Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Marvel's Agent Carter Season 1, Episode 3: Time And Tide

Last week I said I was impressed with how the Agent Carter pilot didn't waste any time and hit the ground running. There was little or no filler as it quickly efficiently set up the world and its characters. It was an effective piece of writing and a good lesson in how to begin a series.

That all went out the window this week. Time And Tide moves much more slowly and features generous amounts of padding and wheel-spinning, especially for a series that's only eight episodes long. Seems like they ought to be moving things along a bit faster.

We do learn a few choice tidbits about Edwin Jarvis, Peggy makes Howard Stark's situation worse and a supporting character dies, but by and large it's more about character than plot this week.


The Plot:
As the episode opens, Peggy searches a book of symbols trying to discover the meaning of the heart symbol that Leet Brannis drew in the sand last week. Mrs. Fry, headmistress of her boarding house, introduces her to a new tenant named Dottie, who I'm sure won't turn out to be some sort of enemy agent.

Meanwhile the SSR boys keep busy by investigating last week's dead Leviathan agent's hotel room, where they discover his cool two-way typewriter. They also discover than in addition to having his voice box removed, the agent supposedly died two years ago, which is brought up and then promptly dropped. And they discover Howard Stark's license plate in the wreckage of the imploded Roxxon refinery that blew up real good last week.

SSR Agent Thompson believes that Jarvis had something to do with the implosion, or at least knows something about it. He arrests Jarvis and interrogates him, going so far as to brand him a traitor and threaten to deport him and his wife. He's saved at the last second by Peggy, who sacrifices what little credibility she had around the office to spring him.

Later she and Jarvis investigate Stark's mansion, specifically the giant hole that Leviathan agents drilled in the floor when they stole the nitramene bombs last week. They discover the hole leads into the sewers and out into a bay, where they see a ship branded with Leet Brannis' heart symbol. Peggy asks Jarvis about the treason charge. He tells her he fell in love with a jewish woman during the war and forged documents to get her out of Budapest, which lead to criminal charges. Howard Stark used his influence to clear the charges, hence all the loyalty to him.

They investigate the boat and find crates of Stark tech inside, specifically a glowing green "back massager" that has the unfortunate side effect of contorting limbs and breaking bones. Hmm... I'm sure those won't become useful later in the episode. Peggy wants to turn the tech over to the SSR, which will clear Stark's name. Jarvis talks her out of it though, rightly pointing out that she'd never be able to explain how she found the stolen goods in the first place, or why she's trying to help Stark.

Jarvis calls it in to the SSR anonymously, while Peggy's attacked by a Leviathan thug. She gives him a patented Agent Carter beat down, and even uses the glowy massager on him to incapacitate him, which we all saw coming.

The SSR boys arrive and confiscate the Stark tech. The oafish Agent Krzeminski is transporting the thug back to headquarters when he's waylaid by a mysterious assassin and they're both killed. The next day the entire office mourns Krzeminski, and Agent Dooley blames Stark for the murders. Peggy realizes she's just made everything much worse— she got an Agent killed, and Stark is in more trouble than he was before.

• I liked Peggy's "I'm Agent Carter" voiceover at the beginning of the episode, explaining what happened last week. Apparently ABC is taking a page from the CW and their various series, which all begin with the main character stating "My name is ___________."

• Part of the wheel-spinning this week— a man climbs the side of Peggy's all-woman boarding house for a late-night rendezvous with her neighbor Molly. The next morning Mrs. Fry, head of the house, throws Molly out for violating the rules by trying to sneak in a man. She boasts that the boarding house is "impregnable."

This gets Peggy to thinking, and she comes to the conclusion that "no house is impregnable." She then and only then decides to see how thieves broke into Howard Stark's mansion and stole all his tech.

The whole "sneaking into the boarding house" sequence apparently only existed to give Peggy a nudge. Couldn't she have thought to do that on her own, without all the fluff? Filler!

• More wheel-spinning: Jarvis' interrogation. It went on way longer than necessary, and seems like it was included just to eat up screen time. First he gets questioned at Stark Manor, then he has to take a ride downtown, then he's grilled repeatedly at SSR headquarters before Peggy finally intervenes. If nothing else they could have cut out the steps leading to the interrogation.

We did find out some interesting things about him though, like his treason charge, so it wasn't totally a wash.

• By the way, I really felt for Peggy when she had to play "airhead" to scuttle Agent Thompson's interrogation and save Jarvis. Any amount of credibility she had among her male coworkers flew right out the window as she derailed the questioning, and you could see it in her face.

• Jarvis looked amazingly like Benedict Cumberbatch in certain scenes this week. I wonder if they hired him for that resemblance.

• Last week I said there were probably a lot of anachronisms in the series, but that I didn't spot any. Well, I've spotted one now— a big one. No one smokes on this show! 

Everyone and their dog smoked back in the 1940s. Constantly. They smoked at work, they smoked in their cars, they even smoked as they ate dinner. Heck, advertisements even touted the health benefits of smoking, if you can believe such a thing.

But that was in the past. You can't show people smoking on TV these days, laws no. Especially not on a show that kids might watch, because as everyone knows, if you see someone smoking, you'll instantly take up the habit yourself.

• Mrs. Fry, the head of the boarding house, spends an inordinate amount of time introducing her new tenant Dottie to Peggy and Angie. I'm betting Dottie will turn out to be significant somehow. A HYDRA or Leviathan agent, perhaps? There's got to be something going on with her, else why spend so much time on her introduction?

By the way, Mrs. Fry, the owner of Peggy's boarding house, is played by Meagen Fay. If you're a fan of Roseanne, you'll no doubt remember her as neighbor Kathy Bowman in a handful of memorable appearances.

• After Stark's "massager" was introduced, did anyone in the audience NOT think Peggy would end up using it on the thug?

• Lastly, it's a breath of fresh air to see a hero who makes mistakes and isn't always right. Her presence at Roxxon last week almost get Jarvis deported. She jumps the gun and wants to turn in the Stark tech before Jarvis convinces her that would only lead to more trouble. She inadvertently gets Agent Krzeminski killed, which makes Stark's situation worse. She even lets the Leviathan thug see her, and he'd have blown her cover if he hadn't been killed first.

It's nice to see a super hero who isn't perfect and is capable of having a bad day.

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