It’s at this point that I start to wish I had seen more of Agents of SHIELD. It would be nice to have another Marvel TV series to make a comparison to.
Lacking such a comparison, I must examine Agent Carter on its own merits. The first episode had promise, but was a bit rough around the edges. The second one tightened the plot arcs up, but still left room for improvement. It falls, then, to episode three to get things running along a track which can sustain an action/SF show for at least one series.
From what I’ve seen so far, it does deserve that sort of success. It’s taking a side character from one of their tentpole films, and putting up a world of interest around her whilst at the same time giving colour to some of the in-universe history and filling the between-film blanks.
Yeah, I desperately want Marvel to work its magic and make a success of this.
After discovering the bumper and license plate of Howard Stark’s car in the imploded-Roxxon-lump (That’s what we’re calling it now -Ed), the SSR are coming after Jarvis. As well as trying to keep her friend out of trouble, Peggy investigates the symbol Leet Brannis gave her before he died, and tries to track down Stark’s missing inventions.
Again, the writers have got the pace right here. It’s an action-esque show, so it does need some tension and excitement, but it’s also a Marvel creation, so should have the general sense of mysterious excitement. A tough act to balance, but one that the studio — and particularly with the Captain America arm of the franchise — has always managed.
Here they also add some character to Jarvis. It was needed, to be frank, as the stiff upper lip Brit as a cardboard cutout was a) feeling quite stale in comparison to the rest, and b) beginning to wind me up. Thankfully, beneath an exterior cut from polished Hollywood stereotype, he does have some backstory. Namely that Howard Stark saved him from treason charges during the war after he faked a general’s signature to save his (Jewish) wife. And a little bit of acting comes through when the SSR interrogators threaten his wife.
For Peggy, though, this episode was about repeatedly pissing off basically everyone and forcing her own personal progress backwards, as she tries to keep her involvement with Stark and Jarvis secret. Her constant avoidance tactics upset her friend Angie; she is forced to accidentally (on purpose) ruin the SSR interrogation and face her boss’ wrath; and at the end she indirectly plays a role in a tragedy.
With the clues a seeming dead-end, Peggy investigates the actual theft. It’s a bit dumb that she didn’t start with this, but there you go. She decides that Brannis escaped with the inventions through the sewer down to the sea, and find the lot on a boat. Conveniently. After subduing the captain, Jarvis persuades her not to take him in herself, but to call it in anonymously.
Now, this is a dumb move for a number of reasons, but chiefly because the boat-man can identify him. Both of them. And he does, to Krzemenski in the car back to HQ. Fortunately (Errr… -Ed), they are stopped and both gunned down by a mysterious figure. Krzemenski is a jackass, but the emotion as Peggy walks into SSR the next day to the news is heartbreaking, and actually paints a picture of real people at the office.
It also puts Peggy on the wrong side; her colleagues blaming the anonymous tipster and Howard Stark for their friend’s death.
What was striking here was that Peggy Carter can’t get anything right. Whatever choice she makes, she faces problems on one front or another, and she has done nothing to put herself in this position. Peggy’s struggle to find her way through is the single most compelling thing about this show, and that’s exactly how it should be.
I also appreciated that the side characters are getting more life, more vitality attached to them. They are more than just set dressing, and Agent Carter has made a bold strike for steering clear from the black and white of historical social issues. Krzemenski was an arse, but still didn’t deserve his fate, something which Peggy tearfully realises and acknowledges at the end.
- The opening recap narration is not needed. Really not needed.
- Jarvis’ treasons charges feel a little unnecessary. If he was in the army, there are many more things he could have been charged with — and would probably have faced the firing squad rather than the noose.
- The Griffin Hotel seems like a boarding school. Or a prison. I’m really not sure why it’s prestigious.
- So will Anna Jarvis be doing a Wilson for the whole series? Or are we going to get to see her?