Friday, February 10, 2017

Penultimate Agent Carter Works To Fix The Messes The Show Is In!

The Good: Decent direction
The Bad: Predictable spy plot conceits, Lack of truly extraordinary performances
The Basics: "A Little Song And Dance" lopes toward the finale of Agent Carter with spy conceits that are more predictable than audacious and a sense of style that overwhelms any of the show's smartness.

It is hard not to see the inherent weaknesses in prequels through Agent Carter. After all, prequels frequently feature characters in a time period where they are all dead well before the main narrative they are leading to and that can make it difficult to invest in the characters and the plots they find themselves in. While great drama puts the protagonists of a series in mortal peril, prequels are hampered both by the viewer knowing that the world cannot possibly end in the prequel and that even if some of the characters are casualties any connected characters from the prequel to the main story cannot. With Agent Carter, the title character and Howard Stark are off the table for potential deaths and while "A Little Song And Dance" opens with Edwin Jarvis in peril, Jarvis has not done enough of significance in the series with Howard Stark to earn him the immortality of becoming Tony Stark's AI in the future to make the menace he faces believable. "A Little Song And Dance" is an episode of Agent Carter that might have worked had the series not been a prequel, given that the episode's tension and intrigue are well-choreographed . . . even if the viewer might find it difficult to invest in the premise.

Picking up where “The Edge Of Mystery” (reviewed here!) went, "A Little Song And Dance" is essentially the second part of the mission to stop Whitney Frost and her new ally, Dr. Wilkes, after they open a Zero Matter rift. It is impossible to talk about "A Little Song And Dance" without references to where "The Edge Of Mystery" ended. After all, the prior episode was something of a cliffhanger, with Dr. Wilkes falling to Earth after entering a Zero Matter rift that was collapsed using a new Gamma Radiation weapon produced by Dr. Samberly based on plans from Howard Stark. Given that Jarvis had just gotten himself and Carter captured, the protagonists of Agent Carter open "A Little Song And Dance" at an inherent disadvantage.

Peggy Carter awakens in the abandoned SSR office where she sees her dead brother, quickly realizing that she is merely hallucinating. After a literal song and dance in her mind, Carter wakes up and wakes Jarvis up. Carter uses her hotwire to break the pair out of their truck, while Thompson and Sousa concoct a way to get rescued instead of killed in the desert. In Frost's car, Wilkes regains consciousness and is terrified by the power he now might possess. They realize that Carter and Jarvis have escaped and while they send some of Manfredi's men after the pair, the mobster and Frost head to one of Manfredi's hideouts with Wilkes to study him.

In Masters's custody, Thompson manages to save Sousa and Samberly's lives. At the remote facility, Frost begins the process of extracting the Zero Matter from Wilkes. Carter returns to the SSR where she learns that Vernon Masters has the team in a stalemate. Thompson meets up with Frost, while the SSR works on fixing up the battery and Gamma Ray Weapon. But when the time comes for the SSR team to deliver the weapon, Carter and Sousa are delayed and Samberly reveals that Thompson had him make the weapon into a Gamma Ray bomb to kill both Frost and Wilkes!

"A Little Song And Dance" begins with a big song and dance number, which is a hallucination of Peggy Carter's. The thing is, the dance number is not at all revealing of Carter's character or anything deeper within her. Instead, it seems to indicate that Carter recognizes that both Sousa and Wilkes have an interest in her and that she might miss Angie (from the first season). Music and distractions have not been a part of Agent Carter and the musical number in "A Little Song And Dance" is more indicative of budget issues than it is of actual storytelling or character revelations; if ever there were a reasonable point for a Steve Rogers cameo, the dance number in "A Little Song And Dance" is it. But, apparently, Peggy Carter's imagination is limited by ABC's budget department.

The continuity of "A Little Song And Dance" is similarly troubling for where the episode fits in with the season. First, it was not long ago that Peggy Carter was almost lethally wounded by a fall that left her with serious internal injuries. So, the moment Carter does a leap out of a moving truck early in "A Little Song And Dance," attentive viewers are likely to do a serious wince thinking that Agent Carter should be vastly more weakened than she is afterward. Second, Carter's wounds were in her abdomen and given that the primary Marvel Cinematic Universe features no evidence that Carter ever had children, "A Little Song And Dance" misses the opportunity to enhance Carter's character by revealing that her wounds are similar to Ana Jarvis's.

"A Little Song And Dance" packs Agent Carter with villains and for the first time, it seems unfortunate that Vernon Masters is being used in the show. While Vernon Masters is not based upon any specific character from Marvel Comics, he has developed in the second season of Agent Carter as a fairly formidable spy master - even if he is very quickly revealed to be a part of the HYDRA-esque Council. Masters is weakened in "A Little Song And Dance" by being caught in situation after situation where he is compromised. Instead of being a credible representation of the true depth of villainy that HYDRA represents, Vernon Masters flops through "A Little Song And Dance" into being an adversary that is more comical than even comic bookish.

While Kurtwood Smith plays Vernon Masters well, there are no truly extraordinary performances in "A Little Song And Dance" outside the dance number. The direction and choreography of Peggy Carter's dance number are good, but they are much more flash than substance. Sadly, that might well be the epitaph of Agent Carter.

For other works with Lyndsy Fonesca, please visit my reviews of:
Agent Carter - Season 1
Kick-Ass 2
Hot Tub Time Machine
Heroes - Season 2

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agent Carter - The Complete Second Season, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the final season of Agent Carter here!


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment