Agent Carter: “Smoke And Mirrors” in Brief
For the first time in “Smoke And Mirrors,” viewers got to catch a glimpse of what Agent Carter’s life was like before she enlisted. From a flashback to Peggy Carter’s childhood to a flashback to the event that made her want to become a spy and points between, we learn Peggy’s origin story. This fleshing-out of Peggy’s long-term motivations is juxtaposed by flashback sequences showing the origins of Whitney Frost, AKA Agnes Cully. And, though Frost is no Arnim Zola, I’m glad Agent Carter now has a real villain to contend with rather than having to continue battling it out with henchmen such as Rufus Hunt. On top of the character development of both Peggy and Agnes though, we were also treated to some good acting, including a tense scene between Peggy and Vernon Masters, portrayed by That ‘70s Show’s Kurtwood Smith, but more on that later. All in all, I thought this was a good episode. Now, consider yourself warned, spoilers abound:
Based on the flashbacks we see, it’s obvious that Peggy Carter and Whitney Frost had very different upbringings. And, though both characters were taught and ultimately rejected their appointed social roles as ladies in the early 20th century, their rejections of those roles sends them down very different paths. Frost becomes a manipulative socialite while secretly moonlighting as a mad scientist. Carter becomes a tough-as-nails intelligence officer who helps train Captain America, and kisses him once. The following of these different paths results, in this episode, in Peggy tranquilizing and psychologically torturing the aforementioned Rufus Hunt, and Whitney gaining the ability to absorb living beings’ essences. In other words, don’t mess with either of them.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Vernon Masters attempts to do with Peggy and the rest of the SSR when he interferes with and ultimately blocks a raid on the Arena Club. The raid, organized based on information Carter and Sousa were able extract from Mr. Hunt, was meant to provide a link between the Arena Club and a group of conspirators seeking to dominate the world. The conspirators, says Hunt, call themselves the “Council of Nine,” and meet regularly at the Arena Club. Masters’s suspiciously timely interference in the raid is the final piece of the puzzle for Peggy: she realizes that Masters must be either a stooge of The Council or a co-conspirator himself. So, not wanting to give Mr. Hunt’s name to The Council, she refuses to tell Masters her source.
This scene between Carter and Masters is an example of where the show goes right. Kurtwood Smith and Hayley Atwell paint a picture of emotional intensity with only the expertly timed delivery of their lines and a few insincere grins. In fact, this episode is chock-full of scenes with this level of acting, including the sexually charged opening scene between Agent Carter and Dr. Wilkes, and the “Jarvellous” comic relief supplied by an accidentally tranquilized Jarvis.
The ending of this episode of Agent Carter, though, didn’t live up to the rest of it. Although we see Whitney Frost use her newfound powers (again) to eliminate Rufus Hunt, who Souza purposely freed and covertly fitted with a listening device, the episode doesn’t provide any new information to the viewer. Instead, it ends the same way as last week’s episode, with a shot of Whitney Frost’s glistening scar that grows every time she uses her powers. I wonder if that scar will turn into a … “Masque” of some kind … ?