy locks Dottie in the trunk of the car while they bring Ana to the emergency room. Dottie escapes thanks to a daft security officer, Ana is left in surgery with her fate unknown, and when Peggy calls Sousa to let him know, she learns that Vernon has taken over leadership of the SSR.
Peggy’s world is falling apart, but she’s got Jarvis, and sometimes, you just need a friend.
Notes from the L.A. Bureau:
For more thoughts on tonight’s Agent Carter be sure to read my discussion with EW staffer Gina McIntyre about what we loved about this week’s episode!