'Marvel's Agent Carter' S2E4: Smoke and Mirrors

★ ★ ★ ★

Behind every great man is an even greater woman — and behind that woman are the experiences that made her the person she is today. Agent Carter finally got around to showing viewers how Peggy wound up becoming a field agent and what happened before she met Captain America. "Smoke and Mirrors" also took the opportunity to dive into Whitney Frost's backstory as well.

Yet that's where the episode suffered. Cramming two flashbacks for two very complex characters into one episode left little room to explore them sufficiently. For one, Agnes Cully, now Whitney Frost, grew up in a run-of-the-mill messed up childhood: from a poor family with a single mother relying on sex to make ends meet. Both Peggy and Whitney's flashbacks focus on the themes laid out in the season rather than actually build up their characters. Neither one of the flashbacks are specific enough to fully explore either character and, in Whitney's case, it leaves viewers with more questions than answers.

The emphasis on appearance was something instituted into Whitney from a young age as a survival skill rather than as a part of her identity. Whitney's superficial mother, Wilma, had a hard time grasping Whitney's unmeasurable genius and was hellbent on ensuring her daughter makes it in life, though not the way Whitney wanted. Whitney's backstory was about as shallow as her mother and it didn't help that Samaire Armstrong's interpretation of Wilma felt skin deep. There was little to support Whitney's transformation into the woman we saw at the movie theatre. Creepy "Uncle Bud" was hinted at being romantically interested in Whitney, but, again, the that situation wasn't explored enough.

Marvel's Agent Carter: S2E4

There's a gap in Whitney's life story between her mother's speech in front of the mirror and the movie theatre. While yes, it was probably the rejection letter that set the Whitney Frost we know today into motion, but it still felt incomplete. The hiding away of her intelligence is something that needs a tad more evidence in her life story in order to become more credible.

The Zero Matter "scar" on her face reminds of a porcelain doll. The perfect superficial image Whitney Frost has long held as a way to protect herself from the pain in the world is slowly, but surely splintering as she discovers that what's in her is truly the most powerful weapon she has. It's curious to see Whitney experiment so cavalierly with her zero matter absorption. On one hand, seeing her connect emotion with the power is a eureka moment making her rat experiments worth it, and her absorption of that goon only shows that Hollywood is far behind her and that her beauty is now a useless tool ready to be thrown away for a grander scheme of things.

Though Peggy didn't need as much in her flashback to show viewers that her becoming an agent was an inevitability and being a housewife would bore her, it felt strain too. We were only able to get a couple of snippets of her life story before Captain America and this Sparknotes approach to her life was good, but still not entirely enough. Peggy as a child was an adorable introduction and her saving the princess was a charming touch. While Whitney didn't grow up with the means nor the support, Peggy was well into her childhood when her brother, Michael, began mentoring her. Michael sugar coats war, making it more idealistic than it should, but it makes his death all the more tragic. So Peggy decides to do what Michael thought was best for her and she becomes a field agent. Peggy's broken relationship with Fred will be interesting to explore later on.

Wilkes, as a non-corporeal character bearing little importance to the plot for the time being, is desperately in need of something to do. For now an information bucket, Wilkes' "void" and the "calling" he is hearing is intriguing, but he still can't manage to materialize enough to be interesting. Besides, there has to be some uses for him besides being back at the lab waiting for someone to spray him with Stark's formula. For example, couldn't they be using him for spy work? Someone who can't be touched or seen, but can control himself in the meantime should be excellent for eavesdropping. Also, if Wilkes can't move objects, then how was Peggy's pen floating?

While the Arena Club storyline is just becoming a political game of cat and mouse, the other players in this season are becoming more and more powerful with each episode. Though Wilkes' presence is tiresome right now, that might not be the case once we discover what is happening to him. In the grand scheme of things, let's hope that Whitney Frost is more than just a Big Bad for the season given how interesting she has become.

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