Episode Titles: E1: The Lady in the Lake E2: A View in the Dark Originally Aired: January 19th 2016
Welcome back to post World War II America and the world of our favorite Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) agent Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell). Tonight was the 2 hour premier for the second season of ABC’s Agent Carter, it will continue to air every Tuesday night for the next 9 weeks leading to the return of Agents of Shield from its winter break. There is a kind of poetry to the two shows being linked together because they seem to be following the same path. Season one has some good moments but is mostly unmet potential, and season two sees an increase in action and improved story lines. I enjoyed season one of Agent Carter but of the 10 episodes that have been televised, tonight’s episodes are first and second. There is so much that is new, things that are improved, but it is undeniably the same Agent Carter. The writers and producers took a tarnished piece of silver and shined it up really nice.
The new season picks up more than 6 months after the events of season 1 and in that time the SSR has been tracking down Dottie, the Black Widow-esque character from season 1. They are finally able to capture her after the best action scene of the night with a fight between her and Peggy in a bank vault. Last season other than the bad guys the biggest fight Peggy had was against workplace misogyny, and it appears that she has won that fight as well. Peggy is well respected by her New York colleagues to the point that Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) is worried about how it could affect his career aspirations. When Thompson receives a call for help from Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) who left to start the West Coast Avengers, I mean the west coast branch of the SSR, he has Peggy on the next flight to Los Angeles. I think the new location for this season is a great thing, the visuals are brighter, the fashion is more interesting, and we get a lot of the Jarvises. You read that right, the Jarvises, after being away for the entirety of season 1 we are finally introduced to Edwin’s wife Ana (Lotte Verbeek). The ladies had a few preconceived notions about each other but instantly hit it off with Ana acting as Peggy’s fashion adviser.
Ana isn’t the only new character that will play a major role this season, we are quickly introduced to a new love interest for Peggy, Dr. Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin). I like everyone else watching the show thought there would be a continued will they won’t they relationship between Peggy and Sousa that would just boringly limp along all season like it did in season 1. That fear is quickly dashed this season because before the end of the premier we know Sousa is planning on asking his new girlfriend Violet (Sarah Bolger) to marry him and Peggy has kissed Wilkes in a phone booth while hiding from some hit-men.
Last season it was workplace misogyny and I think this year will take a look at racism in the 1940’s. Wilkes is a black man who worked his way up from picking oranges, to janitor, to college grad, to Navy engineer and finally to scientist at evil corporation Isodyne. While this sounds like the American dream we get to hear about how Wilkes was told to stop dreaming, that he isn’t better than picking oranges and didn’t deserve better. Even after serving his country he was told by 15 of 16 companies that someone of his kind wouldn’t be allowed to work in a lab. Wilkes monologue isn’t the only example we get, we hear a few uses of the word colored and get to see what is a mostly black only nightclub and a racist bakery employee. I loved it when Peggy wanted to punch the guy at the bakery in the face to change his attitude a little.
Highlighting a new form of discrimination doesn’t mean we are finished with the improper treatment of women, however the victim of it has changed from Peggy to Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett). Frost is the wife of Calvin Chadwick, the owner of Isodyne, and an aging actress. While on the set of “The Woman With The Golden Face” (a reference to her comic-book alter ego of the golden-masked Madame Masque) sexism is back with a vengeance. In-between takes the director berates her about her weight, asking for a tighter corset from the costume department, wants makeup to hide the lines around her eyes and shouts at a staff member about how they said they knew how to light older women. Understandably Frost is very self-conscious about her looks and this will play a major role throughout the season. She also seems to know a lot more about her husband and his unsavory dealings than you would expect. She knows he had an affair with the victim from episode 1 and all about his secret research and the council he belongs to. A decidedly evil council that undoubtedly has some link to hydra as all their concerns revolve around gaining power and money. The council even takes blame for the stock market crash in 1929 to prove just how evil they are.
All of the additions to season 2 seem primed to take Agent Carter to the next level, maybe level 7, but the heart of the show is still Hayley Atwell. She plays a rich and complex character that is both fierce and compassionate, friendly and guarded, intelligent and tough as nails. The more that Atwell is able to play the character the better her performance gets.
The highlight of the first season were her interactions with Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), while still great in season 2 I think these scenes will be given a run for their money by scenes between Peggy and Dr. Wilkes. Tune in next Tuesday to see what dangers Peggy and the rest of the SSR are facing.