“Ready for another adventure, Ms Carter?”
And finally, we’re back with Agent Peggy Carter. Last year’s first season proved to be one of the great highlights of the Marvel Universe’s output, with Hayley Atwell at last given the spotlight after the first Captain America movie and her one-shot DVD short. As such, Season Two has much to live up, and while these opening episodes hit the ground running, it also shows the show runners aren’t afraid to shake up the formula a little.
Warning: Contains mild spoilers for Agent Carter, Season Two, Episodes 1-4
Picking up from last season, The Lady In The Lake opens in literal arse-kicking style as Peggy brings down a familiar adversary from Season One during a New York bank heist. However, both a mysterious case in LA and the wounded pride of the SSR’s Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) sees Carter relocated to Hollywood, working alongside Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) to crack the seemingly-impossible murder of a woman in a frozen lake. However, as The Lady In The Lake, A View In The Dark, Better Angels and Smoke and Mirrors add to the season arc, it becomes clear that the LA political scene, in being far away from the eyes of Washington, has bred an Illuminati-style conspiracy which involves conflicting parties. Isodyne Energy, potential senator Calvin Chadwick, his wife Whitney Frost, elements of the FBI and beyond: all are vying for power…
Relocating the series to LA has given the show a brighter, fresher, and yes, more comic book feel as sunshine and Hollywood glamour play their part. All the players are – without straining credulity too much in terms of everyone’s relocation – brought back into play. That said, while the chemistry continues to prove as good as before, not much seems to have been made of the potential ‘fish out of water’ scenario for the regulars. If anything, all our players hit Los Angles incredibly confidently, aside from Jarvis (James D’Arcy) for deliberate comedic effect.
Hayley Atwell continues to absolutely shine as Peggy, battling away constant sexism and chauvinism in defiant style. Smoke and Mirrors proves to be strongest performance of this run to date for Atwell (which is saying something given how much she owns the role), as the episode delves into Peggy’s past and begins to open us up to what made her Agent Carter.
Four episodes in, and it’s hard to not shake off a little touch of Torchwood: Miracle Day in terms of the way the season is driving the overall story. However, Agent Carter feels the far more satisfying experience, as Peggy finds herself tackling increasingly rising stakes each episode: there’s a more natural escalation here with each passing scene. The mystery at the heart of what Isodyne has discovered – and will go to any lengths to protect – unfolds at a brisk pace, perhaps only stalling slightly with A View In The Dark. Also the tone of Season Two varies quite consistently – so far, the series isn’t afraid to go for laughs, with broad physical comedy (watch for Bernard the Flamenco); nor to shy away from the racial and sexual politics of the era including US communism fears; nor to confront the dark elements of the time or even what a wide-ranging rotten conspiracy at the heart of the US Government might do to protect and achieve its aims. Indeed, if there’s one theme running through this season, it’s the sense of duty and doing what’s right by your beliefs, with or without an understanding of where the lines might be.
Given variation of the tone, the production term have wisely decided to let each episode have its own flavor – The Lady In The Lake is bright, breezy and bolshy; A View In The Dark becomes more of a slow-burning character piece; Better Angels brings both the Stark cheek and politically sinister edges; while Smoke and Mirrors turns the spotlight on our heroine and what appears to be our real villain. To say any more would venture deep into spoiler territory, but there is a shade of Shakespeare about this season, particularly with regards to the machinations of a certain couple who mind remind you of Scottish royalty…
In terms of the guest cast cast, Reggie Austin is growing beautifully as Jason Wilkes, going from what appears to be crass ladies’ man to something deeper and more measured, while Kurtwood Smith continues to excel at the exact type of bad-ass he’s good at. Also keep your eyes on Wynn Everett’s Whitney Frost who has some surprising dimensions as time goes on. Although, at this point into the second season, you have to wonder how many times Jack Thompson can be hit over the head with common sense before he begins to see any.
Four episodes and in everything is falling into place – but still some mysteries remain and agendas have yet to be fully realised. It’s just now that Peggy Carter is directly in the firing line. There will be fireworks.
Oh, and more Bernard please.