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The race for Zero Matter turns into a race for Dr. Jason’s soul.

 

Season 2, Episode 8: The Edge of Mystery

We open on a flashback to Anna and Jarvis from season 1, when he was handling Peggy’s problems remotely. They talk about her a bit, and then turn on the radio. But in 1947, Jarvis cannot get the radio in Anna’s hospital room to work. He’s so frustrated that he breaks it! Peggy tells him to stay with Anna, that the only voice she needs to hear is his. After being relegated to comic relief for about half the season, it’s wonderful to be reminded just how talented James D’Arcy is.

Whitney has Dr. Jason chained and trapped in one of Ken Marino’s warehouses. While he’s been unconscious, she’s been running experiments on him to see how long he can stay solid before she needs to zap him with her own zero matter. When he wakes, she tries to engage him, scientist-to-scientist. It turns out, though, what she really wants is to talk to someone else who might hear the voices. Apparently, this whole time, she’s been listening to some voice from the Zero Matter Nether to concoct all these crazy plans.

Peggy debriefs Sousa on all the crazy. He tries to get all shmoopy with her, and then has the audacity to be jealous when she suggests a plan to rescue Jason. So incompetent. How do you not see this, Peggy? Once she calms his delicate roaring man-ego, they head to Ken Marino’s Italian restaurant so he can deliver a message to Whitney. After a brief confrontation with his Nona, they are successful. The plan is to exchange the uranium rods for Jason, only the uranium rods will only be normal rods covered in paint that registers on a Geiger counter.

Through all this, Jack is in London, palling around with a war buddy who gives him a largely-redacted file. Apparently, it contains mad dirt on Peggy. But since it said M. Carter, I assumed at first it was her brother Michael, dealin’ in some shady practices. All of us are wrong, though, because when Jack returns to the US and tries to blackmail Peggy, she’s like “You dummy, Vernon planted that. Even I, your nemesis, know you’re better than that.” His extra-squinty-squint seems to indicate he feels the same.

As Peggy, Sousa, and Samberly prepare for this faux-ranium exchange, Samberly notices an incoming message on Stark’s telex. It’s plans! For a gamma gun that is meant to zap zero matter. In an age before Hulk, no one is bothered by this crazy technology. In fact, Samberly offers to build it while Peggy and Sousa grab Dr. Jason. They need a driver and decide to recruit Jarvis.

Jarvis stays with Anna, making her promises that include a Burmese Mountain Dog if she wakes up. She does, because that is a super sweet deal in exchange for doing something she probably wanted to do anyway. I’d like to note here that one thing Jarvis does not mention in his laundry list of problems, one thing they as a couple have never ever mention, is children. But somehow, when Jarvis learns from the doctor that they couldn’t fix everything, while I was sitting on my couch expecting poor lively Anna to be paralyzed or something, we learn that she can’t have children and Jarvis is suddenly devastated. And that’s fine – I get it. They’d make great fictional parents. But also, THAT IS LITERALLY NEVER A DREAM YOU EXPRESSED! Marvel’s resorting to wombs again, even after the Black Widow debacle post-Ultron. While I agree that it was overblown and that this is also not particularly egregious, c’mon. Be a little creative, please. Now, what does become egregious is that Jarvis does not share this information with his wife, whose body is the body affected by this dreadful news. But look, this was an otherwise good episode, so let’s move on, because this is about to get real. With Anna awake, Jarvis offers to help Peggy and Sousa. They think it’s because he’s committed to the mission, but it’s really for revenge.

Whitney gets ready for the exchange, covering her face. Ken Marino tells her she shouldn’t, because he’s apparently a Zero Matter scar fetishist. How lucky for him! Whitney calls out Peggy’s feminism like Demi calling out Tay-Tay over Kesha, which is to say, super ironically. But otherwise, the exchange goes smoothly until, as they load Dr. Jason into the truck, one of Ken Marino’s goons drops the box of uranium. Whitney and co. are terrified they’re about to explode, while Sousa and Peggy are terrified because they’re about to get caught. It’s a most excellent moment.

Peggy and Sousa get to the truck just in time, but Dr. Jason goes a little nuts. He’s embraced the voices, so he threatens Peggy with a gun and demands that Sousa tell him where the real uranium is. Sousa, despite Peggy’s protests, spills the beans, and Dr. Jason, who can now control his solidity, jumps out the side of the panel truck like an evil ghost wizard. This was devastating both in terms of story and my hopes for a Jason / Peggy long-term relationship.

After his dressing down from Peggy, Jack confronts Vernon at the SSR. Vernon gets a phone call, and since Jack is now skeptical of him, he listens in. It’s Whitney, telling Vernon to get the uranium rods since they’re stashed in his building. Jack tries to stop him, but Vernon memory wipes him. Sousa and Peggy find him that way, and they trace his last memory to the phone where he listened to Vernon, where he conveniently wrote down coordinates but did not pocket them, leaving them out in the open on a coworker’s desk. That’s fine, though – anything to save Dr. Jason.

Samberly has finished the crazy Gamma cannon, so they all make a mad rush to the desert. Samberly, Jack and Sousa are on cannon duty, and Peggy and Jarvis rush toward the site where Whitney and co. intended to recreate the original Zero Matter-creating nuclear explosion. Before Peggy and Jarvis can get there, they set off the blast. Whitney and Dr. Jason approach it, ready to absorb its power, but it only takes Jason. Whitney is screaming mad. Samberly shoots the cannon, destroying the Zero Matter bubble. Dr. Jason falls into a wee crater, his face bubbling with destruction and power. Jarvis and Peggy approach, and Jarvis SHOOTS WHITNEY!

Of course, Whitney isn’t dead. She absorbs the bullet, and then promptly commands Ken Marino and his goons not to kill Peggy and Jarvis, but capture them so she has a means by which to control Dr. Jason and take the power she feels is rightfully hers.

Aside from the general frustration and wonky ethics of the Anna Jarvis scenario, this episode was incredible. Good character work, minimal focus on the love triangle, and a fully-committed Peggy back in action. Not only that, but Whitney’s outfits were absolutely stunning from beginning to end – even her scar was a little more sparkly than usual. I do love a fancy villain, and Whitney is just so awesome. Her desire for power is so singular, and I love that she will happily throw even her closest allies under the bus.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get better, the next episode happened.

Season 2, Episode 9: A Little Song & Dance

The episode opens in black and white, with Peggy going into work in her California office. Only instead of Vernon, Sousa or Jack in the main office, it’s her brother, Michael. He tells Peggy she should add some color and reminds her that joining the SSR was her choice – not his, not anyone else’s. She steps out of the office into a colorful stage set up like her regular diner in New York. Oh man – I’m getting excited. And then it happens: ANGIE APPEARS! Be still my heart! Hooray! She offers Peggy some pie, calling her English, just like old times. And Dr. Jason, solid and un-Zero Mattered, peeks from behind a menu. He and Peggy dance. It’s delightful. Sousa joins, but he’s crutch-less and he starts singing. A delightful musical number unfolds, all about how Peggy needs to be decisive about Jason and Sousa. Angie leads a group of dancers, becoming the get-a-grip girlfriend Peggy has so desperately needed this season. Dottie even makes an appearance – she’s always in Peggy’s head! But of course it’s Jarvis who interrupts to bring Peggy back to reality.

And what a trying reality it is. Sousa and Samberly have to trust Jack not to sell them out to Vernon and get them back to the SSR offices safely. Peggy is trapped with Jarvis, mad that he foiled their plan and got them into this mess because he couldn’t control his emotions. Wilkes wakes up to find he’s supercharged by Zero Matter, ready to explode at any time, and being dragged toward an unsuspecting Los Angeles by a deranged and power-hungry Whitney. It really is up to you, Peg.

Peggy and Jarvis manage to escape the truck, but they’re forced to walk through the desert back to civilization. When Whitney and Ken Marino discover they’ve disappeared, they shoot the driver and send two others back for the fugitives.

Jarvis complains for the entirety of the walk, angry that they have no water. Eventually Peggy cannot take it anymore. She calls Jarvis out on his attitudes toward their adventures together, reminding him that they’re not just larks, but real missions with real consequences. While she’s just as devastated as anyone about what happened to Anna, accepting loss is part of accepting responsibility toward your country and its fate. Jarvis shares with Peggy Anna’s medical issues, even before he’s shared them with Anna. When Whitney’s goons arrive to take them back, Peggy hijacks their truck and drives Jarvis back to the hospital so he can man up and take care of his wife.

Peggy returns to the SSR, where she’s forced to plot with both Vernon and Jack as Samberly rebuilds the cannon. They want to rebuild the gamma cannon in order to stop Whitney. But Jack seems to have other ideas. Not only has he convinced Sousa he’s on his side, but he’s done the same with Vernon. It’s only when we see him with Whitney, negotiating their deal, that we realize Jack is more wiley and more dangerous than he’s ever been.

The team prepares to explode Whitney and makes their way toward her compound. Jack goes inside to make the delivery with Vernon. Sousa and Peggy agree to run back up. However, as soon as Jack and Vernon roll away, Sousa discovers his fuel line has been cut and someone has disabled the radios. They think it’s Vernon, but Samberly reveals that Jack instructed him to turn the cannon into a bomb. Peggy, Sousa and Sambelry take Samberly’s car, hoping to jam the radio signal on the detonator.

At the compound, Dr. Jason tries to fight Whitney, warning her against manipulating the insane amount of zero matter in his system, afraid he’ll explode at any minute. Her operations are interrupted by Jack and Vernon’s arrival. She watches Vernon try to zap her, and then she Zero Matters him, leaving Jack because she thinks he’s an ally. Jack leaves, his own detonator in hand. He is going to blow up Whitney, Ken Marino, and Dr. Jason without a care.

When Peggy arrives at the compound, she tries to free Dr. Jason, but he stays behind, telling Peggy it’s not safe, and he needs a chance to redeem himself after putting a gun to her head. Outside, Sousa and Samberly stop Jack’s detonation – or so they think. Peggy tries to reason with him, explaining that Jason is innocent. It appears to be a standoff, but inside the building, Dr. Jason faces off with Whitney. His skin begins cracking, the Zero Matter bubbling through. At the same time, the green light on the bomb is ticking – Jack did detonate it after all.

And cut to black.

Holy cow! This episode went from an incredible musical number to some of the best character work and the best pacing we’ve seen not just this season, but in the entire series run. While it looks like my dreams for Jason and Peggy have been squashed for good, he has redeemed himself, proving that even full of oozing space puss, he’s the best.

And then we had Angie, the long-absent voice of reason that Peggy needed. Her song and dance, even though it was all in Peggy’s head, really seemed to do the trick. Peggy was the strong, decisive, incredible Agent Carter we know and love – not the simpering, lovestruck, and sidelined li’l Margaret we’ve seen the past few weeks. I cannot wait to see what happens next week, even if it’s certain to break my – and Peggy’s – heart.

 

Directed By: Metin Huseyin; Jennifer Getzinger

Produced By: Tara Butters, Louis D’Esposito, Chris Dingess, Michele Fazekas, Kevin Feige, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Jeph Loeb, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Joe Quesada

Written By: Brant Engelstein; Chris Dingess

Starring: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Enver Gjokaj, Chad Michael Murray, Reggie Austin, Bridget Regan, Kurtwood Smith

Network: ABC

Release Date: February 23, 2016

Run Time: 2-42 minute episodes

Rating: N/A

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