Oh dear Agent Carter, oh dear. It seems like several baby steps forward and then one giant leap backwards is what is happening this series. This episode was bad. In fact it was the worst episode the show has had yet. It was Agents of SHIELD series one bad. While there has been past episodes of the show that have not worked for me on a subjective level, those episodes were still solid to some degree. This episode did not even have that. It was beyond padded out, with plots that were not really going anywhere. In fact the plot was pretty simple: Whitney tries to steal a bomb and Peggy steals it first. Whenever the plot of the episode can be boiled down into one sentence then something has gone fundamentally wrong. There was so much that they could have been skipped, so many plot points the episode thought we cared about and was so utterly wrong. I suspect this episode was made just because they were one short.
Once again we see Agent Carter’s persistent problem with trying to make us laugh when the plot really needs to be advanced. This has never been more obvious than the interactions between Rose and Samberly. Bringing Samberly into this episode seems like a bit of a mistake, since he was not doing anything that any of the other characters could have done, or even just some random SSR agent. I had forgotten that he had even existed in the show or that we had seen him before, that’s how forgettable he was. The show trying to play him as somebody wanting attention and having some fascination for Rose, which came from nowhere and I suspect will go nowhere, fell flat on its face as it is a bit difficult to have a character thrown on you and just have him act in such a weird way. Unless we see more of Samberly in future episodes, this plot was just being used for laughs and I don’t think I laughed once in their interactions at all. All it did was saddle the team with another character that needed development rather than a nameless agent who would have filled the same niche and it failed to develop him at all.
Another problem with this episode (and it seems like this show in general) is that it is struggling to find a role for Jarvis. While in series one where the focus was on Peggy proving herself, having him be a comic relief and foil for Peggy was sufficient. Now that she is an Agent in her own right, Jarvis needs something to do other than bumble around and be British. In this episode we literally had to have Peggy pull Jarvis along, and then contrive a situation where he has to disarm a nuke. Sadly, we don’t get why he is doing any of this. In series one he was trying to exonerate Howard Stark, in this series he is just along because… Well, because he is bored. That’s lazy writing and is wasted on a good character like Jarvis who played an excellent role in series one. Having him be the advisor and friend to Peggy is no longer enough and we need to see more from our beloved butler.
When the episode stopped stuffing itself with useless characters there were some good moments. The confrontation between Whitney and Peggy was great. It was really interesting to see these two people observing each other, openly recognising the danger the other posed and battling each other. In series one we did not get that until the final episode. Here, we are seeing it and we are not even halfway through the show. We were able to see the threat Whitney has – that beyond just observing people she seems to have super strength as well and is a genuine threat to Peggy – so much so that Peggy actually had to run from this fight, which she has not had to do with an adversary yet. It is good that this episode sets this up.
I also really liked the character of Joseph Manfredi. It seems that the Maggia are going to be involved this series. He seemed like an interesting character, with a dangerous side, exemplified by him beating a subordinate and then casually going back to have a conversation with Whitney. Adding him into the mix seems like a dangerous addition and I am interested to see how this plays out. He did not seem like an over the top character, just someone who knew how most situations worked and was able to find a way to be on top. He was not some Godfather-esque stereotype, just a reserved businessman who was able to make a deal. That was good for a character like him.
Another aspect of the episode that was actually funny was Peggy repeatedly zapping that Roxxon guy with the neurolyser (I know it was called a memory inhibiter but it does basically the same thing). Having her look for the key and him continually coming to and hitting on her was an example of good humour because it did not stop the plot. Peggy needed the key, she needed him there, and out of the way, so she kept having to zap him until she got what she wanted. That was an example of the type of comedy the show should do and lamentably failed to do more of in this episode.