Friday, January 22, 2016

Agent Carter Season 2, Episode 1, "The Lady in the Lake," and Episode 2, "A View in the Dark" REVIEW (SPOILERS!)

Image Courtesy

Sorry for the late review.  Like I said on Tuesday, I was at a retreat Tuesday night and couldn't watch the episodes until last night.

Agent Carter season 2 certainly started off with a bang.  Right off the bat in the first two episodes we meet several new antagonists and all the new main cast members for the season.  We also catch up on what the regulars from season 1 have been doing.  Oh, and that major tie-in to Doctor Strange?  It’s established by the end of the second episode.  You can also add to that at least a few obvious references to other (non-Marvel) movies.  All in all, it’s a pretty good pair of episodes which set a definite path for the rest of the season.

The season kicks off with a definite send-up to the first season, as a dark-haired woman in a blue dress and red hat (sound familiar?) is walking through a crowd of men in drab business suits.  She walks into a bank and proceeds to attempt to rob the bank with the help of a number of men—at this point the woman is revealed to be none other than Dottie Underwood.  However, the robbery itself turns out to be a setup, as Peggy confronts Dottie in the vault with a shotgun and everyone in the bank who’s not a robber is revealed to be an S.S.R. agent!  Dottie and Peggy have a brief fight (but I think it was a better fight than the end of season 1—less monologuing!), but Peggy knocks Dottie out and takes her into custody.  Peggy begins the interrogation, but Thompson takes over after sending Peggy to L.A.  Unfortunately, Thompson doesn’t manage to get anything out of Dottie before the FBI arrives to take custody of Dottie on the instruction of Thompson’s mentor, Vernon Masters.  Masters tells Thompson that he thinks the S.S.R. is on its way out as a military organization in peacetime, but that he has powerful friends who took notice of Thompson’s arrest of Dottie and will ensure him a place in the future.  Knowing what we now know after the first two episodes, Thompson’s conversation with Masters is put into a completely different perspective:  could they be setting Thompson up to become an antagonist later in the season?

Be that as it may, the majority of the episodes takes place in Los Angeles, where Sousa was recently assigned to head up the newly-formed West Coast office of the S.S.R.  He is given an unusual case as a woman is discovered frozen into a lake during the hottest part of the summer—apparently the S.S.R. has jurisdiction over any case involving the “weird.”  Sousa’s agents are all green (and he’s also understaffed), so he calls Thompson to request an agent for support, and this is when Thompson sends Peggy out to L.A.—I guess he wanted to make Sousa embarrassed around Peggy (again).  I am glad that they gave a better explanation for Peggy getting reassigned to L.A. than “we wanted to film ‘40s Hollywood,” though this is still a bit contrived (but we’ll let it slide).  Peggy flies from New York to L.A. in a map montage that is clearly paying homage to the Indiana Jones franchise.

Peggy’s arrival in L.A. is one of the more fun sequences in these two episodes, first as she and Jarvis catch up about Howard’s efforts to start his own movie studio, then as Jarvis explains the flamingo in the backseat, and then as Peggy arrives at the S.S.R. office (which covers as a “theatrical agency”).  I had to laugh at Jarvis’ attempts to get Peggy to invite him in on her latest investigation, which finally devolved into “I’m bored.”  I can imagine that being a regular butler pales in comparison to “playing spy.”

Image Courtesy
Peggy meeting Sousa definitely set up a major subplot for the season:  Peggy and Sousa’s non-relationship.  At the end of season 1, Sousa asked her out for a drink, but she refused.  Evidently, she still has some interest in him, but he had not returned any of her calls since arriving in L.A.  At the end of the episode Peggy replays the season 1 finale in reverse as she asks him out for a drink and he refuses.  We quickly discover part of the reason why as Sousa’s girlfriend Violet picks him up after work (which Peggy sees from the office window).  At the beginning of the second episode, Peggy and Violet meet in the theatrical agency office before Sousa arrives, and Violet invites Peggy to join them at dinner that night (Sousa’s not too happy).  Why isn’t Sousa happy?  Because he’s planning to propose that night, of course, but he is unable to do so thanks to an S.O.S. call from Jarvis.  Throughout the episode it is very clear that Sousa cares for Peggy, but I don’t think it’s quite clear in what way he cares for her.  They may be setting this up as a love triangle—we’ll just have to wait and see.  Regardless, it seems pretty clear that Sousa is going to be on “Team Carter” for this season, along with Jarvis.

When Jarvis brings Peggy to the house, we get our first introduction to Lotte Verbeek as Ana Jarvis, who is about as opposite of Jarvis as you can possibly get.  I really like her portrayal, as well as the relationship between her and Jarvis.  My wife’s initial reaction to her “welcome home” kiss for Jarvis was that Ana was a “territorial display.”  While I can see that argument, I’m thinking from the rest of the episodes that Ana’s character is just more “free” than Peggy or Jarvis.  She tosses around some definite innuendos when Jarvis is showing Peggy his boxing and judo training.  Ana is also Peggy’s fashion consultant throughout the episode, helping Peggy pick out appropriate outfits for her mission.  At the end of the episode, she also seems to have taken Angie’s place as Peggy’s confidante.  While I’m disappointed that Angie’s not back for the season (outside of a single announced sequence later in the season), I do like the addition of Ana.

Image Courtesy
The case itself is relatively straightforward—or at least as straightforward as a body frozen in a lake in the middle of the summer that glows from within can get!  An examination of the body leads them to the particle accelerator at Isodyne Energy, where Peggy meets one of the scientists, Jason Wilkes, who identifies the dead woman as Jane Scott, a physicist who was having an affair with Calvin Chadwick, the company’s owner.  Peggy and Jarvis interview Chadwick and his wife, actress Whitney Frost, at the horse track, but don’t learn too much.  Back at the lab, they discover the coroner’s body frozen solid, to the point that it shatters.  Evidently the same thing that did that to the coroner is also doing it to Detective Henry (the LAPD officer assigned to the case).  He takes Dr. Wilkes hostage and runs off hoping that Wilkes can save him, but they are pursued by Peggy, Sousa, and Jarvis.  Peggy and Sousa catch up to Wilkes, but he is killed by another officer before he can reveal who hired him to “clean up their mess.”  We quickly learn that Chadwick hired the officer to take care of Henry (meaning that before the end of the first episode we know that Chadwick and Frost are the villains of the season).  This is what I was expecting before the season began, and I’m glad they did it because it lets us meet the villains more slowly over the course of the entire season.

However, the two of them are not the only villains; Chadwick is part of the mysterious “Council of Nine” (Agent Carter’s version of the “Secret Empire”), a group of industrialists which includes Thompson’s mentor Vernon Masters, Roxxon Oil CEO Hugh Jones, and a man named Tom who evidently orchestrated the Great Depression (WHAT???).  This group knows about Isodyne’s experiments with so-called “Zero Matter” (Darkforce), and has decided to quash them because of the increased scrutiny they are bringing to Isodyne.  Chadwick does not want to give up on the many possibilities that Zero Matter promises (among others, making atomic energy obsolete), but the rest of the Council has already made their decision:  the lab will be scrubbed that night.

This does not sit well with Whitney Frost, whom we discover to be under tremendous pressure from her current director, who insults her twice in the space of a single take for being old and fat.  Frost, who is clearly the brains of the operation, determines that she will steal the Zero Matter that night before the Council can get rid of it.  What exactly she knows about Zero Matter or why she is so intent on getting her hands on it is unclear at this point, however.

Image Courtesy
Peggy and Sousa go to Isodyne with a search warrant that morning to investigate Jane Scott’s murder, but they are barred when the lab is placed under isolation.  However, Wilkes arranges to meet with Peggy at a hotel that evening, and agrees to pass on information about Isodyne’s discovery of Zero Matter.  Peggy drives one of Howard’s cars (which is tricked out like a James Bond pimp-mobile!).  They first meet for drinks before going to an observatory where Wilkes shows her an Isodyne film.  It turns out that during an experimental atomic detonation in the Mojave Desert a seam was ripped open where the bomb went off.  When they sent people to investigate it, the men and vehicles were sucked into the seam, leaving behind nothing but a puddle of Zero Matter.  Though Wilkes does not understand exactly what it is, he suspects that the phenomenon in the desert could have been a tear between dimensions, making the Zero Matter an extra-dimensional substance.  Peggy decides that the two of them need to steal the Zero Matter from Isodyne before it can disappear.  However, this is when everything goes wrong as a group of men working for the Council of Nine follow Peggy and Wilkes to the observatory and attack them.  They escape, but are unable to contact the S.S.R. (though Peggy uses the car to send Jarvis an S.O.S., to which he and Sousa respond).

Sousa and Jarvis first go to the observatory, where they are unable to find Peggy or Wilkes.  When they return to the S.S.R., Sousa is so upset and afraid for Peggy that he takes his cane and pulls a Kylo Ren on his office!  Finally once he’s calmed down, Jarvis and Sousa go over to Isodyne to see what’s so special there.  I really like what they are doing with Sousa and Peggy to develop their relationship/friendship after the first season.  I actually think it would be nice if they kept the two of them apart going forward instead of pushing them together—but I really want them to made a decision and stick with it instead of drawing this out the way Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has done with Fitz and Simmons (contriving various reasons to keep them apart).

Meanwhile, Peggy and Wilkes make their way to Isodyne, where Wilkes transfers the Zero Matter to a portable containment tube while Peggy takes care of the Council thugs.  However, Whitney Frost confronts Wilkes in the Zero Matter room and demands that he hand the tube over to her.  He refuses despite her threats to shoot him, and the two of them struggle over the tube briefly before he drops it over the railing where it hits the floor, bursts, and releases the Dark Matter.  The Dark Matter explodes, leaving a hole in the floor.  Peggy is unable to find any sign of Wilkes or Frost—the first responders doubt anyone could have survived.  Peggy’s reaction to everything is very good and believable, especially when she is talking to Ana, which helps to clarify her feelings for Wilkes.

Image Courtesy
The episode ends with Whitney Frost cowering in her room behind a changing screen with a scratch on her forehead.  The implication seems to be that she has absorbed the Zero Matter.  I am very curious to see what this will mean for her character going forward, as the last character to come into contact with Zero Matter gained the ability to freeze everything she comes into contact with.  As of now we don’t know what happened to Wilkes after the explosion.

At this point we still need to talk about the relationship between Peggy and Wilkes.  I thought that it was quite well done in this episode, but at the same time I think they progressed it much too quickly for Peggy’s character.  I did not think she would be the kind to kiss on a first date after what we’ve seen so far—but considering that this Peggy has presumably learned from her mistake of waiting too long with Steve, perhaps she doesn’t want to make that mistake again.

As a whole I think this is a good season premiere which introduces all the important characters and sets the stage for the rest of the season.  I like meeting the villains so early in the season this time around, and I am very curious to see where the subplot with Thompson is going to go in the rest of the season.  I am also really excited to see what they are going to do with Zero Matter/Darkforce on Agent Carter and how/if it will relate to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in addition to Doctor Strange.

What did you think of these two episodes?  What do you think of Whitney Frost as a villain?  Let me know in the comments!

If you want to get an email whenever I publish a new article, go to the top of the page and enter your email address in the box labeled “Subscribe to Mostly MCU Reviews” and click “Submit.”

No comments:

Post a Comment