NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Agent Carter” are present in this review
Agent Carter spent its second season’s duration so far getting gradually better, and reaching an excellent high point last week with, “Smoke & Mirrors.” This week however, “The Atomic Job” felt like an unfortunate step backwards for the gradually improving second season of ABC’s Marvel ‘event series’. as it degraded into a heist plot that mostly worked, but was also dragged down by a lot of forced comic relief, and the sudden introduction of two new team members that felt like it came out of nowhere.
Even the very foundation of the storyline, which had Whitney Frost infiltrating a Roxxon facility (yes, Roxxon is back in play after their appearance in Season One), came off as feeling like a bit of a filler episode, despite this second season of Agent Carter only spanning ten episodes. I get the idea behind Wilkes putting together that Whitney would want to replicate the original atomic bomb explosion that accidentally opened the dimensional rift that brought Zero Matter to Earth in the first place, but surely, stealing an atomic bomb and setting it off for a fix sounds just a bit nuts, even for someone like Whitney Frost.
Whatever the case, Peggy and Jarvis do some sneaking around, when Wilkes finds out that he can absorb Zero Matter, which temporarily grants him tangibility. Theorizing that he can absorb more from the body of the dead scientist from the start of the season, Peggy and Jarvis go to try and steal the corpse, only to see that Whitney has beaten them to the punch, and stolen the Zero Matter left over in the woman’s body for herself. At the very least though, this gives Peggy and Jarvis a chance to witness Whitney’s Zero Matter-siphoning powers first-hand, and witness exactly what they’re up against.
Thus, the race is on to prevent Whitney from getting her hands on atomic bombs that are hidden in a nearby secret Roxxon facility, which Howard Stark conveniently gathered intel on, in a bit of corporate espionage. Before anything else, the two have to gain entrance by stealing a secret key from the Roxxon boss, who sits on the Council of Nine, and might be recalled from Peggy sneaking into the Roxxon Facility back in Season One. This is the one comedic bit of the episode that worked well, whereupon Peggy has to pose as an attractive intern, and then use a crude memory-scrambling device to shock the man continuously, in order to steal the key off of him. Peggy’s repeated shockings of the guy were pretty humourous, and things only got funnier when she had to resort to taking his pants off to try and find the key, though fortunately, it was only in his belt buckle. Still, it was hilarious to have Peggy prepare to do it by telling herself, “You’re saving the world… You’re saving the world…” It seems like even Peggy Carter finds some challenges to require extra fortitude!
At the same time though, Whitney Frost is making her own move with her husband, and this involves assembling some men, which come courtesy of Joseph Manfredi, a new crime boss villain portrayed by Ken Marino, whom you normally see in big screen comedies, but he’s another positive element of the episode as a villain here. Despite Marino’s usual roles, Manfredi is no joke, going as far as to brutally beat one of his underlings in the full view of an entire restaurant, when he sees the man eyeing Whitney rather rudely! If you’re a Marvel Comics enthusiast, you may actually recognize Manfredi, sort of, since he was originally a Daredevil villain called ‘Blackwing’ in the printed panels, who commanded an arsenal of killer bats, and even had a flying suit, which was altered just enough to avoid a lawsuit-worthy resemblance to that one bat-themed DC superhero that you may have heard of. Despite that though, the re-tooling of Manfredi really works here, even if his name being taken from that Daredevil super-villain merely feels like an easter egg for Marvel Comics readers.
With Whitney offering Manfredi some lucrative construction contracts in exchange for a few hired goons, Peggy, Jarvis and Sousa also prepare to step up their game, though find themselves unable to trust most of the SSR, believing that anyone could be in the Secret Empire’s pocket. This leads to them hiring Rose, who is surprisingly capable in a fight, though also leads to them having to bring along Samberly, the annoying researcher from a few episodes ago that complains about not being taken seriously in the SSR. While it is kind of funny to have Sousa confirm Samberly being trustworthy because nobody actually likes him, the forced ‘attraction’ between Samberly and Rose feels predictable and forced, and just distracts from the heist plot with comedy bits that, frankly, don’t work that well for the most part.
When everyone does finally sneak in to the Roxxon facility, Samberly accidentally shuts Jarvis in a room when he tampers with security wiring, leading to Jarvis being forced to remove volatile Uranium rods without dropping one and blowing up all of Los Angeles (really? They just let Jarvis do this, rather than waiting for Samberly to get the door wiring right again?), while Peggy confronts Whitney directly. Fortunately, the first direct Peggy/Whitney scuffle is another of the episode’s bright spots, particularly when Peggy would rather drop to a painful impaling on a spike below, over having Whitney absorb her. This is a nicely badass display from Peggy, though again, it unfortunately leads into a groan-worthy resolution to the episode, as Sousa’s new fiancee (yes, he proposes to Violet in this episode) starts griping about Sousa still being attracted to Peggy, after stitching up Peggy’s injuries, while Wilkes fully disappears… Again. The tease of Chadwick calling the Secret Empire to try and enlist their help in stopping an increasingly deranged Whitney is a bit promising, but most of the other resolutions this week felt frustrating or unsatisfying, unfortunately.
Agent Carter was still plenty entertaining this week, but considering how much it’s continued to improve its current season over the past couple of episodes especially, it was disappointing to see it stumble a bit with, “The Atomic Job.” Rose and Samberly ultimately didn’t add much to proceedings, beyond a tedious running gag, and the ending to the episode just seemed to have the show taking steps backwards, namely in regards to Sousa and Wilkes. Hopefully, the series gets back on track next week, particularly since we’ll be doubling up on episodes over the next two weeks, due to the time that the show lost to delaying itself to avoid conflicting with U.S. President Obama’s public address at the start of the year.
- Peggy's first direct scuffle with Whitney
- Joseph Manfredi's effective introduction
- Chadwick tipping off the Council to the Whitney issue
- Samberly/Rose bits don't really work
- Why was Jarvis allowed to handle volatile Uranium?
- Sousa's new fiancee being unreasonably jealous