Agent Carter is back in full swing, with a 2-hour premiere that sadly doesn’t quite live up to season 1, but still managed plenty of fun fight scenes, stylish 1940’s apparel and delightful banter between our leading lady and her supporting cast. In other words, it still had all the basic ingredients that made the debut season a delight, and I have high hopes that it will pick up the pace again as the season progresses.
Where I think last night’s double installment faltered a bit was in its overall writing. It lacked the tightness and the even-pacing that made the first season feel so polished. Hour one in particular felt like it dragged a bit and was doing a lot of perfunctory work put all the old characters in their revamped roles and environments, while situating all the new characters.
The show’s setting has moved from the Big Apple to the City of Angels, on the premise that the SSR has set up a new west coast office. Agent Sousa has been put in charge of it, and when a body turns up frozen in an LA lake (while it is roughly 85 degrees out) their agency is called in to help the police try and solve the bizarre anomaly.
Peggy is sent to aid Agent Sousa by Jack Thompson, whose new role as the Director of the SSR has not decreased his pettiness one bit. He calls our heroine out of a long-game interrogation of the newly captured Dottie Underwood, and sends her packing the minute Sousa phones him for extra help. It is clear Peggy and Daniel’s season one attraction was somehow romantically consummated in the time-gap, but when they are reunited in LA, their halted awkwardness keeps them in the proverbial friend-zone until it is revealed Daniel actually has a new paramour.
It is clear, however, that their romantic potential is far from exhausted, and I get the sense their ambivalent, evolving feelings toward one another will be given a decent amount of screen time in the near future. While I was quite intrigued by their romantic potential in season one, I found I’ve cooled on the idea now, mostly because Peggy’s new love-interest is so dashingly captivating.
Dr. Jason Wilkes, played with unparalleled panache by Reggie Austin, swoops into Peggy’s life while she is on a mission to investigate the highly guarded lab of Isodyne. Turns out, although he is not (seemingly) a knowing complicit in the broader sinister conspiracy afoot, he is aiding it inadvertently through his scientific work with the company. He and Peggy discuss the issue over drinks, jazz and dancing where our typically guarded heroine finds herself spilling personal stories about her school days.
Atwell’s chemistry with Austin is off the charts, and his easy-going suaveness combines with her always steadfast, type-A resolve into a dynamic that makes their scenes together absolutely captivating. I cannot stress how much I loved watching the two of them play off each other.
As for the conspiracy itself, it involves a senate candidate, an actress, and a tie in with a fair amount of mythology recently established by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The true aim of said conspiracy so far is not entirely clear, and while it makes for a decent foil for our heroes, it frankly serves mostly as an excuse for gloriously crafted fight scenes with the weapons, cars and technology of post-war America. Which I am totally fine with.
Jarvis remains our primary source of comic relief, and when he is not chauffeuring Ms. Carter around, or practicing his weightlifting, he is trying to corral “the devil in pink” aka the new flamingo Stark has decided to add to his mansion menagerie. Most of the laugh out loud moments of the episode go to the joint talents of the writers and James D’Arcy’s execution of their scripted Jarvis. He goes on a whole rant about Southern California to Peggy early on in hour-one that is both classically British, and utterly on point (and I say this as a resident of SoCal). “They eat avocados with everything,” he says with mild distain, as if this is a fault rather than a virtue. His wife – Ana Jarvis – also finally makes appearance, played with a great deal of energy, and a slightly off accent, by Lotte Verbeek.
Sadly, while Angie is not slated to make a reappearance until the end of the season, the show wisely decided to transplant Leslie Boone’s Rose, the ‘telephone operator’ from Peggy’s New York office, who was the gatekeeper to the clandestine SSR office. She is now the ‘receptionist’ for the talent agency fronting the SSR west coast outpost, and she and Peggy have a few back-and-forths that were very well-used screen time.
Again, while I was not necessarily over the moon about the premiere, I am still looking forward to watching the rest of the season. With all the logistics finally put in their narrative place, the show will hopefully be able to return to its character-focused spy antics with all the well-crafted style of their Freshman season.