Promises are tricky things. Sometimes they’re so tricky you need a flash back to last season just to give them weight and meaning. So flashing back to last season is where last night’s episode of Agent Carter begins.
It’s a nice compliment to see Ana’s point of view from one of the series’ earliest moments. Nice to see the Jarvises (Jarvisees?) interacting as a couple before the action-adventure of Peggy Carter stepped into their life. And with hindsight being 20/20, we all know that actually, yes there is certainly something to worry about when Edwin and Miss Carter will be interfering in your life. Ana, it seems, doesn’t need the benefit of finishing season one and most of two to know that her husband is going to join Peggy Carter in her quest to clear Howard’s name. Ana just knows. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, indeed.
Especially if that promise is to keep your cool if Mrs. Jarvis happens to get shot. I mean honestly, Edwin, what did that radio ever do to you? Seeing Jarvis falling apart is heartbreaking, and quite frankly this turn towards the dramatic with him is pretty refreshing, as not all of his comedic material this season has been, well… quite as clever as it could be. James D’Arcy’s dramatic talents are one of the highlights of this episode, especially during his second scene of the night.
There are a lot of ways to convey the distressed spouse or lover. We often see crying. Angry outbursts are another. Catatonic silence is popular when shows want to take a subtler route. But for my money, nothing beats Jarvis’s seemingly endless list of promises to Ana in exchange for her survival. There’s something so wonderfully sincere, and in some ways, much more realistic about this scene. Of course you would want to talk to a loved one who is fighting for their life—give them enough reasons to keep fighting, and maybe their own will power can help them pull through. Promise them whatever they could want and they’ll find a way to come back. But still, we must remember what Ana says, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”
It’s a good lesson for everyone tonight as promises, oaths, and words of honor seem to be flung around just a little too loosely. Whitney promises to help Wilkes control his powers, if only he’ll stop fighting them and help her with her experiments. Some mysterious voice seems to be promising Whitney and Wilkes that everything will be alright. It’s like some kind of evil, non-corporeal Jiminy Cricket, which pretty much means they should just choose not to trust it on principle.
Thompson promises to dig up some dirt of Carter. It turns out to be a complete fabrication Vernon set him up to find. And you don’t need some kind of smart phone based document reverse redactor to know that anything in that file must be a lie, if only because by June of 1944 Peggy would be working with Steve and the Howling Commandos, not leading covert murder missions.
Samberly promises that his fake uranium decoy will work perfectly, and in fairness to him it really does. At least until a fumbling henchman—who presumably swore a blood oath to be the best henchman possible at all times—suffers a major henching fail and almost kills them, all while attempting to trade the “uranium” for Wilkes. Wilkes too breaks his promise to trust in Peggy by revealing that he is joining Whitney’s side in the name of survival. And that’s one of those jerk moves that certainly takes you out of the running for love interest.
Samberly also promises to build the Howard Stark designed, Gamma Cannon. When Wilkes hears about this he’s pretty displeased too, but only because even in the 1940s they knew that playing with Gamma Rays could only lead to trouble. I’m looking at you Bruce.
Still, despite the dubious nature of the gamma cannon, it works, and it’s a good thing it does because it’s probably the only thing protecting us from being swallowed up in the Whitney/Wilkes/Zero Matter space rift. Huzzah! Bad guys stopped, world saved, and Wilkes not swallowed up in the portal to the Negaverse he and Whitney managed to open. All is well except—oh, Jarvis no.
Jarvis’s roaring rampage of revenge is in full effect before Peggy can stop him, so before he can fulfill his promise to Ana of coming back safely, our favorite Stark employee is heading over to give Whitney a gun shot wound right to the chest. And what prompts this? What makes cool, rational Jarvis lose his self-control? Well, if you’ve been paying attention you might suspect it’s a promise. And you’d be right. Because when your hospitalized wife asks you if something’s wrong, you should tell her the truth. Not protect her from reality, which sadly was a common practice in the ‘40s. Don’t brush off her concerns with a, “Nothing’s wrong. You’re perfect.” Because Edwin, darling, you really shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep.
Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based freelance writer and director and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter.