Agent Carter 1.3 – Time and Tide

The third episode of Agent Carter doesn’t have any of the standout action scenes that the first two stories had, though there is one fight scene toward the end that’s quite interesting. It’s a perfect example of the Chekhov’s Gun rule. We are introduced to a weird super-scientific gadget, and then Peggy gets into a fight with a bruiser so big that even her training and skills won’t help much, and then it’s just a matter of waiting for somebody to grab that gadget.

Our son was confused by the emotional core of the episode, which is built around the SSR interrogating Jarvis and confronting him with something they know that he doesn’t want known: he was discharged from the British Army for treason very early in the war. Since our son has never been in the room when I’ve watched, say, Frank Pembleton or Bobby Goren get under a suspect’s skin in “The Box,” he didn’t understand why everybody was being so mean to Jarvis, and why Jarvis, for the first time in the show, got really angry. Grown-up stuff! Fortunately, Agent Carter was exploring an underground tunnel a little later. That’s more his speed.

Agent Carter 1.2 – Bridge and Tunnel

A few weeks ago, when we watched Captain America: The First Avenger, I thought it was a shame that they didn’t make one of those cheesy wartime movies for kids – or perhaps a chapter from one of those fifteen-part serials. Maybe it would have been too on-the-nose. There was actually a Captain America serial in 1942. I considered that it might be a little too easy a target for modern cinema. (Mind you, some of those serials were said to be pretty good. My father told me that he absolutely loved Columbia’s Blackhawk, which was released when he was a teenager in 1952.)

Anyway, while we haven’t got to see Chris Evans and a lot of deliberately lo-fi special effects, in this episode of Agent Carter we get the next best thing. There’s a running gag that everybody in New York and New Jersey seems to be tuned in to the Captain America radio thriller, where helpless “Betty Carver” is in constant need of rescue when she isn’t incorporating the sponsor’s advertising messages into the script. The real Peggy Carter is less than impressed.

The big climax of this story involves a completely fabulous fight on top of a dairy truck, with explosives filing the back and bullets blazing. Production-wise, I was very impressed by the stunt crew, and fiction-wise, I was impressed that Peggy doesn’t walk away from this unscathed. She’s still limping the following day, and that’s after Jarvis stitches up her leg, the kind of injury few superheroines are ever seen to suffer in teevee land.

Agent Carter 1.1 – Now is Not the End

Of course, our son was much too young in January 2015 to start watching Agent Carter when it was on ABC, and so I decided then that it sounded like it could be an interesting TV series and maybe we’d catch up with it down the line. This we now do. Both seasons are available on DVD in Region 2, so we’ll see what Peggy Carter did after the war before we come back to Captain America’s adventure in the Winter Soldier movie later on this year.

It did take a little going back and forth, mind. My wife and I gave one of Marvel’s other TV series, Agents of SHIELD, a couple of tries and weren’t impressed at all. Happily, Agent Carter starts off all kinds of better than that. It’s set in 1946 New York, and Peggy Carter has a top-secret job with the Strategic Scientific Reserve. Her boss is played by Shea Wigham, who seems to specialize in playing unpleasant bosses – we quickly found ourselves loathing his character in the third season of Fargo – and the agency’s top hotshot is played by Chad Michael Murray, who also played a character I completely loathed in the first couple of seasons of Gilmore Girls. Funny. Since all these men at the SSR treat Carter as a secretary, makes sense that they’d hire actors who specialize in making me unhappy.

So the setup is that a bunch of dangerous experimental weapons that Howard Stark had built are showing up on the black market. The feds want answers, but Stark sees these waters as too hot and enlists his old pal Peggy to clear his name before going underground. Now a wanted man, he leaves his butler Jarvis, played by James D’Arcy, as Peggy’s contact, and, with gadgets, intelligence, and a dangerous set of fists, Agent Carter secretly works to track down these weapons ahead of her clueless colleagues.

We enjoyed this a lot. It’s incredibly zippy – modern network television is just a hair over 40 minutes an “hour,” so it moves at the speed of light and trusts the audience to catch up to it. Hayley Atwell was just heartbreakingly good as Carter in the first Captain America movie, and she’s great in this. Her character is naturally likable, but the awfulness of most of her colleagues means that she doesn’t seem have too many friends in New York. There’s a fellow agent named Daniel, played by Enver Gjokaj, who is decent to her, and she can commiserate with a waitress at the neighborhood automat, but she also suffers a pretty horrible loss in the first episode as she runs afoul of a strange criminal gang who have had surgeries on their throats to keep them from talking.

Our son did like it, but unsurprisingly, all he wanted to yammer about was a terrific explosion right at the end. Still, like most modern television drama, this is very much an ongoing story, with lots of plot threads left dangling about the criminal conspiracy, the dangerous chemical explosives now in the hands of one enemy, something called Leviathan, and perhaps worst of all, the possibility that her fellow agents might have a photograph of a disguised Peggy present at a dead mob fence’s nightclub right before the SSR raided it. Uh oh! I’m curious what will happen next!