Agent Carter: 1.02 Bridge and Tunnel
Episode two and Agent Carter shows no sign of losing its momentum; all the groundwork laid in the series opener continues to pay off here as Carter and Jarvis hunt down the Leet Brannis and the missing Stark weapons while putting her colleagues at the SSR off her scent. Unlike its predecessor Agents Of SHIELD, this show keeps up the excellent pace of the pilot episode, with Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter and James D'Arcy's Edwin Jarvis proving to be one of the finest, funniest double acts on television.
Carter becoming a double of agents of sorts - supporting her colleagues in their crusade to capture Howard Stark, while simultaneously putting them off track while she helps clear his name - continued to up the tension of the main storyline. Her colleagues might not be as smart as her but they are out to complete the same mission as her, even if their focus is on the wrong person. Daniel Sousa is a particularly sympathetic character (it is great to see Dollhouse's Enver Gjokaj get a regular TV gig after his brilliant role as Victor) and I almost feel sorry for the way Carter deceived him after he supported her against their colleagues last week. I'm not sure whether he'll end up a love interest or ally, though he is closest to picking her trail and exposing her double agent status than anyone.
I loved the scene where Thomspon and Dooley asked McPhee who handcuffed him; Carter continued to remain a step ahead of them at every step and I loved the way this 'mysterious woman' continues to be a thorn in their side. Chad Michael Murray's Thompson remains a little stereotypical misogynistic at present but plays the role well enough that he doesn't descend into a caricature. I am more impressed with Shea Whigham's Chief Dooley. He might treat Carter in the same manner as everyone else in the SSR, but he has a world-weariness mixed with a commanding presence to make him an engaging character in his own right.
That is probably what is so great about this show. It could all be played so stereotypically if the writing wasn't sharp and the performances impressive. Jarvis could easily be just a classic British, stiff-upper lip butler but there is much more depth to his performance. The SSR men could be straight bullies but you want them to succeed as much as Carter; in fact I really want them to work together - perhaps season two when she inevitably wins them over.
Even Angie, played by Nikita's Lyndsy Fonseca. She is the classic waitress wanting to become a movie star. In one sense Fonesca feels wasted as this character, but she also brings such warmth to her performance, grounding Peggy Carter in the real world, that I immediately want to see more of them together. If anything, my only gripe was with Miriam, the strict matron of the women's dormitory, who 'interviews' Peggy when she agrees to take a room there. Expecting no drinking, a curfew of 10pm and all her residents to find suitable husbands, Miriam seems right out of the stone age. But I guess the fun of her character is seeing what happens when Peggy inevitably breaks all of the rules.
At the moment, the heart of the show is the aforementioned double act of Carter and Jarvies, the sharp, witty dialogue continued in spades this week. "Comfortable back there, Mr. Jarvis?" Carter asks while holding a gun to Brannis's head. Jarvis's deadpan retort made the moment. "Perfectly, thank you. These racks of explosives are distracting me from the smell of stale milk."
But perhaps their best moment was not the action and hilarity of their undercover missions but the sweet, tender scene at the episode's end. While stitching up Carter's leg wound, Jarvis summed up her character perfectly. "From what Mr. Stark has told me, Captain Rodgers relied heavily on you. For courage, strategy, and moral guidance. You were his support. Your desire to help others is noble, but I doubt you'll find much success unless you allow others to help you." Anyone asking why Peggy Carter got her own show over over superhero love interests, only need to consider this comment to realise that she was as much a part of Captain America's origins as the man himself.
With the show an eight-episode story as opposed to an episodic affair, Agent Carter could fall foul of most arc-based shows, with some episodes feeling transitionary without any impact on their own. It is early days but so far that hasn't happened. This show feels like a prequel to all the films and TV shows that followed, a sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger and a show in its own right. There is already so much depth in the storytelling and so many layers; just take the Captain America radio show with the damsel in distress Betty Carver - it is not lost on the audience that it has been able to pastiche itself while delivering a strong series lead. The shadow of Captain America might hang over the premise, but it doesn't smother for it. Bridge and Tunnel was a great follow up, filled with action, intrigue and humour and I can't wait to see what happens next.