This week’s recap discusses a couple of spoiler-rific moments from Tuesday night’s episode of Agent Carter. If you are not caught up, please come back after you’ve watched. We’ll still be here, honest. Otherwise proceed at your own peril.
Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about Peggy Carter, “Smoke and Mirrors” and Fred come along to put everything on its ear.
Without the need to move a lot of plot around, Agent Carter took the time to shade in the backgrounds of our hero, Peggy, and this year’s big bad, Whitney Frost with the help of some flashbacks.
Flashbacks are a staple of the comic book world and effective when used correctly (looking at you last two seasons of Arrow). Here they added gravity to what was an otherwise fluffy episode that featured Jarvis getting tranqed, bad guys in trunks and Peggy and Sousa playing good cop/bad cop.
Frost’s backstory unfolded while she was getting a handle on her newfound dark powers are. Think mad scientist with a feminist twist. She started out as Agnes from Dirt Poor, Okla. Even at a young age, Agnes was the smartest person in every room she had ever been in (given that most of those rooms had her Blanche DuBois-wannabe mom and skeevy “Uncle” Bud in them, the bar wasn’t hard to clear). Still her intellect was off the charts.
Despite the fact Agnes was mechanically inclined and meticulous, no one in her life saw that value, certainly not her mother who was trading her body for food, clothing and shelter and who told her teenage daughter that a pretty face and a “smile” was how she was going make it in life.
Later on in California without so much as a quarter to her name, Agnes was discovered by a skeevy talent agent in front of a movie house (the “you’re much prettier when you smile line had to be like nails on a chalkboard to every woman watching, which was the desired effect). Sensing the chance to make money to continue her scientific endeavors, Agnes gave in and became what her mother told her what she was destined to be and Whitney Frost, movie star (evil genius) was born.
This played out cleverly against Peggy’s flashbacks, in which she always had someone in her life encouraging her to be exactly who she wanted to be, social standards be damned.
Lil Peggy was also a precocious little moppet. While not necessarily a tomboy, she was more active (rescuing maidens and slaying dragons) than young ladies of the “children should be seen not heard era” were. Her brother Michael was always there to spur her toward adventure despite her proper British mother’s protests to the contrary.
And then there was Fred, Peggy’s fiancé.
Oh yeah, Peggy was ready to marry long before that skinny kid from Brooklyn came into the picture. Ever the pragmatist, Peggy tried to split the difference between helping King and Country (being a code breaker during the early days of the war) and doing what was expected of her (settling down with Fred).
The person who knew Peggy best, knew better. When he found out that a service branch was created to train women as spies to train resistance forces in occupied territories, Michael, who was a front line soldier in 1940 (as opposed to the cowardly Fred who was REMF and proud of it), recommended her for the job.
While flattered with the offer and given her situation, Peggy thought that she was as likely to become a spy as she was to sprout wings and fly. Adventure wasn’t for a proper woman, but Michael knew she was always a fighter.
That all changed the day the soldiers drove up to the family house to inform Peggy’s parents about Michael’s grim fate on the battlefront. The white dress stayed on the stand, the diamond ring was placed on the dresser and the real Peggy Carter flew headlong to her destiny.
While a real departure from what Agent Carter has done to date the dual flashbacks didn’t feel extraneous because episode writer Sue Chung manages to both stich the two flashbacks together while still weaving them through the greater narrative beautifully. It would be nice to say that more glimpses into Peggy’s past would be welcome, but they would need to be as artfully done as this episode to make them worthwhile.