After the previous week's lull, the plot picked up full steam with a reunion, a heist, imminent peril for both our heroes and, of course, the world. It was a big bag of crazy hijinks mixed with some very heartfelt moments. Most importantly, it got more of the whole ensemble into the picture.
Evidence Both Frost and Dr. Wilkes showed signs of Zero Matter attraction, though for different reasons: he thinks it might help him become corporeal again, while she's out for even more power. All decided to go straight to the source for more juice: the original stolen corpse who started this season's investigation. Agent Carter and Jarvis arrived just too late, as Frost absorbed the remaining Zero Matter and promptly decided to get even more, with the aid of an atomic bomb, courtesy of Roxxon.
Sousa finally proposed to his girlfriend Violet. The next morning Carter interrupted his celebration at the SSR to ask for help in getting into Roxxon HQ, so she can steal the key to its nearly impenetrable atomic bomb storage facility. Sousa rightly warned her that the man in charge might remember her from last season. She used a new SSR technique: a brain stunner that wiped his memory. As Carter and her allies plotted their heist, Jarvis encouraged them to get more help. Carter enlisted Rose, who then helped enlist SSR scientist Samberley; no official help could be gleaned for fear of tipping off the Council of Nine (aka the Arena Club).
When they finally broke in, Frost had once again arrived before them, with allies of her own from the local mob scene. Rose took out out most of the mobsters, while Samberley accidentally locked Jarvis in the same room as the bombs and Sousa talked the butler through how to diffuse them. Carter took the opportunity to go after Frost alone, which nearly proved her undoing, as the other lady easily took Carter out and left her for dead. The heroes only barely fled with their wounded comrade and the bombs.
Analysis This episode really got things moving again. It brought back Rose and Violet, giving each a more developed role than had previously been explored. It also brought into focus what the previous episode's flashbacks only outlined: Carter and Frost really are well matched opponents, with many of the same strengths and weaknesses. Only a few simple choices separate the line between hero and villain, and they make all the difference in the world.
It was a night all about choices. Sousa's subplot obviously revolved around which girl to choose: he left New York for California, met Violet, and now is engaged. But she recognizes that he still cares about Carter. While I'm not one for love triangles, I enjoy the fact that this show is turning a cliche on its head by not making Violet the "wrong choice" simply because she's not the lead. The engagement scene showed just why these two might be right for each other: the fun they had hunting for the engagement ring was a hoot, and she didn't miss a beat when he brought home a friend needing medical attention.
When Violet confronted him about his decision to leave New York, it wasn't out of catty jealousy or fear. Instead, we got the sense that she truly cares about his feelings, and wants the whole truth before making such a serious commitment as marriage. It was a good scene the actress played very well, giving just the right balance in tone.
Carter's choice to bring Rose along payed off in spades as the former "telephone gal" proved her abilities, knowing when to use the soft hand and when to fight back. She also proved to be very capable of following orders: despite her fears for Carter, she recognized the importance of getting the bombs away and letting someone else take her of her friend.
Frost and Carter once again faced many of the same, hard choices, and their paths continued to mirror. The latter's decision to go into Roxxon alone wasn't her finest hour. Her flippant dismissal of Sousa's warning proved short-sighted, and her use of the brain stunner wasn't strategic but defensive: her impatience with her target got the better of her. Frost also showed increased annoyance with manipulating her husband; she quickly switched from flattery to threats as her weapon of choice to get what she wants.
The two also proved strategic in assembling a team of allies to help them in their quest for the atomic bombs, but it's here that their key differences shine. Frost's goal is ultimately selfish: she doesn't want to be empowered to help others, despite her lofty words to her husband. Power, for her, is an end unto itself. Carter, on the other hand, is able to get herself back on mission by reminding herself that she's "saving the world," and when she enlists a team, she does so because she believes in their abilities and values their ethos.
Carter is slowly learning how to both trust and accept friends. Frost shows she only knows how to gather sycophants or flunkies; those she can't bend to her will are obstacles to be eliminated. Tellingly, though both women have faced down sexist critics, it is Carter who empowers other women. Frost's only connection to another woman is a maid she casually dismissed.
This season continues to shine with zany humor, and even some tenderness that was unexpected but not misplaced. Jarvis continues to be a peer among men, selling lines that in lesser hands would go severely awry. His understated "That was nothing like baking a soufflé," after Daniel's atomic bomb take-down metaphor, was golden, but so was his soft advice to Carter at the end of the episode, reminding her the adventure was only fun if she came back alive. He continues to shine as a character who is capable of deep wisdom and ability alongside quirky comedy.
I hope that future episodes explore this theme of choices more fully, especially when Thompson eventually returns to the scene. Last we saw he was facing his own moment of truth, and I still have hope he will come down on the side of the angels. I also expect Dr. Wilkes to play a more pivotal role than he has to date; his character has suffered some from his physical inabilities, which is a shame considering what a strong personality he displayed on introduction.
Most impressively, though, Agent Carter continues to unpack just what it means to fight for right, especially when there's so much standing in the way of those choices. Whitney Frost looks to be the antithesis of everything Agent Carter dreams of accomplishing, and is shaping up to be a very worthy antagonist for our favorite hero. It will take more than raw nerve to defeat her, and I look forward to how this challenge will spur Carter forward into an even more intricate character and person.