[This review contains SPOILERS for Agent Carter season 1, episode 3.]
Last week, ABC’s Agent Carter burst on to the scene with a two-hour series premiere, looking to bridge the gap between Marvel’s blossoming TV universe and its big-screen, theatrical counter-part. The series very much succeeds at accomplishing that. This week, however, the over-arching tale takes a back seat to forced lesson learning, and sadly, no second-hour adventure is available for viewing this time around.
In “Time and Tide”, written by The Mentalist and Chicago Fire producer Andi Bushell, Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell) and Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy) continue to search for Howard Stark’s (Dominic Cooper) stolen weapons (“Big Babies”), coming closer to uncovering “Leviathan”, the mysterious person behind the theft and subsequent framing of the world’s top scientist. That is, of course, until the trappings of TV, as well as the 1940s, take over. People lie and die; suspect anything, everything and everyone. And no men allowed upstairs.
It appears everyone has a lesson to learn in Agent Carter, and in this week’s episode it’s the audience’s opportunity to sit by and watch as familiar angles of deceit are introduced to a familiar story-arc of theft, for seemingly no purposes other than to fill time. The Constrictor, a device originally conceived for muscle massages (now known for bone breaking destruction), is this week’s (albeit brief) weapon of the week. The world will be happy to hear it's safe now. Still, even all of Earth wouldn't have wanted to sit through the awkward journey which led to its recovery and eventual (TV budget-approved) use.
As Peggy Carter continues to sidestep these period roles that society continues to thrust upon her, the series appears to revel it in, despite all attempts to acknowledge the issue, then overcome it. Boarding houses for young women are easily a known and accepted fact, and the series makes it feel as such. Even Peggy Carter appears comfortable with the rules one must follow to live there. Even so, the series makes it feel as if the audiences never truly understands – at least to its satisfaction – all of the challenges a budding agent in her position faces. However, there is an enormous challenge she’s currently facing, and by all accounts failing: Howard Stark’s case.
From the first 3 episodes of this series, it’s made absolutely clear: Agent Carter can accomplish anything once she applies herself. Where and when she applies herself still appears to be the largest mystery of the series, and easily one of the most confusing and frustrating elements. Are audiences supposed to better understand the world that she exists in, or simply be entertained by all watching a fascinating case surrounding the patriarchal figure of the established Marvel Cinematic Universe? If “both” is the answer, that’s not yet made clear, and hopefully something that will change. At some point it should be acknowledged that Carter is a secret agent who is working at a secret agency, and secrets are an acceptable part of her job.
The first two episodes of Agent Carter are, by all accounts, a success. The execution itself may not be perfect, but the intent of this television adventure certainly is. This week’s episode feels more of like one of broadcast television’s stale requirements to simply exist, rather than a clear step towards telling viewers a clear tale of triumph at a point in time when the future of everything and everyone we love in the MCU is still hanging in the balance. This is the case that greatly impacts the Stark family, and it should inherently feel as important in its existence each and every time, without continual reminders.
Agent Carter is, if anything, a cinematic soul attempting to fill a television body, and issues certainly arise because it. A two-hour premiere is a terrific equation to boost ad sales and create true “event television” – which CBS purposefully took advantage of when they decided to create MTV’s many award shows. Subsequently, perhaps such over-reaching scheduling from ABC is now why week two viewing is more confusing than charming. While it was entertaining to see an end to last week’s initial tale, it would have been better if sacrificing to the structural integrity of the story wasn't also a requirement, as we now see in this week’s episode.
Overall, there’s no doubt that Agent Carter will find its way back, eventually tapping in to its true power just in time to reveal all of the many connections to Ant-Man, Avengers 2: Age of Ultron and Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., at the very least. Right now we’re sitting in Act II – and Marvel Studios hasn't exactly been known for having the most engaging second acts in their films. Sometimes it is the company we keep, good and bad. Fortunately, the potential of this all is still more than palpable.
Agent Carter returns on January 27th with “The Blitzkrieg Button” @9pm on ABC. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode: