Category Archives: marvel universe

Agent Carter 2.2 – A View in the Dark

I’m not kidding; I absolutely love the speed of this show. There’s a lot to be said for the more careful and deliberate plotting of a sixties show like The Avengers, but so much happens in an hour of this series. It’s not like I’m completely unaware of contemporary TV, even though I haven’t watched all that many shows over the last eight or nine years, but this program’s pace is exhilarating. When it does slow down for a quiet middle-of-the-episode bit of character development, it feels like we’ve already watched a full hour.

The pace, however, kind of left our son a little bit behind tonight. We had to try and recap all the various players and what we think their motivations are. Everything is centered around the super-scientific macguffin at Isodyne Energy. It’s not a symbiote, like I thought last time, but something they’re calling “zero matter” which was left behind after an atomic energy test ripped a hole in space. By the end of this adventure, Carter’s scientist informant, played by Reggie Allen, has disappeared after an explosion at the lab, and Whitney Frost, who evidently wanted to steal and sell it, is left with a livid, alien-looking black scar on her forehead. She may have to wear a gold mask to cover that.

Other than the nebulous “explain what I just watched,” the other, specific, thing we had to explain was what Daniel Sousa’s girlfriend meant when she talked about a bear claw she’d picked up for him. I wonder whether Koch’s Bakery downtown makes those. Kid deserves a good bear claw.

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Agent Carter 2.1 – The Lady in the Lake

And so to Los Angeles, 1947, and the second season of Agent Carter. But before we get to California, there’s an old enemy in New York to handle. I figured we’d see “Dottie,” the villain played by Bridget Regan, again this season, but I didn’t figure we’d see her getting arrested in the pre-title sequence! But I still don’t think we’ve seen the last of her; Chad Michael Murray’s character, the chief of the New York office of the SSR, loses his prisoner in a tug-of-war with the FBI. Hmmm.

Over in LA, Peggy and some of the old gang are investigating a weird murder which has frozen a lake in the middle of the summer. They’ve got a powerful political enemy in California, and he’s shacking up with Whitney Frost, who I remember as Madame Masque from the comics. She’s played by Wynn Everett, and Reggie Austin plays a scientist who’s too good to be true, so it’s not a very surprising ending when he is seen experimenting with some weird shifty-shapey technology. I’d guess it was a symbiote, only those are from the Spider-Man comics, and I don’t think this production company had access to those trademarks in 2015.

One reason I enjoy this series: nobody seems safe. Other than Peggy herself, anybody in this program could be a traitor and/or toast. One fellow this week becomes both, and I thought he was going to stick around! I like a show that keeps me guessing.

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

2013 was less than a great year around these waters, and we didn’t get out to the theater to see the Marvel movies as we had. So I decided later on to hold off and see this one, and the second Thor film, with our son when he was old enough. It’s kind of nice to slot in these last few blocks.

That said, I’m just going to note the bare minimum here because I’m ill today and should be in bed. We all enjoyed Iron Man 3 very much, though the best parts were the ones dealing with the security guards that AIM has employed. I really liked seeing Tony Stark rely on wits and improvisation to succeed. The sequence where he gets away from the Extremis soldier posing as Homeland Security was fabulous.

I also really enjoyed Gwyneth Paltrow’s character of Pepper Potts getting to enjoy some of the scrapping this time out, and not serve the plot strictly as somebody for Tony to argue with. Don Cheadle has a lot more to do as Rhodes in this movie, too. Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley are the villains, and they came up with a brilliantly imaginative take on the Mandarin. Miguel Ferrer has a small part in this one as well. As always, the casting is terrific.

And our kid was of course completely thrilled. He even says that the final fight, in which Tony activates “House Party Protocol” and fills the sky with dozens of empty suits, acting as drones, to fight the Extremis soldiers, was better than the one in The Avengers. This was a very expensive few days for Tony Stark, even by his standards!

One minor note on plausibility: the town of Rose Hill TN does not actually exist, but it’s very briefly shown on a map in Tony’s lab as being in west Tennessee. However, the Christmas beauty pageant is covered by a news crew from Chattanooga. While I honestly don’t know the local news stations here all that well, I’ll believe a man can fly a nuclear warhead through a wormhole in space before I believe the news stations in Chattanooga would send a van within fifty miles of that spot on the map!

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Agent Carter 1.8 – Valediction

Well, this was just tremendously entertaining! I’m so impressed by how much plot they cram into these forty minute episodes, and I really enjoyed the villains. We’ve been watching one character who goes by the unlikely name “Dottie Underwood” and who is a product of the same program that would later develop the Black Widow. Her cover identity is that of an all-American sweetheart of a girl with big blue eyes and a line in “gee golly gosh, officer, was I speeding?” dialogue. She’s played by Bridget Regan, who has starred in several American dramas of the last decade, including a fantasy series called Legend of the Seeker and TNT’s The Last Ship.

“Dottie” finally gets a great climactic fight scene with Agent Carter in this episode, and I’m afraid that it ends in what I’m seeing lately is a Hollywood-approved way to end these sorts of scraps: by having the villainous female miscalculate a lunge and crash through a window. This made a little sense in, say, an eighties show like MacGyver, because it just wouldn’t do to have Richard Dean Anderson exchange punches with the female villain of the week, so he needs to stand in front of a window and let her screw up her way to death. That shouldn’t happen in this program, though. Happily, “Dottie” loses a lot of blood from the fall, but she gets away, and I suspect we’ll see her again in season two.

Also, I didn’t mention him very much before because I wasn’t sure where they were going with him, but the fellow we’ve known as Dr. Ivchenko, with the mind control powers, is actually Johann Fennhoff, a character from the comics usually called Dr. Faustus. He’s played by British actor Ralph Brown and has just been wonderfully entertaining. Another quibble, though: the heroes make their standard action program “we need to win this thing for Chief Dooley and Agent Krzemenski” speeches, referencing the characters who died in earlier installments, but they don’t spare any thoughts for poor Agent Yauch, who Fennhoff hypnotized and talked to death in episode six. I guess nobody in the office really liked him.

Unlike “Dottie,” Fennhoff is captured, thanks to an ingenious solution improvised by Daniel, and is seen at the end in a delightful tag scene – wearing his new proto-Lecter headgear to prevent him talking anybody else to death – with his new cellmate, Arnim Zola, who you might remember from the first Captain America movie. It’s a shame that the 1940s end of the Marvel Universe has such a small rogues gallery, but it was great seeing Toby Jones again. (See, there’s another reason they should have done so much more with Cap and the Howling Commandos!)

I was impressed by how well everything tied together, and impressed by the photography, lighting, and costumes, and impressed by Hayley Atwell as Peggy. She’s a really interesting character – although fun isn’t the right word for her, I’m afraid – and I was pleased by the reward that she and her friend Angie get to share in the end. She also gets to be the one to decide what will happen with the vial of Captain America’s blood. It was a very entertaining production from start to finish, and I’m curious what the producers came up with for her next story.

We’ll take a break from this show, but we will start watching season two in about three weeks. Stay tuned!

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Agent Carter 1.7 – SNAFU

Last month, as I was introducing this series, I mentioned that both Chad Michael Murray and Shea Whigham seem to specialize in playing characters that I don’t like. Since I don’t watch very much contemporary TV or movies – honestly, not out of any “good ole days” rose-tinted glasses, but because there just aren’t enough hours in our days – I don’t see very much of these actors. (For that matter, I’ve never seen Hayley Atwell in any other role than Carter, although I do note that she played Mary in a 2007 adaptation of Mansfield Park and I suppose I’ll end up seeing that one of these days. When you’re married to somebody who really, really likes Austen, this comes with the territory.)

Anyway, my point is that I’ve only seen Whigham play a couple of unbelievable jerks, and yet as things start looking increasingly bad for Chief Dooley in this episode, I still got a lump in my throat. That’s great acting, making you care about a character you don’t like. My hat’s off to the man.

Meanwhile, the Russian operatives who are about ten paces ahead of our heroes and are playing them all for suckers unveil what seems to be one of Stark’s stolen super-weapons in an incredibly grisly climax. All along, we’ve been hearing about this mysterious Battle of Finow, where a large company of Soviet soldiers were all apparently killed before the Nazi forces arrived. Our son was really captivated by the war of nerves and tense, small location story of this episode, and stunned by the horrific climax, in which the Russians set off a gas inside a movie theater, driving all of the people in the audience mad with rage. What they show isn’t too gory thanks to some fast editing, but it’s still very shocking and had him wide-eyed and stunned.

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Agent Carter 1.6 – A Sin to Err

Tonight’s episode was pretty far above our son’s head, but I certainly enjoyed it. I do love stories where the bad guys keep consolidating their upper hand, and it turns out that somebody that our heroes brought back from Europe last time really want to be right in the thick of things, to make the situation a million times worse. It’s very satisfying watching everybody’s investigations all start to come together. Unfortunately for Peggy, that would include her fellow agent Daniel’s investigation into some of the things that she’s been trying to keep secret. I’m very impatient to see what will happen next time!

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Agent Carter 1.5 – The Iron Ceiling

Going back (again) to the first Captain America movie, I was disappointed that we didn’t see nearly enough of the Howling Commandos. This afternoon’s episode goes a long way toward rectifying that, as Peggy calls on the Commandos to assist in the SSR’s raid on a facility behind the Iron Curtain. The episode features Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan, who we met in the movie, but the other characters, while all from the original comics, are new to the show. When I was a kid, I enjoyed Pinky Pinkerton the most among the Commandos. Nice to see him here!

Dum Dum comes up with a new code name for Peggy, hoping to entice her to stay in Europe: “Miss Union Jack.” She flies back to New York.

The raid doesn’t find any evidence for Howard Stark being involved with Leviathan, but they do get a glimpse of something very weird going on. The audience has a big lead over our heroes in this: we can guess that this is one of the facilities where Russian intelligence services train women like the Black Widow, and learn that they’ve been doing it since at least 1937.

We paused it quite early on to make sure that our son understood the implications of that flashback, especially since a graduate of that program is active in New York in 1946. We also gave him a quick introduction to the concepts of the Iron Curtain and a glass ceiling, so he’d understand the implications of the title. Sadly, most of this was way over his head, and he probably didn’t pay much attention at all to a scene where guest star John Glover introduces some new intel about a hushed-up wartime incident. Overall, this was a pleasantly complex hour even if he wasn’t completely thrilled. Happily, there was one great gunfight to keep him interested.

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Agent Carter 1.4 – The Blitzkrieg Button

“The magic typewriter types again!” That’s what our son shouted at a key moment in this very, very fun episode. It’s got some completely delicious twists concerning one of Howard Stark’s inventions that is said to be able to permanently shut down New York’s power grid, and concerning one of Peggy’s neighbors. Peggy gets targeted for death, again, by one of the city’s strange and powerful criminals. His fate, I think, is one that absolutely nobody saw coming. The episode was as wild and unpredictable as any hour of any show I’ve seen lately.

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