Here’s my review of Agent Carter season two episode “Smoke and Mirrors.” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.
In “Smoke and Mirrors,” Carter and the gang are again stonewalled into stalling their investigation because Vernon shows up to put the brakes on their Arena Club raid. It’s frustrating to see them spinning tires and going nowhere again, but unlike last week’s “Better Angels,” this episode took the opportunity to expand the backstories of both Peggy Carter and Whiney Frost. The flashbacks served to fill in the blanks and also help the audience compare and contrast the two main ladies. One protagonist, one antagonist.
Before this episode, we really didn’t know much about Carter’s past at all. She works with such confidence that one could easily believe she’d been doing this sort of work all her life. But in an era where women were expected to be housewives, how did she end up in the SSR to being with as the lone woman amongst men? The answer, as we see, is that she was recruited into that line of work and accepted the job after her brother died in the war. It’s interesting to see the different points in her life. As a child, she isn’t afraid to get dirty and play the knight in shining armor. When the next flashback skips ahead a few years, we see Carter wanting to turn down her promotion because she’s getting married. And after that, at the engagement party scene, she tries to present the most ladylike version of herself in front of her fiancé. It’s that scene that really shows her true self even if she tries to hide it. Her brother knows better though and he’s the one who sets her on the path to where she is in the present.
Whitney Frost’s past, however, is a bit different from Carter’s. She didn’t grow up in a very loving family. It was only her mother, her mother’s boyfriend, and herself. Instead of being encouraged and praised for her brains, her mother says her face is the only thing she should focus on. And in her last flashback, we see that her face is what draws her into the Hollywood life, leading her to where she is in the present.
The common theme in both Carter’s and Frost’s stories is how women are treated. That’s been a theme of this whole series really: the expectations of women’s roles versus the reality of what they can do. At times in the flashbacks, the dialogue felt a bit heavy handed, especially the one from Mrs. Cully about how the only thing a woman should focus on his her face. But despite this, the flashbacks function well to draw both parallels and contrasts between the two. Both women ended up embracing their minds as an asset, but Frost still covers hers up with her movie star job, while Carter has dedicated herself to SSR work. Now that we know the pasts of each woman, we can take that context and understand their actions as the series continues.
Notes in Disguise
- “Jarvelous” is my new favorite word!
- Carter injected that guy with the common cold and told him he was going to die. Let’s be real, the common cold is really a fate worse than death.
- I’m wondering if the story is leading up to Frost accidentally killing her husband with her newfound evil powers.
- Hey, what happened to the love triangle? Not that I’m complaining, but I’m curious why there isn’t more tension between Carter and Sousa.
- “Or I have a man stashed in the boot.”
So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.