Looks like Agent Carter is building up to one hell of a finale. After the backward slide of last episode, it seems like the show is now ramping up for one final charge. I must say I hope it works, as if it does then this series will have been better than the last. For all my criticism of this series so far, it has only made one real misstep. Maybe I am expecting too much from it and am spoiled from watching Daredevil. This episode was good and set up the finale very nicely with all the chips lined up to make a very interesting end to this series. However, it was by no means perfect. I am going to criticise one aspect of it in particular (after praising it), but before I get to the massive singing elephant in the room I will go over the other (many) good bits of the show.
One of the standout interactions of the episode was Peggy and Jarvis’s disagreement. After Jarvis had recklessly put Peggy and himself in danger by trying to kill Whitney Frost, there was bound to be some fallout and I am glad the show made us see that. It would have been way too contrived for Peggy just to understand what Jarvis had done. She did get his motivations, but in her takedown of him we really saw why she was so hesitant to bring him along in the first place. To him this was a way of relieving the boredom, not a way of life. He could always go back to being a butler for Howard Stark. She never saw him as a coward, but saw him as an amateur. She was worried that once he saw how ugly the work she had to do was, he would lose his nerve. His attempt to kill Whitney Frost was a manifestation of his amateurishness. It was not the action of a professional, but of someone driven by emotion. Jarvis, on the other hand, was upset that she felt that she knew best and was angry about how his wife was seen as an afterthought. We have always seen Peggy and Jarvis on the same team, so we have never thought about how different they are. This episode showed that these two are very different people and when they clash it is quite powerful.
I also really liked Thompson this episode. Once again the writers have actually decided to make him true to character. His attempt to play everyone demonstrated that he is a good person at heart who sometimes is willing to make the hard call. He acted like a power-hungry person to get close, but had a plan to blow up Whitney Frost and everyone. His confrontation with Peggy also showed that they were different people, even when he is in character. Thompson is someone who believes that the ends justify the means and is hot-headed enough to ignore the consequences. In series one, he was the one who would beat up suspects when they would not listen to Dooley and now he is the one who is willing to risk a few innocents to save a city. Furthermore, one could see his point. It is left to the viewer as to assess who is right. Is it Peggy, who does not want any innocents to be caught up in the fight, or is it Thompson, who sees a very dangerous threat and has decided to write off two others as casualties of war? That is how a good episode works, by making you think.
I also enjoyed the cliff-hanger that the episode ended on. You have Peggy trying to stop Thompson from blowing up an innocent, even though it could solve the threat entirely and you have Whitney figuring out the trap and having Masters at her mercy. This is the type of ending that makes you want to see more. It makes you question whether Whitney will get away from the trap. If so, how are the team to stop her? She is not likely to trust Thompson or let that cannon anywhere near her ever again. Furthermore, with Wilkes blowing up into Zero Matter, will that make her even more dangerous than she already is? Will Peggy let Thompson blow up the cannon in time, or will they actually come to blows? These standoffs are interesting and they raise the stakes for the finale.
Finally, to address the singing elephant in the room, we had the beginning, which was a beautiful and surreal musical. I really enjoyed this scene. We saw characters coming back and singing and as a person who loves musicals with a passion, this was right up my street. I like it when episodes involve singing (the musical episodes of Scrubs and Buffy rank amongst my favourites). It was a nice way to start the episode and make us relax.
However, from a story perspective the musical bit added nothing to the story. As a dispassionate critic, I do have to say that it was an entirely unnecessary bit. While the episode itself was fine, it could have been longer and the use of six minutes of episode time on a needless scene is questionable at best. It would have been nice if that had actually gone somewhere, but it felt really out of place in Agent Carter and was not even explained that well.