“Smoke and Mirrors” goes into a lot of background for our two main female characters- Peggy Carter and Whitney Frost. It was interesting to see that they grew up on different continents and took very different paths in life, but had a lot of similarities. Let’s face it, the early half of the twentieth century wasn’t a great time to be a smart, gifted, driven, and strong woman.
In England, Peggy Carter grows up with a lot of hints about the woman she’ll become. Most of the time, she gets told that’s now how she’s supposed to act, and almost gets pushed into a normal life. Finally, her brother inspires her through words and actions to become the Agent we know today.
In Broxton, Oklahoma (I still don’t know if there’s any link to the modern era Thor stories, but it seems like a hell of a coincidence otherwise if not), young Agnes seems like an up and coming Howard Stark. She gets no support and is actively discouraged by her mother. She learns different and very cynical lessons compared to young Peggy Carter, and is forced down some very different roads.
In the “modern” era story, Frost is showing how both smart and ruthless she is. She’s a great foil to Peggy Carter, even though the two of them haven’t really clashed directly so far. She’s brilliant and very much playing Lady MacBeth to her somewhat bumbling husband, would-be Senator Chadwick. Frost is embracing her new condition and is going about learning as much as she can about it through an ugly version of scientific method. She’s also earning the grudging admiration of the SSR and their current ally, Dr. Wilkes.
Jarvis and Peggy go way out of bounds on their own to learn more about the Arena Club. They manage to capture a key player at the Club. I’ll give the writers credit, they show Carter’s enemy as a very tough and determined opponent. Jarvis does a few useful things, but sadly backslides to his more comic relief role. Chief Sousa shows he’s willing to bend the rules for the greater good.
The SSR itself has roadblocks thrown in its way. Sousa’s early attempts to go by the book fail badly and show how far the reach of the Arena Club extends. The villainous Vernon shows up again. With Thompson, he claimed to be an FBI Agent. Here, he says he’s from the War Department. Hopefully that shows he has a lot of fake identification, and it’s not a writer error.
Wilkes is still trying to find a way to cure himself. Stark has taken off to look for another scientist who might be able to help. Wilkes himself is getting increasingly frustrated by not being able to take his own notes, turn pages, or anything else as he spends more time with Peggy. I’m hoping they explain soon why Wilkes and Frost had such different reactions to the same Zero Matter exposure.
What I liked: Peggy Carter is just fun to watch. I give the writers big points for not having her easily best everyone she fights. Jarvis is amusing comic relief, but I liked it better when he was being more useful. I liked Sousa’s dedication to the job.
What I didn’t: Vernon is just too smug. The actor’s doing a great job but I really want to see someone smack him, like Hulk’s time with Loki in Avengers’ Tower. Chadwick really doesn’t seem to add anything to the show aside from being a shield for Frost to hide behind.
I’ll give this one a 3.5 out of 5. It was a fun episode. It didn’t advance the plot as much as I’d like, but it was decent enough to watch. I’m still hoping for an explanation of Broxton and the Frost/Wilkes major difference.