Agent Carter “Life of the Party” and “Monsters” Spoilers Ahead
In the words of Edwin Jarvis: ABORT.
Episode Summary: Chadwick turns Whitney into the council, but it backfires when she absorbs him and a few other men. Dottie escapes after helping Peggy. Wilkes was taken captive. Daniel’s been beaten and then later demoted. Vernon can’t be trusted. Thompson’s still terrible. And the ever-so-sweet Ana Jarvis has been drastically injured after being shot by Whitney.
Review | Analysis: As with all episodes of Agent Carter, tonight’s two-hour special was an absolute adventure — a roller coaster of way too many feelings I have no idea how to work through. Agent Carter “Life of the Party” and “Monsters” played with a variety of noted spy drama tropes, but what they’ve done most phenomenally, is give each of the female characters an opportunity to shine. Both episodes also did a great job of exhibiting the fact that despite the fear that resides in us, we’re all far more courageous than we think, and sometimes, a single step is all it takes to showcase that bravery.
Before we get into the episode, I feel it’s important to acknowledge that this series is filled with some of the most talented actors and actresses. They’re not only incredibly fun to watch, but when things need to take an emotional turn, they’re as evocative as can be delivering some of the most incredible performances. Again, why aren’t more people watching this show?
Does Whitney Frost remind anyone else of Norma Desmond (Sunset Blvd.)? No? Just me? Okay, that’s cool. That said, while “Smoke and Mirrors” made me care for Whitney, tonight’s made me loathe her. I’m not entirely sure I want to see her redeemed any more. You don’t harm a beautiful tropical fish like Ana Jarvis and expect me to still want the best for you. Wynn Everett does a remarkable job revealing just how consuming the power is, but at this point, it doesn’t seem as though Whitney wants to be honorable. She wants power in all the wrong ways and that’s just a massive no-no. Additionally, judging by what we know about Zero Matter, is there really a solution to all this? The end result feels as though it’s going to be sending it off into another place. Sort of like what we’ve seen on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I didn’t expect her to be involved with Joseph, but considering how he beat up a man for looking at her wrong, it’s not surprising. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he was involved with a Hydra organization as well.
Never in a million years did I imagine we’d see Dottie Underwood cry, but there’s a first time for everything. “Monsters” gave us this moment — a strangely sincere moment where for the first time in her life, she was frightened. She was hurt. Peggy even mentioned last week, but apparently being touched by someone with Zero Matter hurts far more than being impaled. Now we know that even a woman who’s pulled out her own teeth and known excruciating pain agrees with Peggy, too. Bridget Regan is an absolute genius — it’s not easy to create an exciting villain that genuinely leaves viewers perplexed. We knew Dottie would run, but there are moments throughout the episode where we were not only able to care for her but she’s managed to keep her actions surprising. You weren’t sure whether she’d stay or leave, but most importantly you felt her agony. Regan made sure we felt Dottie’s pain and fears. And that not only made for a compelling performance, but it did a wonderful job of showing parts of the character we probably would’ve never gotten to see. Beyond the fierce unbreakable exterior is actually a human being, an insanely villainous human being, but at least we know she’s not invincible.
Next up on the list of phenomenally written characters, Ana Jarvis broke me this week. Lotte Verbeek has done an exquisite job with this character, and because of this, I want to keep the character around for as long as the series is on air. If I had to choose an episode MVP, Lotte Verbeek takes the crown without a second thought. From the beginning, Verbeek makes it clear that Ana’s uncomfortable — she’s on edge and afraid of what her husband’s doing. And even when she’d smile, you were still able to see fear and discomfort in her eyes. You could see her attempting to keep it all together. Some women take care of people. It’s who they are. It runs in their veins — this innate need to comfort and take care of people. And oftentimes, these are the women whose aches the world doesn’t pay attention to. They’re expected to smile all the time. They’re expected to take care of people. They’re expected to welcome people in with open arms despite how they may feel. She’s open and welcoming not because she has to be, but because she genuinely wants to be. Still, that doesn’t mean she isn’t allowed to fall. Additionally, women like Ana Jarvis are often perceived as weak; however, she is the perfect example of a woman whose courage lies not only in her compassion but in her bravery to be honest. It is that same strength that is later showcased with immense bravery when she goes after Whitney Frost unarmed. Sure, it isn’t wise, but watching her stand up for Jason while fearfully attempting to appear threatening was admirable. And it was especially admirable an episode where an agent like Thompson who often looks down on women revealed his cowardice once more by refusing to be honest with Vernon.
And that is why Ana Jarvis deserves to be commended about a hundred times because she tries. She tries to help. She tries to do the honorable thing despite the fact that she may not be suited for it. Not to mention that the best part is that the series didn’t shock us by giving her some sort of fighting ability because not all women have that in them. And through Ana’s character, we’re able to see that our words can be just as powerful as physical strength, but above all things, it’s our bravery to stand up despite the fears and uncertainties that may encompass us. I’m not saying Ana’s actions were right or wise, but I am saying that the step she chose to take to protect someone she’s known for a short while is incredibly admirable.
Much like Verbeek, James D’Arcy was at the top of his game this week delivering what may have been the most heartbreaking performance we’ll probably see from him. Of course, we knew Jarvis loved Ana deeply considering the great lengths he went to for her, but this is the first time where we watched it happen in front of our eyes. Often times when we’re told about a relationship, it’s difficult to see the depth and beauty in it, and while it was certainly more enjoyable on a series like Agent Carter, finally seeing their adoration for one another was the icing on top of a wonderful cake. It was beautiful to watch Jarvis read her expressions and understand from her touch that she was worried. It was beautiful to see him reassure her with full confidence but also pure devotion in his expressions. D’Arcy and Verbeek play off one another exceptionally well, and because we’re exposed to the depth of their ridiculously marvelous relationship, it made the ending that much more difficult. Ana Jarvis is a character none of us want to see get hurt, but Jarvis’ reactions increased the aches tremendously. From the moment he realized Ana’s life may be in danger, D’Arcy delivered the awareness with the right amount of fear and boldness. He may panic here and there, but when his wife could be in potential danger, nothing will stand in his way. He made certain of that not only through his actions, but his unflinching determination, which quickly made its way onto his expression. And when she was being rushed into the operating room, D’Arcy’s exhibition of Jarvis’ current pain and returning fears were agonizing. Jarvis wasn’t there at that moment — he was with Ana, desperately wishing and hoping he could trade places with her and the fearfully hollow expressiveness proved what a gifted actor he truly is.
Before we get into discussing more about Jarvis and Peggy’s moments this week, let’s talk about the fact that the attack on Daniel Sousa was probably set up by Thompson or Vernon. It had to have been, right? I wasn’t the only one who noticed Vernon poking Daniel right where he knew he’d ache. Plus, taking over as Chief right after? Nobody wants you. Go home. Please and thank you. However, if he’s been demoted and Peggy’s technically disobeying each one of Thompson’s “rules” (you go, girl!) then perhaps it’s safe to assume that creating S.H.I.E.L.D. will be in the works sooner than we imagine. Howard needs to get back from wherever he is because this should happen a lot sooner than in the following seasons I hope.
Agent Carter is a series that emphasizes the importance of a woman’s agency, but it’s also a series that beautifully showcases the fact that a strong, fierce woman isn’t weakened when she opens her heart to love. In fact, love is a vast part of Peggy’s story — much like saving the world, romance is included in her happy ending. And by the way the series presents such storylines, not only are we able to forget that it plays with the god-awful “love triangle” trope, but hopefully, viewers get the sense that women aren’t weakened when they give in to their heart’s desires. Agent Carter debunks the conception that love is a weakness by evolving a romance through a solid partnership. As Jarvis states, there’s always been something between Daniel and Peggy — a profound, kindred connection. War never really ends for those who’ve lived through it, but despite their visibility, scars don’t ache forever. One day you find yourself standing side by side with someone who’s willing to share your burdens, someone who understands pain and suffering, but beyond that, someone who’s ceaselessly looked deep within your soul in order to assure you that you’re treasured. Daniel Sousa’s done this time and time again — he has put Peggy first because he’s seen an irreplaceable heart in her.
Agent Carter does an excellent job of treating its women, but it also does a superlative job of brilliantly revolutionizing the true meaning of feminism — equality. This isn’t a series that praises women while slamming men. Respect should be given where it’s due regardless of gender or skin color. And thereby, it was lovely to see Peggy openly declare no one can do better than Daniel because it discredits agent Krezminski’s ridiculous comment about how “no woman would trade in the red, white, and blue for an aluminum crutch.” Daniel isn’t defined by his disability or his status in S.S.R., and Peggy’s always seen the man within. And declaring this out loud essentially allows him to see that he is of great importance to her. She sees what matters in him. This moment could’ve gone in a few different ways, but it continues to amaze me that writers have found incomparable ways of making the relationship so incredibly healthy and organic. Daniel wasn’t going to talk about the broken engagement if Peggy hadn’t mentioned Violet — he wasn’t going to take his newfound freedom to immediately take her up on drinks. And Peggy wasn’t going to get happy because he’s now single. It’s fitting that she’d get angry. It’s fitting that she’d immediately try to fix the situation. And when it comes to communication these two cannot be more awkward, but a heated moment was precisely what they needed in order to work through their feelings. But let’s not waste any more time because the cinematic brilliance that follows the breathtaking declaration a lot of us have been waiting for is waiting.
The expanse of sentiments humans are able to convey without words is perhaps one of the most enthralling facts about us. And in “Life of the Party” the cinematography gorgeously revealed the magic that’s found in a touch — the effort to not only comfort but to express something more profound simply by joining hands. Thereafter, because it’s easier to feel adoration than it is to speak it, Enver Gjokaj and Hayley Atwell communicate volumes through their expressions. As though Daniel and Peggy are physically and emotionally realizing just how much really lies between them. And it is that exact realization which gracefully leads into an almost kiss — cue Daniel Pemberton’s “The Unfinished Kiss” from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. This is such a crucial moment in their development because it comes at a time where it’s not only entirely unexpected but they’re both a little lost in the tenderness of the other’s physical touch and yearning expressions. What’s so interesting about Daniel and Peggy is that while it’s always been clear there’s been something between them, the seemingly effortless progression into a solid partnership is playing a vital role in drawing them towards one another. It’s easy to be together. It’s easy for Peggy to let her walls down with him. It’s easy, to be honest. It’s easy to give in to the magnetic pull that’s taken hold of both their hearts.
Furthermore, next up on the list of characters that broke my heart this week is Jason Wilkes. He may have been harsh, but I don’t think any of us can imagine being in the state he’s in. Not to mention the fact that it’s clear Zero Matter is contributing to his emotions negatively. I can’t think of anything worse than not being able to feel — it’s what makes our lives magical and to lose that would be horrendous. But most importantly, it’s what Whitney tells him about why he was hired into Isodyne that saddened me the most. It was undoubtedly much more difficult for people of color in the 1940s, and though we’ve made incredible improvements today, I don’t think we can deny that there are still people who refuse to accept equality. And how many people do you think have been hired at a job simply to put out the message that they don’t discriminate? It’s progress in a sense, but the absence of integrity and selfishness is flat-out disgusting. And it’s not just like this for people of color but presumably sexuality as well. People want to be seen as self-righteous and that essentially means that there will always be people who aren’t treated the way they deserve to be. Perhaps it’s my instinctual desire to be optimistic about the world we live in thereby, it’s often still shocking that this happens. And when news breaks out of innocent lives being lost due to their skin color, my heart breaks severely. It’s 2016 and the only thing we should care about is a person’s heart, but even today there’s darkness in the world. There’s going to come a day when we’ll accept the fact that regardless of our gender, skin color, religion, and sexuality, we all bleed the same. Whitney’s choice to reveal this is interesting because while Jason faced a great deal of discrimination, he’s always chosen to do the right thing. It appears as though they’ve both accepted that things won’t be changing anytime soon but in drastically different ways. Jason’s decided that though there will be people who’ll refuse to look beyond the color of his skin, he’ll still remain kind at heart whereas Whitney’s decided she’ll show the world just how powerful she can truly be in all the wrong ways.
Jason’s refusal to give in to her despite learning the truth about why he was hired in the first place is immensely admirable. Agent Carter has done a great job of not only highlighting the difficulties of being a person of color in the 1940s but of ceaselessly revealing that the heart is all that matters. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Wilkes or Whitney for that matter, but the effects of Zero Matter are no joke and I can’t help but assume it isn’t going to end well. However, this series does an impeccable job of handling situations with admirable grace and I don’t for a second doubt that whatever happens, Jason’s decisions will be for the greater good.
Just as I never in a million years imagined I’d see Dottie Underwood cry, I never imagined a series would present a love triangle in a way that didn’t make me want to claw my eyes out. I admire Jason Wilkes for countless reasons, but I can’t say I agree with his decision to kiss Peggy. I understood why he did it, and if he hadn’t witnessed the obvious “thing” between Daniel and Peggy, I’d be perfectly fine with it. Despite the fact that he was extremely excited to feel again, it didn’t feel right that he didn’t wait especially since she offered a handshake in the first place.
Lastly, both “Life of the Party” and “Monsters” revealed sides of Peggy Carter I feel immensely grateful to have seen. The best part of characters who are perceived as “badass queens” amongst fandoms is the fact that they’re flawed. And sometimes the flaws are things we don’t even think twice about. Sometimes, a flaw is continuing to work despite the fact that you’re in excruciating pain. Sometimes, a flaw isn’t letting something go. And it’s these kinds of flaws that make us all human beings. They’re the ones that lead to mistakes which when we learn from them, turn into strengths. Last week, we were given the opportunity to watch Peggy let her guard down and allow her loved ones to take care of her after getting impaled. This week, we watched her go straight back to work, but we also learned that it’s not easy. Agent Carter writes real women and that’s shamelessly my favorite part of this series. Just because someone is physically strong, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to ache. And I love the fact that Peggy’s recovery didn’t last two seconds because throughout the episode she was not only limping but admitting to the fact that the open wound was hurting her.
Peggy’s also a woman who deeply trusts her instincts, but as Dottie admits, sometimes her idealism gets the best of her, and tonight’s episode presented us with the importance of slowing down. In any situation, we can’t rush things. Sure some things demand immediate action, but are the consequences of those actions really worth it? As we saw with Ana Jarvis, while her bravery deserves to be commended, her choice to go after Whitney alone landed her in the hospital. Additionally, neither Peggy nor Jarvis should’ve left Jason and Ana alone in order to go after Dottie fully knowing it was a trap. As viewers, you’re able to understand why it was done, but as human beings, the lesson we’re being taught is that sometimes what we believe may be right isn’t. It’s important to clean up our own mess and take responsibility for our actions, but sometimes we have to let things go. It’s an interestingly complicated situation because on one hand, Dottie isn’t exactly innocent, but Peggy’s not the kind of person that’ll break a promise despite the fact that Dottie would in a heartbeat. It creates a messy situation that’s fascinating as a viewer, but all this also happens to the best of us in real life. And as human beings, we can get overly confident despite the fact that it isn’t our intention. But my greatest hope after tonight’s episode is that Peggy doesn’t blame herself because we all know she will.
On another note, what I continue to admire most about Peggy is the fact that she will admit to being wrong and she will offer an apology where it’s due. Part of knowing your value is understanding the difference between right and wrong followed by treating people with the level of respect you’d want to receive. And it’s because of this reason that her fervent belief in solving this case deserves to be supported. I’m looking at you, Jack Thompson.
Politely Sarcastic British Heroes: (Jarvis & Peggy) I should probably accept the fact that during every review I will start off this portion by saying I couldn’t love these two more if I tried. This is friendship at its absolute finest, and their unique banter continues to be unparalleled by anything else I’ve ever seen. Before we get into Jarvis’ “dad talk” with Peggy about her boys, let’s commend the indescribable work Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy did in the final scene of “Monsters”. The actors have established such exquisite chemistry, and in “Monsters” their performances were nothing short of groundbreaking. I can’t even look at gif sets without crying. The best performances are the ones that require no dialogue, for they’re the ones that leave viewers entranced hour after the episode has ended. As mentioned above, James D’Arcy’s heart-shattering expressiveness wrecked me, but this time, it was again due to the cinematography playing a crucial role in making the scene more evocative. There’s healing in every touch, but something inexpressibly powerful happens when we hold another’s hand. No matter the stage a person is in, at a time when words cannot heal, togetherness can. Peggy’s choice to hold onto Jarvis’ hand was perhaps one of the most poignantly beautiful scenes in the entire series. This friendship isn’t all about wonderful adventures and ridiculous conversations, it’s about carrying each other through the most difficult moments in life and this is undoubtedly the darkest in Jarvis’ life. As both episodes revealed, Ana is the most important person to him — she is his rock, the one person he’d be drastically lost without. And while in the past he may have had to go through something like this alone, right now he has Peggy. He has a friend, truer than all, who’ll be his strength in every way he needs her to be. This dark moment simply required reassurance, and there’s no better way to promise that everything will be okay than the joining of hands to offer warmth and comfort.
On a much lighter topic that won’t make us cry, I will forever watch the scene of him overhearing Daniel and Peggy’s conversation until I can’t breathe from laughing too hard. James D’Arcy’s expressions are unbeatably genius. Edwin Jarvis is single-handedly one of the most ridiculously amazing characters established and it’s scenes like this that remind us why. Jarvis is an absolute sweetheart, but beyond that, he truly and wholeheartedly wants the best for people which he’s never subtle about. Their conversation in the car was literally the type of conversation a father would awkwardly attempt to have with his daughter, and the fact that Peggy was so insistent on it ending was hysterical. Plainly, simply he ships it. And it’s always lovely of him to remind her of the things that make her exceptional.
Three Favorite Quotes:
Jarvis: I must say I do not envy your position. Between Dr. Wilkes’ incandescent smile and Chief Sousa’s eyes so warm, yet so wise.
Peggy: No no no no! Please.
Peggy: Believe it or not, I’ve been wrong before. I know what it feels like. I’m not wrong. Not this time.
Ana: She needs you. And I can see how much you need this. So I can permit you your adventure, Mr. Jarvis.
What are your thoughts on Agent Carter’s “Life of the Party” and “Monsters?”