Monday, February 08, 2016
Smoke and Mirrors
I mean, I get what they were going for. This episode was basically the "origin story" for Peggy Carter (and her current adversary, Whitney Frost). And given that gender equality is the message underpinning the entire series, it makes sense that we would get this superhero origin story just as we've previously seen them for Captain America, Iron Man, and so forth. But the thing is, most superhero origin stories don't strike me as terribly interesting. They're often too conventional and predictable. And even when they're not, they don't necessarily provide much insight into the superhero and his or her... uh... superheroics.
I felt all of this in modest measures as I watched Peggy's flashbacks. She's motivated by the death of a loved one -- major comic trope. She didn't always possess the confidence she exudes today -- but I never would have assumed she did. It wasn't "boring" exactly, but it certainly didn't feel like information I needed to understand Carter, certainly not after spending eleven episodes and multiple movies with her.
Whitney Frost's origins were even less essential. I think the season had already done enough to show us her frustrations with her expected role in this time and place, as well as her quiet rebellion against that. Adding a creepy stepfather figure in her past didn't really up the ante... though at least they didn't go for the full cliche in his level of abuse.
Take away the flashbacks, and there wasn't all that much to the rest of the episode. Indeed, things may even have regressed: we're no closer to curing Wilkes' ghostly condition, and a different nuisance has sat down in the musical chair to impede Carter's investigation (just as Thompson was leaving it).
Nothing about the episode struck me as being done poorly. It simply felt inessential to me. And in a season that consists of just eight hours, I'd hope to get by without an inessential episode. I give "Smoke and Mirrors" a C+.