After reviewing the two-hour premiere of this season separately, I realized that I’d made a mistake. As I’ve mentioned before, this show is serialized to the point of damaging the individual episodes; so treating a two-hour block of the show as two discrete entities seems unfair.
This week’s episodes remind me of some of the later episodes in the first half of this season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., when multiple disparate and sometimes convoluted plots came together to reveal a larger force that tied everything together. In the case of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., that unifying factor was Hydra and its secret origins. In the case of Agent Carter, Whitney Frost the great unifier. Her “restructuring” of the Council’s leadership connects her own storyline, the council’s scheming, Dottie Underwood’s plans, Jason Wilkes’s experiments, Jack Thompson’s political ambitions, and even Peggy’s love story all in one beautifully orchestrated stroke.
The first half of this season was often frustrating, as it felt like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the final result was supposed to look like. Too much attention and effort was dedicated to simply trying to follow the various threads while trying to understand how they would eventually fit together. This week’s episodes finally give us our first hint of the endgame of the season, and I’m sure watching how everything plays out in the final three episodes will be thrilling. Still, it’s a shame a full half of the season feels somewhat wasted on set-up.
The episodes last night were strong, and vary drastically in tone–something at which Agent Carter has proved to be quite adept. While certain moments, such as Jarvis and Peggy’s antics at Calvin Chadwick’s fundraiser or the Roadrunner & Wile E. Coyote style dynamic between Peggy and Dottie, are as fun and silly as last week’s episode; other moments, such as Frost’s murder of her terrified husband or Jarvis’s devastation at his wife being shot, are far more compelling than anything we’ve seen from this season so far.
There are, of course, some things that don’t work as well this week. For one, Jack Thompson’s story-line continues to disappoint me. Maybe it’s my fault for projecting my hopes for the character onto the show, but season one seemed to introduce a very interesting and morally complicated character–not a “good guy” exactly, but something close to it. Season two, on the other hand, has erased all of that and turned Thompson into an inconvenient obstacle at best, and an incompetent idiot at worst. I’m quite sure he’ll redeem himself in the last few episodes of the season and disobey Vernon Masters when it matters most, but I feel like the point where a character with any moral integrity would do that has already passed. When Masters appeared to simply be a slightly dirty political animal, I could forgive Thompson for playing along. But he’s obviously straight-up evil, and Thompson has no excuse to not know that.
Thompson aside, the other major weak point of this week’s episodes came from some fairly convoluted plot developments. The various mechanisms and properties surrounding zero energy are still vague at best, so Wilkes needing some of Whitney Frost’s blood to build a containment unit to give himself enough mass to gain a corporeal form was a forgivable bit of comic book science. The reasons that Peggy decides to break Dottie Underwood out of jail, though, defy even the most generously stretched logic. Peggy can’t go on the mission because of her injury, and Whitney will see her coming. Okay, fair enough. That still leaves Sousa and Rose as viable options, but Sousa brushes them off for…reasons. Whatever valid reasons he may have had not to send them, they can’t have been worse options than Dottie.
Still, that feels like a hollow complaint, because regardless of the reason, Dottie’s return is an absolute delight. Bridget Regan owns every scene she’s in, and manages to play off of the entire cast extremely well.
Overall, despite some minor squabbles, last night’s episodes were some of the most compelling hours of television we’ve gotten from Agent Carter yet, it’s just a shame that they came so late in a short season.
4 Sword-Canes out of 5. Jarvis pantomiming to Peggy the various ways in which he’d like to arm himself in front of Dottie is another in an ever-growing list of great physical gags from this series.
Ana has been criminally underused this season, and if she was brought onto the show only to be killed off, I’ll be really disappointed
I know she’s a trained spy, but Dottie keeps her cool remarkably well when she reaches out to touch Wilkes and her hand passes through him.
Cutting to Jarvis reacting to Peggy and Sousa’s conversation in the van about their feelings is inspired.
Leave it to Jarvis to make this stupid love triangle plot bearable. His conversation with Peggy in the car was both touching and hilarious. It seems like Jarvis is a shipper. But what to name the Peggy/Sousa couple? Pegsa? Souggy?