‘Agent Carter’ Season 2 Episode 7 review: ‘Monsters’ ends rather bleakly

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For all the daredevil adventuring, the shady conspiracies and the Commie-bashing, it’s becoming more and more obvious that in fact what Agent Carter is really about is Peggy’s love life.

It’s not quite ‘SSR & The City’ but nevertheless there is some definite action for her in ‘Monsters’ this week – of the romantic rather than the aggressive kind, as Dr Wilkes regains his physical form and isn’t afraid to use it.

After last week’s covert operation in which our heroes lost Dottie but gained the zero-matter sample Wilkes is ready to trial his self-designed containment device – which proves successful in restoring his corporeal form, at least while he’s inside the machine, and buoyed up by his triumph Wilkes seizes Peggy for quite the kiss.

Mind you Peggy is determined to downplay the moment, claiming later that “it was a very exciting moment [for Dr Wilkes], he kissed me, I indulged him.” It’s open to interpretation I suppose, but personally I’d say there looked to be a good deal of mutual indulgence going on.

It’s not just semi-tangible renegade scientists who are in Peggy’s orbit though, there’s also the ever-reliable (but also, and I hate myself for saying it, slightly dull) Agent Sousa to consider, especially after last week’s near-clinch in the surveillance van (not a euphemism). Taking the bull by the horns, a forceful and assertive Daniel tells Peggy, “We should probably… talk… about… things.” Peggy, alas, lacks Daniel’s clarity of thought, and tries to avoid the subject.

This is the rather strait-laced LA of the post-war 1940s rather than the hedonistic NY of the late 1990s, so there’s no bitching over a nouvelle cuisine lunch at a chic little eaterie for our heroes – but for all that, there is a lovely little scene between Peggy and Mr Jarvis where, making their priorities very clear indeed, they park up en route to rescuing Dottie, to spend several minutes discussing Peggy’s love life.

Again, this is the buttoned-up 1940s not the scandalously unbuttoned 1990s, so the conversation is primarily Peggy avoiding answering the question, and Mr Jarvis studiously skirting around actually asking it – although he is forward enough to counter Peggy’s bewilderment as to why anybody (far less, two bodies) would be interested in her: “You underestimate your allure Miss Carter.”

It’s a good time to mention the two regulars. (In fact, we’re seven episode in with only three to go, so it’s a good but rather overdue time.) Agent Carter, following the lead of other genre shows from Buffy to Doctor Who, gaily mixes strong drama with genuine laughs, and it takes some confident performers to carry it off. Both Hayley Attwell and James D’Arcy are able to sell the emotion and the serious nature of the story to us, but they’re also able to play the comedy in just the right, slightly arch, way so that it also hits home.

The ‘rescue’ of Dottie, if ‘rescue’ is the correct word for an operation where our heroes are tied up almost the instant they arrive, is played primarily for laughs, with Jarvis largely preoccupied with why he couldn’t get Howard Stark’s latest weapon to work when he keyed in the activation code. (The answer turns out to be that he has remembered the wrong six digits, mixing up Barbara Stanwyck’s vital statistics with those of Carole Lombard).

But when the realisation hits that Dottie is actually just a lure, a ruse to leave Dr Wilkes unguarded– and when that means that Whitney Frost and her cronies are attacking the house where Wilkes and Mrs Jarvis are dining unawares, the change in our regulars is striking. As a stern-faced, silently furious Jarvis drives them back home, even Dorothy is aware of the change. “I’ve never seen you like this before,” she says: “Scared.”

Of course, they are just too late – it’s a tragedy we’ve seen many times before (it was probably already old before Luke Skywalker worked out that the dead Jawas were a trail that would lead the Imperial troopers back “home”). Wilkes ironically finds his newly-restored solidity turned against him, as he is able to be knocked unconscious and kidnapped – and in a genuinely shocking moment, Whitney shoots the brave but scared Mrs Jarvis, simply because she knows it will be a sure fire way of delaying pursuit.

Which is why the episode ends rather bleakly, the comedy switching off in an instant.

Dottie has escaped and is at large in LA to pursue her own agenda. Dr Wilkes is gone, kidnapped by the ever more-powerful Whitney Frost and her council. Sousa has been relieved of duty at the SSR. Mrs Jarvis is in surgery, and her life is in the balance. And Peggy and Mr Jarvis, usually so active, are for once able to do nothing except sit in the hospital. And wait.

Aired at 9pm on Thursday 10 March 2016 on FOX.

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