Agent Carter‘s latest episode dives into history – her own, her enemy’s, and the world’s – though few actual comic references.
I enjoyed this episode, though not everyone did, still, it’s a shame to have a Marvel property with so few Marvel references.
On a personal note: sorry for the delay, I’ve been busy with work. It happens!
The story thus far: Tracking the mysterious Zero Matter that turned Dr. Jason Wilkes into a ghost of a man, Peggy Carter of the SSR found herself the target of politician Calvin Chadwick and his actress/scientist wife, Whitney Frost. Though she fought off assassin Mr. Hunt, Peggy still doesn’t know how far the Arena Club’s reach extends.
From Comics Universe to Cinematic Universe
Let’s take this more-or-less chronologically and start with Peggy’s childhood. We see Peggy, full name Margaret Elizabeth Carter, and her older brother Michael playing, and Peggy’s dream is to be the knight who saves the princess from a dragon. Some heavy-handed foreshadowing, sure, but clearly, Peggy wasn’t meant to be rescued by others. Interestingly, while last week’s episode established that heroes of the Old West, this week hinted at even older heroes. Marvel introduced its own superhero of the Round Table in 1952, the unassuming Sir Percy would take on the persona of the Black Knight. In Peggy’s storybook, the unnamed knight saves Princess Sabra from a dragon; Marvel’s Israeli superhero is called Sabra, but she’s no princess. Oh, and it fits that Peggy’s middle name is “Elizabeth,” as in the Captain America movie she played the same role as Elizabeth “Betty” Ross in the comics.
We next see Peggy in Bletchley Park in 1940, announcing her engagements to her codebreaking coworkers in the military intelligence. Her boss, Mr. Edwards, gives her an invitation to Churchill’s Special Operations Executive, which she initially turns down. For the record, the SOE are better known on the internawebs as the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. That’s right, the Ministry was a real life unit of the best of the best, including James Bond, Count Dracula/Dooku, and Willy Wonka, who planned missions from Sherlock’s flat. Why has that group never been put on film? Oh, for a Marvel connection, Alan Moore created the Special Executive, transtemporal mercenaries who worked alongside Time Lords and the Captain Britain Corps.
Jump ahead a bit and we’re in Hampstead, at Peggy’s engagement party. Michael finally meets her fiancée Fred, who is strangely everything Peggy isn’t – he participates in the war effort by staying at home and glorifies the idea of staying out of any kind of active battle. We learn it was Michael who suggested Peggy for the SOE, but she couldn’t just leave her life behind to play hero. After news comes of Michael’s presumed death on the front lines (by soldiers who oddly honk when approaching Carter’s lavish home), Peggy changes her mind, calls off the engagement, and goes to war. In my headcanon, Fred could be the counterpart for Fred Davis, who was the second Bucky (after James Barnes “died” fighting Nazis), but after the war became a cane-using superspy (much like Sousa) – he isn’t though.
As a nice juxtaposition, we also learn about young Whitney Frost, then Agnes Cully in Broxton, Oklahoma. In 1920, young Aggie fixed her mother’s radio, not that her mother Wilma cared as she was too busy canoodling with “Uncle” Bud Schultz, who was not Aggie’s father. Oddly, last week’s birth certificate listed Aggie’s mother as “Mary Jean” – so maybe she changed her name to Wilma at some point? By 1928, Bud was cheating on Wilma, then kicked her and Aggie out when he was confronted about it. Even at this early age, Aggie was drawing engineering schematics, but her mother pointed out that her brains won’t get her far – the University of Oklahoma rejected her – but her looks could. In 1934 she was discovered by talent agent Ned Silver while attending a screening of The Spanish Tower starring Teresa Montgomery at the Olympic Movie House. As creepy as he was, Ned did get her into pictures, and as “Whitney Frost,” she became Anvil Studios biggest star by 1938. She still got to do science as in 1943 she developed a fast-neutron reactor 1,000 times stronger than Clementine, the reactor Los Alamos would build in ’46. Translation: Aggie was a supergenius. As Tsalonich pointed out in the comments last week, Whitney seems very much inspired by real-life genius Hedy Lemarr, the gorgeous actress who helped advance wireless communications. (Marvel also had an actress named Hedy: Hedy DeVine of Hollywood, but she hasn’t been shown as a supergenius.)
Jump ahead to the present, and Whitney is exploring her new dark powers, as her maid Mabel delivers some white rats which, after some trial and error, she “eats,” causing her Zero Matter head-crack to spread. There may be some connection to the ghostly Dr. Wilkes, as the more Whitney is using her powers, the more disconnected he feels from reality; he even witnesses some sort of crack in dimensions, albeit briefly.
Meanwhile, Peggy and Jarvis tail Whitney’s husband Chadwick for a while before discovering Rufus Hunt; the pair quickly decide to kidnap the assassin with Stark’s tranquilizer darts – of which it takes several and a few hits to the head to knock out Hunt (only half a dart to take out Jarvis though). Although Peggy tries to keep Sousa out of their shenanigans, he offers to help, and the three heroes torture Hunt with Stark’s failed cure for the common cold (which Hunt, a veteran of the Pacific Theater, mistakes for malaria). Hunt claims Peggy is trying and failing to be Eliot Ness (famed G-man and Al Capone-hater) before giving in and naming Wall Street big wig Thomas Gloucester and Roxxon boss Hugh Jones as members of the Council (Jones had a brief run-in with Peggy last season). Hunt also claims the Council was responsible for President McKinley’s assignation and Black Tuesday. Roxxon, for those who forgot, is an evil corporation in Marvel Comics and has been showing up in various Marvel Cinematic Universe properties since the beginning.
Just as Sousa and Peggy are set to lead an officially warranted raid on the Arena Club, Vernon Masters of the War Department shows up to do a full, thorough, and immediate, audit of all SSR files. After some verbal sparring, Peggy deduces that Masters is as dirty as they come and politely declines to cooperate. Interestingly, Masters namedrops the Hollywood 10, which would mean this series takes place in very late 1947. The 10 were filmmakers who refused to cooperate with Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunts – they were blacklisted at the time, but respected by today’s historians. Before leaving the building, Sousa obtains a sample from Jane Scott’s autopsy (from the first episode).
Sousa helps Hunt “escape” with one of Stark’s listening devices planted on him. Although Sousa complains about getting punched once, Peggy points out she already fought with Hunt twice – man-up, Sousa! Hunt makes a beeline for Chadwick’s place, where he attempts to blackmail Frost and Chadwick into protecting him from the Council; naturally, Frost “eats” him with her dark powers, frightening Chadwick and confusing Peggy and her compatriots who could only listen in on the activities.
Next week Frost stops hiding her powers from others!