Well, it’s that time of year again when Marvel takes a turn down “Dick Tracy” lane and a right on “Mad Men” Drive . That’s right, “Agent Carter” Season 2. For those of you who may be unaware, “Agent Carter” Season 1 aired in January of 2015 and basically followed the trajectory of its sister show, “Agents of Shield”. Both had a strong opening, but periodically lost a few million watchers as the show progressed. For a few agonizing months it was unclear whether the show would return at all, but in May we got the good news: a ten episode season 2.
Season 2 opens with a reshuffling of the return cast between coasts. Daniel Sousa, the agent with the limp, is opening a West Coast branch of the SSR. His first major collaboration is with local police looking for “The Lady In The Lake Killer”, which is of interest to the SSR because the victim was found in a frozen lake – in the middle of a California summer. Sousa all but begs Jack Thompson, the blond East Coast Chief who was a chest-pounding bastard to Peggy all last season, to send an agent – any agent – to help with the bizarro case.
What happens next is arguably the biggest misstep of the show. See, in Season 1, Agent Carter – despite the fact that she worked hand-in-hand with Cap and probably had Tommy Lee Jones on speed dial – was at the bottom of the barrel in her office because she was a woman in a man’s office. Peggy fought against their preconceived notions all season and eventually carved out a little place of respect for herself in their hearts. So, finally, Peggy should be in demand, right? They should start to see her as an equal and maybe even specifically request her expertise or something, right? That might start the new season on a new foot and explore new territory, right? Wrong.
Peggy comes off as vaguely pathetic in Episode 1, and while Atwell carries it with her usual flawless grace, holy crap, did someone go out of their way to shove Carter to the bottom rung again. Not only does Thompson lie to her – saying that Sousa requested her specifically – when she gets to LA to meet Sousa, he lies to her again claiming that “yeah, sure, I’m just wearing this shocked and stammery face because…I wasn’t expecting you…till tomorrow…” Insults upon insults, while Season 1 closed with Garter turning down Sousa for a date (Cap’n is a hard man to forget, lets be real) in this timeline the two have not only dated, but Peggy is saddened and confused why Sousa stopped returning her calls and letters when he jumped coasts. Seriously? I’m not saying Peggy Carter should be emotionally invulnerable, but can’t she possess some dignity? (Forget the real mystery, which is why Sousa is chief of the new West Coast Office despite Peggy still being smarter, more qualified, more experienced, etc. etc.)
Surprisingly, the opening of Season 2 is similar to Season 1. Season 1’s pilot threw everything but the kitchen sink at the audience: a guy with a missing voicebox, a wireless self-typing typewriter, Peggy sparring with a goon on top of a moving car, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, explosions, you name it. Season 2 similarly opens with a convoluted – but fun – string of setups and reversals and reveals and my goodness, do these episodes feel long. The Lady in the Lake Killer – of course – turns out to be a red herring but the “real” mystery is just as out there and MAY full-circle around to some expanded universe nonsense. Lest we forget that after Season 1’s giant pilot, the rest of the series largely ignored what was set up and scaled back the 1940’s serials-bonkersness (sometimes to the shows detriment) It remains to be seen whether the Season 1 model persists, though. Fingers crossed it always stays fun.
If there’s a high point to the coming season, though, it’s definitely the new casting. Lotte Verbeek is charming as Jarvis’s finally-realized and carnally voracious wife. Reggie Austin is charming and fully embraces the 1940’s fun as Dr. Jason Wilkes. Lesley Boone returns with some actual scenes as Rose – the SSR’s charming front desk lady. Kurtwood Smith is perfectly cast with a smarmy charm over his protege Thompson, and, wowza, Wynn Everett is a charming one part Marlena Dietrich and two parts charming stone cold fox. And yeah, if that seems like a whole lot of charm for you, well, welcome to the Peggy Carter world. Everyone’s well-dressed and everyone makes you want to buy them drink. Get used to it.
On a side note, if Peggy Carter Season 1 did one thing, it proves that straight white guys in the 1940’s were total aholes. I mean, unapologetic, toots-grab-me-a-coffee-and-get-my-mistress-on-the-phone butt-slappers. And, so far, Season 2 is keeping up this tradition. White guys are always the snitches or the murders or rich and sitting around a table talking about crashing Wall Street or the ones calling grown black men “boys” or telling beautiful actresses in their 30’s that they look as old as dirt. I’m not going to say it’s sloppy writing to demonize every straight white guy in 1940’s Los Angeles, but can we at least agree it’s easy pickings?
But, on a lighter note, a good Agent Carter tradition? Boob windows. Let’s face it, there are two inarguable facts about this review: I’m a full-blown feminist, and Hayley Atwell has an amazing rack. It’s just huge, and the 1940’s dresses make her epic chest that much more worthy of bardic lore. That being said, a double episode premier gave us a double dose of boob windows for everyone to enjoy:
Boob Window Analysis (Ep1): Power Girl is Jelly
Boob Window Analysis (Ep2): Stained Glass Window
Other dual episode analytics:
Times Peggy Carter adopts an American accent: 2
Allusions to sex with 1940’s veiled dialogue: 3
Times that Peggy needs Jarvis to drive her somewhere: 6 (possibly more, but we lost count)
There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming season. The strength of the Peggy Carter writing team seems to be characters you care about and snappy one-liners about Howard Stark’s sexual appetite. If there’s anything to prove, it’s whether the plot can be strung out over the course of ten episodes without asking TOO many gimmes. Either way, “Agent Carter” is classy and fun – which is probably what won the show its second chance.
- Incidental Music5.0