Previously on Agent Carter
Starring: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj, Bridget Regan, Wynn Everett, Reggie Austin, Lotte Verbeek, Lesley Boone, Currie Graham, Kurtwood Smith | Director: Lawrence Trilling
Hayley Atwell hasn’t lost a step in her portrayal of the dogged Agent Carter, who appears more confident with her place in the world. It took a while for New York to grow on the scrappy Brit throughout the first season, though Peggy was tasked with the monumental effort of clearing her and Howard Stark’s names as treasonous collaborators. Not to mention her revealing a communist conspiracy that employed a number of sleeper agents throughout New Jersey and metropolitan New York. One would hope Carter eventually took a breather in the months that passed between seasons.
From the looks of things, her respite lasted perhaps all of two seconds. The second season got off to a quick start with Carter and Dottie (Bridget Regan) exchanging roundhouse kicks and gut punches in a bank vault. That is until our favorite jackass/constant thorn in Carter’s side Chief (ugh) Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) ships her off to the west coast in order to ride the wave of achievement that Peggy most likely singularly deserves. Thompson remarks at one point that the SSR can do its job without Peggy. Technically, it could, but damn if he and his cronies can’t keep a single suspect under control. Granted, she’s a hardwired Russian killing machine, but c’mon fellas… Keep the cuffs on!
BACK TO SQUARE ONE
Speaking of the queen of assassins, Dottie is raising holy hell, and from what can be gathered in “Lady in the Lake,” is entirely her own woman. If Dottie truly is a killer-for-hire, this only makes her all the more dangerous. The premiere began with her intended robbery of a bank that followed with a series of cat-and-mouse interrogations between Carter and Thompson, respectively. Though her screen time was brief, Bridget Regan was able to convey a sense of quiet rage. She may be have been steady in her steel chair inside a cramped room, but the wild-eyed stares Dottie gave her captors was akin to watching a tiger imagining the most entertaining ways to kill its prey before breaking out of its cage.
In the time that passed since Dr. Ivchenko’s arrest and Chief Dooley’s death, the SSR opened offices in Los Angeles with Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) in charge. Eager though his agents may be, Chief Sousa’s talent pool is far too inexperienced to tackle any potentially heavy assignments. Enter Peggy, who arrives to assist Sousa and LAPD Detective Andrew Henry (Sean O’Bryan) solve a years-old case involving murder victims encased in frozen bodies of water. While there were hints of feelings shared between Agents Sousa and Carter in the inaugural season, absence apparently has made Peggy’s heart grow fonder for her former co-worker.
Her sentiments toward Daniel appear to be mutual yet ill-timed due to his seemingly serious relationship with Violet (Sarah Bolger), whose wholesome, supportive demeanor throws Carter for a loop. In fact, Violent appears to be little too wholesome. Who waits on a stoop all before the break of dawn with a bear claw in hand AND a smile on her face? Perhaps it’s our jaded 21st century disposition, but knowing any person like that is a rarity in of itself. It’s no wonder Sousa appears mighty conflicted by the premiere’s end.
MEET THE JARVISES
D’Arcy’s take on the impeccably mannered and fastidious Edwin Jarvis is always a pleasure to watch. Thanks to his adventures with Peggy, Jarvis has taken it upon himself to become a more, shall we say, athletic presence? Viewers can’t help but laugh at Edwin’s physical pursuits, but it isn’t so much at him as it is with him. Edwin wants to fit in with his SSR associates and do as much as he can for his good friend; albeit it tends to result in good-hearted hilarity.
The chemistry between the regulars is already running at full throttle and is only compounded with the introduction of a pair of fantastic supporting characters. Mrs. Jarvis is finally revealed and played with pluck and extra helpings of gusto by a vivacious Lotte Verbeek. From the moment she and Peggy are acquainted, viewers learn in short time Ana is a woman who certainly doesn’t mince words. She is the perfect foil to Edwin’s reservedness and penchant for protocol and completely supports his endeavors with the SSR. Though Edwin may appear out of place during Carter’s more perilous missions, Ana gives further insight into Jarvis’ uncompromising loyalty. Edwin risked life, limb, and court martial to free the woman he loves from fascism. Ana recognizes her husband shares a kinship with Peg and in imparting this info to Carter privately, it further cements her friendship with dependable Jarvis.
LOVE IS IN THE AIR
During her investigation, Peggy meets researcher Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin), a man who has an innate talent for the sciences and ability to quickly break down Carter’s usually stalwart defenses. Their newfound partnership didn’t take long to become romantic, which was and wasn’t disappointing. In no time flat, Wilkes and Carter discovered an attraction that bordered on the lofty ideals of a romcom. You’re from California, I’m from England. You make science wine and I like punching people in the face. But when we dance… ohhh! OK, perhaps that’s a bit harsh but it felt a tad rushed when a slow burn would be more profound.
The pair have plenty of shared experiences due to their difficulty of being taken seriously in a white man’s world. The writers created the instance to expose the racism of the time and thankfully it wasn’t a heavy handed affair like Peggy’s season-long battle with harassment and sexism. The brief scene was a very poignant and relatable take on profiling and discrimination all the same. That particular scene was distressing if only because people – including this writer – continue to be treated the same way, 70 YEARS LATER.
Credit must be given to Marvel/ABC for recognizing the grossly demeaning attitudes of the era. Despite the fact it is an universe filled with colorful, charismatic superhumans and extraterrestrial beings, it remains rooted to our earth with all its faults and prejudices. A thought that comes to mind is if Peggy and Jason’s burgeoning romance continues to bloom, it will very interesting to see how certain characters’ reactions will be written in accordance to the intolerant social view of the 1940s.
ZERO SUM GAME
In the meantime, there are a number of terrible things going down! Dottie is under lock and key (for now) but the mysterious lapel she acquired from the bank is the same that was being worn by all members of an ominous Council. If viewers look closely, it resembles a symbol that was uncovered not long ago. This Council appears to have their greedy mitts in nearly everything, including an unknown substance codenamed ‘zero matter’, which Wilkes alludes to potentially being transdimensional in origin. Any way you slice it, this is bad news for everyone.
“Lady in the Lake” and “View in the Dark” provided a definite upgrade for Agent Carter’s ever expanding cast of characters, as well as further solidifying its place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Relocating a majority of the action to Los Angeles is a welcome change of pace and has already provided great dividends for characterization and potential storylines. With so many strong female characters in place showcasing their uniques identities, talents and frailties, Agent Carter has already made significant improvements in its first two episodes of the second season after enduring its growing pains.
Agent Carter S2E1/E2
A solid opener, Agent Carter dipped waist deep into the mire that has festered in Los Angeles without little or no federal intervention. Like their encounters with Leviathan in season one, Carter and Sousa will once more have to face a sinister cabal whose influence appears to reach further than the exposed Soviet project. The overall plot and staging of villains was intriguing enough, however it was the inclusion of Dr. Wilkes and Ana Jarvis – as well as Rose’s extended role – that stole the show.
That being written, here’s hoping the writers find a good balance to juggle all these potentially compelling stories. The zero matter substance most certainly will have lasting effects across all of the MCU given its otherworldly origin. How Carter and the SSR will destroy or contain the material will be damn interesting to watch considering how difficult it was for their contemporary counterparts to tackle less threatening elements like GH.325, Extremis, and the terrigen mists. No question it’ll likely pop up outside of the series in future films.