Agent Carter’s trip to California continues in “Better Angels.” In the wake of the disaster at Isodyne, Dr. Wilkes has been very neatly framed. Between his being black, and the paranoia about communists, it’s not a hard sell to most. Carter, of course, doesn’t buy it. Equally of course, Sousa is about the only one willing to listen to her.
Howard Stark finally makes his first appearance of the season. Dominic Cooper plays the eccentric inventor well, and a bit less as cheap comedy relief this season than last. His foray into making movies is a nice nod to Marvel history. He’s making a western about Kid Colt, a Marvel comics western character who was an actual historical personage in this world. This also leads to an amusing line about, “A movie based on a comic book? That sounds like a dreadful idea.”
Carter consults with Stark about the Zero Matter, showing him the film Wilkes stole. Stark is impressed, and curious. Unexpectedly, Stark also identifies the mysterious pin we keep seeing as belonging to the Arena Club. This club is a very highbrow gathering for the elite, “male and pale” as Stark describes it. Stark and Jarvis have an amusing exchange as Howard can’t remember who Dottie Underwood is- the woman who kidnapped him and almost had him bomb New York.
Things are not going well for Whitney Frost. In addition to the unfair pressures she’s facing as a woman in the motion picture industry, she’s been contaminated/infected by the Zero Matter after the accident at Isodyne. The darkness is behaving really oddly, and gets even stranger when she has a confrontation with her director later in the episode. She is visited by her clueless husband, future Senator Chadwick, who proves to be just about as insensitive to his wife as you’d expect the stereotypical man of his era.
Last season, Thompson was an amazingly annoying jerk who seemed to finally learn better near the end of the season. Well, he’s back to being an ass, bowing to pressure from politically powerful “friends” in the FBI. He overrides both Carter and Sousa’s objections to his making alterations to Carter’s report about Isodyne. He possibly begins to redeem himself later when he sees the Zero Matter film and looks stunned and even shocked.
Carter has a plan to get into the Arena Club, and dragoons Stark into helping her, after amusingly leading him away from the pool full of bathing beauties by dangling his drink in front of him like a dog treat. Stark tours the club, which he has refused to join, and then overwhelms the maitre d’ by bringing in a huge group of his usual stunning companions. Carter slips in with the other women, learning a few things about the Club’s layout as she snoops. She also sees a mocked up newspaper with tomorrow’s date and headline being used to threaten a current Senator into going along with their plans. Amusingly, security is called in for a “Code Pink.”
Continuing to be a jackass, Thompson rails at Carter for going to the club. He’s been tempted by the offer of moving in those circles, and he really wants in. Thompson and Carter argue until she storms out. Sousa tries to calm her down, agreeing with her overall but pointing out she might not be going about this the right way.
In another weird development, things start floating above Carter’s desk. She’s understandably worried she’s been contaminated by the Zero Matter, and rushes for another visit with Stark. He runs a few tests and makes a very surprising discovery. While the reveal was great, I’m still unclear how it led to the floating objects issue. Stark vows to work on the issue they discover, sending Jarvis out to get various supplies. Jarvis and Stark have another amusing exchange, this time about Velveeta and Stark’s lack of cooking skill.
Carter, not content to wait for results from her scientist, goes to confront Whitney Frost. They verbally spar about a few topics. Frost is spouting the Wilkes-As-Communist story, which Carter knows isn’t true. Frost also denies being at Isodyne the night of the explosion. Frost later manages to convince her husband to send Mr. Hunt, the Arena Club fixer/hitman, after Carter.
Sousa and Carter have another run in back at the SSR office. I think Thompson is actually trying to patch things up with Sousa. Maybe his conscience is bothering him. One of the files Sousa is going over is one for Broxton, OK. In the modern era, Asgard ends up floating over Broxton for quite a while. What the place’s significance might be in 1947, I have no idea.
Back at Stark’s estate, Carter is working out her frustrations on the heavy bag. It calls to mind Steve Rogers doing that after he’s revived, but Peggy’s human, so she doesn’t break the bag. Jarvis tries to reassure her before going to bed. Peggy gets attacked, presumably by Hunt, and Jarvis is surprisingly effective in helping her. Stark later upgrades the security system, which includes a recording of Jarvis’ voice warning intruders off. In another amusing reference, Jarvis assures Carter this is a temporary measure, and he has no interest in being a disembodied voice– clearly an in joke about Tony Stark’s later Jarvis AI.
The episode wraps with a caffeine-crazed Stark going off to track down another scientist who might help with the Zero Matter issue. Sousa, doing some of the dogged detective work and research that actually helps solve cases, makes a surprising discovery about the brains behind Isodyne. Thompson gets tempted once more by the Arena Club, and inadvertently confirms some of Peggy’s report. Frost has an incident that shows she’s big time losing control.
What I liked: The reference to Kid Colt was a nice recognition of Marvel’s history. The in-jokes about comic book movies and Jarvis’ voice were nice touches. I liked that both Jarvis and Stark were more effective and less comic relief. It makes a lot of sense that Sousa has seen enough by now that he’s believing Carter, even though her story is a bit out there. I’m not sure what the Broxton bit was all about, but I’m intrigued.
What I didn’t: Thompson seems to have forgotten what he learned last season. I was hoping that he’d make some character progress. This one might not be a popular observation, but I feel like I need to point it out- it’s lazy writing that all the good guys are accepting of Wilkes as an equal, and only the bad guys seem to be racist. For that time period, it’s just not realistic.
A word about another connection to the larger Marvel Universe: the Zero Matter is apparently a version of Darkforce energy. That power has both powered several mutants (Blackout, Cloak, and Darkstar among them), and played a part in some of the mystical portions of the Marvel Universe. With the Dr. Strange movie moving forward, this might be a link.
I thought this was a good episode with a lot of interesting and promising developments. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5 overall.