After a State of the Union hiatus, Agent Carter returned without missing a beat. In very short order, this show has become everything I wanted out of a Marvel TV show—exciting action, a mix of fun and dramatic character moments, and meaningful connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The best part about that last one is that the show’s writers are managing to create those connections without banging you over the head with reminders about what’s gone on in the movies. You don’t need to have seen both Captain America movies in order to understand Peggy Carter, and if you haven’t seen Iron Man, you can still enjoy caddish Howard Stark. This week’s episode was chock full of those sub-connections, which went a long way to enhance the movie characters, especially Tony Stark.
Marvel has always been good at casting, but Dominic Cooper as young Howard Stark is a masterstroke. Cooper makes Howard his own man, yet you can see not only the showy parts of Tony in his father, but you can pick up the beats that will go on to feed into Tony’s more ruinous traits, too. When Cooper delivers Howard’s impassioned defense of his own lying liar ways, you can absolutely see the parallels in modern-day Tony—from the manipulative charm to the distrust of the government, it’s all there in Howard’s speech. Similarly, when Peggy lambasts Howard for keeping secrets about Steve Rogers from her, it not only emphasizes the magnitude of Peggy’s loss and grief, but it also highlights the impact Steve has on everyone he met. As Peggy and Howard accidentally end their fight by reminding each other what Steve meant to them, you can’t help but hear Tony’s, “That’s the guy my dad wouldn’t shut up about?” echoing from the present. Steve Rogers’s legacy looms large over everything.
But there’s plenty in the past to keep Peggy and Howard occupied, too. Agent Dooley takes off for Germany to interview a condemned Nazi on the eve of his execution to find out about a mysterious battle during the war that seemed to spawn some of the Leviathan bad guys the agents are encountering in New York. It turns out, there was no battle—something had killed everyone by the time the Germans showed up (Red Skull, perhaps?). Dooley was a little weird this episode, which reminded me that Hydra is infiltrating the SSR already. Is Dooley Hydra? Discuss.
While Dooley’s gone, Agent Thompson is in charge. This is the most I’ve ever liked Chad Michael Murray—he is nailing the combination of sexist jerk and actually good agent. Thompson has no regard for Peggy, and yet he is honest with her. He says no man will see her as an equal—um, wrong, dude, Captain America totally did—but he also doesn’t demean her any more than is standard for 1940’s gender relations. He doesn’t give her meaningful assignments, but he seems to respect that she’s there anyway, doing whatever job she’s given. I continue to appreciate that even the jerks on the show are fleshed out as real people. And we get nice insight into both Thompson and Sousa—who HAS to be Peggy’s future husband—as we watch their differing interrogation styles.
There’s also a mystery brewing at Peggy’s apartment building. Her new neighbor is obviously some kind of spy. Whether she’s there to protect or potentially hurt Peggy is unclear, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she performed the Black Widow’s signature death-thigh take down. Peggy’s still tracking down the last of Howard’s inventions—and she put a vial of Steve Rogers’s blood in the wall of her apartment, which makes me wonder if that will ever matter in the MCU, like say, when Steve might need a blood transfusion, AHEM—and Sousa is getting closer to realizing that Peggy is the mysterious woman who keeps fouling up their investigation. We’re halfway through Agent Carter, and with each episode more pieces of the MCU fall into place, as well as continuing to expand the character of the best superheroine Marvel has offered yet.