Mulder – I Need to Work Right Now!
This week The X-Files, Downton Abbey, and Agent Carter converge in a mash-up of women, work, and liberation. Dana Scully immerses herself in a case after a tragedy. Lady Grantham embraces a new role as hospital president and Peggy Carter turns Rose into a field agent.
In “The Atomic Job,” Peggy and Daniel struggle to assemble a team of agents (and Jarvis) to infiltrate Roxxon and deactivate a pair of nuclear bombs. When Daniel says none of the SSR agents can be trusted since any one of them could be feeding information to the evil Council of Nine, what he really means is that no male agent can be trusted. For Daniel, agent still means male, despite evidence in the form of Peggy Carter that female agents are just as capable (if not more so) than men. Peggy points out that Rose has had the same training as male agents, yet the SSR stashes her in a harmless post where she works as a glorified hostess rather than a field agent. Peggy wants to add her to the team and when Daniel worries about Rose’s safety, Peggy retorts, “I’m seeing Daniel Sousa, but I’m hearing Jack Thompson.” Sexism in the guise of protection is still sexism. Peggy prevails and Rose quickly proves her worth by taking down a few goons.
Agent Carter villain Whitney Frost embodies all the pent up frustrations, slights, and denials of a generation of women refused the right to reach their full potential. Her body, filled with zero matter, literally oozes the black tar of her anger. Society shunted her into a career that showcases her face, not her scientific genius. Her Oscar prospects appear to be dimming given the slight wrinkles around her eyes and her reluctance to have sex with an odious director. It won’t be long before she dispatches her husband – a man completely out of his depth – in favor of world domination. One can hardly blame her.
Peggy, who does not let men dictate the parameters of her career, survives a run-in with Whitney but falls onto a grid of rebar which miraculously misses her vital organs. Another working woman, Daniel’s soon to be ex-finance Nurse Violet [not to be confused with the Dowager Countess], saves Peggy’s life by thinking on her feet and sending Jarvis to boil some water.
Medical care is likely to improve for Downton’s villagers with the striking announcement . . .wait for it . . . that the York and Downton hospitals will combine [Take a deep breath to absorb the news]. Dr. Clarkson and Isobel ask Lady Grantham to serve as president of the new outfit. Cora seems flattered by their offer, but worries how her mother-in-law, the current president, will take the news (“Golly, they’ve sacked the captain!). Not well, as it turns out. The Dowager Countess sees Cora’s appointment as the ultimate betrayal and has no intention of heading out to pasture just yet.
Robert makes the mistake of asking wife Cora if the new position, complete with real responsibilities will be “too much for her.” She bristles and notes that she has finished raising her daughters and needs a new challenge. One can see why she might welcome the venture since her days consist of dressing for dinner, reviewing menus with Mrs. Hughes, and wondering if daughter Edith will ever marry. Cora needs a life beyond the Abbey and Robert had better get out of her way.
Mrs. Hughes, meanwhile, has spent her life managing Downton’s vast household staff and now must manage her new husband. An overbearing Mr. Carson wishes he had married his mother and peevishly demands that his bride straighten the corners on the bed and serve horseradish with his salmon. His idea of domestic bliss (retrograde even for 1925) might cause Mrs. Hughes to rip his arms from their sockets and beat him with them, much like the Trash Man does to his victims in The X-Files’ “Home Again.”
Mulder and Scully travel from D.C. to investigate a messy set of murders in Philadelphia. Soon after arriving at a crime scene, Scully receives news of her mother’s heart attack and races back home. She painfully fulfills her daughterly duties and stays at her mother’s bedside until the end. Then something quite extraordinary happens. Minutes after watching her mother die, a distraught Scully begs Mulder to drive her to Philadelphia. She repeatedly demands, “I need to work right now! Right now!” Just like Peggy Carter, Scully’s work anchors her and in this moment gives her solace. Armed with their trademark flashlights, Mulder and Scully track the Trash Man and his maker. Dana processes her mother’s death, along with her decision to give up son William for adoption, on the job.
Agents Scully and Carter thrive when they are at work pistols in hand. They are incapable of leading quiet domestic lives and Cora has had enough domestic tranquility to last a lifetime. She wants to take on new responsibilities, even if that means crossing the Dowager Countess.
God help her.
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