Let’s Talk About: “Smoke and Mirrors”
In which Sarah Tompkins and Annie Meagle attempt to set some ground rules and definitely don’t lock any men or possums in the trunk.
Sarah: Annie. Annie. I feel like we might need to set some ground rules for this episode’s discussion.
Annie: It’s going to be something about me remaining calm and not just repeatedly mumbling things about Daniel Sousa, isn’t it?
S: It’s just. It’s just that we have to acknowledge that some of our dear readers might not be huge Peggysous shippers and might not want to hear our 95 Theses on the way Peggy touched Sousa’s hand at precisely the 31:52 mark.
A: Fair enough. I can restrain myself to accommodate all of our fair (seven) readers. I will be the consummate professional, saving all shipper spiraling for our texts and my mess of a Tumblr. Well, perhaps not all, I’m not made of steel, after all. But I will endeavor to keep this about the show as a whole, not my feverish Peggysous daydreams.
S: Right. Yes. I mean, obviously we will have to parse the intricacies of Margaret’s professional and personal relationship with Daniel. And that might perhaps include an analysis of their unobjectively loaded glances. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
A: Ok, first things first. Smol Peggy. Smol Peggy in her cape slaying dragons in her backyard, saving the princess. On a scale of 1 to fetal position, how did you enjoy the look back into Peggy’s formative years?
S: You know that scene? In the first episode of The Walking Dead? Where that like, terrible carcass of a zombie drags itself across a field with its hands? Yeah. That. She was a knight, Annie. She was fighting and questing and all I wanted this season were Peggy flashbacks and when now that we’ve finally got them, I feel so rewarded for that wait.
A: We certainly were. I actually found it very refreshing, too, that we got to see Peggy as a young woman. A young, happy(ish) young woman beginning her life. I will say, I very much appreciate that the show goes to great lengths to accurately portray the societal constraints put on women during that time. Peggy is getting married, that is the pinnacle of her young life. No time for being a silly spy! She is going to be a WIFE! And even in the flashbacks of Young Whitney Frost…she was “weird” for being a young girl interested in science. Your genius brain isn’t going to get you anywhere, girl, your looks are your only ticket out of this dump. When contrasted with how we know these two women to be in present time, it really hits my feminist heart hard. The road has really been long and it’s truly impressive to see how much they’ve fought against just to be able to be their true selves.
S: And I think that the great part about these two different sets of flashbacks – Peggy’s and Whitney’s – is we have these women who are brilliant, who are strong and smart. In Peggy’s case we see her brother, Michael, pushing her to be true to herself, to buck expectations and stereotypes – to be who she capable of being. He knows she is meant to be a spy, to be an agent, to fight despite the societal expectations, and eventually Peggy realizes that he’s right. But in Whitney’s world, there is only her mother – who values looks and sexuality above all else, who taunts her for being rejected from the university science program. We also see that sexual harassment has been pretty par for the course her whole life.
S: We see what a difference support (or lack thereof) makes, we see how brilliance can lead to an amazing woman like Peggy – or a malicious one like Whitney. How do you think our friend Cal is going to react to his sweetheart’s…osmosis habit?
A: Well if there is one thing Cal is, it’s a coward. A spineless, snivelling excuse of a man who is only ever looking out for himself. So I imagine he’ll react poorly, staying with her out of fear but also perhaps working with the Evil Council of White Dudes behind her back to possibly take her out? She isn’t going to be his perfect First Lady now, birthing a brood of cherub-cheeked babies and showing up for photo calls in the Rose Garden. He can’t be happy about this.
S: I don’t think America is ready for a genetically modified sludge woman for First Lady.
S: You know what I wasn’t ready for? Jarvelous.
A: Not even remotely. I mean, I should have been as Jarvis has been nothing but one amazing line after another this season, but once again the show provides me with a phrase I can work into my everyday life like the geeky loser I am. I also was in fits over the further insight into his one man war against the Stark Menagerie of Pretty Yet Vicious Animals.
S: The image of Jarvis opening his trunk to reveal a large tranquilizer gun is one that I do not think will ever cease to make me laugh. See also: his incendiary American accent and spot-on portrayal of a police officer.
A: Good gravy nothing delights me more than his terrible American accent. And this brings us to the felonious adventures of Peggy and Jarvis this week. The hitman really provided a wallop of insight into all sorts of things, did he not?
S: Again Peggy proved that you want her in an interrogation room. But, backing up a bit on that front, one of my favorite moments of the episode is where we see Daniel discover the possum (man) in the trunk (boot). His disbelief, followed by his complete belief, quickly transformed into anger that Peggy attempted to take down such a dangerous person by herself. Again, her safety being his main concern. He wants her to succeed and to be her own person, but he has to know what she is up to so that he can worry about her in an informed manner.
A: Yes…informed manner. That’s the ticket. Definitely just a boss-like, informed manner. Not like a man carrying a burning torch of love for he–wait. Sorry. I promised.
A: But you’re right. I love that he pushes back at her, but only in a “SOMEONE NEEDS TO BE WATCHING YOUR BACK MARGARET ELIZABETH CARTER AND NO THE ENGLISH BUTLER DOES NOT COUNT” way. Most of what I’m sure draws him to Peggy is her adventurousness and headstrong nature. But we all need support sometimes. My favorite scene regarding all of this was the one right after Agent Red Foreman threatened her, then when she rebuffed that, all of her “friends”. We see Peggy looking out at Sousa (who is in adorable grumpy dad mode, yelling at everyone as the War Dept jerks tear up is pristine office with their nonsense witch hunt), and she gets that look – you know the one, that “Peggy shoulders the world’s worries” look – and you just know she’s about to really shove him into the dark again and attempt to fix this whole thing herself. As usual. But he catches her at the stairs, and she just sort of blurts out that Agent Red threatened them, and Daniel just smiles and says he got that speech too, now are we going to take on this so-called tidal wave together or what? And then proudly presents her with evidence he filched. Her face lit up like a freaking Christmas tree and I died.
A: But also. Eff Shady Agent Red Foreman. Man, I hate that guy.
S: Yeah, what a bastard. Quoting Agent Chad Michael Murray at her and being a generally smarmy and deplorable bureaucratic dickweed.
S: I know what we talk about how amazing the women on this show are – and honestly, I hate that that is a rarity in television and film – but I also just think about Steve and Daniel and Jarvis and Howard, these men in Peggy’s life who are good (even Howard at his sluttiest is not what one would qualify as evil) and supportive. And then when you contrast these men with good ole Freddy, the ex-fiancé of Peggy’s we meet for the first time in flashbacks, well, the difference is stunning. And what it says to me, what I feel the writers are saying to me is, when you are true to who you are, when you allow yourself to be, well, yourself, you’ll find the kind of people you need and want in your life. It was Peggy’s decision to pursue life as a field agent that put these people into her life – and took one’s like Freddy out.
A: Oh boy, that is such a truth. And only makes me love Agent Carter more. Because what an important life lesson. It’s something you really only learn with time, after going through the stumbles and fumbles of youth, testing who you are and working to figure out who you are and what you want to be. What kind of people you want in your life. It makes me so happy to see them frame it like that on Agent Carter, to make that such an important part of telling Peggy’s tale. It reminds me so much of one of my very favorite quotes from another amazing heroine, Emma Swan:
“People are gonna tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, ‘No, this is who I am’. You want people to look at you differently? Make them! You want to change things, you’re gonna have to go out there and change them yourself, because there are no fairy godmothers in this world.”
A: It just sucks that so often we have to learn these lessons through hardship, a la Peggy losing her brother Michael in the war, and deciding to honor his last wish to follow her heart and become who she was meant to be. Ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuccccccccccccccccccchhhhhhhhhhhhh.
S: HOW COULD THEY GIVE MICHAEL TO US AND THEN KILL HIM.
A: I have no idea, but it was cruel. Quite cruel.
A: (Also that casting??? They were basically twins???)
S: Right? Mad props to casting.
S: I also think that all of these scenes of Peggy were so wonderful paired with an episode where she not only shows that she is made for field work – intuitive, fearless, tough as hell – but she feels she is somewhat alone in her efforts. That is, she takes on finding Mr. Hunt, our assassin, without any help from the SSR because in many ways, her independence is borne from being unsupported as a woman in her field.
S: …But of course, we all know that someone disagrees with her. Even if maybe that someone isn’t super comfortable with giving an assassin malaria (an intense cold).
A: That someone also gives her the kind of gift that makes her eyes light up…stolen tissue samples from the lab.
S: What. a. BABE.
A: I’m still so curious at just what the larger game afoot is though, while I am quite sure Whitney Frost is quite the villain, it still seems like there are much larger machinations at play, especially considering what the hitman told them while he was delirious with that…cold. Will our fearless agent really be able to take on the kind of people who accusedly started the Great Depression??
S: It’s a fair question, as it seems our current team is two trained agents, a pasty manservant, an incorporeal scientist, and an absentee (genius) manwhore.
S: But I do wonder – to what end will this Zero Matter be used? How is Dottie embroiled in this particular machination – if at all? We have six episodes left, so there’s plenty of time to uncover and untangle things…but not much.
S: And will Wilkes give into his urge to fade away? Where will he end up in all of this?
A: I have a feeling Wilkes will be strong enough to resist the urge, if only to not let Peggy down. I mean, I understand that motivation. But the effects of Zero Matter do seem to be increasing with every episode, I wonder if its respective hosts will be able to contain it much longer. Whitney is literally cracking at the seams and Jason is disappearing into a void. Yikes. What will happen if it consumes them? Will it be unleashed once again on an unsuspecting public? And this time without the genius scientist who created the way to contain it in the first place?
S: Man. That is a whole new level of nuclear fear.
S: Okay, Annie. We have made it this far. And done so, so well. I think it is time to address the elephant (or koala or flamingo) in the room.
A: I literally just curled into a ball just by you mentioning it.
A: BASTOGNE, SARAH. BASTOGNE.
A: (He. Is. The. One.)
S: While Annie uncurls herself, brings herself down to an acceptable heartrate: Daniel Sousa admits in this episode that he lost his leg at the Siege of Bastogne. The only current thing we know for sure about Peggy Carter’s future husband, as said by Peggy herself in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is that Steve Rogers saved the lives of the men at a very Bastogne-like battle…one of whom would become her husband. (See the clip here.)
S: I mean. We can’t jump to conclusions.
A: Of course not. I’m sure there were SCORES of World War II European battles that involved American soldiers being trapped behind German lines, cut off from all supplies and reinforcements, outnumbered and outgunned, during the worst winter of the war.
A: SCORES I SAY.
A: [knowing look]
A: [knowing look intensifies]
S: Probably other Battles of Bastogne, even. Like, probably just dozens of them. Bastogne is such a common name…like Jennifer. Or Kyle.
S: (WHAT. ARE. THE. ODDS…no really. If there is a mathematician out there, I’d like to know the odds.)
A: Never tell me the odds.
A: But I digress. Marvel loves an Easter Egg, and I’ll eat my left shoe if that wasn’t intentional as hell and Daniel wasn’t just confirmed to become Mr. Peggy Carter one day. Seriously. Take note all: I will eat my shoe. (But I’m confident instead I will be happy sobbing over their happily ever after instead hahahahahhaa *curls back into ball*)
S: Annie. Annie, wait. Stay with me for Final Question Time.
S: Jarvis v. Menagerie Part II: Jarvis v. Koala. Go.
A: Well, Sarah. You were the one that sent me that demonic koala fight video today [LINK THAT TERRIFYING SHIT], and so I have zero faith Jarvis could ever win against one of those foul beasts. Tranquilizer gun or not.
S: Going to have to agree with you on this one. Adorable jerks.