Agent Carter “Smoke and Mirrors” Spoilers Ahead
Who doesn’t love good backstories and flashbacks?!
Episode Summary: Peggy and Jarvis kidnap Rufus. Peggy and Daniel interrogate Rufus. Peggy, Daniel, Jarvis, and Jason listen in on a conversation between Rufus, Whitney, and Chadwick. And then Whitney absorbs Rufus but our darling heroes have no clue what happened. In flashbacks, we learned that instead of encouraging her to use her mind to go far, Whitney’s mother discouraged her and blamed her for unsuccessful relationships. We also learn that prior to joining the S.S.R., Peggy was engaged to be married, but after her brother’s death, she followed her dreams of adventure and heroism.
Review | Analysis: Agent Carter is a series that has a lot to say and it does so with such effortless grace, it makes it incredibly easy to be inspired by it. While we women certainly relate more, the fact that there are men that have actually watched the series and understood things they may not have in such depth is remarkable. While last week taught us the importance of trusting our instincts, this week we were reminded of the fact that we need to go where our hearts desire and follow the dreams we’ve wanted our entire lives. Most of us know what we want to be when we grow up, sure it changes every once in a while, but for the most part, that one dream that’s been in our hearts our entire lives is what I personally believe is the one we should all follow. No one can accomplish anything alone, thereby, another vital theme presented in Agent Carter is that it’s important to surround ourselves with those who encourage and truly know us inside out.
Agent Carter isn’t just a series about women kicking ass and fighting for the recognition they deserve, it’s a series about remaining true to ourselves in a world where people are trying desperately to mold us into their ideal desires.
What’s always been fascinating about Agent Carter and perhaps Marvel as a whole is the fact that even the women who are villains have backstories that are truly intriguing. Women like Dottie Underwood and even Natasha Romanoff were trained from a very young age to do nothing but kill. While we’re all capable of making our own choices, sometimes people are forced into something beyond their desires. And sometimes, even though these women are strong, they aren’t always brave enough to step out of “their norm.”
Whitney Frost is more than just a pretty face and the struggle she faced her entire life because of her looks is not only fascinating as a viewer, but it’s downright heartbreaking as a woman. And it’s even more heartbreaking as someone who’s got the good ol’ “resting bitch face.” I cannot even begin to count the number of times I’ve been told I’d look prettier if I smiled — sure we’re all 100 times more beautiful when we’re happy, it’s a fact, but sometimes, you get so caught up doing something, you can’t wear a smile on your face at the moment. And if you’re serious for even a second, people automatically assume there’s something wrong or you’re looking at them funny. And from then on, all sorts of issues rise to the surface. That said, flashbacks in “Smoke and Mirrors” not only revealed her brilliance but her dedication. As mentioned above, when we’re truly occupied with something and our mind’s racing in an attempt to reach perfection, our expression doesn’t exactly showcase happiness — it illuminates a drive. And more often than not that drive isn’t praised enough. And from a very young age, instead of encouraging her to pursue a career that requires her mind, Whitney’s mom shunned her and convinced her of the fact that no one would ever want her because of her gender. That may have been true to an extent at the time, but perseverance always prevails. Someone somewhere would’ve recognized her brilliance and given her the credit where it was due. But how could someone triumph if they have no one encouraging them? How could they trust their mind and the greatness it can bring if there’s no one praising them for it? Women aren’t just objects of affection, they are much more than that and this is a series that focuses heavily on illuminating the fact. Whitney Frost left just as she’d promised, but somewhere along the way she used her mind for something terrible instead. She’s also a woman who chooses what she wants to do and when she wants to do so, perhaps there’s a chance for a redemption arc?
In contrast, we see a little Peggy running around slaying dragons and pinning down her brother Michael who we later learn has recommended his sister to become an agent. In 1940, Peggy Carter is engaged to a man who’s far more interested in a boring life than a life of adventure, and although she isn’t convinced at first, the tragedy of losing her brother inspires her to join S.O.E. Playing a role in saving the world is clearly a Carter family thing and if it weren’t for her brother’s encouragement, who knows what kind of a life Peggy Carter would’ve led. It’s not that we aren’t wise enough to make our own decisions, but sometimes in order for people to believe in themselves, they need someone else to see what they can’t. They need someone to remind them of the dreams they fervently believed in as children because they care to know a person well enough to understand what will make them truly happy.
This is not to say that Peggy’s fiancé didn’t care about her, but I got the sense that he merely wanted a wife and a stable life. While that’s fine for some men and women, it isn’t fine for a woman like Peggy and although a tragedy helped her come to the realization, it’s great that she allowed her brother’s words and unwavering faith in her to guide her toward the life she was always destined to live. Michael Carter seemed like an absolute delight and it’s always lovely getting to know a favorite character’s family members. And what stood out most about him is that even more than an older brother, he was Peggy’s best friend. A boring life may be a privilege, but there are people in this world whose entire dreams from a young age consist of being heroes — saving people brings them an unparalleled sense of happiness and though it’s an enormous risk to take, it’s commendable in every way. It’s worth it in the end.
It continues to astound me that the most important men in Peggy’s life have always believed in her abilities as a woman and reminded her of the fact that she deserves to fight and win. She shouldn’t care what people think of her because the little girl inside of her didn’t care about the opinions of others when she was slaying dragons in their yard. Just as Michael encouraged her before his death, Edwin Jarvis and Daniel Sousa are now by her side reminding her of the greatness she’s capable of. And this kind of fervent, real support is what I’d like to call ideal.
On tonight’s episode of “Daniel Sousa continues to convince the entire world he’s in love with someone else,” Daniel Sousa actually fails miserably because the darling man cares far too much about Peggy. One of my favorite things about love stories on television is watching actors do indescribable work that speaks louder than words could ever.
At this point in the series, their relationship provides another form of comedic relief with obvious hints of a deeply entrenched mutual adoration. While in “Better Angels” Daniel makes it clear he’s on Peggy’s side, in “Smoke and Mirrors,” he takes it one step further by reminding her he’s in with her until the end. It continues to floor me just how effortlessly their teamwork has evolved and though Peggy still chooses not to confide in him at all times because she worries about putting too much on his plate, he once again states that no matter what, he needs to be there for backup. What continues to stand out in their partnership is the fact that just as Peggy was Steve’s moral compass, Daniel is Peggy’s.
In Captain America: The First Avenger we watched Peggy’s unwavering faith in Steve lead him toward greatness — she was his strength, his light, and the force he needed to believe. Although Steve wasn’t able to give back in the same way due to the very little time they had together, his belief in her continues to play a crucial role in her life. As mentioned above, while we’re all capable of believing in ourselves, at the end of the day we’re human beings, and we fall. And when we do fall, that’s when we need those who know us best to remind us of what we’re capable of. Peggy wasn’t just Steve’s equal and strength, she was his partner, and that partnership meant taking risks, undermining orders, and fighting the good fight even when very few believed in them. (Reference: Peggy and Howard going with Steve to rescue the Howling Commandos.) In the same way, Daniel Sousa is in it til the end, it doesn’t matter what his bosses say because he believes in Peggy — he believes in the fact that she was meant for more. And that belief in her, much like her brother’s plus Jarvis’ belief allows Peggy to continuously rise higher.
It breaks my heart to see Peggy essentially blame herself for what happened to Jason, but it saddens me, even more, to see that there’s clearly something very wrong with him. For those who don’t watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the following part contains spoilers. It appears as though whatever Whitney’s doing (absorbing people) a part of that is inside Jason and that’s why “it’s calling to him.” I do wonder if the monster that’s found on S.H.I.E.L.D. is what Whitney eventually ends up becoming alongside Dr. Wilkes? If perhaps she becomes too powerful to contain here on earth so she’s sent away there? I don’t know. Do you know? I hate theorizing, it drives me bonkers. Kudos to those who do it regularly.
Politely Sarcastic British Heroes: (Jarvis & Peggy) Poor Jarvis — always having to deal with Howard’s strange fascination with animals that shouldn’t be pets. (If he brings home a giraffe, I get dibs on taking care of it). While Agent Carter’s “Smoke and Mirrors” was lacking in emotional scenes with their partnership, Jarvis’ assistance in helping Peggy capture Rufus was absolutely hilarious. Who doesn’t love it when someone’s been hit with a tranquilizer and starts speaking nonsense? Although there wasn’t much, it was lovely to watch Jarvis help Jason out with writing the problem he was trying to solve. (I’m sorry Math/Physics/Chemistry is gibberish to me).
Three Favorite Quotes:
- Jarvis: Jarvelous!
- Peggy: (after stating that she’d just shot Rufus with an intense cold) Cup of tea?
Daniel: This is crazy.
- Michael Carter: Don’t worry about what other people think. You are meant to fight. Stop pretending to be someone that you’re not.
Worth Mentioning: I really appreciated that little moment where Whitney states that she’d want to watch the movie over to escape reality and the theatre attendant found it in her heart to give her a free ticket. Such acts of kindness always have a way of leaving a lasting impression and I love the fact that the series found time to include it in such a jam-packed episode.
What are your thoughts on Agent Carter’s “Smoke and Mirrors?”
What an excellent review, Giss! I loved your analysis of Whitney’s character. I especially liked these questions you posed: “But how could someone triumph if they have no one encouraging them? How could they trust their mind and the greatness it can bring if there’s no one praising them for it?”
Yes, it’s important to develop your own sense of self-worth independent of what others think. But I’m not sure anyone can do that entirely on their own. I’m of the firm belief that you need to have at least one person in your corner, encouraging you to trust yourself and helping you appreciate the things that make you special in order to truly begin to feel confident exactly as you are. And Peggy had Michael, but poor Agnes was left on her own.
I also really appreciated the comparisons you made between Peggy and Steve’s relationship and Peggy and Daniel’s. Because we were introduced to Peggy through Steve’s story, we got more of a sense of her being there for him, while now that it’s her time to really shine, we get to see Daniel taking on that role of being there for her and supporting her. I love that both relationships were true partnerships, because that’s the kind of relationship a woman like Peggy needs and deserves.
Finally, I have to mention that “Daniel Sousa continues to convince the entire world he’s in love with someone else” is the best thing ever. Poor Daniel. You’re not fooling anybody, Mr. Sousa. (Or I suppose I should say poor Violet.)
Thank you so very much, lovely. And yes just it breaks my heart to think that there are people in the world that don’t support them. I don’t know what I would do with my mom’s constant encouragement so to watch a story where a mother just doesn’t see her daughter’s mind as something incredibly special is heartbreaking. But this made me care so much about Whitney and her story I really can’t wait to see where this goes. Daniel Sousa is a precious little child and it’s adorable how hard he’s trying and failing miserably. I cannot wait to get more on Violet because they made it so we would automatically love her since she’s so sweet, but on a show like this, can we really trust everyone? Sigh. I wish this show was on everyday.