by Edie Nugent
If Marvel was hoping Agent Carter would improve on its ratings from last week’s 2-episode season premiere, they must be somewhat disappointed this morning. While Agent Carter still snagged second place behind NBC’s Parks and Recreation, it’s ratings are still down 21 percent from last week. Marvel should be interested in more than just ratings, however, as the show has received considerable critical acclaim.
Agent Carter opens with a summary of last week’s events and the show’s premise: Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) lost “the love of her life” when Captain America’s plane went down in the Arctic. Also mentioned: how Carter fought side by side with Cap during WWII only to be demoted to answering phones when the war ended. It’s a nice callback to the displacement many women who joined the workforce during WWII suffered in postwar America.
“Time and Tide” builds off of last weeks’ two part premiere and finds Agent Carter confronting the beau of her neighbor Molly (Laura Coover) as he attempts to pull a Montague by climbing to her windowsill. He finds the end of Carter’s gun instead, and shakily apologizes for choosing the wrong window. These antics get Molly kicked out of the women-only Griffith housing block the following day, making way for Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan) who Carter ignores but seems as if she may come to be important to the series.
The attempted break-in reminds Carter of another, more successful break-in: the heist that saw Howard Stark’s “bad babies” taken from his vault. Here this episode subverted my expectations: I assumed the pursuit of Stark’s dangerous inventions would lead to a bad baby of-the-week style plot. It was a pleasant surprise when Carter doubled back to Stark mansion to do some good old detective work, exploring how the tech was stolen in hopes of revealing more about who took it and why.
Before she can fully explore the sewers beneath the vault, however, the SSR’s Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) appears at the door & questions Jarvis (James D’Arcy) about the license plate found at the implosion site of the Roxxon plant that has been traced to Stark’s car. Carter hides herself while Jarvis claims the car was stolen and that he filed a police report. Thompson drags Jarvis to SSR headquarters for questioning where he threatens to reveal Jarvis’ dishonorable discharge for treason. Now back at SSR, Carter plays dumb: telling Thompson she’s found the police report the SSR pretended to “lose” on Stark’s “stolen” car within earshot of Jarvis – forcing them to release him. This serves to confirm the SSR’s suspicions of her incompetence, and she receives a public dressing-down from Chief Dooley (Shea Wigham).
It was a nice touch to see Carter shaken by this experience, which reflects well on her character: SSR may be basically a cover job that condescends to her regularly, but it’s still something she takes pride in. It doesn’t slow her down, though, and on her return to Stark mansion she deduces that the sewer floodgates beneath it’s vault provided the smuggler’s route. Sure enough they discover a tug boat moored right outside of the sewer floodgate flying a flag bearing the symbol we saw scrawled in the dirt by Leet Brannis (James Frain) before he died last week. Also revelaed by SSR Agents is the fact that Brannis was a Soviet soldier who, according to records, died two years ago.
Upon inspection of the boat, they discover a large cache of Stark’s bad babies. While Jarvis calls it in to SSR, Carter is set upon by a thug presumably guarding the boat and engages in a fabulous fight scene where she takes as many punches as she throws before Jarvis hits the thug in the arm with a muscle-contracting invention of Stark’s. Sirens wail in the background and Carter and Jarvis flee the scene. The SSR team arrive and Agent Krezminski (Kyle Bornheimer) is tasked to bring the thug back to headquarters. On that drive, the thug reveals to Krezminski that an “English broad” is responsible for his beating. This seems to seal the Agent’s fate; only moments later an unidentified hitman kills both the thug and the Agent.
A somber workplace greets Carter the following day, with the SSR now pledged to pin both the Roxxon destruction and the killing of Kresminski on Howard Stark. “Time and Tide” is a tightly written and compelling episode of Agent Carter. A great deal of the show’s appeal is how it continues to function on three levels. You have the hardboiled cop-style narrative of the SSR Agents, contrasted with the spy-thriller of Carter and Jarvis’ adventures, set against the lives of Peggy and her roommate Angie: women empowered during WWII searching for their place post-war. I find myself wishing we had more than just 5 episodes left. We can only hope that Marvel and ABC see Agent Carter’s value in more than Nielsen’s ratings and grant it a second season.
- “Mr. Stark would trust a shark not to bite him if it was wearing a short enough skirt”
- Jarvis’ house husband by-day, Agent by-night routine is a lovely play against gender expectations
- The back-story on Jarvis’ treason to save his Jewish wife following the war was lovely
What do you think of this week’s Agent Carter? Let us know in the comments!