Agent Carter: 1.03 Time And Tide, 1.04 The Blitzkrieg Button
Apologies for last week's missing review. Instead, The Digital Fix delivers a bumper edition review - two episodes for the price of one!
Things certainly became more tangled in episode three as the SSR mission to track down Howard Stark threatened to derail Peggy Carter and Edwin Jarvis's own investigation into who stole Stark's weapons from the vault. Jarvis finds himself interrogated by Jack Thompson, the investigation into the villainous Leet Brannis's past turned the focus towards Russia, a new resident Dottie joins the boarding house (the significance of which would become apparent in episode four) and SSR lost its first officer with the murder of Ray Krzeminski. Time And Tide might not have been as brilliant as the first two episodes but it continued to be both fun and dramatic while moving key pieces of information into place.
The ties to Russia perfectly suited the setting of post World War II US and set up future characters like the Winter Soldier and Black Widow. Brannis and his fellow Levithan agent Sasha Demidov originated from there, while the discovery of the mysterious typewriter leads the SSR to believe it is transmitting secrets to Moscow. It doesn't give the audience any jaw-dropping revelations or big action moments but the beauty of the arc-driven eight episode series is that we get plenty of great character moments instead.
James D'Arcy continues to shine as Jarvis, whether it is finding out about his unusual past, particularly the revelation that he was discharged from the army for treason after forging papers to give his Jewish wife safe transit to the US. His wit and very British charm continues to excel too. I feel like I should have a section devoted to his dialogue. In episode three I particularly loved this little exchange with Thompson during his interrogation.
Thompson: "It's funny. A lot of stuff gets stolen from Howard Stark - cars, bombs, death rays."
Jarvis: "Actually, the death ray's accounted for. It's in Nevada, I believe".
Carter and Jarvis giving up the discovery of Stark's stolen weapons to the SSR was a courageous move for the intrepid hero, even though it did end in tragedy. The moment the henchman began talking to Krzeminski about the "English broad with a solid right hook" it looked as she might be discovered. But then came the shocking murder of both henchman and Krzeminski, ending the immediate threat to Carter but also wounding her emotionally. While Krzeminski came across as a bit of an ass he played the role - like the rest of her SSR colleagues - with some real emotional depth and his loss was felt. Coupled with some solid investigation work, it was the first episode to really prove that Carter's colleagues were intelligent, focused and good at their job - she just happens to be better than all of them!
The return of Howard Stark in episode four, gave the show a shot in the arm even if it was doing just fine without it. While there are no singular episodes of two-parters in this series, The Blitzkrieg Button felt like the payoff of some of the plot threads established in Time And Tide, with the introduction of Battle of Finow in World War II Russia and some huge revelations in tow. Dominic Cooper continues to excel as the cocksure, suave Howard Stark and the decision to use his sparingly is a good one. Here he lights up the scene alongside Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter. Interestingly though, he doesn't come out of the episode too well; his motivations for returning to New York to uncover one of his inventions alienates his biggest ally and shows him to be as manipulative and dangerous as he is made out to be.
The revelation that he has a vial of Captain America's blood could be the macguffin of the show or a red herring designed to stir up the angst of Peggy's lost love. Either way its existence poses a danger; falling into the wrong hands of an organisation like Leviathan and the world could end up with another Red Skull without Steve Rogers there to stop him. After her blow out with Stark at the episode's end, you have to wonder why Peggy chooses to keep the vial of blood. To protect it from insidious intentions or as a memento of the past?
Of course it wasn't all angst and heavy drama. Stark hiding out in Peggy's room literally set the fox among the henhouse; how many women he was able to bed in the time she was off trying to clear his name? With Legend Of The Seeker's Bridget Regan joining the show last episode, you has to wonder how big a role she would play. Would she become become another of Stark's conquests? That she was an ass kicking, psychotic Leviathan agent was totally unexpected and fantastically played. The manner in which she snapped the neck of villain Mr. Mink was ruthless and opened up new story possibilities. Would she become the anti-Carter? Is she somehow connected to the Winter Solider program Red Broom? Is she a pre-Black Widow? I am excited to see where that develops.
It was also great to see some strong character development for SSR Chief Roger Dooley as he travelled to Germany to interrogate Nazi war criminal Colonel Mueller about the Battle of Finow, an event that was not in fact a battle but the Nazi discovery of a bloody massacre. Daniel Sousa also got to be more than just a sidelined SSR agent, proving his worth against Thompson as got the homeless man to talk about the events of the dockyard from the previous episode and - potentially - suspecting Carter of being the mysterious British woman blocking their investigation at every turn.
Oh and a special mention to the hilarious Stan Lee Cameo - now Agent Carter is really official!
The mythology of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to build, with episode four delivering plenty of twists and turns in the mission to clear Howard Stark's name. With a new intriguing villain in Dottie, the mystery of the Battle of Finow and Daniel Sousa closing in on Peggy Carter's tail there is plenty at stake at this mid-season point. Which was a lot more than Agents Of SHIELD during its season one run.