At the end of last week’s episode, Marvel’s Agent Carter had just introduced villain/hired assassin Mr. Hunt, Whitney Frost was just beginning to understand the powers that zero matter had given her, and Chief Sousa had discovered that Frost had previously filed several scientific patents for Isodyne under her birth name, Agnes Cully. Meanwhile, Frost’s husband, Calvin Chadwick, was preparing to run for Senate with the full backing of the Council of Nine from the Arena Club. Peggy Carter’s new love interest, Jason Wilkes, was exposed to zero matter and has no physical presence, despite the fact that he can be seen and heard.
— Agent Carter (@AgentCarterTV) February 2, 2016
Episode 4, “Smoke and Mirrors,” includes two separate flashback sequences that provide significant background stories for Whitney Frost and Agent Carter. Carter also comes face to face with the most recent addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Rufus Hunt, as he reveals a few details about his past and the crime syndicate and political powers that Agent Carter is now up against.
Whitney Frost flashbacks
The first flashback is at a home set in Broxton, Oklahoma. The year is 1920, and a young Anges Cully appears to be about seven years old. Showing her incredible intelligence, she fixes her mother’s radio — her mother doesn’t seem to appreciate it. The elder Cully is able to afford the home they live in thanks to an arrangement with “Uncle Bud,” who allows them to live there in exchange for sex.
“I’ll bet you’re real pretty when you smile,” Uncle Bud says to Agnes, who refuses to be cordial.
Another flashback is at the same home eight years later. Uncle Bud has been caught cheating with someone almost as young as Agnes. After a fight with her mother, Agnes finds out that her application to the University of Oklahoma was denied. Her mother tells her that if she ever wants to get out of Oklahoma, she should focus more on her looks than on her brains.
Fast forward to 1934. Agnes has become a beautiful woman. She’s purchasing a ticket at a theater in Hollywood to a movie she has already seen. Just down the street, an “agent of the stars” stops her and says, “I’ll bet you’re real pretty when you smile.”
Apparently, Agnes was listening to her mother, because she smiled at the agent. He told her that she could be a model or even a movie star, but she would definitely need to change her name.
“That’s the beauty of Hollywood. You can be whatever you want.”
As AV Club noted, the command to “smile” isn’t unique in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jessica Jones takes place in the very same MCU — albeit decades later — and her general non-smiling disposition leads to Kilgrave making the very same request of Jones. As the new generation of Marvel superheroes redefine what it means for a female to be a hero, viewers should expect more of the same in other iterations of the MCU.
Peggy Carter flashbacks
During a flashback of Peggy Carter as a child, as TV Line noted, we are reminded that her birth name is Margaret and that she’s clearly never fit the mold of a typical female in her era. In a flashback to 1940, Miss Carter has just been proposed to. Soon after, she is told that she has the opportunity to work for the SOE — a war-related espionage division under Winston Churchill. She is surprised that they are offering her a position as a field agent, since she’s a woman.
“I don’t believe I’m meant to be in the field.”
She says she’ll have to discuss it with her fiancé. Later, she is at a dinner with her brother and groom-to-be. She wants her brother’s approval. He seems less than impressed. It turns out her brother suggested Peggy for the job with the SOE. He begs her to reconsider.
On her wedding day, before the ceremony, she finds out that his brother died in the war. She skips the wedding and decides to fight in the war herself.
In the “present”
Jarvis and Agent Carter are out to get Mr. Hunt, the hired assassin who failed at the end of the last episode. They take tranquilizers so they can capture him. When they catch him, the tranquilizers don’t have quite the full effect, but they manage to get the job done.
Chief Sousa figures out what they are up to and decides to involve himself. After they convince Mr. Hunt that he’s been injected with malaria, he confesses that the Council of Nine from the Arena Club are behind everything. When they tell Hunt that they will let him go so he can run from them, he explains that there is no running from them. It’s not just a gang of criminals. They were ultimately responsible for the assassination of President McKinley and the stock market crash of 1929.
— Agent Carter (@AgentCarterTV) February 2, 2016
Just as Carter and a dozen or more agents are going to try to infiltrate the Arena Club, Vernon Masters reappears. He shuts down everything the SSR is doing while the FBI audits every case the branch has worked so far. Carter begins to realize that Masters is protecting the Council of Nine and refuses to give up the name of their “source,” even though Hunt is simply tied up in a broom closet.
They bug Hunt and make him believe that he escapes against their wishes. He goes directly to see Whitney Frost. She wants to know what happened to him, but he refuses to answer until Calvin Chadwick returns home. Throughout the episode, she has clearly grown tired of Chadwick’s requests and demands as it pertains to Frost being involved in his campaign for Senate.
She has also discovered more about how the zero matter has affected her. She is seen holding a rat in her hands. After a few seconds of Frost not being able to make anything happen, the rat bites her. It turns black, she absorbs the rat into herself, and the crack/scar/marking on her forehead continues to grow.
Carter, Sousa, Jarvis, and Wilkes are all listening when Chadwick returns home. Hunt explains that Carter had kidnapped him and that he had told her about the Council of Nine at the Arena Club. Chadwick is furious. Frost grabs Hunt by the throat, he turns black and she absorbs him. With only the auditory version of the experience, those from the SSR have no idea what has just happened.
— Marvel Entertainment (@Marvel) February 2, 2016
While Frost is beginning to master her use of the zero matter effects from the end of the second episode, Jason Wilkes is struggling. He still has no physical presence outside of being visible and audible. On a couple of occasions, we see from Wilkes’ point of view, and he’s seeing things. Carter can sense that something is up, and he explains that it’s more than just being unable to sleep.
“It’s as if something is calling me, pulling me away.”
Witnessing Frost’s demonstration of her zero matter powers, Chadwick is freaking out. The shows ends with this dialogue, as Frost echoes the talent agent she encountered in Hollywood.
Chadwick: “What are you?”
Frost: “Whatever I want.”
[Image via IGN]