Agent Carter Life Lesson of the Week: The Atomic Job

Agent Carter s2

Everyone has hidden parts of their identity; sometimes they’re hidden because others don’t bother to look past the surface, and sometimes they’re purposely tucked away in the dark corners of the heart. But it’s important to be honest about who you really are and what you really want—and that includes not lying to yourself.

Agent Carter‘s characters often dabble in the world of espionage: a world of secret missions, elaborate disguises, and fancy gadgets meant for covert operations. And like most shows that take place in such an environment, it raises important questions about the nature of the secrets we keep, the identity we share with the world, and the people we choose to be our most honest self with. Most of the time, I don’t think of those themes immediately when I think of Agent Carter—because Peggy Carter herself is about as honest as it gets about who she is. However, “The Atomic Job” reminded me that every character on this show has layers that aren’t visible on the surface, and the plot of this episode allowed those hidden layers, unknown depths, and damaging secrets to come out—as they often do in times of crisis.

The first mission in this episode did an excellent job of foreshadowing what was to come near the end of the hour. Although Peggy had previously met Hugh Jones, she thought she could hide her identity from him with a wig and a flawless American accent. But Jones saw through her disguise and figured out her true identity. The discovery of the truth and the ramifications of that kind of revelation were presented in a comedic manner in this scene (with Jones repeatedly getting his memory erased), but, by the end of the episode, that theme was no longer being played for laughs. Instead, we were shown the heartbreak that can occur when truths people try to hide even from themselves are suddenly revealed.

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Agent Carter Life Lesson of the Week: Smoke & Mirrors

Agent Carter s2

Choose your own path. Define yourself on your own terms. It’s okay if other people don’t understand you in the moment, because someday that path you chose will lead you to people who respect you for who you really are.

Throughout our lives, we’re presented with many crossroads. Sometimes we’re too scared to go down an unfamiliar path, so we stick to the well-traveled route. Sometimes other people around us steer us in the direction of one path or another. Sometimes one of the paths is closed to us because of factors beyond our control. But sometimes we bravely step onto a new path that we know in our hearts is meant for us. And that might mean leaving behind people who don’t want to follow us on that new journey. It might mean having people question why you would ever choose that road. But it might also mean finding new people along that path who are meant to walk beside you.

“Smoke & Mirrors” presented us with stories about two women walking down what seem to be two very different paths: Peggy Carter, who is openly walking on her own tradition-defying path, and Agnes Cully, who was forced to hide everything about herself—from her real name to her passion for science and engineering—until she snapped.

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Agent Carter Life Lesson of the Week: Better Angels

Sorry for the delay in getting this post up and running! I spent most of last week recovering from a stomach bug. But I feel better now and can’t wait to talk about Peggy Carter with all of you!

Agent Carter s2

“I trust my instincts…. They’re more reliable than what I’m told to believe.”

Those words from Peggy Carter resonated with me on a very deep level when I heard them in “Better Angels.” I believe in little else like I believe in the power of trusting your gut and following your instincts—even if it feels like no one else understands. If something feels wrong to you, it feels that way for a reason—and you should trust that feeling instead of belittling your intuition. It takes confidence to trust your instincts, but, as many of the characters in “Better Angels” showed us, it’s a path we don’t have to walk alone. If we have the right people around us, they’ll trust our instincts, too.

From the start of the episode, Peggy knew the story being spun about Dr. Wilkes being a Communist spy wasn’t right. But when she went toe-to-toe with Jack Thompson about the truth behind what happened at Isodyne Energy, Peggy encountered a sad truth about a woman’s intuition: People are often quick to dismiss it. Jack accused her of letting her emotions cloud her judgment, and all too often we as women are told that our instincts are actually just our emotions, our anxieties, or our nerves getting the better of us. But instead of letting what he said lead to self-doubt, Peggy stood up for her instincts and her ability to act on them. Peggy has enough confidence to trust herself and her feelings—no matter what anyone tries to get her to believe. And she’s also not afraid to call out someone (in this case, Jack) when they’re ignoring their own instincts.

Peggy knew Jack also had a sense that she was right, but he was willing to ignore the truth in order to behave how others wanted him to behave. And that kind of attitude is shameful to Peggy—not just because he’s ignoring her instincts, but because she knew he was ignoring his own. It’s often easier to just push away the gnawing feeling in your gut that says something isn’t right. To follow your intuition can sometimes mean acting in a way that others—especially those society deems “cool” or “important”—won’t appreciate or understand. And while it was more important for Jack to do as he was told in pursuit of acclaim and power, it was more important for Peggy to be true to herself, which often means acting in direct opposition to the way she’s supposed to behave.

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Something Really Amazing: A Letter to the Women of The Selection Series

This is the latest in my collection of letters to female characters who’ve inspired me throughout my life as a fangirl. If you have a character you’d like to write a letter to, click here for details about The Fan Mail Project!

selection-series

Source: bookishbarrister.wordpress.com

To the women of the Selection series:

You stand out. Young Adult fiction is an ever-expanding genre, and many series have been created over the last handful of years about a brave girl who fights a corrupt government—and has to choose between two very different but very attractive male suitors as she does so. Even in stories that are about things other than fallen societies and uprisings, there seems to be a trend in many Young Adult novels: The girl stands alone. Yes, there might be female family members who are important to the main heroine or one close female friend or mentor. However, the central female character is often a loner or a girl who’s much closer to the young men around her than other young women.

Thank you for being part of a different kind of story.

I spent the summer I turned 26 reading nothing but Young Adult books in an attempt to prove that this genre isn’t something to put down, but is instead filled with beautiful works of literature to be cherished by readers of all genders and generations. That’s when I discovered The Selection, The Elite, and The One. More than any other books I read that summer, those stayed with me, and it was because of you, the women of this world. Yes, this series had sweeping romance, action, and sociopolitical commentary. But it also had something I’d never seen before in a Young Adult series: a plethora of female characters who are incredibly different but come to support, forgive, protect, and genuinely love each other.

So often women are taught to compare themselves to other women and to see themselves as competition—especially competition for male attention and affection. And, at first, that’s the world many of you were thrust into—selected to compete for the hand and heart of Prince Maxon. You were expected to see each other as enemies, to immediately judge each other and judge yourselves in comparison to each other, and to put each other down in an attempt to build yourselves up. And some of you (I’m looking at you, Celeste.) did exactly that for far too long.

But some of you immediately chose to defy expectations and become friends. Thank you, America and Marlee, for showing everyone who picks up these books that—even when put in an environment that is created to pit women against each other—friendships can blossom. You never had ulterior motives with each other or gossiped behind each other’s backs. Instead, the two of you represent the best of what female friendship can be: warm, supportive, and life-changing. America, your desperate attempt to save Marlee from being beaten was one of the most moving moments in the entire series. It was a testament to the things women will do to help one another and protect one another. And it was beautiful to see in The Heir that yours became a lifelong friendship, the kind so many women find but so few pieces of media celebrate.

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Agent Carter Life Lesson of the Week: The Lady of the Lake/A View in the Dark

Welcome, fellow Peggy Carter fans, to the first of my weekly Agent Carter posts for this season! Instead of doing a traditional episode review/analysis, I’m going to take a different path with these posts. Each week, I’m going to focus on something I learned from Peggy (or any of these fantastic characters) and explain how that lesson manifested itself throughout the episode (or pair of episodes, in this week’s case). I can’t wait to discuss what looks to be an excellent second season of this wonderful show with all of you, so don’t be shy—dive right into the comments section as soon as you’re done reading! And if you’re looking for more thoughts on this show, I highly recommend checking out MGcircles

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Kindness is power.

The Marvel Universe is filled with so many powerful people that it’s easy for us to focus only on the flashiest powers and stereotypically strongest people. But, in doing that, we lose sight of the beauty that comes from finding strength and power in unexpected places and people. There are so many different ways a person can be strong, and perhaps one of the most underappreciated powers a person can possess is the power to openly show kindness toward another human being. Agent Carter has always taken great pains to show strength in all its many forms, and that continued in this second season premiere with poignant examples of the value of kindness and the power of those who offer it to others.

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New Year, New Notes

Happy Belated New Year, fellow nerds! Thanks for your patience as NGN has experienced a brief, unplanned hiatus to kick off 2016. Hopefully the content I have planned for the next few months will be worth the wait!

Because NGN essentially started as the fulfillment of a New Year’s resolution, I like to use the New Year’s holiday each year to take stock of this site and think about how I can improve the experience for all of you who visit it. With that in mind, there are some fun things I want to set in motion for the coming year, as well as some information about returning features and—of course—my book!

Let’s start with the book, shall we? I’ve thought long and hard about my proposed February 1 deadline for letters, and I’ve decided to extend it to give us all just a little more time to finish (or start!) writing. Therefore, the official deadline for letters for The Fan Mail Project will now be February 29, 2016, at 11 p.m. EST. As you might have noticed, I’ve also tweaked the book’s tentative title because “Fan Mail” on its own was starting to feel a little too generic. As always, if you have any questions at all about this project or need any kind of encouragement, don’t hesitate to comment here, tweet me (@nerdygirlnotes), or send me an email. And finished letters can be emailed to nerdygirlnotes@gmail.com.

There are plenty of awesome female characters still waiting to have letters written about them: any of the Gilmore Girls, Dana Scully, Peggy Carter, etc. And in case anyone was wondering, you can write to a group of female characters, too. I’ve already received letters to the women of Jane the Virgin, Once Upon a Time, and Call the Midwife, and I’m planning to write my own group letter to share with you soon.

The Fan Mail Project is developing into something special, and I’d love for anyone who wants to be a part of it to be represented in this book. So please don’t forget to share information about this project with your friends and fellow fangirls/fanboys. Even if you don’t feel you’re able to contribute, one tweet or Tumblr post about it can go a long way!

Now, let’s get back to the business of NGN. I’m hoping to have both Fangirl Thursdays and my weekly Best Thing on TV posts back in their regular rotation starting next week. I’m also pleased to announce that I’ll be writing weekly posts about Agent Carter! Starting Wednesday 1/20, be on the lookout for my Agent Carter Moment of the Week posts here at NGN.

Of course, my Once Upon a Time posts will also be returning when the show starts up again in March, and those will be joined by my weekly posts about The Americans (which also returns in March). All of this content will be supplemented by additional posts in the form of my own letters for The Fan Mail Project, posts celebrating Once Upon a Time‘s 100th episode, and a few more surprises. It’s shaping up to be another fun year here at NGN, and I hope you join us for all of it!

NGN’s Best of 2015: TV Shows

The Americans finale

As we approach the end of 2015, I want to start off by saying that this year has given me so many wonderful memories as a writer. From sharing my NYCC experience with you to starting my book to writing perhaps my favorite post ever, I’ve grown so much as a writer and a woman this year, and I want to thank you all for being with me and supporting me on this journey. Also, I want to take this time to remind you that a great New Year’s resolution would be to write a letter for my book before the February 1 deadline!

With all that being said, let’s get down to business. For today’s final entry in NGN’s Best of 2015 series, I’ll be taking a closer look at my favorite television shows this year. I think I watched more television this year than any year before, and I’m proud of the variety of choices on this list and the passion with which I care about these shows. Don’t forget to share your own lists of favorite shows in the comments. Also, more year-end fun can be found at MGcircles, The Girly Nerd, and TVExamined!

1. The Americans
The best show on television continued to get better in 2015, and it did so in the most unexpected way: by putting a teenage girl at the center of the show and allowing a young actress (Holly Taylor) to stand toe-to-toe as an equal with Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (whose chemistry has never been better). In 2015, The Americans took big risks, provided us with huge moments of revelation, and did it all with the kind of subtle nuance that makes you pay attention to every beat because you don’t want to miss anything. There’s a lot to be said for whispering instead of screaming to get your point across, and this show has mastered that way of storytelling.

2. Parks and Recreation
In 2015, I said goodbye to my favorite show on television. But if Parks and Rec had to leave us, at least it went out on top. Its final season wasn’t just there to tie up loose ends and give fans plenty of sentimental moments before the end; it was genuinely great television that allowed its characters to continue to grow in believable ways, all while providing the combination of laugh-out-loud humor and heartwarming moments this show does better than any other. I couldn’t have been happier to see such a wonderful show have such a wonderful final season.

3. Jane the Virgin
Every time I venture into the Villanueva house as I watch Jane the Virgin, it feels like coming home. There is such warmth to be found on this show—such natural and believable love that makes the realistic moments of pain feel not so depressing and the moments of joy feel even more wonderful. I may be the farthest thing from a Latina (I’m as Polish as it gets in terms of my heritage), but I see my close, religious, supportive, and matriarchal family reflected so beautifully in Jane’s family. And I see so much of who I want to be in Jane—a woman who has flaws, who makes mistakes, but who is still as bright and warm as a summer afternoon. And, let’s be honest, Mateo is so cute that an hour of just his face would be one of my favorite shows on television.

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NGN’s Best of 2015: TV Episodes

The Americans 3.10

Source: spoilertv.com

Today’s entry in NGN’s Best of 2015 series focuses on the year’s best episodes of television. From fantastic finales and shocking surprises to beautiful bottle episodes and half-hour romantic comedies, these episodes gave us reasons to laugh, sob, and cheer from our couches (or wherever we watch TV nowadays). These are the episodes we never stopped talking about—even to people who didn’t watch these shows. They’re the ones that kept us up all night thinking about what happened and what it meant for the characters we’ve come to know and love. And they’re the ones we reference when we want to tell someone why a particular show is so wonderful.

As you check out this list of my 10 favorite TV episodes this year, don’t forget to share your own list in the comments! And, as always, there are some wonderful year-end lists to check out at MGcircles and TVExamined if you’re hungry for more!

1. “Stingers” (The Americans) 
“Stingers” was as close to a perfect hour of dramatic television as a show can get. It used the element of surprise perfectly, lulling the audience into a false sense of security right along with Philip and Elizabeth Jennings. Just as they thought they’d have more time before revealing their identities as KGB spies to their daughter, Paige, we thought the show would have more time because this episode wasn’t the season finale or even the penultimate episode of the season. But Paige forced their hand, and in one wonderfully tense dinner table conversation, the entire makeup of the show changed. However, in typical The Americans fashion, it did so not with fanfare but with subtlety—with powerful moments of silence, whispered words in Russian, and achingly nuanced performances from Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell, and Holly Taylor.

2. “Leslie and Ron” (Parks and Recreation)
“Leslie and Ron” was the exact moment I knew Parks and Rec was going to have the masterful final season it deserved. If a show can deliver finale-caliber emotional beats and finale-level tears in one of the early episodes of its last season, you know you’re dealing with quality television. And “Leslie and Ron” delivered on both of those fronts. It was unafraid to aim for the heart and to ask both Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler to do much, proving that amazing things happen when writers and directors trust their actors to make magic together. The fact that a show could produce an episode like this one in its seventh season proves how smart, special, and brave Parks and Rec truly was.

3. “The Devil’s Mark” (Outlander)
Outlander is a sweeping romance the likes of which I have never experienced on television before, and no other episode of this show was as sweepingly romantic as “The Devil’s Mark.” Of course, the early scenes in the episode featured powerful acting and one heck of a twist involving a scar, but the reason this episode landed on this list was because of its final 20 minutes. Watching Jamie and Claire come to terms with the truth about her identity was the stuff epic love stories are made of: tearful confessions, emotional embraces, windswept farewells, and the hottest fully-clothed scene I’ve ever seen on television (which, coincidentally, took place in front of a fire). By the episode’s end, I was left with tears in my eyes and hands over my heart like a true swooning fangirl, and that’s exactly the kind of feeling I want to have while watching a show like Outlander.

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NGN’s Best of 2015: TV Moments

Our latest entry in NGN’s Best of 2015 series is all about the magic of a moment. A great scene, a great line, or even a great shot can stay with us for an entire year and beyond, and 2015 gave us plenty of amazing television moments to analyze, talk about, and remember for years to come.

Don’t forget to share your favorite TV moments of the year in the comments! And check out the Best of 2015 lists our friends have made over at MGcircles and TVExamined for even more fun!

1. Basement Tooth Extraction (The Americans: Open House)
This might be the single best moment I saw on television not just in 2015, but in my entire TV-watching life. It was all the reasons I recommend The Americans to anyone who loves great television rolled up into one brilliant scene. On the surface, it was a moment showing the ugly realities of life as a spy—with Elizabeth needing Philip to pull out her broken tooth because dental offices were told to be on the lookout for a woman looking like her. But what could have been just a gruesome moment was actually a scene of remarkable intimacy—a look at what it means to trust your spouse enough to be completely vulnerable with them in the most brutal way imaginable. Thanks to brilliant performances from Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell (I’ve never seen eye contact express so much.) and stunning direction from Thomas Schlamme, a dental procedure became the best love scene I saw on TV this year.

2. A Parks Department Reunion (Parks and Recreation: One Last Ride)
All good things must come to an end. And if Parks and Rec had to end, this is how I wanted it to happen: one final scene in the Pawnee Parks Department offices, with every love of Leslie’s life getting its time to shine—her friends, her beautiful tropical fish, her husband, and her career. Whether it was Leslie dropping everything to hug Ann or Ben announcing that Leslie was running for governor because it had always been her dream, this was a scene filled with love, light, and everything that has always made Parks and Rec feel good. This was a scene designed to spread happiness on a show designed to spread happiness, and it was the perfect way to say goodbye.

3. “I am not nothing!” (Once Upon a Time: Nimue)
The best fairytales are meant to teach us lessons we can carry into our own lives, and that’s exactly what happened when Once Upon a Time showed us Emma Swan facing the call of the darkness. When she was tempted with power that would allow her to stop being “nothing,” something inside her snapped, and the strongest version of Emma rose to the surface. “I am not nothing! I was never nothing,” she told the darkness, reminding us all that we have the power to push back against the negative voices in our own head telling us we’re nothing; we can all be our own heroes by choosing to love ourselves and believe in ourselves. It was the most empowering moment on television in 2015, and it’s one I know I’ll draw strength from in my own life for many years to come.

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NGN’s Best of 2015: TV Relationships

COLIN O'DONOGHUE, JENNIFER MORRISON

Source: ABC/Jack Rowand

The television landscape in 2015 was filled with incredibly compelling relationships. Whether you’re a fan of fairytale romances, supportive friendships, complex marriages, or loving families—there was something on television this year for you to be captivated by.

For today’s entry in NGN’s Best of 2015 series, let’s take a look at the relationships that made us swoon, cry, and cheer this year. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and your own lists of dynamic duos (or groups!) in the comments! And if you’re in the mood for more “Best of 2015” lists, be sure to check out TVExamined and MGcircles for some NGN-approved fangirl fun!

1. Emma Swan and Killian Jones (Once Upon a Time)
I’m a sucker for a good fairytale, and there’s no better one right now than the epic romance between Emma and Killian on Once Upon a Time. This year, Emma and Killian faced beautiful highs (declarations of love, planning a future together in a new home…) and painful lows (a double dose of Dark One danger, a couple of almost-deaths before one that was all too real…). But if their story in 2015 proved anything, it’s that love is stronger than darkness. Whether they were reigniting a spark of connection in an alternate universe or kissing among the flowers of Camelot, they were a beautiful example of the power love has to help us be our best and strongest self. No couple on TV made me smile bigger or cry harder in 2015, and no couple had a more powerful ending to the year—with Emma ready to literally go to hell and back for the man she loves.

2. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (The Americans)
I always describe The Americans as a show that on the surface is about spies but is actually a fascinating study of a marriage and a family. In order for that premise to work, the marriage at the center of the show needs to be even more compelling than the espionage plots around it. Thankfully, this show has found a pair of actors in Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell who set the screen on fire when they’re together and are probably the best scene partners in the business right now. I find myself not wanting to blink when they’re together because I’m afraid to miss even the smallest look between them—because one look or one touch conveys so much emotional depth and honesty. In the middle of a life that asks these characters to constantly lie, it’s beautiful to see them develop a sense of truth and intimacy with each other, even when it’s imperfect and messy—because that’s what a real marriage is all about.

3. Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser and Jamie Fraser (Outlander)
Watching Claire and Jamie grow from a pair forced into marriage to a pair truly living out what it means to love someone “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” was one of my favorite things I did as a television viewer in 2015. I don’t use the word “swoon” lightly, but these two made me do that on more than one occasion this year. There is no duo on television with better chemistry than Caitriona Balfe and Sam Hueghan, and this show wisely uses that chemistry to its fullest potential, creating the best love scenes on television this year (many of which I will admit to watching more than once…purely for research purposes, of course).

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