[This is a review of Agent Carter season 2, episodes 6 and 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
In recent weeks, Agent Carter has featured compelling back stories not only for Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) herself, but the villain of season two, Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett), as well. Last week, Agent Carter brought in minor characters to focus on a team-up mission that led to a lighter episode, while further developing season-long character arcs like Daniel Sousa's (Enver Gjokaj) feelings for Peggy. Now, in this week's back-to-back episodes, Black Widow agent Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan) returns for a reluctant partnership with Peggy, while certain other storylines clumsily manifest out of thin air.
'Life of the Party', written by Eric Pearson and directed Craig Zisk, and 'Monsters', written by Brandon Easton and directed by Metin Hüseyin, see Peggy turning to former opponent Dottie while she is still injured, but the team needs to act quickly in order to save Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) from succumbing to the Zero Matter. In 'Life of the Party', Dottie and Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy) attend a campaign party for Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham) - that is also attended by Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) and Vernon Masters (Kurtwood Smith). Meanwhile, Whitney demonstrates her newfound abilities for the Council and Sousa reveals to Peggy that Violet (Sarah Bolger) broke off their engagement.
In 'Monsters', Peggy must go after Dottie, who has been taken captive by Whitney and her new Council, with the aid of Jarvis. Back at Howard Stark's mansion, Wilkes completes a containment chamber for himself using the Zero Matter from Whitney's blood sample and Ana Jarvis (Lotte Verbeek) expresses her concerns about her husband's adventures. Meanwhile, Sousa is approached by Vernon to find the missing Roxxon uranium (that he helped steal in 'The Atomic Job'), and his refusal has dire consequences.
In both episodes, Dottie is the strongest element, with Regan able to bring fun and humor as well as seriousness to the role of the expert operative. In 'Life of the Party', the dynamic between Peggy and Dottie - two evenly matched female agents - gets turned from that of opponents into reluctant partners as they're forced to work together. But it isn't an easy partnership, with Peggy threatening Dottie with death by a neurotoxin if she steps out of line and Dottie escaping Peggy's monitoring by ditching her communication device. Still, Peggy and Dottie's interactions were one of the highlights of the season premiere and they continue to be compelling.
Additionally 'Life of the Party' essentially rearranges the division of power in the Council, with Whitney killing the majority of its members and taking the seat of leadership. This move has a trickle down effect to Vernon - who takes his orders from the Council - and, subsequently, Jack. With Vernon putting more pressure than ever on Jack to get Peggy in line, he confronts her. But, when he threatens her job if she doesn't get in line, she quits. This is a recurring theme between the two episodes, since Vernon either directly or indirectly threatens the positions of Jack, Sousa, and Peggy, but both Sousa and Peggy refuse to give in while Jack acquiesces. Though we see their decisions on 'Life of the Party' and 'Monsters', the consequences remain to be seen.
'Life of the Party' also features a development in the relationship between Peggy and Sousa, when the two nearly sharing a kiss once he reveals the reason behind Violet breaking off their engagement. Their developing connection affects Wilkes in 'Monsters', prompting him to push harder in order to become corporeal again, which puts a strain on the team since Peggy has prioritized tracking down Dottie. Agent Carter, for the most part, avoids the clichés of a love triangle storyline. Though Peggy and Jarvis discuss her romantic troubles during a quiet moment in 'Monsters', it largely takes a back seat to the mission against Whitney - though it will likely be further developed in coming episodes.
However, the relationship between Peggy and Sousa brings out a darker side of Wilkes that seems to be influenced by the Zero Matter. Though Agent Carter has been hinting at Wilkes succumbing to a dark force throughout the season, he takes a sudden turn to violence and anger in 'Life of the Party' that is further seen in 'Monsters'. It prompts Whitney to suggest that they work together and though he refuses, his character has made such an abrupt change to anger and jealousy that it seems possible he could side with her and the Zero Matter. Although this could provide an interesting twist to season 2 of Agent Carter, this change in Wilkes' character was by no means earned by the show's character development.
Another storyline that suddenly appeared in 'Life of the Party' is Ana's worry about her husband. Though it is warranted, it hadn't been mentioned at all throughout the first half of the season - and, in fact, she helped Peggy in the premiere by supplying a garter with a gun holster sewn in. However, Ana's sudden reappearance after a few episodes to worry about Jarvis is setup for the climax of 'Monsters', which sees her shot by Whitney and rushed to the hospital as Jarvis is incapacitated by shock. This twist is spoiled by the too-obvious lead up during the two episodes - which may have benefited from airing a week apart rather than back-to-back - and does a disservice to Ana's character, who hasn't been given much to do this season as it is.
The clumsy handling of both Wilkes and Ana's characters in 'Life of the Party' and 'Monsters' is evidence that both were underutilized during the earlier part of the season. Though Agent Carter provided compelling character development of its main cast - Peggy, Jarvis, Sousa, Jack, and Whitney - it seems Wilkes and Ana fell through the cracks, with that becoming clear in these two episodes.
The return of Dottie was certainly a highlight to both 'Life of the Party' and 'Monsters', bringing equally fun moments of humor and more serious scenes to the back-to-back episodes. Though the more minor storylines in the episodes didn't quite live up to other character development seen this season, the missions in both episodes propelled the plot forward to set up certain plotlines that may prove to be compelling throughout the rest of season 2. Certainly, the saving grace of these poorly realized story threads is that they set up an exciting final three episodes to the season.
With Wilkes in the hands of Whitney, Dottie escaped, Peggy no longer an SSR agent, and Sousa removed as Chief of the SSR and replaced by Vernon, Peggy and Jarvis have been defeated for now. But, with Jarvis seeking revenge and Peggy even more determined to beat Whitney and the Council, the final run of episodes in Agent Carter's second season could prove to be the most exciting yet.
Agent Carter continues with ‘The Edge of Mystery’ and ‘A Little Song and Dance’ on February 23rd at 9pm on ABC. Check out a preview below: