Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from the Season 2 premiere of Agent Carter.
Wake up, City of Angels! Agent Peggy Carter, the SSR's most valuable player, is ready to turn Los Angeles (circa 1947) on its head as she arrives to assist new L.A. SSR Bureau Chief Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) in solving the unsolved Lady of the Lake killings. The two-episode premiere, "The Lady in the Lake" and "A View in the Dark," quickly gets us up to speed on Carter's pursuits with an impressive action opening that surprisingly reintroduces chameleon assassin Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan). After a delicious interrogation between the women, Dottie has to take a back seat for Carter to move west, reunite with Howard Stark's butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy), meet his beloved wife Ana (Outlander's Lotte Verbeek) and Bernard the flamingo, then get knee-deep in a case involving frozen bodies, atomic fusion, zero matter (aka MCU Doctor Strange-related dark matter) and a new love interest. Whew! A lot? Damn right, but Hayley Atwell and company make it look easy as the show ably shifts from action-adventure to comedy and back.
Tara: There's a lot of ground covered in two hours, but the writers deftly set up and explore Carter's professional and personal life delightfully. Carter's love for "deceased" Captain America was affectingly handled in Season 1, which now opens the door for Peggy to really explore the unpainted canvas of her life. I loved watching her blooming rapport with scientist Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin), an African-American physicist who shares Peggy's experiences of ostracism and bias. They are fun and sexy together, which is a brand-new facet to enjoy from oft-reserved Peggy Carter.
Los Angeles of the '40s as a series backdrop is beyond swell. The series uses classic locations, like Griffith Observatory, and the native architecture for maximum production value, along with classic cars, dresses and suits that put together make this show look like a million bucks. Every frame is gorgeous, rounded out by the very-easy-on-the-eyes cast. Kudos to returning supporting cast, like Bridget Regan, who proves in a short 10 minutes how much she was wasted in the Project Greenlight film The Leisure Class. I can't wait to see where her character goes this season. It was also great to see saucy switchboard operator Rose Roberts (Lesley Boone) in an expanded role.
As for the case of the season, it's certainly intriguing and sufficiently heady a case for someone as smart as Carter to be chasing over eight hours. It nicely blends in the atomic fever of the decade with the political machinations of Los Angeles and the weirdness that comes with SSR investigations.
Aaron: I could not be happier to see Atwell back as Carter. It is worth noting that I came to this show late in the season last year, as I wasn't really digging Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but once I began tuning in, I was sold. Since that first season finale, Atwell has endeared herself time and again at comic conventions and fan appearances, making us all excited for last night's long-awaited return.
So, how did she do? This is already a stronger show than it was on its first outing. There is a real sense of purpose and confidence that, while not lacking in S1, feels solidified now. The first hour was really a fun fan-service episode, and I enjoyed the setup for the frozen body serial killer arc for the season. Though I was bummed to see Peggy move out of New York City, her relocation to 1940s L.A. is right for this era, and the show is more alive and vibrant for the move. Making use of real landmarks and all those great old-fashioned backlots certainly ups the look of this season.
Edwin Jarvis and Peggy Carter are simply a delight to see together. Though I'd seen the clip of Jarvis introducing Howard Stark's lovemobile at New York Comic Con, it still felt fresh. The rapport between the two characters is natural and easy, and the fact that we needn't worry about a blossoming romance remains refreshing. I could really just watch a half-hour comedy about Agent badass Carter and her sidekick Mr. Jarvis on a roadtrip.
And that opening sequence! Instead of immediately joining Peggy, that red hat is worn by none other than Dottie, that changeling assassin come to wreak more havoc (and, in this case, rob a bank). The close-quarter fight that ensued between her and Peggy was a highlight for the two hours, and reminded fans that this show is willing to mix it up. Overall, I thought this was a perfect way to bring Peggy back for the second season. Carter is in more of a power position this season. She is still a woman in a boys' club, but she is also a bit of a legend in the SSR. I don't expect we'll move away from the misogyny that defined the first season -- and the introduction of Jason Wilkes as a fellow accomplished outsider works -- but it doesn't appear to be playing as much a role.
Aaron: I miss Lyndsy Fonseca's Angie Martinelli. We have learned she will return in Episode 9 in a dream sequence, but that just doesn't cut it for me. Fonseca's character is an equally strong woman with aspirations, and she deserved a moment in this premiere -- and should have an ongoing role in the series. Her friendship with Peggy Carter grounded the spy in the first season, and they related incredibly well despite having different backgrounds and dreams. I was looking forward to watching that relationship evolve after Peggy revealed the truth to Angie, and the latter was able to take it in stride and provide some much-needed assistance. Angie is a fan favorite, and one who can be a gal pal sounding board for our hero outside of the espionage game. Angie's friendship really provides Peggy the opportunity to be a further fleshed-out, well-rounded character. Plus, her goal of becoming an actress make her a natural fit in the City of Angels. Whether it is as a waitress or budding starlet, bring Angie back!
Tara: I'm not sure how much I'm sold on married power couple Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham) and future Madame Masque, Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) yet. They certainly tick off the appropriate boxes as foes with potential for Carter to bring down but in these episodes, they weren't very threatening or potent. The end of "A View in the Dark" may change that massively but I would have liked a little more heat from the pair to set the stakes.
Carter Kicks A** Moment
Tara: The knockdown, drag out fight in the opening five minutes between Carter and Dottie was fantastic! The ladies were throwing it down hard core in that bank vault with some tremendous choreography. But the sequence became legendary with Peggy's finishing move of a bag of coins - in slow-mo! - to Dottie's head. Oooooouch, and standing ovation!
Aaron: No doubt about it. This scene is the Agent Carter equivalent to Charlie Cox's fantastic fight in Daredevil, Episode 2. Much like the latter set up that character as relentless, even when he is overwhelmed and tired, the former set ups the Peggy Carter of Season 2. She has always had confidence, but now she has more force behind her. This is no longer Captain America's girlfriend; this is Agent Peggy Carter, superspy.
Best Jarvis Scene Stealing
Tara: Let's all just agree that James D'Arcy is a treasure and his fussy but enthusiastic Jarvis is the toast to Carter's Marmite. Personal favs of the night were his rant about Angelenos and their avocado obsession (I don't get it either), his "Beacon of Justice" moniker and his precise tour of Howard Stark's booty car amenities.
Aaron: He had me at Bernard Stark, the flamingo. 'Nuff said!
Aaron: Can I call Agent Carter a rollick? I do believe I can. Season 2 is off to a fun, charming, exciting beginning. It has a glamourous, retro spy-fi vibe, and is led by one of the most engaging actors on television. Moreover, I enjoy that I can watch this Marvel show without constant call-outs and tie-ins with the MCU (even though they are there, to be sure). Carter can refreshingly stand on its own as a property, as it should. Atwell is a joy to watch, and her scenes with James D'Arcy are delightful. I dig what this season promises for viewers. This show is back in a bigger, better way (and, to be honest, I think ABC would do well to trim a few Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. eps, and split their season with even more Agent Carter installments). But I'm thrilled to see what the rest of the season has in store. Oh, and once more: Bring back Angie.
Tara: Smart, stylish and blissfully empowering with any preach, Agent Carter is back with more assurance, wit and an intriguing arc that promises a rather epic chase for Peggy and her posse. Atwell could give a Master class on how to level fellow humans with just a smile, a stern side-eye, or a held back tear. Give this woman some awards after I savor six more hours of what she's got cooked up for us.
What did you think about Agent Carter's return? Was it bloody marvelous or deserving of the Peggy Carter withering look?