In its third episode, Marvel’s Agent Carter builds on the solid start of its doubled-down premiere and accomplishes in three episodes what Agents of SHIELD hasn’t quite managed to do in one and a half seasons—become a fun, engaging, must-watch hour of nerd TV. Agent Carter is doing so much to expand and shade in various corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and beyond that, it’s giving us the female superhero we’ve all been dying to see. Because while she might not have superpowers, Peggy Carter is CLEARLY a superhero.
Episode three fixes the central problem I had with the premiere—it’s much less plotty. The episode is driven by character interactions and revelations, and the details of who’s doing what and why don’t take even five minutes of exposition to set up. In this episode, Peggy is still running down Howard Stark’s stolen inventions, following up on a lead given to her by Leet Brannis. She goes to Howard’s house outside Manhattan—Stark mansion! Where the Avengers will live!—and determines that the thieves used the city’s antiquated sewers to literally float the inventions out of the house. She knows this because Peggy is a real person with a history and she remembers lessons learned in previous adventures, including those relating to sewers. (I couldn’t help but think her comment about spending time in New York’s sewers was an allusion to Project Rebirth’s underground facility in Captain America: The First Avenger.)
Meanwhile, Peggy’s gross male co-workers at the SSR are also following leads, and the remains of Howard’s license plate brings them to Jarvis. I like so many things about Agent Carter but I really appreciate that Peggy’s co-workers are also smart, capable people. Yes, they treat Peggy rudely, but they don’t have to be weakened in order for Peggy to appear strong. Peggy only has an advantage on them because Howard has fed her key information the others at the SSR don’t have, otherwise we can see that she and her peers are equally matched.
It actually makes Peggy come off stronger—she IS fully capable of doing the job they’re doing, and that they don’t see it is a weakness Peggy exploits. She plays into their perception of her as a piece of arm candy given a conciliatory assignment out of deference to Captain America, and though the scene in which Agent Dooley—who may actually suspect something is up with Peggy—reams her out for “blowing” an interrogation of Jarvis is painful to watch, at the same time, Peggy’s playing these boneheads like a fine fiddle. She uses their chauvinism against them, which is a really cool way of demonstrating Peggy’s cleverness.
The meat of the episode revolves around Jarvis, whom James D’Arcy continues to play brilliantly. He and Hayley Atwell have outstanding chemistry and watching Peggy and Jarvis solve crimes together makes me hope for another Agent Carter series. We learn a little about Jarvis’s history, particularly that he destroyed his Army career in the UK in order to save a Jewish woman (his mysterious wife, perhaps?) as the Nazis rose to power in Europe. Jarvis’s tale does a lot to grow trust between him and Peggy, though they’re still feeling each other out.
I can already tell that eight episodes are not enough for Agent Carter. I don’t think a full 22 episode season is a good idea—the show is excelling because they don’t have time to waste—but it would be neat to revisit Peggy at various stages of her career with the SSR/SHIELD. Although I love the post-war era represented on the show. It has a neon-glossy look that recalls noir pulp comics of the same period, and the production design adds so much personality to the show.
Also, the outstanding supporting cast adds a great deal, particularly Lyndsy Fonseca (Nikita) as Peggy’s civilian friend, Angie. I love that Peggy has a friend unconnected to her spy life, but at the same time, Angie seems too sharp to be in the dark forever about Peggy’s double life. Marvel has clearly taken the criticism about their female characters (and lack thereof) to heart and attempted to right some of that wrong through Agent Carter, and so far, they are doing pretty stellar job.
Meanwhile, in Russia…