Monday, August 17, 2015

Agent Carter Season 1, Episode 3, "Time and Tide" RETRO-REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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You know, after this series spent two episodes dealing with a single one of Howard Stark’s inventions—the weaponized nitramene bombs—I was pretty certain that the rest of the series would focus on a single invention each episode, with the cache of weapons finally being discovered in the season finale.  But what am I saying?  This is Marvel TV, and they are pretty much synonymous with “frenetic pacing” (especially after Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2, amiright?), so of course they wrap up the question of where the weapons are by the end of the third episode, after killing the thief himself in the second episode!

Now, that phrasing may make it sound like I’m disappointed by how quickly they wrapped up the perceived-major plot of the season in the first third, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  In fact, the rest of the season is absolutely amazing for the amount of character development that each of the main characters receives and for the way in which it builds up the history of the MCU while simultaneously growing the suspense until the dramatic finale.  I’m just saying that there are some surprises in store in this episode… at least if this is your first experience with Marvel TV!

Reminder:  Retro-reviews contain potential spoilers for everything that has come out to-date.

The episode begins with a short little vignette of Peggy’s life at the Griffith.  A man is watching Peggy from the shadows across the street while she prepares for bed.  While she is looking up Leet Brannis’ symbol in a book of Shakespearean symbology the man begins climbing the drainpipe to her room.  He is holding onto the ledge outside her window, preparing to pull himself up, when he happens to look up at the window… and finds himself staring down the barrel of Peggy’s pistol!  Turns out he’s just the boyfriend of Peggy’s next-door neighbor who stopped by for a late-night visit.  Peggy gives him directions without letting him into the building.  The next morning we see the repercussions of this visit when the landlady, Mrs. Fry, kicks the girlfriend out for allowing a man above the first floor.  There’s not that much to say about Miriam Fry except that she is an extremely strict landlady—and at least she enforces her rules.  However, this scene gives Peggy an idea:  “no building is impenetrable,” and figuring out how the thief managed to get Stark’s tech out of his vault could help her find the stash.  It does seem surprising that this wasn’t her first move on taking the case, but considering that the police had already investigated the case, she may have assumed that the vault was a dead end.  But regardless, she goes over to Stark’s mansion to investigate the vault before work.

However, before she and Jarvis can actually look at the vault, Sousa and Thompson show up to question Jarvis about the car which they had used at the Roxxon implosion—the car whose bumper and license plate were found in the wreckage.  Jarvis refuses to let them in, but agrees to go with them.  One of the best parts of this episode is that it focuses so much on Jarvis.  In this episode we learn all about his back story and how he came to work for Howard, and it is done in a different way than other character back stories have been done.  During his interrogation, we see how cool he is under fire but that his one weakness is his wife:  he is extremely protective of Anna.  Even Thompson’s revelation that Jarvis was charged with treason did not illicit the same response from Jarvis that threatening to deport them did.  I find it interesting how protective Jarvis is, especially since we never actually see Anna in season 1.

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This revelation also affects Peggy, who later demands to know the story behind his treason charge, thus providing the opportunity for us to learn how Jarvis came to work for Stark.  Jarvis was in the Royal military and served under a general, which brought him to Budapest where he met Anna.  However, because she was Jewish she was in serious danger after the war started, so Jarvis asked the general to sign a letter of transit for her.  When the general refused, Jarvis stole a letter and forged the general’s signature.  He was found out, arrested, and charged with treason.  However, Howard Stark (who knew the general and had always liked Jarvis) found out about his predicament and used his resources to have the charges against Jarvis dropped and Anna smuggled out of Hungary.  This explains why Jarvis is so fiercely loyal to Howard Stark, and why Jarvis is so fiercely protective of his wife.  I really like this method of telling us Jarvis’ back story, especially with how it challenges and furthers his relationship with Peggy.

Peggy has a rather rough story in this episode.  After the trauma of seeing another resident kicked out and her coconspirator arrested (by her coworkers) on suspicion of having been involved in the Roxxon implosion, Peggy learns about Jarvis’ treason charge and dishonorable discharge during the interrogation.  Then, in order to get Jarvis off the hook, Peggy brings Chief Dooley’s wrath down on herself by interrupting the interrogation and informing Jarvis (and Dooley and Thompson) that she had the police report for the “stolen” car used in the Roxxon implosion.  Dooley chews her out in his office for making a colossal mistake, implying that he feels “stuck” with her when she just can’t cut it as an S.S.R. agent.  Thompson likewise dismisses her for messing up his interrogation.  However, I don’t think that this fully reflects Dooley’s feelings toward Peggy; I think this more reflects his frustration with the situation, and he is taking his frustration out on her as the easiest target.

After work, Peggy brushes off Angie when she’s trying to visit with her.  Instead, she goes over to Stark’s house, where she and Jarvis rappel down through the hole in Stark’s vault, and Peggy realizes that Brannis could have taken advantage of the rain on the night of the break-in to float a raft full of inventions down the sewers to the harbor.  When the two of them find the Heartbreak, the boat where Brannis was keeping all the stolen inventions, Peggy is feeling triumphant:  her investigation has succeeded, and she will be able to show the men in the office that she is every bit as qualified for her job as they are—and even better than them, since she was able to track down the inventions by herself (with help from Jarvis).  However, Jarvis tells her that she can’t let the S.S.R. know that she found them; she does not have a good explanation for how she found them or why she was conducting her own investigation… and the explanation she does have would only implicate her for colluding with Howard Stark.  In other words, calling it in herself would not free Stark from suspicion, but would rather draw herself under suspicion.  Though Peggy is at first unwilling to accept this, she finally resigns herself to the fact that she can’t take credit for this discovery and allows Jarvis to call it in (disguising his voice).  I really like how well Hayley Atwell plays Peggy’s bad day—I find it to be very believable and it really helps to deepen the character.

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However, before Sousa and Krzeminski (who are working the night shift) arrive at the ship, Peggy is attacked by the guard that Brannis hired to protect the ship.  The guard, Jerome Zandow, is a massive former Boardwalk strongman who has a foot and about 100 pounds on Peggy.  However, when she can keep him from getting his hands on her, she is able to use her agility and speed to her advantage.  As soon as he manages to pin her, however, that’s about it for her until Jarvis comes in and hits Zandow over the head.  Peggy then uses one of Stark’s inventions (a back massager that causes involuntary catastrophic muscle spasms) on Zandow, subduing him.  I really like how well this fight highlights both Peggy’s abilities and her weaknesses.  On the one hand, she is an excellent hand-to-hand combatant.  On the other hand, a larger and stronger opponent can hurt her if he manages to get his hands on her and pin her.

Just after Peggy and Jarvis drive away, Sousa and Krzeminski arrive at the ship, discover the inventions and Zandow, and call in the rest of the team.  Sousa seems pretty suspicious of their “anonymous” tip letting them know about the ship, but he seems to be the only one with any suspicions.  Dooley is worried about driving around with potentially dangerous unknown technologies, but that is his primary concern.  As such, he assigns all his assets to protect the truckload of inventions, leaving Krzeminski to drive Zandow back to S.S.R. headquarters alone.  On the way back, Zandow is in the process of blowing Peggy’s cover by describing the “English broad” with a “mean right cross” who beat him up and left him for the S.S.R. to discover.  However, no sooner does Zandow start talking than their car gets rear-ended and Krzeminski gets out to confront the driver.  The driver pulls a suppressed pistol and kills Krzeminski before turning on Zandow, eliminating the only person with any reasonable suspicion of Peggy and the only witness who could connect the break-in, Brannis, and Leviathan.  When Peggy comes into the office to find out what’s going on, she learns of Krzeminski’s death as well as Sousa’s suspicion that the anonymous tipster had set a trap for them.  On top of that, Dooley blames Stark for Krzeminski’s death because it happened while they were investigating Stark.  Peggy thought that the investigation was over, but not only is it still ongoing, but it cost one of her coworkers his life.

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Peggy finally goes to the Automat where Angie is working, sits down for a coffee, and asks if Angie has time to talk.  She tells her about Krzeminski’s death, and that even though she disliked him—“He was a brute, rude, disrespectful,” and a notorious womanizer—she is genuinely sorry that he is dead.  I really like these kinds of character-centric moments.  The first two episodes of the season did an excellent job of showing just how strong and capable Peggy is while hinting at her vulnerabilities.  This episode included a lot of scenes which show Peggy feeling vulnerable.  And Angie gives Peggy a close friend outside of work with whom she can connect.  It’s disappointing that Angie didn’t get a lot of development in season 1, but considering where she was at the end of the season, I expect them to amend that in season 2.

Overall, “Time and Tide” is a fun episode which provides some excellent character development for the main characters.  It wraps up one mystery in a neat bow, but simultaneously it introduces the even greater mystery which provides the focus for the rest of the season.  Krzeminski’s death was not entirely unexpected as they hinted at it with his earlier scenes, but it still helped to develop the other characters as they reacted to his death.

What did you think of “Time and Tide”?  Were you surprised by Krzeminski’s death?

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