We’ve officially arrived at the halfway point of Agent Carter season 2 and things are beginning to hit the fan. In “The Atomic Job” we get atomic bombs, marriage proposals, heartbreak, and mortal peril–not to mention the usual banter and butt kicking!
This episode allowed several of the lesser-utilized minor characters to step up and shine, particularly the SSR’s trusty gatekeeper, Rose; the sarcastic SSR scientist, Dr. Samberly; and Sousa’s adorable girlfriend, Violet. Jarvis and Sousa had more to do this episode, too, in particular defusing a few atomic bombs. You know, the usual.
First things first, they need to steal a body. Dr. Wilkes tells Peggy that the zero matter has been calling to him, as illustrated by the tissue sample they retrieved from the body of the first zero matter victim (remember the lady in the lake?). Figuring that this may help Wilkes become solid again, Peggy enlists Jarvis’ help to steal the rest of the woman’s body–for science! But who gets to the body first, but Ms. Whitney Frost herself. Peggy and Jarvis witness Whitney absorb the zero matter from the body and consequently overhear her plan to steal an atomic bomb to gain even more power. Dramatic cut to commercial break.
To prevent Whitney and her ever more frightened husband from stealing an atomic bomb, Peggy must break into the Roxxon facility where the bombs are stored. Jarvis has some knowledge of the facility due to Howard’s less than ethical corporate espionage, and he informs Peggy that she must steal a unique key from the President of Roxxon, Hugh Jones (played by the always wonderful Ray Wise). You may remember Jones from season one as the womanizing suit to whom Peggy introduces herself to as simply “Agent.” Peggy is hoping he won’t remember that meeting, because she’s going undercover to swipe the key. A comedic exchange ensues, in which Jones forgets, then remembers, then forgets and remembers Peggy over and over as his brain is zapped by Dr. Samberly’s new memory wiping gadget (think Men In Black’s flashy-thingy, but less permanent).
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Sousa asks Violet to marry him! Good for you, Sousa. Looks like you really did move on from Peggy. Right? Dramatic cut to commercial break.
Now that Sousa and Peggy are wise to the Counsel of Nine’s influence in the SSR (remember last week?), they have to decide who they can trust to help them go after the nefarious Counsel and Whitney Frost. The choices come down to Rose, the ever chipper front woman to the “Auerbach Talent Agency”, and Dr. Samberly, who is trustworthy simply because no one likes him enough to recruit him to the dark side. Sousa protests involving Rose at first, but Peggy shuts him down by telling him, “I’m seeing Daniel Sousa, but I’m hearing Jack Thompson”–literally the best burn possible. Peggy reminds Sousa that sweet, spunky Rose has gone through the same training as every other agent in the SSR and is fully capable as a field agent. And Peggy ain’t lying. The best moment in the episode is watching Rose bludgeon a Roxxon goon with her fists (she and Peggy clearly had the same hand-to-hand trainer). He pulls a knife on her and Rose, bless her heart, jokes that she’s “seen bigger”–right before she punches him in his goon face. I’d like to start a petition to have Rose punching goons in every episode of anything ever–the world would be a better place for it.
Samberly, Sousa, and Jarvis are tasked with the technical side of the operation–get to the bombs, defuse the bombs, don’t blow up Los Angeles–while Rose and Peggy keep the goons at bay. I loved that they flipped this trope on its head: have the women do the physical work and the men do the delicate work. Poor Jarvis gets trapped in the room with the bombs and ends up having to defuse them with Sousa’s instructions from the other side of the door. “It’s just like… pulling a souffle out of the oven,” Sousa says, attempting to relate defusing a bomb with enough blast power to level a metropolis to a butler’s everyday life. “That was nothing like baking a souffle,” Jarvis primly corrects, sweating and shaking after saving everyone in a 30 mile radius. (Another of my favorite moments.)
While at Roxxon, Peggy runs into the other people trying to steal a bunch of bombs–Whitney and Cal. At this point we can clearly see that Whitney is losing it, and I can’t get enough. It’s not often that I root for the villain to get more villainous, but somehow I just can’t wait until Whitney is a full-blown zero matter vortex of crazy. I think it’s because her story is one that makes you root for her–she’s a genius who gets no respect and no opportunities to show it simply because she’s a woman–but instead of rooting for her to go down the heroic path, I feel like she’s actually pretty justified in her evil power hunger. She finally has the upper hand against all of the people who ever told her no, who ever underestimated her, who ever condescended to her, and watching her zap them into another dimension via nasty black goo oozing from their faces is just incredibly satisfying.
Unfortunately, Whitney tries to turn her zero matter vortex powers on our Peggy and that is just not okay. During the struggle between the two femmes fatale, Peggy takes a spill off of the landing and is shockingly impaled by exposed rebar. Not to worry– the name of show isn’t changing any time soon–Peggy is gravely injured, but Sousa and Jarvis take her to Violet’s house straight away for treatment. Violet handles the situation with the calm of a true professional nurse and orders the two shaken men to get her supplies. She notices, however, that Sousa, her now fiance, is significantly more shaken by Peggy’s mortal wound than any normal colleague (or even friend) should be. When Jarvis takes Peggy home to rest, Violet confronts Sousa about his feelings. He can’t deny it when she asks if he loves Peggy, and the whole neighborhood hears me scream “I told you so” at my television set.
At the same time as I love and appreciate Peggy as a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man, I originally fell in love with her as Captain America’s love interest in The First Avenger. I kind of want to see her really able to move on romantically from Cap, and personally I think Sousa is the best candidate to help her do that. He has many parallels to Cap, including his handicap (Steve started out in less than peak physical condition) and his admiration and respect toward Peggy as a colleague despite her gender. There have been many significant hints dropped this season about the history between Peggy and Sousa, perhaps even more than the will-they-won’t-they we saw in season one. I’m excited to see where this overt acknowledgement of Sousa’s feelings will take their relationship in the remainder of the season. And, as much as I love Dr. Wilkes, he is literally disappearing–and his impact on the story is sort of disappearing too. If he’s going to remain a contender for Peggy’s affections, he’s going to have to come back to the forefront of the story, and soon.
Overall, this episode was not very Peggy-centric, but it gave screen time and importance to the surrounding cast of characters that support Peggy in what can sometimes be her lone-wolf lifestyle. I hope to see more of field-agent Rose, more of everything Jarvis (always), and more of Ken Marino as a slightly-psycho Hollywood crime boss. The latter half of the season is sure to see the further descent into madness of Whitney Frost, and her eventual transformation into the full-fledged super villain Madame Masque– and I for one can’t wait.
Tune in next week for a two-part, two-hour Agent Carter event, same Peggy time, same Peggy channel.