2015’s Agent Carter was…how shall I put this? Met with mixed reception? But even that would be wrong. Critically, it was well-received and I certainly loved it. But if shows like Firefly, Constantine, and Arrested Development, to name a few, are any indication, it’s that critical acclaim alone don’t keep a show on the air. While the show was enjoyed by many, that didn’t equate to ratings.
A mini-series taking place after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger that fleshes out the life of Agent Peggy Carter, the series followed the events of Agent Carter adjusting to civilian life after the war, after the disappearance of Steve Rogers, and her work in the SSR. It built on that storyline, fleshed out Peggy’s character, and further built out the Marvel Cinematic Universe without having to rely on references.
Okay, I’m sure many of you know this already, but a brief recap wouldn’t hurt. Needless to say that Agent Carter seemed to be on the verge of cancellation due to low ratings, but ABC still managed to save the show for a second mission. For that, I’m appreciative, because the show as a whole is great, Hayley Atwell’s performance alone is worth watching the show.
So, a year later and here we are with Season Two. It’s off to a great start so far, but I’ve rambled enough. Let’s jump right back into Agent Carter.
The season begins with Dottie, Bridget Regan dressed wonderfully in Peggy’s familiar red and blue outfit, leading a bank robbery. She and a goon bring the manager, played by John Gilbert, to open vault 143.
But guess who’s also in the bank? Yep, our favorite Peggy Carter is also here with some SSR agents. Peggy knocks out Dottie’s henchman and engages Dottie in a fight that thankfully lasts longer than their last encounter, and the two make good use of money without actually taking it. Peggy finally smacks a bag of coins across the back of Dottie’s head and knocks her out.
Some stock footage later, we cut to Los Angeles, 1947, as now Chief Daniel Sousa, who has been in LA for about six months, meets Homicide Detective Andrew Henry, played by Sean O’Bryan. Two years ago, the Lady of the Lake Killer dropped two dead women in Echo Park Lake. A task force was assembled to go after him, but the bastard was never captured. He just vanished until today.
While this might not require SSR assistance, the lieutenant has a thing about jurisdiction. Hence, the West branch of the SSR, which Sousa is still putting together, was brought in to help. Henry shows Sousa the frozen over lake, on the hottest day of the year, no less, before then showing him a woman frozen in a block of ice. Until this lunatic is caught, Sousa is on the case.
Back in New York, Peggy wants a few simple details: the names of Dottie’s Russian handlers, methods of communication with them, the names and whereabouts of other communist operatives on American soil, why she targeted Bowery Savings Bank, and her employer.
In addition, Peggy wants to know all about the lapel pin found in box 143, but Dottie refuses to say why she wanted that in particular. Instead, Dottie wants to know about Peggy’s technique, as she expected much more from her. Dottie sees Peggy as one of those girls raised with silver spoons and perfect skin, so she wonders if Peggy expects everything to come to her so easily.
Dottie has one chip to trade on- fear. And fear, Peggy says, is the one tool that little girls who grow up handcuffed to their beds learn. Peggy releases Dottie from her handcuffs, proclaiming that she’s not afraid of her. I mean, the two did kiss, so hard to be afraid after that. Dottie tells her that there are currencies stronger than money.
Thompson receives a call from Sousa, who is glad to hear that Dottie Underwood has been caught, but he has pressing issues right now. Sousa tells Thompson about the iced bodies and how he’s understaffed at the L.A. office, so he’ll need some assistance. Luckily, Thompson has just the man for the job.
Peggy doesn’t want the interrogation interrupted and questions whether Jack is sending her away because of his insecurity. Easy dig, Peggy, but Jack doesn’t buckle. Plus, Sousa apparently asked for Peggy specifically, which gets her attention. Jack, meanwhile, will stay to interrogate Dottie- as the SSR can function without her- while Peggy gets ready to catch the next flight for Los Angeles that leaves in three hours.
In sunny-side Los Angeles, Peggy is greeted by Jarvis and his umbrella, even though it couldn’t possibly be that hot. We learn that Howard Stark came out West for a defense contract, which is important business, but Peggy is distracted a flamingo named Bernard Stark- the newest member of the Stark family. You know, Tony neglected to mention Bernard.
During the drive, Jarvis explains that Howard’s latest hobby, opening a movie studio, has kept him plenty busy. Jarvis offers to drive Peggy around, as he’s been dreadfully bored in-between their adventures and he’s not a fan of the foreign land of Los Angeles. They eat avocados with everything, for crying out loud. Peggy, though, says that she’ll get a car to take herself around and can handle L.A. driving conditions. Truth be told, if you can handle driving around New York, then I assume L.A. should be no problem.
As for when Howard himself will make an appearance? That depends on how long the location scout allows Howard to scout her locations. Is that a double entendre?
Peggy is dropped off at the Auerbach Talent Agency and we cut to a pair of pretty young things dancing for talent scout Rose, who also made the leap from New York to Los Angeles. The girls are still dancing, even as Rose interrupts them to greet Peggy, and they learn that they are not qualified. Rose is enjoying the change of scenery, but we learn that the SSR, despite taking steps to remain hidden, still ends up found by others. She then shows Peggy the secret entrance to the SSR office: it’s the “R” to the “S” cabinet.
Upstairs, she greets a surprised Sousa, who didn’t expect her until tomorrow. Peggy asks why Daniel didn’t return any of Peggy’s calls, but to him, a three hour time difference seems like eternity. Plus, he’s been pretty busy setting up this SSR branch.
Detective Henry comes in with boxes of old case files. Smartly, he doesn’t ask Peggy to file anything. Peggy doesn’t think the new body is related to the same killer. She wants to find out if the frozen lake and dead body are separate crimes. After all, Dooley did say explore all old avenues for unturned stones.
The three visit the coroner, where the medical examiner, Meltzer, played by Bruce Katzman, shows them the body. It’s impossible to perform an autopsy since the body is frozen, but from a visual inspection, though, her shoes are on the wrong feet- the killer’s M.O.- and the body’s wounds are consistent with that of the Lady of the Lake’s previous victims. There’s no telling whether the lake froze the body or the body froze the lake.
Also, no explaining why the body doubles as a glow in the dark action figure when you turn off the lights. Well, time to fetch a chisel.
Peggy, Daniel, and Andrew then speak to the lab technician, Dr. Samberly, played by Matt Braunger, whose short and long answer for the body is that it’s not ice. Samberly helps, but he feels insulted that he’s not invited for drinks, that and because he thinks the SSR agents look down on technicians.
As for the glow, the non-native matter is in a radioisotopic form, ionizing the nitrogen molecules in the air and blood to create the luminescence. This could only happen by producing the radioisotope in the form of uranium, meaning the body was near a particle accelerator. The one used in the Manhattan project is in Tennessee, but there’s another one in Pasadena at Isodyne Energy. And what is Isodyne Energy?
Well, I won’t tell you, but someone else will. We cut to Isodyne Energy, a developmental lab working on new fuel initiatives. An enthusiastic receptionist, played by Angela Cristantello, does the explanation, but doesn’t give the agents much to work with since they haven’t got a search warrant. I instantly love this woman. She’s so full of energy and has a great smile. Peggy asks for the nearest restroom.
While Sousa distracts the receptionist, Peggy picks off a scientist’s access card and sneaks into the offices to do some snooping as usual, I see. Fortunately, this does not involve the use of a costume.
Inside, Peggy runs into a Colored scientist: Jason Wilkes, played by Reggie Austin. Dr. Wilkes brings Peggy into a lab to show off something that will surprise her. Nay, will leave her thunderstruck. It’s actually his ethanol wine, which Peggy tastes and likes, despite being a whiskey girl. Peggy introduces herself and asks Wilkes about the frozen woman, who he identifies as Jane Scott.
Turns out that Scott was as particle physicist and rumors flew that she had a close relationship with Isodyne’s owner, Calvin Chadwick. As in they were sleeping together. They were intimate. I mean, Peggy can piece that together, but Wilkes feels the need to clarify. For what reason, I don’t know. Peggy already knows all about fondue.
The two are soon spotted by the receptionist and Peggy is given the boot. Outside, she apologizes for getting Wilkes caught. But no worries. Wilkes hands Peggy his business card and his personal phone number. I know it’s the West Coast, but come on, man. It’s still the 1940s. Tread lightly.
Back at SSR West, Peggy informs Henry and Sousa of what she learned regarding Calvin Chadwick, who owns a horse that’s racing this afternoon at Santa Anita. Henry is hesitant to pursue Chadwick, as he’s running for Senate and is a wealthy industrialist. In addition, Henry isn’t willing to take the word of some janitor like Wilkes. Classy, this guy. The press, Henry figures, will crucify the SSR for going after Chadwick and they end up being wrong.
So what’s Henry’s suggestion? Use the press to the SSR’s advantage and give interviews to the newsreels to get the word out there. Sousa allows Henry to pursue this angle, but when Henry leaves, Sousa then tells Peggy to place a bet for him on El Lobo at the races after she finds Chadwick. Nice.
Following this, Jarvis informs Peggy that his wife, who has a very modern sense of style, will pick out the perfect outfit for a covert operation at the horse races. And we’re properly introduced to Mrs. Ana Jarvis, played by Lotte Verbeek. Peggy expected someone more like Jarvis, but Ana is equally surprised. She has a few ensembles for the race, including a garter that doubles as a holster. Goddamn it, we are getting a costume!
But goddamn is it a lovely red costume. At the horse track, Peggy and Jarvis spot Calvin Chadwick, played by Currie Graham, and his wife, Whitney Frost, played by Wynn Everett, posing for photos. Jarvis knows them from such pictures as “The ‘F’ Stands for Freedom” and “Tales of Suspense,” but not Peggy. She assembles rifles in her spare time. I love this woman. Peggy needs Jarvis to distract Frost with his flattery. No worry there. Aside from “Danger,” Jarvis’ middle name is “Charm.” Sure.
Jarvis, introducing himself as head of production at Stark Pictures, pulls Whitney aside while Peggy, Hayley Atwell pulling off one hell of an American accent, strokes Calvin’s ego by speaking favorably about his Senate campaign. It’s all flattering, but when Peggy mentions Jane Scott, Calvin goes cold. She drops her accent and asks Calvin whether he knew that Scott was dead. Calvin isn’t a fan of this SSR ambush or having someone know that he’s having an affair.
Well, Peggy figures, if Calvin has nothing to hide, then he wouldn’t mind providing a complete list of employees at Isodyne Energy. Calvin is willing to help, so long as SSR gets proper clearance since Isodyne Energy deals in classified and confidential United States government contracts.
Peggy and Jarvis head off because their horse apparently lost. So Jarvis no longer needs to entice Whitney with tales of his upcoming spy picture called “The British Are Coming.” He spent no time thinking up that name, I’m sure.
Back at the coroner’s office, Peggy, Daniel, and Henry head to meet with Dr. Meltzer. Peggy figures that Calvin’s nervousness means he had something to hide, but her theory is put on hold when the three find Meltzer, who is found frozen and then shatters as soon as Sousa touches him. Sousa, this is why you don’t touch people. You end up killing them.
Over in New York, it’s been 24 hours since Dottie was brought in and she wants to know where Peggy is, but Thompson brings a stick and carrot into interrogation. He brings up Dooley’s method of getting suspects to talk, with Dooley speaking smoothly and Thompson not speaking at all. He unlocks her handcuffs and declares that he’s not afraid of her.
Okay, but that’s when Dottie upends the table and declares that Thompson is too easy. They need Peggy. Officers enter to restrain Dottie.
Jarvis brings in Wilkes to speak with Peggy, who asks if there are tests he can run on Meltzer’s body to determine what happened. He agrees to help. Henry, not too far, tries to get a drink of water from a fountain, but the water and fountain turn to ice. Wilkes spots this. Whoops.
According to the official autopsy, the cause of Jane Scott’s death was organ failure due to unknown toxic substance, so not the stab wounds. Someone stabbed the body after she died and the murderer wanted them to think Jane Scott was killed by the Lady of the Lake killer, when in actuality, she died due to the substance that froze the lake. Her shoes were still switched and the only people that knew that detail were the actual killer and the police.
Detective Henry, meanwhile, knocks out Jarvis- some aide you turned out to be- and takes Dr. Wilkes hostage so he can help fix Henry.
Thompson asks Dottie about the pin. However, Dottie wants something in return- preferably not the beating that Thompson promises. She continues to compare Thompson to Carter, saying that Peggy would make this an exchange. Deportation is better than prison, but prison, Thompson counters, is better than the electric chair. Dottie agrees to the deal.
However, federal agents, led by Vernon Masters, played by Red Foreman himself, Kurtwood Smith, intervene. Dottie and the pin are both taken into federal custody. Vernon congratulates Jack on his hard work, but offers to explain why the FBI will get credit for this.
Peggy, Jarvis, and Sousa find Henry’s car, now frozen. Jason Wilkes left his card. Peggy and Daniel leave Edwin with a trusty gun and flashlight: the only tools necessary when keeping watch.
Henry leads Wilkes and tells him that he didn’t kill Jane, but was hired to clean up the mess. He made it look like the Lady of the Lake Killer just to revive the case. Wilkes’ lieutenant had all of his resources pulled. Shots ring out and Henry evades the gunfire long enough for Peggy to find and secure Wilkes.
But then Henry finds and corners Sousa, with Peggy catching up a bit after him. Hopefully Sousa doesn’t hesitate this time. However, Henry’s gun is frozen, so it’s of no use. Peggy says that there’s help for Henry, but he insists that it’s too late for him and that they won’t let him work this out. Then a shot is fired and Henry disintegrates. Turns out the agent who shot him left his radio in the car. Right. Idiot.
Over drinks, Thompson asks Vernon why Dottie is being taken off of SSR’s hands, given how much work it took to get her. Vernon, we learn, is friends with Thompson’s father and pulled strings to get him this gig at SSR. Vernon tells Thompson to look at this from a long term perspective- the SSR is a wartime agency and the war is over. Thompson isn’t being fired as much as he and the agency are becoming irrelevant.
The entire department of war is being restructured, which means that the SSR is going the way of the dinosaur. So, Vernon says, Thompson must ask himself: “Do I want to be the former chief of the SSR or the current muckety-muck of the next big thing?” Thompson wants to be in the muck.
Vernon explains that Miss Dorothy Dottie Underwood was attempting to steal from some very powerful men who have even more powerful allies. If Thompson keeps his nose to the grindstone, there’ll be a nice promotion for him in the future.
Peggy apologizes to Wilkes for putting him in danger. If whatever killed detective Henry and the medical examiner is contagious, then they’ve all been exposed. However, Wilkes assumes that whatever it is, you can’t get it unless you’ve been exposed to contaminated blood. The medical examiner had the most intense and prolonged exposure, which may explain why he succumbed first.
Wilkes thanks Carter for saving his life…and asks for dinner and a dance this upcoming Saturday evening. Peggy makes it her policy not to socialize with persons of interest. Okay, but Wilkes is glad that Peggy at least finds him interesting. That’s one way to look at it.
The agent who fired at Henry receives an envelope from Calvin Chadwick, who learns that the job is done. Frost hopes that this will be the last time the two of them have to dirty their hands since Calvin dirtied other parts of his anatomy.
At SSR West, Peggy and Sousa agree that their case isn’t closed yet. Peggy could use a drink, but Sousa is a bit preoccupied tonight.
Peggy watches from upstairs as Sousa meets up with a lady. Wife? Girlfriend? Regardless, Peggy’s observation is interrupted by Jarvis’ arrival. Jarvis, you suck.
Dr. Wilkes heads to a facility and eyes black mass in a containment unit as the episode comes to a close.
“The Lady in the Lake” is a very good continuation of the series. It rewards the patience for the long wait with a fresh start and the journey to Los Angeles feels like a new beginning for our protagonists. However, moving from New York to L.A. isn’t made into an excuse to just redo the first season in a new location. This opening doesn’t act as if you’re unfamiliar with the series. It’s a new beginning, but instead of completely starting in L.A. and going from there, we pick up with the lingering threads of the first season.
And that’s a good thing because it gives us time to see how things have changed in between seasons. For starters, I did not expect that we’d pick up with Dottie so soon, given her narrow escape at the end of “Valediction.” Rather than just keep her out there until a surprise reappearance, we jump right back into her storyline. And it’s one I expect may continue throughout the season since we still don’t know all there is to unravel about Leviathan.
Though she’s not in the episode for long, Bridget Regan makes good use of her screen time with her face-offs between both Peggy and Thompson. She’s cornered, but she still has cards to play and Dottie is dripping with about as much malevolence as she was last time. I really like how she gets under Thompson’s skin by comparing his interrogation to Peggy’s, as she was fond of and could fear her, but not Thompson.
Moving onto Thompson, I’m pleased with the progression of his character. What started off as treating Carter like a second-rate employee grew into a strong work relationship and friendship and that bond has continued here. Now he’s the one berating other agents for making light of Peggy and he’s stepped into Chief Dooley’s shoes well and learned from his mentor.
He bears the responsibility of keeping the agency afloat in light of receiving credit for stopping Leviathan, but Thompson’s problem is that the times are a-changing. The SSR isn’t needed in this period, so any and all hard work is taken out from underneath him and given to someone more worthwhile. In essence, it almost feels like he’s in Peggy’s shoes from last season in that he’s qualified to do the job, but people higher up on the totem pole, like Vernon, don’t have use for him in his current role.
Sousa has also gone through a major transformation as head of the new SSR branch and I’m glad he’s put in a position of leadership, given his great investigative skills we saw last season. On a side-note, I like that the show has brought over Rose to Los Angeles. Sure, Rose didn’t have the biggest of roles last season, but it’s a nice way to show that the main characters and SSR in general are going through a transition.
And he’s as trusting of Peggy as ever, despite being in a new environment. He isn’t trying to show off or make a big impression to give off the vibe that he’s a tough guy. Sousa lets his work speak for himself and I’m pleased to see him in an authoritative role.
Plus, I like how even though he’s been at this for six months, there’s still plenty for him to learn. It can’t be easy to start up an SSR branch and Sousa is still strapped for resources, so I’m interested to see how this branch operates under his leadership. Though it’s clear, given Peggy’s reaction when Thompson says that Sousa asked for her, and how he hasn’t called her back- that there’s still some emotional attraction between them.
A brief word on the Ana and Edwin: first off, it’s nice to finally meet Ana after just having her relegated to mentions, and she’s nothing like what I expected her to be, which is nice. She’s filling the close friend role with Peggy since Angie is sadly nowhere to be seen, but from what I hear, she’s not gone from the show altogether.
Plus, Jarvis is much more willing to go on missions and while he’s still playing backup, I like how he’s become bored with normal civilian life and longs for those dangerous adventures. Again, it’s development between seasons, as he’s still keeping tabs on Howard Stark, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t gotten bored while away from Peggy. And the chemistry between James D’Arcy and Hayley Atwell is as funny as it’s ever been.
That brings me to Peggy, who might have gotten sidelined from dealing with Dottie, but she never let that stop her. She’s just traded in her red hat for red sunglasses and more disguises. And in Los Angeles, despite the change in scenery, Peggy is as hard of a worker as she’s ever been, but unlike Season One, she’s not in a working environment where she has to challenge her superiors.
Sousa knows what Peggy is capable of, so when he sends Henry off to deal with the press, he also has Peggy do her own work because he’s seen that she can get the job done. This is still the 1940s, so Carter still isn’t fully seen as an equal, but within the context of her job and this investigation, she’s not fighting any sexism for the moment. That I’m thankful for because I really don’t want Agent Carter to touch upon the sexism in great detail again. I’d like to think the show has moved past that.
I’ve said it before: even before the events of Agent Carter, Peggy deserves to be seen as an equal due to her efforts and work during the war. She shouldn’t have to be relegated to certain roles because of her gender, and here, she’s not. She investigates the case alongside Daniel and Andrew as an equal and her hunch about the cases not being linked gets the investigation moving.
But that doesn’t mean we have to abandon the fun hijinks from Season One, and the return of Peggy’s many costumes was a delight to see. That and hearing Hayley Atwell pull off an impressive American accent. What is it with the Brits being able to pull off that accent with ease? And really, what is there to say about Atwell’s performance that hasn’t been said? She’s dripping with charisma, strength, commands each scene she’s in, and her abilities don’t come from the fact that she’s a woman, but that she’s a competent person who goes above and beyond the call of duty.
I know many love to play up the fact that Agent Carter really appeals to those that want a strong, independent woman, and while that’s certainly true of Peggy, I just love the fact that she’s great at what she does. That and she’s not merely a well-written, three-dimensional woman, but a well-written and three-dimensional character.
Tonally, we’re in a bit more supernatural territory compared to Season One, unless you include Ivchenko’s hypnotism. Apparently that black substance at the end also appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but again, I don’t watch that show, so I’m curious to see where Agent Carter will go with it.
The blend of action and humor is still here in force and the show’s tone is an interesting contrast when you consider that we got Jessica Jones just a few months ago. Two different shows, yes, but still within the same Cinematic Universe, yet wildly different tones. But as Marvel has shown, it still works and is believable. Plus, it sort of helps that these shows are decades apart. Okay, this isn’t a Jessica Jones post and I’ve gone on long enough.
“The Lady in the Lake” builds on the character development and plot of Season One, expands the cast with new and interesting characters, presents a new mystery for our heroes to solve, and is a great return to form for Agent Carter. There’s a lot thrown at us and granted, this is all setup, but with Peggy Carter on the job, it’s going to be a fun ride. Here’s to Season Two.