Synopsis: Peggy and Whitney flash back to their childhoods, and the Arena Club makes a daring move.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Peggy Carter backstory! Finally. After years of seeing her in the MCU, and even seeing her more current self in Ant Man and The Winter Solider, this week we finally got a glimpse of little Peggy, who was, as usual, causing a ruckus and upsetting her mother. It was actually an episode of flashbacks.

We also saw Whitney Frost herself as a precocious little girl in rural Oklahoma, living with her inattentive prostitute mother. In the present, Whitney is using rats to experiment with the Zero Matter inside her, while Peggy and Dr. Wilkes struggle to repair it’s dematerializing effects on him.

It’s an interesting and very clear parallel between them, proving that they are similarly matched, and either might have turned out very differently, if not for outside factors. I appreciate that we finally got some background on Peggy, and that Whitney’s transformation has been gradual, and due to her own hand being forced, rather than an innate desire for revenge or some other selfish pursuit.

Her mother told her that no matter how smart she was, no one would take her seriously as a woman, and if she wanted to get anywhere better than where she was, she should focus on her image. So she became an actress, and everything about her life as we see it now is riddled with increasingly noticeable imagery of masks and pretense.
In the meantime, Peggy and Jarvis set out to kidnap the Arena Club’s trigger-happy attack dog Rufus, while keeping it from Sousa in order to give him plausible deniability after all he’s been mixed up in thanks to Peggy. Naturally, he immediately finds out and is pissed that she didn’t call him for backup. Together, they interrogate Rufus, who finally confesses that the whole operation is much bigger than anyone realizes.

Important political and economic figures are involved, deliberately and inexplicably designing history. They’re rigging elections, buying off powerful people, recruiting people in unique positions to give them information, and destroying everything else, without ever getting their hands dirty. Rufus also tells them the Arena Club’s secret meetings are taped, and where they can find the footage.

Before they can raid the club though, the FBI shows up and demands they drop the case, even going so far as accusing Peggy of being a potential double agent, since she’s not American. Of course she doesn’t even blink at the idea of going toe to toe with Vernon and his stupid face, she merely says she can take whatever he can dish out, but he warns her that if he decides to burn her, the whole SSR comes under scrutiny, including her friends, and he implies that they could all be branded as traitors if she doesn’t stay in line.

Torn, Peggy flashes back to a slightly older past version of herself, an exceptional codebreaker in the British army, with a nice, desk jockey fiancee named Fred. When she’s recruited for field work, in a new program aimed at developing unexpected people (namely, women) as spies, she’s flattered and excited but hesitant, and her fiancee essentially assumes that she’d never want to go, mentioning to her brother that “that’s not our Peg.”

Her brother disagrees, and jokes with her about how he’s been practicing doing shots, and she’s not going to drink him under the table this time, to which Peggy hurriedly shushes him. It’s clear Fred doesn’t actually know her well at all, and she’s been letting people dictate what she should want.

Fueled by this memory, and the refusal to let other people push her around again, she and Sousa reaffirm their loyalty to each other, and take another run at Rufus, who they allow to escape after planting a listening device on him. He runs to Whitney, who kills him, revealing her powers to Chadwick and the fact that she’s up to something to Peggy, Sousa, Jarvis and Wilkes, even though they don’t know for sure what they overheard.

In the final flashback, Peggy’s brother is killed in combat, and out of grief and respect for him, she takes the offer to become a spy, and leaves her life behind without a word.

(To go get with Captain America, holla!)

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