‘Agent Carter’ Season 1 Recap, Episode 3: ‘Time And Tide’
We're onto the third of eight episodes of Agent Carter, and I already know it's not going to be enough. It's not going to be enough of Hayley Atwell's awesome Peggy Carter. It's not going to be enough time in her world. It's not going to be a long enough break from... that other show. And honestly, it may not be enough time for the rest of the show to come up to the level of its star; it's a very good show, but Atwell is great. I want to spend twenty episodes with this show to see if it can raise its game to match her performance.
Episode three, 'Time And Tide,' is directed by Scott Winant and written by Andy Bushnell. Opening with a breathy Peggy recap of the first two episodes, it picks up the threads of that two-parter. In fact, at this point it's clear that this story may be an eight-parter; not a procedural with an arc, but a long-form story divided into eight chapters.
'Time And Tide' opens by revisiting all the clues from last week. Peggy sits on her daybed in her cute new apartment and looks up Brannis's heart-squiggle symbol in her Big Book of Symbols. (For people who grew up with Internet, I should point out that these books are real things and I used to have one.) The keys that I wrongly assumed were Stark's actually belong to Ralph the silent killer. The SSR boys turn over his apartment and find his code-relaying typewriter. (This little corner of Agent Carter's world is all very reminiscent of Fringe, with the typewriters and the silent mysterious men in 1940s clothing, though at least these are 1940s men in 1940s clothing.)
The clue that propels the story this week, though, is the license plate recovered from the Roxxon explosion, which SSR traces back to Howard Stark. SSR pays a visit to the lavish Stark Mansion -- coincidentally while Peggy is there hiding behind a plant -- and take Jarvis (James D'Arcy) in for questioning.
This is where SSR's brutal interrogation techniques last week become rather important, as it's clear that poor, gentle Jarvis is about to get a roughhousing, though not before Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) threatens to expose Jarvis's secret history and have him and his wife deported -- it turns out Jarvis was once charged (but not convicted) with treason.
Rather than allow any harm to come to Jarvis, Peggy "blunders" into revealing that the "missing" stolen car report has turned up, which allows Jarvis to leave. This is a very nice bit of action; it allows Peggy to save the day, but by appearing to be exactly as incompetent and air-headed as the men in her office already assume her to be.
Peggy snubs an offer of rhubarb pie and schnapps with Angie (Lyndsy Fonseca) (salacious), to pay Jarvis a late night visit and explore the giant hole in Howard Stark's floor, which the thieves blew to make their escape through the sewers. Peggy, who has bizarrely spent a week living in these sewers and knows a thing or two about flood levels, surmises that the thieves used a boat to escape, and she and Jarvis follow the trail to the sea.
Along the way, she gets to the bottom of Jarvis's treason charge. Turns out he was caught forging letters of transit for his beloved wife-to-be Ana, a Jewish woman in Budapest; both he and Ana were saved by the influence of Howard Stark.
The sewer trail leads to a decommissioned boat, the Heartbreaker, with the heart-and-squiggle symbol -- and sure enough, the stolen Stark tech is inside. While Jarvis anonymously calls this in to the SSR, Peggy fights a meaty goon. She's almost defeated; Jarvis saves her. Jarvis is almost defeated; she saves him. All very equitable. The SSR then arrives, and Peggy and Jarvis flee.
Agent Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer) is tasked with driving the goon to SSR. The goon reveals that he was put down by an English broad, and just when it seems like there might be too many clues incriminating Peggy as a double agent, both the goon and Krzeminski are shot dead by a mysterious man.
Krzeminski's death devastates everyone at SSR. Chief Dooley (Shea Wigham) holds Howard Stark responsible. Peggy heads to the Automat to pick up Angie and get drunk on schnapps.
This felt like a bit of a slow-burn episode, but it ended with two major developments. First, the Stark tech has been recovered already. Second, a character died. Now, sure, it was only Krzeminski, a boor among boors, but his death still serves as a useful reminder that anything can happen in an eight episode mini-series.
The episode underscored what I still consider to be the show's weaknesses. First, the villains aren't very dynamic; this week we got a heavy guy in an undershirt, which is a step down even from a pair of mutes with tracheotomy scars, and they were pretty vanilla. Second, the fellas at the SSR remain pencil sketches compared to the show's vivacious heroes -- a category that I place Peggy, Jarvis, and the thus-far under-used Angie into.
Both problems might be accounted for if you consider SSR the true villain of the piece, which I kinda do, but I'm not sure I'm meant to. SSR is clearly an antagonist to Peggy, and the story has to end with its destruction, but they're so unsympathetic that I resent the screen time they take up, and even killing one of them off didn't make me like them more. Just hurry up and tear down the patriarchy already, Peggy.
The design on this show continues to impress. I think Peggy's apartment is meant to be modest, but I want it; it's beautiful. And Peggy's outfits are still a highlight. This week I was torn for favorite between her sewer-diving jumpsuit and her red-and-black nightgown.
And speaking of the look of the show; I've been trying to think of a delicate way to talk about Peggy's physique without diminishing her, or talking about a woman in a way that I wouldn't talk about a man. (Actually, that last isn't a problem; anyone who knows me knows I talk about men's physiques all day long. Yesterday I wrote a piece that was blatantly just an excuse to spend time on actor Steven R. McQueen's Instagram account.) But to the casual observer I might be seen to be perpetuating a sexist dynamic.
But I think Peggy's body is worth commenting on, because she clearly has a '40s bombshell figure -- enhanced by wardrobe choices and extra muscle. Peggy looks like she belongs in her time and not in ours, and her presentation says to me that her body belongs to her, and not to us, the viewers. That's a little bit revolutionary for a female hero on TV.
And the show actually does this "period physique" thing again this episode with the goon on the ship. He's clearly a big, heavy, imposing man, but he has the body of a circus strongman, not an underwear model. This is a show that cares about details like that, and I love it.
No analysis of this episode would be satisfactory without giving James D'Arcy's Jarvis his due. We get a little more insight into his character -- and his inspiring devotion to his wife Ana, who I'm sorry to say I don't think we're ever going to meet. D'Arcy also got to show off his acting chops in a couple of brilliant scenes, first when he role-plays an interrogation with Peggy, his face almost entirely in shadow (great direction), and then when he fakes an American accent to call in the tip, managing to perfectly convey that this was Jarvis, not D'Arcy, doing an American accent.
Also on the Jarvis front; I was relieved to have the mystery of his treason set up and resolved in the same episode. Not everything needs to be a multi-episode arc. Not looking at any other Marvel shows in particular, there.
If I might be impertinent; did Howard Stark create the Hulk? Jarvis notes to Agent Thompson that Howard Stark has a death ray in Nevada. Could it be gamma ray?
Would it be polite to ask if Leet Brannis a zombie? SSR learns that the recently killed Brannis was in fact killed a couple of years earlier during the war; he was already dead. So who brought him back, and how?
I must insist on knowing when Jarvis eats his breakfast. We see Jarvis tidying up after breakfast, and moments later answering the door with, "Good afternoon", and we're told it's "almost lunchtime." This is most unorthodox. Was he having elevenses? For an hour?
Who in the world does this 'Dottie Underwood' work for? In one of the episode's subplots, one of the ladies at Peggy's apartment building is thrown out for having a gentleman caller, and replaced by Dottie, a ballet dancer from Iowa, played by Bridget Regan. Dottie is sweet and wholesome and charming, and therefore probably a Nazi sleeper agent.
Oh dear me, have we mislaid our macguffin? Last week I praised the show for the simple story engine of Howard Stark's stolen tech, which seemed to have infinite potential. This week that storyline sort of got tied up... or so it seems. The preview for the next episode suggests we're not done with Howard's "bad babies" just yet.
I'm sorry to be a bore, but where was the Marvel of it all? Unless I missed something, there wasn't a single new Marvel cameo or reference at all this episode. Now, look; I would most like to see British superhero boyfriends Union Jack and Destroyer (Brian Falsworth and Roger Aubrey) on the show, but that seems like a long shot; as we've already established, I get excited enough when they give me a cameo by Ivan Vanko. I'm not asking for the world! Just the universe!