02 “Bridge and Tunnel” (Agent Carter season 1) [SPOILERS]

agent carter

The pilot episode of Agent Carter had its ups and downs, as you’d expect of any new TV show. It has the advantage, apparently, of its trail being blazed not only by two Captain America films and the Marvel juggernaut in general, but by a short film. I haven’t seen it, but that goes for a quite a bit of stuff I find.

Anyway, the 1940s setting is clearly something which Marvel are looking to make the most of. No complaints there, as I said about the pilot the first Captain America was for a long time my favourite Marvel film.

Like many pilots, “This is Not the End” was a bit fast paced, like it was in a hurry to get there. The rest of the basics were mostly there, though, so it falls to the second episode to put a harness on the whole thing and bring it to heel.

After the excitement of the pilot, Peggy Carter is tying up some of the loose ends. First on the list: finding the missing nitramene. She tracks down the milk truck, barely ahead of her colleagues at the SSR and “Leviathan”, whatever that is. Meanwhile she has to run interference on the SSR’s investigation into her activities last episode at Spider’s club and the implosion at the Roxxon refinery.

First thing’s first, Agent Carter has settled down a bit, and it’s all for the better. That isn’t to say it skimps at all on the action. There’s a scene about midway through where a suspect tries to escape a search, and whilst the male agents barrel after him Peggy calmly take a shortcut, heads him off, and floors him with a swing of an, err, handbag.

The sexism is going to be interesting to analyse, I reckon. It’s an important element of Carter’s battle to prove herself, but it needs to be a subject of the show, not committed by it. I think it does better this week than last in that department (Not having a rape-in-a-dark-alley fakeout helps… -Ed). In places it helps to shape the setting, such as with the very 40s torture scene where an agent beats on a suspect, and the boss tells Carter to take off because a lady shouldn’t see such things…

But its a thin line to walk.

The Captain America radio plays as a recurring element were interesting. Peggy is clearly still hurting over Rogers’ death, and the constant reminders in the form of the yes, pretty awful, but also decidedly quaint, plays is a good reminder. It helps that they’re a lot of fun to watch, as well, sound effect men hitting lumps of pork, interspersed with a fight scene in the show.

Whether they will be a permanent feature remains to be seen, but given that The Winter Soldier revealed that Peggy had married and moved on with her life, I do hope that the plot will see that process. So endless mourning won’t do — but as a recurring device at key moments, it could be effective.

Jarvis, though… The Hollywood “posh British guy” stereotype was amusing last episode, but it’s already starting to lag. I get that this is what the Yanks go in for, but James Darcy is actually rather a good actor, and he doesn’t need to do this. Which isn’t to say his performance here is bad, it’s just… The stiff accent and cliched dialogue just make it a little wearing.

So with its second episode, Agent Carter has settled into its concept and conceits pretty well. Once it gets past its hyperactive urges, it’s a pretty damn watchable show. Mystery and vague hints are still the currency of the realm, but since this moves into the foundation of SHIELD, we have some clue where matters are going. Not without room to manoeuvre and surprise though, and given that Marvel have a tendency to turn their world upside down we should presume nothing.

But we should definitely keep watching.

Closing thoughts:

  • The soundtrack really does deserve a mention. I noticed it last week, with that opening montage, but the forties music sets the scene with a level of detail that costume and set dressing just can’t. I do love a good soundtrack.
  • I can’t decide whether to track down and watch the short film or not
  • Hayley Atwell has a cameo in the next Avengers film, so I guess we can presume either Leviathan’s relevance to that, or some sort of other tie in. And yes, I will be playing “spot the Avengers trail” in my reviews.
  • I was expecting the show would miss Howard Stark’s on-screen presence, but it actually didn’t. Well done Agent Carter, or Howard Stark not all he’s cracked up to be?
  • At the end the SSR find the number plate from Stark’s car in the Roxxon remains. So presumably Jarvis’ car-disposal skills are going to be found wanting?
  • “Tune in next week, for the next exciting instalment of…”

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