But what happened to Wilkes!?
This episode starts with Peggy meeting Sousa at Dr. Wilkes house, being hounded by reporters. As she makes her way inside and they chat a bit, they discover money and a Russian passport under a loose floorboard. Another agent discovers a Russian gun, the one used to kill the S.S.R. agents transporting Jane Scott’s body, and deduces… Wilkes is a Russian spy!
Wait, that makes no sense.
Peggy instantly realizes that the hypothesis is ridiculous and the evidence was way too conveniently placed, and dismisses it immediately.
We jump to the Wild West, where there is about to be a shootout…before the director, Howard Hughes…. er, Howard Stark – yells at Peggy and Jarvis for being the in the shot, and then calls to cut. What transpires next is the most meta, self-aware conversation in Marvel history, lovingly paraphrased below:
Howard: “Always said you should be in movies, Peg. An actress called in drunk, want to play a bar wench?”
Peggy: “I’d much rather play the cowboy.”
Howard: “I don’t think the audience is ready for that yet.”
Peggy: “Oh, but they’re ready for a movie based on a comic book? That sounds like a dreadful idea.”
Not only do they poke fun at Agent Carter being one of the first female comic leads adapted, and her obvious comic book movie origins, the movie Howard Stark is directing happens to be based on the actual, real-life western Marvel comic “Kid Colt Outlaw”. Plus, Howard claims Kid Colt is a historical figure – which means he is now canon in the MCU, in a “Patsy Walker” kind of way. I think my brain is going to explode.
Peggy and Jarvis talk to Stark about Wilkes, his disappearance, and the significance behind the lapel pin in all of this. Howard Stark recognizes the Council of Nine/totally-not-HYDRA pin as belonging to the Arena Club, a gentleman’s club of the rich and powerful elites that he has refused to join many times. He claims that it is unlikely that Wilkes was a member, because they like to keep members “pale and male”.
At our villains’ residence, Whitney Frost is examining the strange black cut on her forehead. It appears to be leaking black liquid, which dissolves or evaporates when she touches it. Her husband bursts in the room, almost seeing the cut, and explains that their “Commie angle” worked, and the press is reporting Wilkes as a Russian spy. When questioned why she isn’t working, she claims she isn’t feeling well – and then confides that she is thinking of retiring. Chadwick tells her that she can’t retire during his Senate run; it would overshadow the campaign. But after he wins, she can retire and have all the babies she wants!
Wow, I feel like she is going to slit his throat while he sleeps one of these days.
Peggy and Sousa arrive at the office only to find that good old Jack Thompson is in the neighborhood. He “fixes up” Peggy’s report, agreeing that Wilkes is a communist spy, and refuses to sign. Her current chief Sousa won’t sign either, but she is on loan from Thompson, so he signs it for her. He just becomes a bigger bastard every time we see him. Even Sousa throws him a venom-filled “I forgot how much I missed working with you, Jack.” before storming out.
Howard Stark is relaxing poolside with a small army of female production assistants, when Peggy convinces him that he is going to infiltrate the Arena Club and find out what is really going on behind closed doors. Howard is reluctant and thinks it boring, but she convinces him that her plan will have more than enough “jazz” to satisfy him.
Meanwhile, Thompson is watching the Zero Matter nuclear test tapes. Well, nothing good can come of that.
Thompson meets with our dear friend Vernon Masters, who thanks him for coming out west on such short notice. He lets him know that Wilkes stole some important research from the lab, and to hand it over if anything turns up. Thompson is reluctant to turn over key evidence, but Masters pulls his old “bigger fish than the S.S.R.” card, and Thompson relents; if he finds anything, he’ll give him a call. It’s a slightly bizarre thought that this conversation is between Chad Michael Murray and the guy who plays Red Forman.
As part of Peggy’s plan, Howard Stark is at the Arena Club. He is complaining about everything, and decides to spice things up a bit, in a very Stark fashion: he lets all the girls from his beach party into the club, despite the fact that women are not allowed. Code Pink! Peggy sneaks in among the women and splits off to do some recon. As she is trying to find a good area to bug the place, she discovers the secret meeting room. She sneaks in as a meeting lets out, and finds tomorrow’s newspaper that claims Chadwick’s opponent for senator is dropping out of the race. She attempts to put a listening device under the table, but the had an anti-bugging detection in place that disabled it. She leaves empty-handed and is almost caught, until Jarvis pretends she is just one of Howard’s beach girls who is lost.
In the office, Peggy tells Thompson about the newspaper she saw. She is, of course, unable to produce a copy – and her bugs were destroyed. Thompson is upset that they are wasting time chasing the Arena Club, but Sousa and Peggy believe it is worth investigating. She calls Thompson a coward, and says the best line in the episode. “You’re so afraid to ruffle powerful feathers that you’re doing what you always do: burying an ugly truth and hoping someone pins a medal on you.”
Wow! Go Peggy!
If you don’t recall, that cuts particularly deep because the story he told Peg in confidence last season; how he buried the enemy surrender flag after firing and earned the Navy Cross.
Thompson is none too pleased and tells Peggy to fly back to New York immediately. She storms out and as Sousa tries talking her down, some objects near Peggy start floating. Peggy concludes it is a side effect of Zero Matter and goes to Howard to see what to do. After doing some tests and mixing some chemicals in Howard’s lab (which has a fantastic stained glass window that looks startlingly like the arc reactor, by the way), Howard says that this chemical spray should make the Zero Matter or whatever is disrupting gravity near Peggy visible. He sprays the air only to reveal a non-corporeal Jason Wilkes, who has been following Peggy invisibly, hoping she would somehow notice him.
Wilkes is back!
It’s worth noting at this point that Wilkes is a one-off character in Tales of Suspense, a comic that has been mentioned a few times this season as a movie Whitney Frost starred in (and also the first appearance of Whitney Frost herself). The comic iteration of Wilkes does sell out to communists, and during experiments for them ends up turning invisible and intangible. I didn’t bring this up earlier because I figured it was irrelevant – yet here we are!
Speaking of movies Whitney Frost has starred in, she is mentioned to be in “The F Stands for Freedom” (the movie Dottie released the Midnight Oil gas in last season), “The Woman In the Golden Mask” (referencing Whitney Frost’s identity as the golden-masked Madame Masque in the comics) and “The Nefarious Daughter” (which is a reference to the fact that the comic version of Whitney Frost was born Giuletta Nefaria, and is Count Nefaria’s daughter). The more you know! But I digress.
Wilkes explains what went on at Isodyne the night he “died” before turning invisible and inaudible again. As Howard and the gang work to fix him, or at least make him temporarily visible again, Peggy decides to go “poke the bear” and visits Whitney Frost.
Peggy and Whitney have a great bit of back and forth that basically translates to “I’m on to you” and “I know you’re on to me but you don’t have any proof”. Whitney is saved by the bell when Kenneth, her sleazy sexist director from before, comes and ushers her to set.
Back at the S.S.R. office, Thompson gives Vernon the film reel of the Zero Matter nuclear incident. Even he looks disappointed with himself. Good! That’s how you should feel!
In the lab, a temporarily restored Wilkes and Stark are showing up Tony and Bruce as the original Science Bros, trying to figure this out. A sleep deprived Stark goes off in search of coffee and Peggy and Wilkes have a cute chat. She reassures them that they will fix this – because if anyone is capable of doing so, he is. Stark ruins the moment by walking through Wilkes on his coffee hunt.
As Sousa is filing a report on a woman named Agnes Cully, Thompson shows up and him and Sousa chat. Thompson accuses him of “being sweet” on Peggy, but Sousa informs him that he is, in fact, getting engaged. Thompson invites Sousa out for drinks to talk about her, and Sousa declines. Another time. Sousa just won’t go out for drinks with anyone since Peggy turned him down!
After her encounter with Peggy, Whitney is panicking because she knows Peggy is on to them. Calvin is trying to reassure her that everything will be fine – so she starts fake crying, saying Peggy scares her and she needs to be taken care of. God, she has him wrapped around her finger. He agrees to sent Mr. Hunt after her. Who’s Mr. Hunt?
As Peggy is relieving a lot of apparent stress with a punching bag, Jarvis offers and quickly retracts his offer to be Peggy’s sparring partner. The assassin from earlier – presumably Mr. Hunt – starts strangling Peggy from behind. They have a fight that ends with Peggy shooting him in the hand, and he escapes. Jarvis rushes to her side.
In the morning, Jarvis is installing a security system in the house to prevent situations like the one the prior night. This includes a recording of Jarvis warning against intruders. He laments that he will have to spend the rest of time as a disembodied voice.
It’s okay Jarvis; one day that disembodied voice will be implanted into Vision! You get to be an Avenger….kind of!
In the lab, Howard still hasn’t slept. Coffee! He lets Peggy know that he is going to go to Peru to get his old mentor Dr. Abner Brody (which I’m pretty sure is the name of two different Indiana Jones characters) to help fix things. He leaves, and Peggy finally apologies to Wilkes for what happened at Isodyne. He decides that he is going to leave so he doesn’t put everyone in danger. She refuses to allow it, and he decides to stay – not because she had good reasons, but because she wants him to. Aaaaw!
In the lab, Sousa and Peggy talk about her assailant, and Peggy decides to miss her flight with Thompson. He tells her the research he’s been doing on Agnes Cully – she’s like the American Marie Curie and her brilliant science skills put Isodyne on the map. He then reveals Agnes Cully is the birth name of actress Whitney Frost – America’s sweetheart is the brain behind Isodyne.
At the Arena Club, Vernon thanks Thompson for the film reel and introduces him to Calvin Chadwick. He shows him the newspaper that his opponent just dropped out of the election, and Thompson recognizes it as the one Peggy was talking about. He congratulates Chadwick but seems uncomfortable.
Now, Thompson hasn’t graduated to full asshole yet. What he does next is his “make or break” moment. He can choose to either cooperate with Peggy – or cooperate with the Arena Club.
In her dressing room, Whitney Frost is getting ready when Kenneth comes in and tells her the studio wants to replace her. Don’t worry though – he fought tooth and nail and they aren’t getting rid of her without getting rid of him too. She thanks him and gives him a hug, but he starts remaining too close for comfort. He notices the scar on her forehead and starts freaking out – she tries to calm him down and grabs him…before ABSORBING AN ENTIRE LIVING HUMAN BEING THROUGH HER HAND, LOOKING HORRIFIED THE WHOLE TIME.
She looks in the mirror and the scar has grown bigger. What did I just watch!?
So this episode brought some much needed Stark back to the Cinematic Universe, which is great. While this was a fun episode with endless easter eggs and some killer dialogue, I can’t help but feel it wasn’t as great as the first two this season. I am still very excited to see where it goes next, but I give this episode a 7.5/10. I’m just glad Wilkes is back! This show is a burst of comic book sci-fi fun, and I can’t wait to see what lies in store