Giving Agent Carter an eight-episode order gives the show license to act a bit like a cable show — that is, faster. Unlike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter doesn’t need to hold a story line over a full season, so we don’t get three or four “Ill-Advised Invention of the Week” episodes before “Time and Tide,” where Jarvis and Peggy find all the inventions in one place. I’m a little amused by the fact that they simply follow a giant hole in the floor of Stark’s mansion straight to the river and the boat of floating goods. Did no one search that house after Stark was accused?
The boat is where we come upon our one and only fight sequence in the episode, and it’s amazing, as expected. Marvel’s female fight sequences are doozies even if they are few and far between, and they’re noteworthy in that they vary between the women of the series. Where Black Widow is exacting and unflinching, Melinda May’s elegant techniques make her a terrifying adversary for her opponents. Peggy has so far fought only men who are bigger than her, and her main theme is constant vigilance — she never stops kicking or punching, usually grasping at the objects around her to clock her opponent. When Jarvis tries to help, he pauses just a second before his punch, and pays for it — until Peggy zaps the guy with Howard’s would-be back massager.
We get to learn more about Jarvis’s backstory this week, when the SSR takes him into interrogation. Jarvis is cheerfully opaque until Chad Michael Murray’s Jack brings up his past treason and dishonorable discharge, threatening deportation for him and his wife. Speaking of Jarvis’s wife, she gets a name and backstory this week — Jarvis’s treason offense comes from defying a general to save her life in Budapest — but remains a mere slightly accented voice speaking sweetly in the background. Why can’t we see Jarvis and his wife in domestic-charm action? Perhaps the writers have a smarter reason for this than we’re giving them credit for, but for now I’m just glad that it’s unlikely for her character to die if we don’t see her onscreen. To be honest, when Jarvis started speaking about how he and the general “worked closely,” I thought he was discharged and moved to the United States for a very different reason. And while it wasn’t, background on what Jarvis actually did in the war would’ve been welcome instead, considering his prim claims that “candlelight made him go off to sleep.”
Meanwhile, Peggy gets Jarvis out of the tricky situation when she makes a deliberate mistake and he leaves on a technicality. No surprise, her boss is furious, but more surprising is how much she feels it. She may be acting as a double agent, but that wasn’t her choice, and it wasn’t her modus operandi in the war, when she was at least a serious member of the operation. She’s more a soldier than a spy when it comes to working for her own team. When she and Jarvis find Howard’s inventions, Peggy tries to insist on telling SSR, but Jarvis’s mimicking of Jack’s direct-questioning techniques finds her flustered. “I will call them in and they will respect me!” she insists. Peggy wants to do a good job, wants to be recognized for her good work, and wants it to come authentically from her extremely hard work. The show doesn’t directly address this, but Hayley Atwell acts it out enough so we see and feel its effects: Peggy is frustrated at working twice as hard to just do her job, and she’s angry at being taxed in this way for simply being a woman.
Unfortunately, it’s that constant juggling that leads to her making her first real mistake. She insists on Jarvis calling the stash in direct to SSR. This gives us a chance to see Jarvis fumble over the tried and true English idea of an American accent. Was there ever a time when we didn’t hang up phones in a sigh of relief? But in any case, he calls Sousa, who drives over with Ray to find the goods and the witness. When escorting the witness, Ray is followed by a car which I at first thought was Peggy and Jarvis looking to cover up their tracks, but turned out to be hit men who finish off the two men.
The somber morning after, Sousa suggests to Peggy that the man on the phone must’ve orchestrated it. Peggy suggests he was merely a concerned citizen, but Sousa wonders how he could’ve gotten their number. “We’re not in the phone book,” he points out.
Since the show’s called Agent Carter, the men of her office feel like afterthoughts and began to blend together in their disdain for Peggy. But little differences emerged this episode: Jack Thompson as the arrogant golden boy whom SSR Chief Dooley fawns over; Ray as the fool and womanizer (who apparently charmed the ladies he didn’t work with); Sousa as the sensitive, intelligent one. If we’re looking for Peggy’s future husband, Sousa is the obvious choice, but it wasn’t until this episode that it seemed viable or interesting. When Ray told Sousa there was no way Peggy would trade in “a red, white, and blue shield for an aluminum crutch,” it was clear he didn’t know about Peggy’s lingering looks for skinny Steve’s scrappy charm. Now that Sousa has become keen on getting justice for Ray, that means he’ll end up investigating Peggy, whether he knows it or not.
Under the weight of Ray’s death, Peggy finally lets herself get closer to Angie, to tell her about her day. Angie feels like Peggy’s Sam Wilson to her Steve Rogers, encouraging her to join a supportive community and a friendship. The “women’s apartment” Angie got Peggy to join gave us our hilarious opener — I certainly thought Jimmy was the ominous man in the green suit — and the women’s apartment complex looked almost fun until the strict head of the apartment kicked a girl out while calling the Griffith a combination of “Fort Knox and Alcatraz,” jeez.
Meanwhile, the mystery deepens this week when the men’s team figures out that Peter Brannis is a dead man walking from the 478th, which was wiped out at the Battle of Finow in Germany. The 478th was actually an Air Force squadron that went defunct during the war, but (and correct me if I’m wrong) the Battle of Finow doesn’t seem to exist. One of the most compelling notions of the first Captain America film is its imagination when it came to the differences between Marvel’s WWII and ours. Hopefully we’ll delve into some made-up WWII history in future episodes.
Next week we get to see Peggy grapple with Howard Stark’s treatment of Captain America’s legend and legacy, so get ready to have your heart broken!
- Maybe the period drama effects reminds me of Mad Men — I can’t help but think the “back massager” had an intended use Howard couldn’t even tell Jarvis.
- What was the point of the introduction of “Dottie from Iowa”? I’m wondering if it’s more than a simple demonstration of Angie and Peggy’s friendship. While Angie is giving Peggy a chance to reconnect with someone, it doesn’t bode well for her if she doesn’t factor into the plot. (I’m hoping her middle name is Maria and she ends up being Howard’s wife.)
- Speaking of Peggy’s role in the war, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had her working with the Howling Commandos after Steve’s death. Where did they go? And will we have more people of color in upcoming episodes?