‘Agent Carter’ Season 2 Episode 5 review: ‘The Atomic Job’

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I can understand that a man with a beautiful wife, especially in the more gender-defined society of the 1940s, would want to spoil her. A new dress here, some expensive jewellery there, that’s fine. But when she asks for a dawn visit to the local mortuary for a bit of body-snatching; and when her next request is breaking in to a top secret high security installation in order to steal an atom bomb… That’s definitely the time to start drawing up some boundaries.

Potential Senator Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham) does try to put his foot down (sort of) in the closing act of ‘The Atomic Job’ but it’s too little too late, and his outrage with wife Whitney after a disastrous raid in which they failed to steal an atom bomb and ended up killing Peggy Carter, is abruptly silenced by his wife grasping his face in a steely grip.

Agent Carter, I hasten to add for fear of confusing anybody who feels they may have dozed off and missed something important, is not actually dead and next week won’t be the opening review for new spin-off show Jarvis & Carter (Deceased). Although the Chadwicks believe her body to be lying dead on a long metal spike in the depths of the Roxxon atom bomb store, the audience knows that Peggy is still alive – even if we may struggle just a little to believe it.

There’s no trickery involved, no surprise reveal of a super-kevlar vest or an unexplained Sherlock-style ruse. Peggy is just very lucky. Very. Impaled on a metal spike, we have to assume that by a fluke it missed anything vital; and although I would have thought that falling at speed onto the concrete supporting the spikes would have caused some kind of spinal trauma at least, it appears that we’ve just got to chalk this one up to ‘fortune favours the brave’ and let it slide.

Perhaps a little less easy to overlook is the casual ease with which Peggy is strolling around anyway. After last week’s close encounter with assorted representatives and agents of the mysterious Council of Nine I would have expected her to be under some very close surveillance this week. Not so, and she’s free as a bird to break into a morgue here, and a top secret high security installation there. Typical – you wait ages for somebody to try and steal an atom bomb and then they all come along at once.

On the other hand, it sort of fits with the slightly ‘comic-book’ style of the show. Not in the ‘and with one bound she was free’ sense, although the comparative ease with which she limps away from apparent death is veering into that territory; but more in the gleeful sense of adventure, where continuity and internal logic are used to great effect when required, but aren’t otherwise used to restrict the action.

In a way, its period setting notwithstanding, Agent Carter reminds me more and more of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which is already a slightly unsettling nineteen years old). There’s the obvious ‘strong female lead’ connection of course, but there’s much more to the similarity than that. There’s a breezy confidence, and an ability to use comedy to great effect without it ever diluting the ongoing drama. This week’s episode involves Peggy stealing the key to Roxxon’s vault from its CEO armed only with a wig, an accent, and an SSR memory-wiping device, and the whole scene is played entirely for laughs.

There’s also the same constant changing, and just as the original trio of Buffy, Willow and Xander grew over the years to include, variously, Oz, Anya, Riley, and Dawn so now our group of good guys is expanding. We’ve been introduced to Mrs Jarvis in earlier episodes, and this week we see a lot more of Rose the receptionist and Dr Samberly (or “Aloysius”, Rose shamelessly flirting him into assisting them). All of which makes for quite an unlikely team as they prepare to break into Roxxon’s atom bomb vault.

There’s another obvious echo of Buffy’s style in the emotions and tangled love lives of the central characters. Chief Sousa finally manages to propose to Nurse Violet this week, but the delight is short-lived when she sees Daniel and Peggy together and realises he didn’t just come to LA for a fresh start: “You were running away from Peggy… You’re in love with her.” Mr Jarvis too seems increasingly close to his compatriot, fussing over her when they finally get her home and understating his concern when he observes that “These adventures, they’re only enjoyable if you return from them.” And then there’s Dr Wilkes who, in another twist on his zero matter-fuelled half-life, fades away.

Typical – you wait ages for a complicated, less-than-straightforward love affair and then they all come along at once.

Aired at 9pm on Thursday 25 February 2016 on FOX.

> Buy Season 1 of Agent Carter on DVD on Amazon.

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