Tweetable Takeaway: Agent Carter goes light on sci-fi this week but heavy on character in another great episode.
Airtime: Tuesday at 9ET on ABC
By: Dana Leigh Brand, Contributor
This week, I’ve calmed down and AGENT CARTER goes light on the ’40s sci-fi aesthetic to deliver a character study. Since last week there was a double dose of highly-concentrated amazing, this week was almost inevitably much calmer in general. I re-watched the first two episodes and actually cried because I was overwhelmed by the flawless incorporation of both the pulpy raygun gothic tech, and the particular media ambience of 1946. For context, tears only fall from my eyes when I am soul-destroyingly upset or when I’m experiencing nirvana. With “Time and Tide” there wasn’t much to make me cry from joy, but there was plenty to keep me interested. Jarvis gets in (mild) trouble with the SSR, Peggy and Jarvis find Howard’s missing tech, and all the ladies continue to struggle with the boxes they’ve been put in after the war. There were a few absolutely exemplary things about this episode, so I’ll touch on those instead of going the recap route.
First, the mysterious symbol that Peggy got from her criminal last episode is resolved almost immediately. I love that. After a tense season and half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dragging out its mysteries, having a solution so swiftly fall into my lap is refreshing. I know with only eight episodes, they could only drag it out for so long anyway, but I still appreciate it. Additionally, the vast majority of Howard’s stolen tech is recovered which signals that the real mystery/conflict here is not the MacGuffin tech, but whatever Howard is really up to. I look forward to investigating such drama-thick goodness.
My actual favorite thing this episode is Peggy using obfuscating stupidity to accomplish her ends and screw up the SSR interrogation of Jarvis. It’s such a complex, well-played scene. Peggy’s standing with her all-male office is already shaky because they expect her to be bad at her job simply by virtue of being a woman. They treat her like a glorified secretary. She deliberately botches Thompson’s interrogation of Jarvis, knowingly fulfilling every stereotype that her male colleagues believe about her capabilities. She both uses those expectations to her advantage, but sacrifices every shred of respect she’d painstakingly built up in one fell swoop. It’s so well-written and well-acted that you can feel both the satisfaction of her successfully double-agenting Jarvis out of danger and the shame of losing that respect. I’m more than a little bit in love.
Another thing I was overly fond of was Krzeminski telling Sousa to give up his crush on Carter because “No girl’s gonna trade in a red, white, and blue shield for an aluminum crutch.” The casual way so much of the world completely dismisses Steve Rogers’ personality in-universe always reminds me of the way his character gets misrepresented in our reality as well. Rogers started out as a puny, sickly, weakling with a good heart and strong ideals. That’s when Peggy started to fall in love with him. I don’t think a crutch would be a deterrent if the guy is as much of a sweetheart as Sousa. That said Peggy isn’t exactly on the prowl. When they announced the casting and said they had plans to “explore Carter’s husband” I instantaneously said “please god, let it be Enver.” I still say: please god, let it be Enver. While I don’t think the series will go heavy on the love angle, if it must be anyone my vote goes to Sousa.
I love Angie and Peggy’s relationship. I was worried that the series would be just Peggy Carter and a metric ton of dudes, which would canonize her as this lone amazing female in a sea of men. Giving her a female friend, and even having her live at a boarding house for women contextualizes Peggy’s struggles and her awesomeness as endemic rather than isolated anomalies. Angie is exactly what this story needs.
And finally, I loved the background on Jarvis. It helped to flesh him out more and take him from adorably staid side-kick to more present character. It was titillating to imagine him as some sort of horrible Hydra agent for all of the fifteen minutes they left his treason undisclosed. Again, I appreciate the swift resolution and the precious reason he was actually charged with treason. I also enjoy that his wife is heard but never seen. Jarvis keeps his private life so private and separate from his amateur sleuthing that we don’t even get to meet his wife. I’m thrilled with Jarvis entirely, actually. He’s a deadpan snarker, highly competent, and willing to jump into all sorts of dangers without flinching, but he’s also incredibly compassionate. Peggy always saves herself (and Jarvis), but Jarvis is always quick to point out that without his help, she would be in deep trouble indeed. The focus on teamwork here in Agent Carter has me a little more hopeful for the rest of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s second season. What’s working so well on that show is that they’ve turned it into an ensemble endeavor. Hopefully, they’ll keep that up and not go haring off in crazy superhero directions.
Anyway, friends, here are so of my other favorites and observations from “Time and Tide:”
- Starting the episode with a bit of genre subversion humor was a good choice. The ominous man climbing up to Peggy’s window is actually looking for his girlfriend next door. That says to me that they aren’t going to hammer the old school style and references into the ground which should keep them fresh.
- There were at least three moody, atmospheric shots of the brightly lit Chrysler Building, in case there wasn’t enough art deco ambiance for you (for me) this episode. I appreciated it.
- I like that the boys get to show off some of their stuff here too. Thompson uses his war buddies as contacts for information, etc. The boys are getting to do the sorts of things you expect men to do in post-war spy stories, but their actions are peripheral and it’s delightful.
- There was a spot for Daredevil during one of the commercial breaks and I screamed inappropriately loudly. Especially given that it was like 15-seconds long. (Guess who already has dibs on reviewing Daredevil for the Tracking Board. THIS GIRL. I’ve mentioned my Marvel addiction, right?)
- We got Bridget Regan as a girl named Dorothy Underwood for all of like thirty seconds. She has to come up again later. Who’s laying bets she’s a spy or something?
- Jarvis and Peggy leaping without preamble into a faux-interrogation when Peggy wants to call the tech into the SSR.
- Jarvis’ terrible Jersey-ish accent when he then must be the one to tip off the SSR.
- The hit on Krzeminski and the criminal muscle was appropriately shocking. Especially since it happened just at that “oh shit” moment when Peggy’s cover was about to get blown.
And just because I was so incredibly calm this episode, they threw in “Someone to Watch Over Me” right there at the end. Which is one of my favorite songs by my favorite song-writing team. I’m a classic movie buff, which very easily spins off into obsessions with period music. And art. And literature. And clothes. And cars. And architecture. And seriously, guys, Agent Carter is so up my alley that it’s almost absurd. It has all the trappings of Golden Age Sci-Fi, and the cynicism of post-war Noir films, but the lead is a well-rounded, fully realized lady. As a science fiction guru, getting through the classic stuff is always a balancing act between annoyance (women are portrayed as brainless emoters who exist solely as unknowable obstacles that men must contend with) and awesome (everything else about classic sci-fi is awesome. AWESOME.) Playing the science fiction-y side of Agent Carter as if it’s a straight 1940s pulp tale, but giving me Peggy Carter as the main character? I really seriously couldn’t ask for more.