“The Atomic Job” is a good episode. Not my favorite of the series and probably the weakest of the season due to some cliche circumstances and less than stellar blend of humor and action, but still pretty good.
The episode begins with Jason waking Peggy up in the middle of the night- prompting her to grab her gun in the process- to show her something in the lab. It turns out that the tissue sample from Jane Scott’s autopsy is drawn to Jason whenever he reaches his hand out to it. The Matter manages to slip through and enter Jason, which blackens the whites of his eyes and, for a moment, turns him corporeal. He tells Peggy that he knows where Jane Scott’s body is.
Jason explains to Peggy and Jarvis that she’s being held at a county cold storage building owned by Thomas Clawster, the friend of Calvin that Hunt mentioned last time. With this information, Jason figures that he could cure his condition with the Zero Matter in Jane Scott’s body. So, looks like the gang is gonna steal a body. Luckily, Howard has not a hearse, but a four watt woody.
Elsewhere, Violet arrives home and finds the door unlocked. She grabs a baseball bat, even though I thought people in the 1940s and such were fine leaving their homes unlocked. Anyway, Violet finds that Sousa, having set the table for dinner. When he awakens, he explains that he just wanted to surprise her, but Violet had to cover an extra shift at work.
While Violet goes on about work, Sousa searches the couch for something that he lost. When Violet comes to help, Sousa grabs her hand and tells her that he wanted a fresh start when he came out West. She’s the reason he got through physical therapy and he loves how Violet is uncompromising. Damn it, he had a whole speech prepared, but now he can’t find the engagement ring. Well, now Violet is on the hunt. Also, she says yes. Good for them.
At Chadwick household, Calvin tries to slip out while Whitney talks in her sleep. Before he gets far, Whitney awakens and asks Calvin for his help.
Jarvis and Peggy break and enter the facility. Jarvis gets to join in because he’s got his recreation tie. The two crawl through the shafts and find the storage room housing Jane Scott’s body. Before the two can drop down, Calvin and Whitney conveniently enter, Whitney claiming that the body called her. How convenient. Whitney places her hand on Jane Scott’s arm and absorbs the Zero Matter into her body. Now she needs an atomic bomb. Hopefully she goes for the retro 40s charm.
Back at Howard’s place, Jason figures that Frost is trying to replicate the original atomic test that unleashed the Zero Matter. For this to work, though, Whitney would have to set off the bomb in the same location to open the rift. There are two remaining Roxxon warheads that were put into storage after the initial test. Now, there are several Roxxon locations, making it impossible to know which one houses the bomb, but Jarvis reveals that Howard has kept tabs on Roxxon.
There’s one secure facility just a few hours outside of Los Angeles. To access to the elevator, you need a key card that’s impossible to replicate. Peggy rattles through a series of possible scenarios to force her way in- all of which would result with setting off the bomb. Key it is.
Whitney needs more Zero Matter, as she figures this will put the Council of Nine in their hands. Calvin objects to this, but Whitney maintains that she has such great power. If the two of them could force the world to bend to their will, Calvin would get the recognition that he deserves. Since Calvin is dumb enough to have his ego stroked like this, he asks how Whitney plans to accomplish this. Luckily, she has connections.
At SSR West, Peggy learns that Sousa proposed to Violet. She speaks to him privately to talk about sneaking into Hugh Jones’ office at Roxxon. As per usual, she’ll need a disguise. Sousa figures that Jones would remember Peggy’s face from their last encounter.
So they give Dr. Samberly some pie in exchange to let him borrow the memory inhibitor. He demonstrates that you put it to the subject’s temples and they forget the last two minutes. It’s already worked wonders on Jerry, but there’s a slight risk of brain damage. Slight.
Over at Roxxon, Peggy calls away Jones’ secretary, played by Alexandra Vino, and enters Jones’ office to start looking for the key. Jones soon enters and Peggy claims to be looking for a file. While Hugh goes off to lunch, he tells Peggy that he wants to crunch numbers with her later. Ha. But as Jones gets on the elevator, he recognizes the agent.
He returns, claiming that if the SSR wants to search the office, they’ll need a warrant. As Hugh calls security, Peggy puts the memory inhibitor to his temple. It works and Jones, none the wiser, leaves.
But the effects don’t last long. As Hugh enters the office again, Peggy uses the inhibitor again, this time causing Jones to faint. She searches Jones’ person for the key, using the inhibitor each time he awakens, and ends up finding the key in his belt buckle. Not the smartest location, but it works. For good measure, Peggy uses the inhibitor again. When Jones awakens, his secretary asks if he had a nice lunch. Given that his pants are undone, he must have.
At a restaurant, Calvin and Whitney meet Whitney’s former boyfriend: Joseph Manfredi, played by Ken Marino. Whitney brings up the proposed freeway system and offers Joseph a major construction contract in exchange for some men that can help move some equipment and be discrete. No guns necessary. Sounds like a deal, but Joseph will need more than money- he needs to be sure that he and his associates’ names don’t appear in the newspaper.
When Calvin hesitates, Joseph brings over one of his men proceeds to beat the living hell out of him just to make a point about undressing Whitney with his eyes. And you thought Bruce Banner had anger issues. At the very least, Calvin and Whitney agree to the deal.
Jason, Jarvis, and Peggy go over the plan to infiltrate Roxxon. They’ll need to get to the freight elevator to find Roxxon’s classified items. Sousa, who is defusing a fake bomb nearby, will disarm the bomb with his gentle hands. Jason cautions him, as one misstep and the bomb could destroy all of Los Angeles. Howard’s men have never gone in, so Peggy, Jarvis, and Sousa will be going in blind. And since the Council of Nine has their hands in everything, Sousa doesn’t know who in the SSR can be trusted to help.
Peggy disagrees, and we cut to Rose with another auditioning act. Sousa isn’t on board with Rose joining, not because she’s a woman, but because she has no field experience. Valid, but then, neither does Jarvis, so make of that what you will. Sousa is worried that Rose will get hurt, but just to counter that claim, we see Rose beat up the audition act. For what reason, I don’t know.
Back at SSR, Peggy returns the memory inhibitor to Dr. Samberly, who is irritated that the agents are messing around with his things. Rose sweet talks Samberly and he agrees to let them use his equipment. Because there’s no time for a crash course, Samberly offers to go with them, as Daniel did once say that Samberly could use his expertise in field operations. Peggy is concerned that Samberly could be a spy, but Sousa assures her that everyone hates Samberly.
In a scene straight out of Reservoir Dogs, we see Peggy, Rose, Sousa, Samberly, and Jarvis stroll out in slow motion to the tune of Bing Crosby’s “Pistol Packin’ Mama.” and head for the car. Unfortunately, Jarvis parked the car around the corner due to street cleaning. Well, at least the Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t the only ones in the MCU with less than graceful slow-motion walks.
That evening, the five arrive at Roxxon. Rose and Samberly, acting as a couple, claim to need directions, but the guards are not screwing around and tell them to leave. Samberly tosses a device over the fence- it shocks the guards and knocks them unconscious.
With the service key, the five enter the elevator and, upon arriving, find a guard knocked out. So Whitney Frost is already a few steps ahead of them. Samberly leads the four to the utility closet, where he accesses the security system panel. He unlocks all of the doors, but that means they’re open for Whitney Frost as well.
Samberly finds movement in the next room. Rose heads on and takes out one of Joseph’s men. The others manage to find the room with the warheads. As Samberly works to rewire the door, he ends up locking it with Jarvis inside with the warheads. Peggy instructs Sousa to talk Jarvis through the process while she deals with Calvin and Whitney.
While Peggy deals with guards, Sousa tells Jarvis to remove the bomb from the crate and start unscrewing it. Jarvis removes a panel and finds the warhead inside. Samberly is still messing with the door when Rose returns and encourages him to keep working hard. Jarvis gingerly removes the warheads and places them in the case. Nothing like making soufflé.
Peggy finds Calvin and Whitney mid-argument. She tells Whitney that the SSR can help, but Frost does not want to be fixed. She’s never felt more powerful. In fact, she’s so strong, she actually takes one of Peggy’s punches no problem. Damn. Sousa then radios in that the group has the rods. An enraged Whitney grabs Peggy’s arm, but Peggy breaks free. The effort knocks her back and over a nearby railing.
As Peggy hangs for her life, she eventually lets go and and falls upon a set of rebars, one going through stomach. Well, we know that Peggy pulls through, so this hardly creates tension.
Sousa and Jarvis bring Peggy into Violet’s home, as they don’t want to go to a hospital. Well, good thing that Violet is a nurse.
Whitney tells Calvin to explain this situation to Hugh Jones, but Calvin won’t ask for another favor or put himself in a situation where he may die. Whitney thinks that he’s overreacting, but Calvin maintains that he’s at the mercy of the Council because of Whitney. He refuses to help her anymore. Ballsy, but Whitney grabs Calvin by the throat and cautions him to watch his tone. Why she doesn’t just absorb him now and do this all herself is beyond me.
Sousa speaks with Peggy about tonight, saying that he was scared about her getting hurt. And in television fashion, Violet overhears this tender moment. Violet offers to let Peggy stay for a few days, but Peggy declines. Jarvis helps her to the car. Violet is upset that Sousa lied- he didn’t move because he wanted a fresh start. He was running away because of his feelings for Peggy. Come on, Agent Carter, don’t do this.
That night, Calvin makes a call to have an emergency Council meeting. They’ll want to hear this. It’s against protocol, but he believes that they’ll want to hear what he has to say.
Jarvis tucks Peggy into bed, telling her that these adventures are only enjoyable if you return from them. Agreed. Jason tells Peggy that Zero Matter comes from a dark place you don’t want to be. How does Jason know this? That’s a conversation for another day. For now, time to listen to some music- the same song that Jason and Peggy danced to at The Dunbar Hotel. However, Jason’s body flickers in and out until he vanishes.
I’m not a writer, so this is all speculation. When you’ve got a supervillain on the verge of nabbing an atomic weapon, there ought to be a sense of dread and urgency, particularly when the protagonist’s life is put into jeopardy, right? Now, we knew that Peggy would make it out of this alive because her name is in the title and we see her later on in the MCU, both with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Ant-Man.
So while there was no doubt Peggy would survive her encounter with a rod deep in her body, I never got the sense that this was a sort of race to get the weapons. With Peggy and Jason stealing the Zero Matter from Isodyne, there was a bit more urgency, more so because they weren’t aware that someone followed them.
Here, the team is aware that Whitney has Zero Matter coursing through her body and she’s seeking to acquire an atomic weapon. But in between the urgency, we have Samberly fumbling with the door and Rose talking about how she’s seen bigger.
I say this not as a negative to Agent Carter because it does manage to blend humor and action very well, but the stakes here didn’t seem as high as they could have been, given that this weapon could obliterate the city. It’s a minor critique, but to take another example: when Peggy realizes she has to reach into Hugh Jones’ belt buckle for the key, she reminds herself aloud that she’s saving the world.
It was funny to see Hugh Jones remember over and over that he already met Peggy, though the memory joke wore off after the first few attempts. At that point, the show just ran the joke into the ground. I just don’t think the tone was properly balanced, given the situation. At least the slow motion walk wasn’t overplayed.
When it comes to the villains, I appreciate that Whitney is slowly coming more and more into her own. Unlike Jason, who wants to be cured, she’s fully embracing the Zero Matter and recognizes that she’s in a powerful position right now. She’s pushing back when Calvin objects not to be bossy, but because she’s able to call the shots. I like that we’re seeing the evolution of her plan to acquire more power. She’s toyed around with her abilities and now that she’s able to tame them, she needs to have more.
Side-note, Ken Marino made a pretty good impression, in my opinion, as Joseph Manfredi. He’s calm and collective, but can explode at any moment. It’s interesting, by the way, to even have Manfredi in this universe at all, considering his father, Silvio, AKA Silvermane, is mostly associated with Spider-Man. Then again, this is in a pre-Avengers world and Marvel does now share the film rights to the Spider-Man series, so it’s possible.
If there’s one thing I grabbed from this episode, it’s that, when it comes to Peggy and the rest of the cast, help can easily come from the most unlikely of sources. Rose hasn’t had much to do since coming to Los Angeles, and I’m glad that Peggy made a strong case to Sousa about including her. They both had a point: Rose had been through the same training as the men, but she hadn’t been field tested yet.
But Rose proved her worth to the point that I’d like to see her more active with the team. The flirting with Samberly was a bit overt, but nothing cringeworthy. And speaking of, it was also nice not just to have Samberly involved, but follow up on his previous statement about the divide between field agents and lab techs.
Samberly resents the fact that agents look down upon technicians, so it was a huge praise when Sousa said his skills would be handy in field operations. However, that ended up just being a routine complement and nothing special. So now, knowing that he isn’t seen as valuable as he believed, Samberly has more of a reason to prove his worth.
Jarvis has been in dangerous situations before and he’s been itching to get back into the fold since Peggy arrived. He finally got it with this situation and, once again, showed that he’s more than just a butler. Though given the lack of urgency and how Peggy could have held off Whitney for some time, couldn’t Samberly just have enough time to unlock the doors so Sousa could remove the weapons himself?
Speaking of, I find it all too convenient that Peggy refused to go to a hospital, and Sousa’s fiancé just happened to be a nurse. Violet hasn’t had much to do, but she’s made warm and understanding as opposed to jealous and bitter when she realizes that Sousa still has feelings for Peggy- a conversation that she conveniently happened to overhear. It’s a believable reaction, but still teeters on the edge of being a love triangle.
I do wish we’d gotten to see more scenes with Sousa and Violet interacting so I could get a better sense of their bond. As is, we’re told everything about their relationship and don’t get to see much of it play out. This would have been a good chance to flesh out Sousa and let us see what he’s been up to since arriving in Los Angeles.
But in this instance, Agent Carter does more telling instead of showing. The moment when Violet called Sousa out was nice and what little screen time Enver Gjokaj and Sarah Bolger have together is well spent, but I just want more of that, more so with Sousa still adjusting to life out West.
With all that said, “The Atomic Job” is by no means a bad episode. It’s probably the weakest episode of the season so far, but I by no means disliked it. There’s plenty to enjoy here: Rose and Jarvis having more active roles in the field as unlikely heroes, Peggy’s first fight with Whitney, seeing Zero Matter’s different effects on both Whitney and Jason, and the rag-tag team made for an interesting dynamic compared to just Peggy, Jarvis, and Sousa.
Where the episode suffered was the unbalanced tone, lack of urgency given the circumstance, and somewhat cliché territory regarding Sousa’s relationship with Violet. A good, but uneven episode.