The third episode of the second season of Agent Carter, Better Angels not only digs deeper into the mystery of Zero Matter but it also begins Whitney Frost’s transformation into one of Marvel’s most dangerous femme fatales. Even better, Howard Stark returns!
For fans of Agent Carter, Better Angels delivered on the excitement that was built up during the two-episode premiere a week earlier. It not only featured the return of fan-favorite Howard Stark, but it also revealed more about the development of Zero Matter and furthered Whitney Frost’s development into classic Marvel villain Madam Masque. We even found out what happened to missing scientist Jason Wilkes.
All told, the episode featured a good amount of plot progression without getting bogged down by plot for plot’s sake. It showed an awareness of the political environment of its setting, though Peggy Carter herself still seems to be marginalized by her peers despite everything she’s accomplished thus far. While that’s fairly accurate to the time period, it would be nice to see people give Peggy the benefit of the doubt at some point.
Wilkes goes red
The search for Wilkes leads to his apartment, where a hidden cache of cash is found under the floor alongside a Russian passport and other documents hinting that he is a Russian agent. This was a pretty interesting twist, honestly, since it plays up the fear of Communism and the intensity of the Cold War that were prevalent in the time period. Peggy doesn’t believe that Wilkes is a Communist, of course, but everyone else takes the evidence at face value.
Chief Thompson makes his return, coming out in person to get Peggy to sign papers distancing herself from Wilkes so that people don’t assume that she’s a Red as well. She refuses, so of course he forges her signature. Thompson is obviously just trying to look out for Peggy, but his actions will almost certainly come back to bite either him or Peggy later in the season. He also meets with his former mentor Vernon Masters (played by Kurtwood Smith) who informs him that Wilkes has stolen sensitive material and wants Thompson to get it back.
All in all, it seems like someone is setting Wilkes up to be a fall guy for something. His disappearance makes him a convenient target, and it seems like Peggy is the only one who actually believes that he’s innocent. Thompson doesn’t seem entirely convinced of Wilkes’ guilt, though.
Howard Stark was a major part of the story in season 1 of Agent Carter and Better Angels brings him back in fine form. Peggy needs him to infiltrate a club that only admits white men and who’s wanted Stark as a member for a while. He goes on a tour and pretends to be interested, complaining only that there aren’t enough women. He opens a door and several pretty young women come in, including Peggy who then goes about her investigation.
Dominic Cooper always steals the show as Howard Stark, and even though he’s just a guest star this season instead of a recurring character he’s at least playing an important part in the plot. It’s possible that the Zero Matter featured in the episode may be incorporated into some of Stark’s plans later in the season, possibly setting up Easter eggs like the early design of the arc reactor or something similar from the Iron Man films.
The curious floating objects
Throughout the episode, objects around Peggy have mysteriously started floating even though no one in the cast seemed to notice. Fortunately, by the time they do notice they’ve already got Stark around to figure out a solution. Stark notices a temperature difference around her, just like the people who froze to death in Peggy’s investigation, but it’s not necessarily Peggy who’s causing it. Instead, there’s a disturbance that seems to be following her around that is also causing the floating objects.
Ever the mad scientist, Stark has something that can help. His formula makes Wilkes visible, though he’s like a ghost at the moment. This will likely be a major plot consideration moving forward until he’s “cured”, especially if Wilkes can walk through walls in his ghost form (which he obviously can, or else he wouldn’t be able to follow Peggy around so easily.) Agent Carter Better Angels sets up Stark’s next appearance as Stark leaves Wilkes in charge of his lab while he goes to talk to someone else about how to make Wilkes solid again; this also suggests that Wilkes will probably be back to normal in a few episodes. This is pretty convenient, since he’s been touted as a love interest for Peggy this season.
The madam behind the Masque
Madam Masque is a major villain in Marvel Comics, and she’s being developed as the big bad in season 2 of Agent Carter. Better Angels provided us with some backstory for her and moved her development toward full villain mode forward at the same time. It looks like she’s going to be pretty powerful, and will apparently have actual powers based on the Zero Matter that she came in contact with during the Agent Carter debut last week.
Whitney Frost, who we learn is actually a brilliant scientist named Agnes Cully, is revealed as the real brains behind Isodine Energy. She manipulates her husband into trying to have Peggy killed, is struggling to contain the effects of her Zero Matter exposure and is largely ignored because people assume that she’s just another dumb actress. Her developing powers are shown off when her agent tries to hit on her and sees the scar left by the Zero Matter; she freaks out and grabs him, causing him to be absorbed by the Zero Matter (which in turn causes the Zero Matter wound to grow larger.)
Since using her new power causes the Zero Matter damage to grow, we can expect to see her trying to cover it up more as the season progresses. We fully expect to see some take on the classic Madam Masque mask before the season is done.
Smoke and Mirrors
Next week’s episode is titled Smoke and Mirrors, will pick up where Better Angels left off. According to the synopsis that’s been released, it will further explore Whitney Frost’s character as the SSR learns that she’s more than just a pretty face. Will we see her start wearing a mask to cover up the Zero Matter crack, or perhaps learn more about her developing powers? Fortunately, we only have to wait a week to find out.