Marvel's Agent Carter (2015) season 2, episode 3
WRITER: JOSE MOLINA
DIRECTOR: DAVID PLATT
AIR DATE: January 26 2016
"Better Angels" - an interesting title for the third episode of season two for Agent Carter. It evokes Lincoln’s better angels of our nature in an America that is dealing with new challenges. It gives a nod or two to the historical period with the growing concerns over communist infiltration. And as has already been in play this season, it nods towards racial tensions in society, what with having a black man so readily framed by the real culprits as a spy and a fall guy.
In the wake of the destruction at Isodyne Energy, Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) is presumed dead, while something peculiar happened to Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett). The Zero Matter has been absorbed by her, and she’s trying to come to terms with it while prompting her husband to pin the blame on Wilkes. Wilkes does make for a convenient patsy, being a black man in the historic era, and being presumed dead. The nod towards social and racial dynamics of the time - as well as the growing communist witch hunt of the time - lend the episode a touch of authenticity.
Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell) doesn’t believe the allegations against Wilkes - it just comes across as too convenient for her. It’s more easily believed by Vernon Masters (Kurtwood Smith), who’s been hanging around this season thus far. Masters is something of a mentor to Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), an official who’s warned Thompson that the days of the SSR are likely to come to an end. The casting of Smith is a clever touch; the actor’s played villains, authority figures, and other character roles down through the years. At the moment he seems to be an authority figure - though he can go one of two ways. He might be revealed as a villain, or as was the case with his characters in 24 and Broken Arrow, be shown as an authority figure and somewhat of an ally. At present for the series, Masters is merely putting up obstacles, so we’ll have to see where he goes.
The episode also brings back a familiar face - Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) returns to lend a hand in his brash and showboating way. As with season one, with Howard turning up here and there but not a regular cast member, it’s a wise decision to have him seemingly in and out this season. By virtue of the character’s over the top personality (like father, like son), Howard might end up hogging the spotlight as a regular. Still, he’s needed here - his scientific prowess is essential in moving part of the plotline forward. Wilkes, as it turns out, is still alive, just rendered intangible, invisible, and inaudible until Howard goes to work.
There’s a small detail that I liked, and it had to do with Howard’s season two introduction. Peggy and Jarvis (James D’Arcy) find him on a film set, directing a Western. The film itself is a nod towards Marvel’s Western characters, a nice Easter egg for comics readers. And the fact that he’s directing at all is an interesting nod towards Howard Hughes, who aside from being a businessman, inventor, engineer, and aviator, had a long interest in Hollywood and the filmmaking process. The key difference being that Howard Stark doesn’t end up becoming a crazy recluse.