Agent Carter’s third episode (“Better Angels”) is a delightful romp, with interestingly sharp undertones. If there’s one thing that sums up Peggy Carter, it’s something she says midway through the episode: “I’m going to poke the bear.” Peggy never sits idly by, which is evident in the opening scene, where she’s the only agent who does any work. We open on a mad circus at Wilkes’ home, who is being framed for the explosion and labeled a Communist. This dovetails nicely into Peggy and Jarvis visiting Howard Stark on set—amusingly ruining his shot. They fill in him on Zero Matter, and he casually mentions the pin that keeps popping up belongs to the Arena Club. Not exactly The Evil League of Evil, but okay.
The club has been trying to get Howard to join for years. It only admits white men, and he’s rather vexed there are no women. Typical Stark. What do you expect from a director who sleeps late, drinks booze for breakfast, and has a gaggle of lovely girls swimming in his pool? Yes, he’s a cad, but he’s a cad with a heart. More on that later.
To everyone’s displeasure, Jack Thompson shows up, all squint and very little sense, demanding that Peggy alter her report about the Isodyne explosion. Although he refused the suggestion he watch the Zero Matter film, he eventually does—only to have Vernon Masters waltz in to have a Smug Off. No, sorry, he was actually there to make certain his lackey (Jack) tidied up the report. I’ll say one thing: the villains are not subtle.
At the Arena Club, Stark and Jarvis descend to make quips and run amok. Okay, Stark runs amok. Jarvis makes cocktails (I’ll take an Old Fashioned, if you please). Howard lets in a throng of women, including Peggy, who sneaks off to plant bugs. Unfortunately, after nearly getting trapped in the cabal’s board room, she discovered there’s a security measure in place to counteract such things. Always quick on her feet, she MacGyver’s a smashed bug into a distraction and slips out into the hall. She’s very nearly caught until Jarvis finds her, and she lies, “I-I’m so sorry. I get really confused around books.” Her American accent is flawless, and that fib was priceless.
The next day, Jack (whose motivations are clearly self-serving at this point) reams her out for what she did. Peggy valiantly defends herself, mentioning the newspapers with the manufactured headline, professing Calvin Chawick’s future senate win. Peggy, a woman who has always known her own worth, is quick to measure Jack. In a rare moment of unkindness, she calls out Jack’s character, before leaving the room in a glorious huff: “You’re being a coward. You are so afraid of ruffling powerful feathers that you’re doing what you always do—burying an ugly truth and hoping someone will pin a medal on you.” Jack is visibly wounded by that, and a moment of recognition passed between the two. Jack demands she get on the next plane to New York. Which…hahah, NO.
After a somewhat laughable mishap with floating objects, it is discovered that Peggy isn’t infected by the Zero Matter. No, she’s got a ghost. Well, a de-corporealized Wilkes, who Stark sprays with a solution to make him visible. The question of whether or not Howard can restore him to a solid form has yet to be answered. In his crazy frenzy, Howard Stark turns out to be my Patronus: “I just need to stay alert. Coffee. Who wants a coffee? Maybe Irish coffee. Jarvis! Where’s the coffee around here?”
But let’s talk about Stark and Jarvis. There’s some delicious waltzing around things, while Stark is dictating a shopping list. For a self-obsessed rich guy, Stark is wildly astute. He has noticed a change in Jarvis: “ You just make sure you let me know if I’m gonna need to find myself a new butler. … I know. I’m great, but so is she.” And I have to say: I absolutely ship Jarvis and Peggy, even though I adore Ana. I think Jarvis appreciates and admires her in a way that no one else seems to. And while he is always concerned for her well-being, he also never treats her as if she’s helpless. I don’t know that the show will take their tension any further than the quiet flirtation, but I do like that it’s there.
Peggy dashes off to have a chat with Whitney (i.e., baits Whitney about Isodyne), which leads to Whitney pulling a Lady Macbeth (again) on Calvin that evening, fake crying to him about being afraid—right before vaguely threatening him about what might happen if things were brought to the council’s attention. He responds like a proper Hamlet and sends a thug named Mr. Hunt after Peggy.
Meanwhile, Jack has given Vernon the Zero Matter tape, which he lied about watching. That evening, he tries to charmingly con Daniel into getting a drink, but Daniel declines. Multiple times. Would you have drinks with a guy who keeps throwing his weight around and acting like a jerk? Probably not. But there was something almost sad about watching Jack’s face in that scene. There was a slight twitch of vulnerability, of humanity showing under his well-spackled-on smarm.
As a stress relief, Peggy’s hitting the heavy bag by Stark’s pool at night: “I find an evening workout is the best way to release the frustrations of a given day.” It illustrates two things: Peggy’s strength (and a very endearing connection to Steve Rogers/Captain America) and Jarvis’ never-ending concern for her well-being. That latter is valid, since Mr. Hunt nearly kills Peggy with a garrote, before she shoots the thug in the hand.
My favorite part? The next morning, Jarvis improves on the house’s alarms, which sound when a door is breached. The kicker is Jarvis temporarily uses his own voice for the alert system. He grumbles, “I have no desire to spend the rest of time as a disembodied voice.” That was a delightful nod to the Jarvis in the Iron Man movies.
A hyper Howard Stark has decided to dash off to Peru to enlist the help of a particular scientist to restore Wilkes fully to solid form. Peggy suggests he might need some sleep, but he brushes her off: “Nope. No sleep. Coffee.” Howard, darling—you’re singing my song. Of course, there’s a nice scene between Peggy and Wilkes that, among other things (so much flirting!), illustrates Stark’s kindness and big heart. Wilkes: “That man is a menace. A genius. No doubt a danger to himself—and others. … He’s more than alright. He invited me—a stranger—into his home, without a second of equivocation. You know how many people would do that?” While it is easy to write Howard off as a devil-may-care playboy, the truth is that the devil does care, and he drops everything to rush off to Peru to aid a stranger.
One last shady meeting between Jack and Vernon, crashed by Calvin, reveals the newspaper that Peggy had mentioned. While Jack swallowed his drink and smiled a charming smile, it looked like there was a slight shift in him. Those headlines were the exact proof that he had previously chastised Peggy for failing to get. His acts of change are small, but meaningful: watching the video, lying about it, trying to form a friendship with Daniel, and not turning a blind eye to the paper.
Revealing Whitney Frost as Agnes Cully, an inventor, the brains behind Isodyne was curious. Now, I want to see more of a Mad Scientist out of her. Pity her brains don’t come in handy, when Ken (Randy Sklar), her director comes on to her in her dressing room—and starts to sexually harass/assault her. She grabs his arm and Zero Matter dispatches him soundly, before slinking back into her body. As far as ways to dispose of a dead body, that’s pretty solid. No mess. No evidence. Not even a curl out of place. Pretty impressive.