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by Edie Nugent

carter work

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.

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“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.

Favorite moments:

  • “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!

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8 COMMENTS

  1. But the SSR isn’t a cover job for Carter; it is her job, and has been for some time, and presumably she wants to carry on doing it. From her perspective, she’s still doing the right thing, but is working at cross purposes with a boss and coworkers that don’t listen to her and are on the wrong track.

    How are the ratings comparing to Agents of Shield in the same time slot, by the way?

  2. 5 million viewers this past week, 2nd in its timeslot (NCIS: New Orleans dominates).

    Agents of SHIELD was about 5.3 million in its mid-season finale, so it’s comparable.

  3. Beautifully written piece that mirrors so well my own feelings of having my expectations exceeded, delight at the multi-faceted approach and dismay at the relatively short run of this all round fabulous show!

  4. Very much enjoying the series as it progresses — and it actually does seem to be progressing! As you say, it would have been easy to slip into a McGuffin-of-the-week formula, with various enemy agents, gangsters, etc popping up with stolen Starktech they’d obtained from Brannis. Instead it looks like they’re acknowledging the miniseries nature of the season and continuing with what will hopefully be a tight, deeper arc-plot.

    The show has really got my imagination going and I have some speculation on where they might be heading. Much of it hinges on one observation that I could be mistaken in: when Krezminski and the thug were ambushed, we got to see the events only at a distance and in poor light but based on what we could see of the hitman’s movement and the fit of their suit, it looked to me like it could actually have been a hit-WOMAN…

    If the rear-ending assassin was indeed a woman, I would assume it was “Dottie Underwood” (as the TV Law of Dramatic Reveals means it would have to be her, Angie, the boarding house owner or Carter herself,) and I would expect that she is actually a Soviet agent. Possibly sent by Leviathan to keep things under control but also possibly sent by the Soviet government to stop Leviathan while also keeping its existence under wraps from the SSR (as Leviathan would represent an embarrassment to the Soviets, exposing a flaw in their own security and power while also providing a route for the US/Allies/SSR to snoop into their business by way of whatever Leviathan was involved in on their end). And if she’s a Soviet agent (more likely official than Leviathan), she COULD have been trained in the Red Room and maybe even hold the title of Black Widow… And at even more of a stretch they could switch timelines and have her be Yelena Belova (though keeping her to be Natasha’s post-defection successor would be cool for any solo Widow project).

    Note that the assassin was wearing a hat, as was the shadowy figure who watched Carter and Jarvis board the boat — the thug who fought them didn’t have a hat that we saw, and if you’re guarding the boat why wait & watch intruders board rather than stop them before they got that far…?

    I’m also going to guess that the recovered haul of Stark doohickeys isn’t a complete inventory, with at least one item being absent (which would be what Leviathan had Brannis rob Stark for in the first place). I’d suspect it would have some kind of potential for creating super-soldiers, which would fit Leviathan’s M.O. without needing to incorporate the Brood into their technology (as I’d imagine Fox has them tied up in their X-Men rights even though they’re not likely to use them).

    Speculation over, but one thing on my wishlist for the show is that one or some of the Howling Commandos appear. This seems a strong possibility considering they were with her in the flashback scene in Agents of SHIELD a couple of months ago (presumably filmed around the same time as Agent Carter). Mainly I’d want to see them interact with her in front of her SSR colleagues, affording her the respect she’s due and witnessing the SSR boys’ reaction!

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