Agent Carter 2.10 – Hollywood Ending

“Hollywood Ending” sounds like an apt title. It seems like this is the way of modern television: the story reaches its climax with ten minutes to go, giving plenty of room to wrap up the character stuff, dangle a couple of plot threads for the next season, and, once everything is satisfactorily resolved, introduce a thunderous cliffhanger. In the final scene, Chad Michael Murray’s character of Jack Thompson is gunned down, and a file, containing faked information meant to frame Agent Carter, is stolen.

Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, there hasn’t been a new season. This season only received between 2.35 and 3.18 million viewers when it aired on ABC in the first quarter of 2016. A year and a half later, ABC tried another Marvel series, Inhumans, which sadly managed even smaller numbers and didn’t get the good reviews and buzz that Carter had. Fans have crossed their fingers that Netflix might step in and order a season, though that seems unlikely. I’ll join them. I’d really like to see more episodes of this series one day.

Agent Carter 2.9 – A Little Song and Dance

I might have only said that tonight’s episode was more of the same double-crossing and double-dealing and not knowing who to trust but for the opening. It starts with a terrific little dream sequence staged like a musical dance number from the period. It is incredibly self-indulgent, but too much fun. I think it ran a little bit longer than our son really wanted, but I got a kick out of the change of pace. Peggy should get clobbered on the head more often if the results are this amusing.

Agent Carter 2.7 and 2.8

I feel like I can’t add too much to what I’ve already said about Agent Carter. This is so unpredictable and does such a great job in keeping me constantly surprised. I certainly wasn’t expecting Dottie to meet her match so thoroughly. I wasn’t expecting one character’s betrayal. I wasn’t expecting another to see the light. I wasn’t expecting one character to be so grievously wounded and I wasn’t expecting another to just start pumping bullets into a bad guy as though nothing was left to lose.

That last point caused me to exclaim out loud, which I try not to do when somebody’s in the next room asleep. My cold is mostly gone, but Marie has a stomach bug and went to bed early, and here I am shouting like a teenager over a TV show. Wow, if anything remotely this fun was on ABC when I was a teenager, I’d have never left the house.

But you know what was on ABC when I was a teenager? MacGyver was…

Agent Carter 2.6 – Life of the Party

Dottie’s finally back in this one. Since Whitney gave Peggy a pretty grievous injury last time, our heroes decide they have no choice but to break Dottie out and use her to get a sample of Whitney’s zero matter. Lucky for them Dottie’s being held in a facility in Los Angeles.

Nothing goes as planned for anybody in this episode. Kind of the through-line for this season is a conglomerate of the wealthiest and most powerful people being evil using patriotism as a cover for their greed and corruption. I’ve had a feeling that some of this lot would be meeting grisly ends at the hands of Whitney before the series finishes. I wasn’t wrong, but I was pretty certain that, of the three robber barons with speaking parts, one in particular would be the last to go. I was mistaken. He and half the council go down screaming as Whitney disintegrates and absorbs them. One reason I love this show is because nobody’s safe, not even a villain you thought would get his just desserts in episode ten.

What else? Thompson loses even more of his backbone, Daniel’s fiancée calls off their engagement, Peggy tears her stitches just opening a door, and Dottie loses her bid for freedom, waking up in a box all chained up and with a heck of a shiner, with Whitney Frost smiling down at her. Our son summed it up this way: “The two scariest women in this show… together!”

Agent Carter 2.5 – The Atomic Job

An absolutely delightful little change of pace with tonight’s episode. The story, which revolves around an unofficial break-in at a top-security Roxxon facility to steal uranium rods, is light and frothy and full of silly sight gags and slapstick, and Peggy zapping an old adversary with a device that knocks out your short term memory. It’s played entirely for laughs, and then Peggy fights Whitney and it goes very, very dark in a hurry.

Our son sums it up thusly: “Whitney Frost has always been mean, but now that she’s got that zero matter in her, she’s really scary!”

Agent Carter 2.4 – Smoke and Mirrors

I am completely loving Whitney Frost, the villain of this piece. Our son briefly found her situation engaging as well. In this episode, she orders a cage of white rats from the lab, and he was delighted to see them. Of course, she’s using them for experimenting on her strange power, which disintegrates and absorbs her targets and makes the brilliantly black scar on her face grow. Frost wears her hair in a Veronica Lake ‘do, so she’s able to hide it for a time, but by the end of the episode, there aren’t any more rats, and she’s been forced to reveal her power to her husband to get rid of a threat, and the scar has reached down to her chin. Our son wasn’t quite as pleased to realize what that empty cage meant.

And he’s drawing connections between Frost and Dr. Wilkes, who was blasted by the zero matter explosion but with a very different result: he’s intangible. Not sure how he’s able to stand up and not sink through the floor, but, you know, comic book science. Anyway, Wilkes can’t touch anything, doesn’t feel the need to eat, and can’t sleep. After several days awake, he’s starting to hallucinate, as any of us probably would, but he’s having particular hallucinations of zero matter coming through walls and blackboards. Our son is sure that something very bad is going to happen with these two characters, and perhaps when they meet again, there will be an explosion.

I was mistaken, but I thought for sure his favorite bits would be the ones where Peggy and Jarvis kidnap their informant with the help of a powerful tranquilizer. Between Jarvis getting a jab of the same stuff and their captive waking up in the trunk of their getaway car while Chief Sousa’s there to hear the shouting, it’s a complete mess. Nice to see that every once in a while Practically Perfect Peggy has a situation more in line with what Larry, Moe, and Curly would come up with.

Agent Carter 2.3 – Better Angels

I am really enjoying Wynn Everett’s portrayal of the actress Whitney Frost. We learn this time out that this is just her stage name. She’s interested in the zero matter because she’s actually a scientist and had done some important intelligence work for the Allies. So she’s frightened by what the zero matter is doing to her body, but also curious.

I also like the occasional reminders that life was a lot less complicated in 1947. This time out, Chad Michael Murray’s character flies out to Los Angeles to complicate the plot. He has to catch a flight back, but he still has an hour before takeoff, so he can visit a social club where all the industrialist and political villains gather and have a drink first. Remember having that much time to kill before all the security precautions? I normally don’t have any time for “good ole days” nostalgia, but I can get behind going back to that.

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.

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.

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!

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.