Agent Carter Season Two’s “The Atomic Job” starts off with a great emotional swing between serious and lighthearted. The episode begins with the ghostly Dr. Wilkes waking Peggy up only to have a gun pointed through his ethereal head. Shortly after Peggy must reassure an arachnophobic Jarvis that they’re safe from spiders while they both attempt to steal a corpse. Beyond swinging between macabre and silly, though, we also see Chief Sousa propose to his girlfriend, Violet, while hunting through her couch for the engagement ring.
This swing continued through the episode with the cordial/brutal introduction of Joseph Manfredi (Ken Marino) to the show. In mainstream Marvel continuity, called Earth-616 by those in the know, Joseph Manfredi is better known as “Blackwing.” Unlike Agent Carter’s Joseph Manfredi, who appears to be the leader of Maggia, Blackwing is essentially a gimmick villain who has the ability to control bats.
One wonders why the writers of Agent Carter chose to appropriate this batty name from the comics rather than others, especially since Manfredi first appeared in a Marvel comic in 1975 and it’s only 1947 in the world of the show. It appears that Mr. Manfredi will act, chiefly, as an unstable mob boss with a penchant for punching. And, though it’s fun for viewers to have an unstable lunatic character on the show, I was hoping Ray Wise would get the honour of filling that quota through his role as Hugh Jones, president of the nefarious Roxxon; dedicated geeks may remember Wise as Laura Palmer’s haunted father Leland from Twin Peaks. Instead, if this week’s episode is any indication, Hugh Jones won’t be at all intimidating on Agent Carter, acting mainly as an “arrogant plonker,” as Peggy calls him, who can’t keep it in his pants. That being said, Wise’s acting talent was put to great use this week giving viewers what may have been the funniest bit on the show so far. This involved Peggy, sporting a red wig and an American accent, retrieving a key from inside Hugh Jones’s belt buckle armed with only a prototype memory inhibitor that erases the past two minutes from the subject’s mind … imagine what you will if you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode.
Another highlight of “The Atomic Job” is its “getting the band together” quality. Unlikely additions to Peggy’s elite team this episode include Rose Roberts, SSR receptionist and bouncer, and Aloyisius Samberley, who developed the prototype memory inhibitor Peggy used on Jones along with a host of other gadgets. The newly minted team’s obligatory slow-motion walk towards the camera is set to Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters’ “Pistol Packin’ Mama” to great comic effect. This scene’s goofiness again masks a serious problem: this team of misfits must now stop Whitney Frost and Calvin Chadwick from causing a nuclear disaster. And, though the plan is for the well-trained Chief Sousa to disarm the nuclear warhead, when the time comes the stressful task falls to none other than Edwin Jarvis–the comic relief. He, of course, handles the task as impeccably as any butler could.
We get to see Rose and Peggy kick some goons’ butts while Jarvis disarms the warhead, after which the audience is treated to Peggy and Whitney Frost’s first big confrontation. Much to Chadwick’s disappointment, Frost refuses Peggy’s offer to have her cured, instead trying to absorb Peggy’s essence as she has with others in previous episodes. Peggy responds with a quick headbutt/chest kick combination that, though it saves Peggy from Frost’s absorbing her, ultimately results in Peggy’s impalement upon some rebar.
Peggy gets rushed to Chief Sousa’s fiancée’s house, Peggy refuses to go to a hospital for fear of the Council of Nine‘s trying to kill her, to have her wound treated. And, though Violet is able to patch her up, after seeing them together Violet’s intuition tells her that Sousa is in love with Peggy. In terms of other relationships featured on the show, love is a bit stale for Chadwick and Frost, Chadwick living in fear of his wife calls a contact to arrange an emergency meeting of the Council of Nine, presumably to discuss Frost’s abilities. And, Dr. Wilkes and Peggy’s budding relationship seems less likely to happen when, at the end of the episode, he disappears entirely while Peggy shouts his name into thin air.
Although this wasn’t a bad episode, it was a strange episode to see halfway into the second season, Agent Carter Season 2 only has five episodes left after all. It’s strange to see two new characters join the team halfway through. It’s also strange that we’re halfway through the second season and we’ve only seen the heroine fight the villainess a single time. Plus, although Agent Carter was always a somewhat lighthearted show, this episode was basically an out-and-out comedy, not like the relatively grim spy thriller I watched last season. Basically, this was a good episode but I’m getting bored. At this point in the season I was hoping that we the audience would have some compelling stories to engage with, instead it seems like the writers can’t figure out what Peggy should do, only who she should do it with.