Marvel’s Agent Carter – Season 2 Episode 1
“The Lady in the Lake”
Marvel’s Agent Carter returns for a second season with a change in location as well as tone as Peggy starts to explore different aspects of the Marvel Universe.
The first season of Marvel’s Agent Carter was generally excellent with almost every idea working wonderfully. It did a good job of showing Peggy’s life after the second World War and how the loss of Steve Rogers affected her on a personal level. The period setting made it visibly different to anything that had come before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and offered up a great visual and tonal contrast to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It also showed us different sides to Howard Stark in his rare appearances so bringing it back for a second season is a good move on Marvel’s part.
Season 2 started with back to back episodes but I’ve decided to review them as if they aired a week apart. This review is written without having seen the second episode so I don’t know at this point where anything that was set up here is going. Any speculation I make here might contradict a reveal in the episode I haven’t seen at time of writing. I thought it would be more interesting to do it this way than watch them both before writing.
The episode starts with a great sequence involving 1940s Black Widow Dottie Underwood robbing a bank for reasons that are as yet unclear. Her primary objective is an untraceable safety deposit box containing a pin that by itself doesn’t really offer any clues. The sequence was staged really well by using the imagery of Peggy’s -I want to say- iconic look from the first episode before subverting expectations and revealing that it was Dottie all along. It looked and felt like a holdover from season 1 in every way in a good way which I imagine was a conscious decision to ease viewers back in before changing things. The fight choreography was excellent as well, doubly impressive considering it took place in an enclosed space. I like Peggy’s dirty fighting style where anything can become a weapon such as a bag of coins in this case.
In the time since the first season Peggy has gained a level of acceptance that she lacked before. She is entirely responsible for Dottie’s interrogation and is clearly admired by other members of the SSR for her skills rather than anything else. This makes Chad Michael Murray’s Jack Thompson jealous as he starts to see that she is the best regarded agent in the organisation which means that any promotion opportunities will likely come her way rather than his. His jealousy is why he immediately takes the opportunity to send her off to Los Angeles when Sousa requests an experienced agent to help with a really unusual case that’s come his way.
The interrogation scenes are really good. Dottie comes across as having some sort of infatuation with Peggy that borders on unsettling. Bridget Regan was excellent at playing Dottie in her scenes with Peggy and clearly has a lot of fun with the role. She definitely feels comfortable talking to Peggy which offers an interesting contrast with Thompson’s more hard nosed interrogation technique. Peggy’s lack of fear intimidates Dottie where Thompson doesn’t really phase her one way or another. I feel like she was teasing him when she offered to confess as she knew that she was about to be rescued.
In general Hayley Atwell does a lot of really good acting in this episode. I’ve mentioned the interrogation scene already but she gets to show her versatility at putting on accents when she is in full spy mode.
Thompson’s desire to be promoted is developed in his conversation with a former mentor of his named Vernon Masters (Kurtwood Smith) who advises him that the days of the SSR are numbered and something else will be taking its place very soon. It’s up to him to decide where he wants to be when that happens and he fully commits to going where that takes him. I wonder if this is the start of the development of S.H.I.E.L.D. If so then the H.Y.D.R.A. connection also seems to be hinted at with Masters coming in to take custody of Dottie. It seems really suspicious and I’m sure will not end well.
Moving Peggy to Los Angeles is when the show really shifts gears as she is lifted out of her comfort zone and sent to a different climate. The Los Angeles setting is a really interesting change for the show as it brings with it a different aesthetic to be played with. Many scenes are outdoors in the sun, the locations are completely different and the costuming is a lot more colourful. The whole show generally feels different with a lot more colour to the visuals. Not that the first season was at all dull to look at but the change in style has proven good for the overall presentation.
Not everything is different though as Jarvis is back as Peggy’s -sort of- sidekick. Their dynamic is as fun as it always was and it’s amusing to hear Jarvis persistently complain about the heat as well as the Palm Trees. Both Peggy and Jarvis are out of their element so having each other adds a definite familiarity for each of them. They’ll help each other through the transition essentially.
Jarvis’ role is much the same as it was in the first season except he isn’t really representing Howard Stark this time. Peggy’s mission is her own and he is simply offering his services to help her out as her driver and other such tasks. It’s a slight shift to their relationship but not a major one. It’s enough to feel different without feeling too unfamiliar.
One major change is that Jarvis’ wife Ana is actually seen rather than mentioned. She is played by Lotte Verbeek and is very different to her husband. It is directly referenced that she isn’t what Peggy expected as she expected someone as reserved as her husband but she is quite the opposite. Peggy is the stand in for the audience in that scenario as the expectations would be along the same lines. I know that they were for me.
Peggy and Ana’s interaction was excellent. I like that there’s no jealousy as Ana trusts her husband and trusts Peggy so we don’t have to deal with any love triangle between them thankfully. Peggy’s reaction to the garter/holster combination was perfectly played by Hayley Atwell.
There’s an ongoing threat already being set up in the form of Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) who is also known as Madame Masque in the comics. Whether she’ll get to that stage in this season I can’t say but for now she’s well established as a string pulling figure who operates in secret. She isn’t featured an awful lot but what we see of her is impressive and I look forward to her developing as the season progresses.
The weakest part of the story was the case being investigated. It might be part of a larger whole that we have yet to see more of but as presented in this episode it was slightly uninteresting once the novelty of the mysterious circumstances involving the freezing of a lake during a heatwave as well as bodies wore off.
Some of the background events were interesting such as Whitney paying off the police officer to act incompetent to prevent Peggy from finding out some key information or the scientist Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) being a likable potential love interest for Peggy before revealing to the audience that he might be up to no good. I really like that the show is going in a more comic book direction with these strange occurrences that could be the cause of people with powers or some kind of advanced technology. There’s a real sense that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is beginning with these events.
Going back to the incompetent police officer who pretended he left his radio in the car, I had some issues with the staging of that plot point. Peggy should have been suspicious as he was acting pretty calm when being faced with a man who shattered right before his eyes. It would be in Peggy’s character to be really suspicious of that.
Another thing that has changed from the first season is that definite attempts are being made to develop a love interest for Peggy. The first season largely stayed away from that which makes sense as it was important to establish Peggy as being independent without the need for a defined romance in her life but now that the first season has passed and that work has been done I’d say it’s fair game.
Her interest seems to be focused on Sousa who doesn’t pick up on it and doesn’t seem all that interested. He is seeing Violet (Sarah Bolger) at this point so it gives Peggy something to feel slightly upset about. Anyone who reads this knows how much I hate love triangles so I’m hopeful that it doesn’t become insufferable. So far so good anyway.
A really strong start to the second season that takes Peggy out of her comfort zone and grants the show a locational and tonal shift.
The opening sequence involving Dottie robbing a bank to get a safety deposit box was great. It looked and felt like the first season which I suspect was a deliberate move to ease viewers into the returning show before changing things. It was a really well staged sequence and the fight choreography was excellent.
Things have move on for Peggy and she is now accepted for her skills which makes Jack Thompson jealous. He can see that when promotion opportunities come it will be Peggy who gets them rather than him which motivates him to send her off when Sousa asks for backup.
The interrogation scenes are really good. Dottie comes across as almost infatuated with Peggy in some way. She feels comfortable talking to Peggie as opposed to Thompson who doesn’t intimidate her at all. It’s Peggy’s lack of fear that intimidates her so much.
Thompson’s desire to be promoted is developed in his conversation with his former mentor where he points out that he wants to be involved in whatever inevitably replaces the S.S.R in the near future. I wonder if this is setting up the birth of S.H.I.E.L.D. with some hints at the H.Y.D.R.A connection too.
When Peggy moves to Los Angeles she is lifted out of her comfort zone and put in a new climate. It’s an interesting change for the show as the locations are vastly different, everything is lit so much more brightly and it is generally a different aesthetic.
Jarvis is back and his dynamic with Peggy is as fun as ever. It’s amusing to hear him complain about the heat and the Palm Trees. Both Peggy and Jarvis are out of their element so having each other will add some familiarity for them.
Javis’ role is much the same as the first season except he doesn’t really represent Howard Stark this time. Peggy has her own mission and he is supporting her on that. It’s a slight shift but not a major one that will make it feel unfamiliar.
One change is that Jarvis’ wife Ana is introduced and she is pretty much the opposite to him. This plays with both audience and Peggy’s expectations of her and it’s refreshing to see that she isn’t jealous of their close connection. Her and Peggy get along well and their interactions are fun to watch.
The ongoing villain seems to be Whitney Frost Aka Madame Masque. She is established as a string pulling figure who operates in secret. She is lightly featured for now but I like what was seen.
I found the case being investigated to be the weakest part of the episode. Once the novelty of the frozen lake and bodies with a mystery surrounding it wore off it was a little dull in comparison to what was happening around it. Some of the background elements were interesting such as the police officer paid off by Whitney to act incompetent and Peggy’s potential love interest who appears to be up to no good. I do feel that Peggy should have been more suspicious of the incompetent cop considering he seems unphased by someone shattering before his eyes. I do like that the show is embracing more of its comic book roots.
There are attempts to develop a love interest for Peggy which makes sense since she has been established as independent and not needing one by the first season. Her sights are set on Sousa who has someone else for now. I’m hopeful that a tiresome love triangle won’t emerge as I hate those.