Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Who Truly Cares If Agent Carter Gets Her "Hollywood Ending?!"

The Good: Direction is fine
The Bad: Lack of character development, Predictable plot, No astonishingly good performances
The Basics: "Hollywood Ending" resolves Agent Carter in a way that barely connects the series to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

When it comes to missed potential, Agent Carter might well take the cake. As the show entered what would end up being its series finale with "Hollywood Ending," it seemed like the show had played every possible "spy television" conceit to the detriment of the characters, the performers and, indeed, the plotline to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead of being a smart show that started to weave the threads that would lead into the blockbuster films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and connect the years between Captain America and the early scenes of Ant-Man in a compelling way), Agent Carter instead played out as a heavy-handed rip off of Alias (reviewed here!). "Hollywood Ending" merely continues that latter trend.

"Hollywood Ending" starts in the very last seconds of “A Little Song And Dance” (reviewed here!), so it is tough to discuss the explosive finale of the penultimate episode. "Hollywood Ending" is burdened at the outset by forcing the show to explain in a plausible way what Zero Matter is (after all, Frost and Wilkes can hear voices from it) and resolve the character of Jack Thompson. Thompson is either an incredible spy or exactly the type of person who would be a HYDRA seed within the nascent S.H.I.E.L.D.; figuring that out could plausibly link Agent Carter to Captain America: The Winter Soldier (reviewed here!). Sadly, "Hollywood Ending" does not do that.

As Jack Thompson prepares to detonate the Gamma Bomb, Peggy Carter holds him at gunpoint before a force knocks them all over. Entering Manfredi's facility, the SSR team recovers an apparently healed Dr. Wilkes and witness the Zero Matter going into Whitney Frost's body. Rescued by Jarvis and Stark, the SSR team is extracted. Manfredi, however, is frustrated by Frost's personality change with the Zero Matter and he turns to Howard Stark for help. Wilkes is concerned about separating the Zero Matter from Frost, while Stark wants to separate the two and take custody of the Zero Matter.

To get the equations that Whitney Frost is developing, the SSR team sends Manfredi to get her out of her room. While Carter and Sousa are getting photographs of her work, Frost menaces one of Manfredi's men and is shocked when his man actually has been extorted by the Feds! Getting the data back to the SSR, the team figures out that Frost is building a device to create another rift, without uranium. When the Rift Generator is created and activated, Frost senses the Zero Matter and it leads to an explosive climax for Peggy Carter's SSR team and Whitney Frost!

"Hollywood Ending" puts a human face on Joseph Manfredi, which humanizes the villain right before he is to never be seen again. Manfredi is in love with Whitney Frost (albeit in a generic way that is entirely independent of who she has become) and that allows him to willingly work with the SSR team. But the connection between Manfredi and Frost is tenuous at best and the most real moment for Manfredi is when he realizes that his man is on the take and he is genuinely shocked.

I am one who is very much for tolerance and inclusion, but "Hollywood Ending" goes for politically correct in a way that even I find troubling. Sousa is a great choice for an administrator, but using him as a field agent in a situation where the team might have to move quickly is somewhat ridiculous. A man with a serious limp who walks with a cane is not ideal for a clandestine mission where speed might be essential. Sousa is a good character, but a poor choice for infiltrating Frost's home.

Agent Carter takes on something of a ridiculous quality in "Hollywood Ending" through the technology that is being created. Whitney Frost is in psychic communication (presumably) with beings from the dimension that the Zero Matter is from. As such, she begins creating incredible calculations and equations for a device that will allow her to create rifts. It is beyond the realm of reason to believe that in 1947, even Howard Stark has the equipment on hand to manufacture the Rift Generator. That an advanced dimension would work on analog technology as opposed to transistors and digital or even more advanced technology is preposterous.

"Hollywood Ending" resolves the Isodyne case and completes the story of Agent Carter in a way that fans might want it to continue, but those who enjoy a serious story are not likely to. After all, viewers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were led to believe that Peggy Carter spent much of her life pining for Steve Rogers. While Agent Carter does a decent job of disproving that, it does not do so in a way that provides those invested in the franchise with viable alternatives to Captain America for Peggy Carter. Given how much of Agent Carter's second season hinges on some semblance of romantic entanglements for Peggy Carter, the lack of genuine emotional spark for Carter and her suitors is somewhat unforgivable.

Ultimately, "Hollywood Ending" is what the name promises; most everything gets wrapped up nicely, but Agent Carter ends at a point that might be aggravating for other series's, but just seems passe for the spy drama genre. Viewers are supposed to care who the shooter is in the final scene of the episode, but the villains are like the heroes in Agent Carter; unless they are someone who is seeding into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character is dead and gone long before the major action people care about ever begins.

"Hollywood Ending" resolves Agent Carter with even a minimal sense of style, making for a particularly lackluster season and series finale that leaves the blase prequel to the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the very bottom of the franchise.

For other series finales, please visit my reviews of:
"What You Leave Behind" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"Thank You" - True Blood
"Goodbyeee" - BlackAdder Goes Forth

[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.
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