Agent Carter: Hollywood Ending – Was THAT Vernon Masters? (Recap/Review)

Agent Carter with its “hollywood ending” as season two finale was a thrill a minute as the good guys rushed to stop Whitney Frost, but in terms of shocking endings…Was that Vernon Masters?

 JAMES D'ARCY, HAYLEY ATWELL, CHAD MICHAL MURRAY, DOMINIC COOPER, REGGIE AUSTIN

Agent Carter with its “hollywood ending” as the season two finale was a thrill a minute as the good guys rushed to stop Whitney Frost, but in terms of shocking endings…Was that Vernon Masters? All gloved hands, snazzy shoes, suit and a gun complete with silencer? Is Jack Thompson really dead?

We may never know. While star Hayley Atwell is talking about season three, and how she would definitely come back, no-one at the network has said a word about another season.

Still, reality aside, the finale was excellent. From Jarvis hitting Whitney Frost (mid-rant) with Howard Stark’s car:

“Jarvis you just hit a woman with my car…she’s a two-time Oscar nominee.”

To Daniel Sousa dangling in midair as the zero matter ball threatens to suck him in, the finale was a definite success.

The car incident comes on the heels of Wilkes exploding and laying waste to the inside of the lab, blowing all the various players outside the building off their feet and curing Wilkes of his intangibility problem forever.  When they enter the facility Vernon Masters is nowhere to be seen but Whitney Frost crawls out from under a bit of wood, or cardboard, and appears to be stronger than ever.

The good guys (and Thompson who seems to be a white hat now that Master’s is “gone”) all beat a hasty retreat while Frost follows spouting vitriol.  Later, after the car incident, the villainess  starts working on a plan to open the rift letting zero matter into our world  permanently.

Joseph Manfredi (Ken Marino) is obsessed with Whitney’s transformation, something that he says has changed her from the girl he fell in love with. After speaking to Nonna he goes to see Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper).

Cue comic scene with Jarvis, Stark and Manfredi.

Outside the mansion, at a poolside repast, Stark is more concerned with the lack of condiments, i.e. mustard than he is with the real matter at hand. Bellowing for Jarvis to bring more mustard Howard becomes impatient.  He starts questioning whether the butler is cultivating seeds, “in there.”

Jarvis emerges from the house, arms held high with a jar of French mustard held in one hand. Manfredi stands behind the butler with a gun pointed at his back.

Manfredi: “I see a gun this guy sees heaven.”

Stark: “Easy. Easy. Let him put the condiment down.”

It turns out that the gangster and Stark are old friends and Manfredi wants his help to “fix” Whitney.  More comedy ensues when the gang infiltrate the house and Joseph lures Whitney from the bedroom to frighten one of his goons. Manfredi comes up with a fictitious charge that his right-hand man is working for another family.

After beating the guy a little he asks Frost to step in. Until that happens the beaten baddy repeatedly denies working for the competition. Once Whitney approaches,  however, things change. Hank (Chris Coppola) “breaks” when Frost reaches for him and a stunned Joseph learns that his cohort is working for the feds.

Sousa and Peggy take pictures of Whitney’s plans. After a joke at Stark’s expense, the two beat a hasty retreat but not before Daniel changes a six to an eight in Whitney’s formula. “That’ll slow her down,” he says before clambering out the window.

Team Stark fix the gamma cannon, build an x-ray machine and argue about what to call their new invention.  They set up their new zero matter rift opener, aka rift generator, at Stark Studios and open the rift. Frost does indeed know immediately when they have done this and arrives in due course.

Samberly sees her first. Carter and Sousa hear his scream and try to reach him via the radio. Frost shows up and walks right in front of the gamma cannon. Stark, and Jarvis shoot Whitney and blast the zero matter right out of her.  The device has to recharge and the containment plan is not working so the rift must be closed manually.

Sousa volunteers after everyone has basically thrown their hat in the ring. He ties an electrical cord around his waist and starts cranking the rift shut.

The other end of the cord sips loose from the lamppost and it is Hayley who first grabs the free end, followed by Stark, Thompson and Wilkes. While this desperate tug of war continues, Howard Stark reacts as only Stark can:

Stark: “Peg, I want you to know, I’m not thinking any unsavory thoughts about you right now! Wait! There’s one.”

Jarvis arrives in the hover car with Samberly who, despite the scream, is still alive.  They sacrifice the car to shut down the rift and save Daniel’s life.  The plan, which entails blowing up the gamma cannon power core, works.

Peggy and Jarvis truly make up, Ana is released from the hospital and Carter kisses Sousa. Whitney has gone mad after losing her power and Thompson carries on being a good guy.  This does not last long, however as the person knocking at his hotel room door shoots Jack with a silenced gun.

Point blank.

As Thompson has Vernon Masters’ briefcase and since no body was revealed at the blast site, it seems that this gloved assassin in a suit could well be a new and improved Vernon (Kurtwood Smith).  The shooter moves to the briefcase, collects the Carter file and leaves. 

The camera moves to a motionless Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), lingers on his face and then…dissolve to black.

Agent Carter does have a Hollywood ending to its second season finale. Peggy “gets her man” and Wilkes is saved.  The only fly in the ointment is Thompson’s apparent death but, that too, is a Hollywood ending of sorts, like the “serials” of old;  a bit of a cliff hanger to keep the interest up.

Sidenote: A word of  complaint. Even “Agent Carter” appears to have issues with continuity. In the scene where poor Daniel Sousa is about to be sucked into the zero matter ball, the cord wrapped around his waist and the streetlamp changes. At the lamp, the texture and type of cord changes repeatedly. At one point being black and clearly an electrical cord and then changing into what looks more like a beige canvas water hose. At least twice. Come on chaps.

The season finale is a winner despite the annoying continuity issue. Atwell, who has at least one viewer in the palm of her English hand, turns in her usual brilliant performance and the chemistry between Hayley and Enver Gjokaj was perfect. 

James D’Arcy and Dominic Cooper were also spot on and mad props to Ana Jarvis, aka Dutch actress Lotte Verbeek for being the “perfect mate” to Edwin.  Fingers crossed that this delightful show comes back for another season, or more. A little “old fashioned Marvel” cannot be a bad thing. 

Agent Carter: The Edge of Mystery/A Little Song and Dance (Review)

This penultimate double serving of Agent Carter, The Edge of Mystery and A Little Song and Dance, keeps the tension high and the subterfuge deep.

 CHAD MICHAEL MURRAY, BRIAN GLANNEY, KURTWOOD SMITH

This penultimate double serving of Agent Carter, The Edge of Mystery and A Little Song and Dance, keeps the tension high and the subterfuge deep. The comedic pairing of Jarvis and Carter has made way for a large serving of tragedy and Chief Thompson proving that he really is not to be trusted.

It is odd that ABC have opted to do this “times two” delivery of episodes in the days running up to another Marvel series coming back on after its winter break, Agents of SHIELD.   This rush to get through Peggy Carter’s story, which finished on an explosive note  before the end credits ran on A Little Song and Dance,  can only mean one of two things.

This mad pace to end the series, with the finale of Agent Carter airing  one week prior to Agents of SHIELD premiering after its mid-season break,  is either setting up a “tie-in” to the second Marvel series or there is a huge plot point meant to affect the “modern” Marvel verse’s storyline. (These two options are not the same thing, a tie-in is not necessarily a plot point.)

The first half of the second “double feature” (the first duo being Life of the Party  and Monsters with the latter ending with  Wilkes being grabbed up by Whitney, who then shot Ana in the abdomen  before escaping with her old boyfriend Manfredi with the physicist in their car.) The Edge of Mystery begins with Ana in surgery, Jarvis feeling both rage and concern and being hell bent on making Frost pay for shooting his lady love and leaving her unable to have children.

Samberly (played with a magnificent odiousness by Matt Braunger) builds a gamma cannon, using blueprints sent via teletext by Howard Stark, in record time and accompanies the two chief’s; Thompson and Sousa,  along with Jarvis and Peggy to stop Frost from detonating the second atom bomb. 

The calvary arrive too late and the explosion takes place, creating more zero matter. Wilkes is drawn up into the ball of black energy, much to Whitney’s displeasure, and the cannon is aimed  and shot at the ball in the sky, rather than at  Frost.

Samberly queries just what they should do, prior to setting the cannon up and both Thompson and Sousa shout at the scientist, in unison, to:

“Do as Peggy says!”

The gamma ray strikes the ball of zero matter and destroys it.  Jarvis drives down to the test site and as Peggy arrives, shoots Whitney point-blank. Wilkes is lying in a shallow hole in ground and despite the gamma cannon is still alive, as is Frost.

Manfredi arrives and they take Carter and Jarvis hostage so they can force Wilkes to cooperate with Frost. The butler and the SSA agent are knocked unconscious.

HAYLEY ATWELL, ENVER GJOKAJ
Carter and Sousa in a little song and dance number

The second episode on offer, A Little Song and Dance starts with a sequence that has to be a direct nod to the David Niven WWII drama A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven in the US). A 1946 fantasy that has an airman stranded in a  black and white world while his fate is determined. The presence of Peggy’s dead brother Mike in the sequence seems to make this a certainty along with another “dead giveaway” in that the  character Niven played in the film was named…Carter.

After this sepia interaction with Michael, Peggy then turns up in a very abstract setting of a bar where she bumps into Wilkes, Sousa and Jarvis. After a little song and dance,  the butler appears, attired like Fred Astaire, and he tells her to wake up.  Rose (Lesley Boone) turns up, under the sign of the talent agency which fronts the entrance to the SSA offices in LA, and tells Peggy that the agency has no need of her talents and punches Carter.  This wakes the agent up.

She and Jarvis escape from the back of the van, Thompson and Sousa trick Vernon Master’s thugs into not killing the two chiefs or Samberly. Peggy and Jarvis are almost recaptured and Frost begins attempting to painfully extract the zero matter from Wilkes.

Jarvis and Carter argue in the desert, a verbal sparring match which Peg wins. She then recants her ire when Jarvis reveals that Ana cannot have children due to complications.

Thompson talks Masters into using the gamma cannon against Whitney after Samberly repairs it.  The New York chief (played with greasy abandon by Chad Michael Murray) then goes on to prove that “once a two-timing douche always a two-timing douche.” He double crosses Vernon, Frost and Sousa by having Samberly sabotage the cannon turning it into a bomb. 

When the cannon explodes, it should kill both Whitney and Wilkes (Vernon will have been killed by Frost before the bomb explodes) and pave the way for Thompson to get a seat on the council.

Sousa and Peggy force Samberly to block the signal and as Whitney starts to kill Masters, Wilkes arrives (after turning down Peggy’s offer of help) to explode before the bomb can go off. (Thompson actually forced Samberly to un-block the bomb.)

Wilkes emits an explosive amount of zero matter and now all that remains is for the second season finale to tie things up.  Jarvis, who was sent off to help Peggy by Ana, has not turned up and with the eruption of Dr. Wilkes, it seems all those by the car could be doomed as well.

The season finale of Agent Carter airs March 1 on ABC, tune in to see who survives and perhaps to learn why such a rush to end the second season.

Agent Carter: The Atomic Job – “And Kill Us All” (Recap/Review)

Agent Carter: The Atomic Job starts off with a lighter tone, as Peggy is woken up suddenly by Jason and she puts a gun through his head. Later as Carter, Jarvis and Wilkes talk about infiltrating Hugh Jones’ facility, the butler’s repetitive phrase of “and Kill us all,” setting the tone for most of this episode.

RAY WISE

Agent Carter: The Atomic Job starts off with a lighter tone, as Peggy is woken up suddenly by Jason and she puts a gun through his head.  Later as Carter, Jarvis and Wilkes talk about infiltrating Hugh Jones’ facility, the butler’s repetitive phrase of “and Kill us all,” setting the tone for most of this episode.

Wilkes wakes Agent Carter  to show her what happens when he goes near Jane Scott’s tissue sample.  During his demonstration some of the zero matter zips out of the sample and into his body making him corporeal for a moment.  Peggy grabs his wrist and then Jason becomes intangible again.

It is decided that the corpse of Jane Scott needs to be retrieved in the hopes that Jason can absorb enough of the zero matter to cure him. Unfortunately Whitney Frost gets there first and while Peggy and a nervous Jarvis watch from the air ducts, the woman absorbs all the zero matter from Scott’s corpse.

Carter and Jarvis hear Frost say that she needs an atomic bomb. The idea being to replicate the experiment that generated the matter initially. The plan then becomes one of stopping Whitney  from getting her hands on two A-bombs in storage at Hugh Jone’s ROXXON facility. (It is the discussion about breaking into the heavily guarded building that prompts the amusing “And kill us all” repetition.

 SARAH BOLGER, ENVER GJOKAJ
Violet and Daniel look for the ring.

 

Sousa asks Violet to marry him, despite losing the ring and Peggy tells her boss about getting the special elevator key from Hugh Jones.  The two head to Dr. Samberly’s office for  assistance and he gives them an electric memory inhibitor that, when placed on the subjects temples, causes them to forget the “last two minutes.”

Thus setting up the funniest bit of the episode, and quite possibly the series, where Hugh Jones (Ray Wise) is repeatedly zapped with the  memory inhibiting device when he  remembers where he knows Agent Carter from.

Jones: “Agent!”

Carter (Zap)

After the above interaction occurs a few times, the scene devolves into Jones waking up and being zapped immediately unconscious. After Carter finds the key (it is hidden on his body) by riffling his clothes, she leaves. Jones wakes and walks out of his office with his clothing disheveled.

Secretary: “Did you have a nice lunch?”

Jones: (looking at his messed up suit) “I must have…”

RAY WISE, HAYLEY ATWELL
Jones and Carter prior to “Agent!”

Whitney and Calvin go to see her ex; the gangster Joseph Manfredi (Ken Marino) to gain access to Jones’ facility.  Sousa reluctantly allows Peggy to talk him into including Rose (Lesley Boone) as a member of the atomic job and the shoe is on the other foot when Daniel includes Dr. Samberly on the team as well. 

The gadget-man crushes on Rose and the two play a married couple, much to Samberly’s delight, at the storage site.  Jarvis, Sousa, Carter, Samberly and Rose all enter the building and begin searching for the two atomic bombs. The scientist unlocks all the doors and once they find the bombs,inadvertently  locks Jarvis in with the weapons.

As the plan was for Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) to disarm the bombs, he now has to talk a terrified Jarvis through the procedure. Peggy goes to confront Whitney and Calvin. The two women fight, very briefly, and when Frost grabs Peggy the battle ends. Carter is overpowered and thrown over a railing. 

JAMES D'ARCY
Jarvis fights his fears, including that of spiders.

The agent dangles high above a lot of rebar and as Frost moves in to finish Carter off, she loses her grip and falls, impaling herself one of the bars.  Sousa and Jarvis take Peggy to Violet’s house for treatment and Daniel’s new fiancee learns that Carter and he have a past.

Violet is not happy.

SARAH BOLGER
Violet (Sarah Bolger) upset over Daniel’s lie…

Calvin Chadwick (Currie Grahamdiscovers just how powerful his wife really is and it scares him. After Whitney shows him who is in charge, her husband calls for an emergency meeting of the council. Meanwhile, as Jarvis insists that Peggy rest and leaves the room, Jason suddenly vanishes mid conversation.

By the end of The Atomic Job, Agent Carter is wounded but recovering, Jarvis is relived, Whitney is in charge, Samberly is in love and Violet is not pleased with Daniel at all.  Most importantly, Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) suddenly disappears, his condition has not improved at all despite absorbing more zero matter, and Peggy is dismayed by the turn of events.

This episode allowed Ray Wise to show off his comedic chops, as well as Hayley Atwell being allowed to show hers, to great effect.  The scene between the two was the highlight of this installment, even overshadowing the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”  type impalement of Peggy later on.

Agent Carter airs Tuesdays on ABC. Tune in or miss this series and miss all the Marvel fun and adventure.

Agent Carter: Smoke & Mirrors – An Intense Cold (Review)

Agent Carter continues to walk that fine line between humor and some fairly intense characters. In Smoke & Mirrors Peggy Carter shows she can bluff, using “an intense cold” injection to break an unbreakable source.

HAYLEY ATWELL
Peggy Carter at that defining moment.

Agent Carter continues to walk that fine line between humor and some fairly intense moments. In Smoke & Mirrors Peggy Carter shows she can bluff, using “an intense cold” injection to break an unbreakable source. Jason Wilkes proves he is still top in his field, despite his weird distraction and Jarvis is willing but not always able.

This episode provides a double backstory element where the viewer learns of the humble (Whitney Frost), and not so humble (Peggy Carter), beginnings of the two main female characters.  The dual flashbacks for each character, that visit both Whitney, nee’ Agnes, and Peg at significant junctures of their lives explains much about each woman.

Whitney comes from the wrong side of the tracks, American tracks, and her mother sleeps with the landlord to keep a roof over her and Agnes’ head.  In England, Peg and her brother Michael play in the garden of a house that could belong to landed gentry.

Each memory shows how similar the two women are in temperament and attitude while their backgrounds are wildly dissimilar. Whitney (Agnes), is like Carter; intelligent and full of drive. The main difference is that Peggy’s life is shaped by war and tragedy while the young Whitney’s world is shaped by poverty and a mother who stresses that the world does not care how smart a woman is.

This focus on the build up of both character’s  past storyline, which has shaped them into the individuals they are today, seems to indicate that they will face one another.  It is interesting to note that the future Madam Masque was always more internalized than Carter. Not self-centered so much as just introspective and motivated more by her own needs.

Peggy on the other hand was set to live a life dictated by her soon-to-be husband, despite her brother Michael’s attempt to move his sister on a path more suited to her abilities and desires. It is his, her brother’s, death that motivates Peggy to stop the lie and take those first steps to becoming “Agent Carter.”

 KURTWOOD SMITH, HAYLEY ATWELL
KURTWOOD SMITH, HAYLEY ATWELL

Backstories aside, the episode also revealed just how influential the “Council of Nine” really is and that Vernon Masters (Kurtwood Smith) has been perfectly placed to play for the other side.  Whitney shows that coldblooded may be too tame a term for her pursuit of power and that SSR has a leak.

In Agent Carter, the cold war is ramping up, and Masters references the Hollywood 10 and makes a very unveiled threat toward “foreigner” Carter. (This appears to be the main thought process of the villains, later when Chadwick learns that Peggy kidnapped his lackey Hunt, he threatens deportation.)

Jarvis (James D’Arcy) and Hayley Atwell make a brilliant double act and their chemistry is spot on. D’Arcy is adept at comedy and his delivery is both perfectly timed and expertly performed.  As Carter’s “sidekick” Jarvis manages to be all manner of things to Peggy,  not least of which is being ready to take on all threats to his colleague. 

The fires of romance still smolder between Carter and Wilkes (Reggie Austin) as the scientist struggles to fix his “problem.” 

Whitney continues to do her own research, bringing in a cage of white rats to see if she can replicate making her director disappear. After one, inadvertent, success, the neophyte super villain goes on to do the same to the overconfident stool pigeon Mr. Hunt.

By the end of the episode, there are two memorable moments revealed via flashback. Peggy’s decision to enter the war as a field agent and pre-Whitney Agnes learning that in Hollywood one can be whatever they want.

 PRODUCTION SETS AND PROPS
Significant shot of Peggy Carter’s backstory…

Agent Carter also maintains that level of amusing moments, relying upon the atypical English delivery from Peggy, that makes this Marvel offering so much fun.

Example: As Carter and Chief Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) interrogate Rufus Hunt (Chris Browning) and Peggy gives him an injection she claims contains a deadly strain of malaria. Sousa questions her about this and Carter reveals that Howard Stark developed a cold injection. 

Sousa: “You gave him a cold?”

Carter: “An intense cold.”

It is brilliant to see Kurtwood Smith doing what he does best; portraying an absolute stinker of a baddy. In Smoke & Mirrors, Resurrection actress Samaire Armstrong  plays Agnes Cully’s mother Wilma opposite prolific character actor Chris Mulkey in Whitney’s flashback sequences.

Wynn Everett is disturbing as Whitney and she manages walk the fine line between delighted discovery (of her new power) and an underlying fear of this new ability.  Yorkshire actor Max Brown plays Peggy Carter’s older brother Michael with quiet conviction, in the limited time allotted his cameo appearance and Olivia Welch is spent on as the teenage Whitney/Agnes.

Agent Carter airs Tuesdays on ABC for 10 episodes. With six left in the second season, wise Marvel fans will opt to tune in “on the day.”

Need for Speed (2014): Aaron Paul’s Video Game Film

Aaron Paul as Tobey Marshall in Need for Speed
The 2014 film Need for Speed could be seen as a film made to cash in on Aaron Paul’s Breaking Bad popularity or an effort to capitalize on the video game of the same name. While the movie did make a decent profit, production costs were $66 million and the worldwide box office came to $203 million, critics panned the movie almost universally. The film’s biggest crime seems to have been, apart from starring television actor Paul, not being 2 Fast 2 Furious or part of that long running franchise.

Directed by Scott Waugh, stunt coordinator extraordinaire turned director, and starring Aaron Paul, Brit actors Imogen Poots and Dominic Cooper (Cooper is currently working steadily as Tony Stark’s daddy in Agent Carter on ABC) along with Mr Robot‘s Rami Malik and pre – 50 Shades of Grey Dakota Johnson, the movie is an action film based, very loosely on the video game and features fast cars, a little humor, and some thrills and spills along the way. Michael Keaton has a splendid cameo as Monarch, the former Formula 1 racer with a dickey heart who sponsors the De Leon race.

Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a racer who yearns to win the De Leon and whose small cadre of friends stick by him and help out in his late father’s business. Cooper is Dino Brewster, professional race car driver, rich guy and all around heel. The two do not get on, mainly because Dino stole Tobey’s girl, Anita (Johnson) whose little brother Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) is Marshall’s best friend. After taking a contract to modify a car for Brewster, a Mustang that is later sold to Julia Maddon’s boss for a cool $2.7 million, Dino challenges Tobey and Pete to a race and the heel kills Pete with a pit maneuver during the race.

Tobey is framed for the crime and put away for manslaughter. When he gets out, Marshall vies to get Monarch’s attention and get an invite to the De Leon where he wants to beat Brewster once and for all. Maddon joins Tobey as they drive across country with a bounty placed on their heads by Dino who wants to stop Marshall from entering the race.

That Aaron Paul has got some enormous acting chops goes without question. Just the fact that he held his own against master craftsman Bryan Cranston for the whole of Breaking Bad is proof positive that the man can act. Critics who had their long knives poised to sink into Aaron’s performance in this video game action racer were doing so because he dared to leave the small box. Had they paid attention, these “experts” would have noticed that Paul gave his usual meticulous performance.

Granted the storyline itself had some pretty glaring plot holes and Poots manages to look younger each time she is on screen, and there is not nearly enough Michael Keaton, but…

Malik shows just how he got the part of Elliot in Mr Robot, Poots showed just why she should be in more films and Cooper made a impressively nasty villain. The Brit actor showed just how to make the bad guy a truly nasty bit of stuff and that, in turn, helped to make Paul’s hero look even better.

Waugh did a good job in his second feature length film as director and the film looks great. Everything felt right and while not as glossy or OTT as the 2F2F franchise films, the stunts delivered the requisite amount of oohs and ahhs and made all the scenes crackle with excitement.

Certainly Need for Speed feels a little like a red headed step child to the “Furious” saga but overall, the film delivers. This is a 4 out of 5 star film, earning an extra star for the casting of Aaron Paul and Dominic Cooper. It is Streaming on Showtime at the moment and worth watching despite its rather long runtime of over two hours.