UK TV Review: Agent Carter Season 1, Episode 3
Mark Harrison | On 26, Jul 2015Reading time: 7 mins
Already seen Episode 3? Read on at the bottom for spoilers.
Time and Tide announces early on that Agent Carter is now settling into its weekly format, by way of an extensive “My name is Peggy Carter” recap of the story so far that will presumably endear the show to new viewers at the top of each episode. Happily, the quality is maintained in this third instalment, even if the tension of the first two episodes winds down a bit.
The episode splits evenly between the domestic and the professional. On the home front, Peggy has now moved into The Griffith Hotel, a ladies’ boarding house with a 10pm curfew and strict rules against men above the ground floor. That’s how we find her: in her room, examining a heart and rope symbol that the dying Leet Brannis drew in the sand for clues.
But at work, her covert personal mission to clear Howard Stark may soon be discovered by her colleagues. Following up on the twin leads of the late man-in-green’s hotel room and the licence plate of Stark’s destroyed Chevrolet, Chief Dooley and his men are led right to Peggy’s right-hand man, Jarvis.
When Agent Thompson interrogates the butler, secrets come to light that make our heroine feel very uncomfortable about their continuing collaboration. As the pair go looking for Stark’s stolen inventions under cover of darkness, Peggy begins to suspect that her cohort might not be telling her everything.
After a Peggy-centric double bill, we get to know Jarvis here and James D’Arcy accordingly becomes the standout player of the episode. His wife Anna continues to be unseen, in the tradition of Maris from Frasier or Mrs. Mainwaring from Dad’s Army, but we do learn a little more about her here, as well as the husband who dotes upon both her and Mr. Stark.
D’Arcy shows off great range – cheery and stalwart one minute, then intense and determined under pressure. His scenes with Peggy are warm, as he gradually opens up to her, and then chilling at one late point in the episode when they disagree on something. The actor is unrecognisable next to his character from the recent second series of Broadchurch and, as ever, he seems to relish playing against type.
We also get a little more development for the American characters, who have thus far looked thin next to our English leads. Particularly in the SSR office, this episode gives Peggy’s fellow agents an actual arc instead of having them trail after our heroes. For instance, there’s a nice scene with Agent Sousa, as he works the night shift with Agent Krzeminski and the latter, with all of his usual tact, skewers the former’s crush on Peggy by pointing out that an injured desk jockey can’t possibly measure up to Captain America.
Back at the Griffith, we get a strident reminder of the house rules, when a young man tries to shimmy up a drainpipe to Peggy’s room, mistaking it for that of his girlfriend. Landlady Miriam (Meagen Fay) makes a show of reiterating the penalty at breakfast the following morning, with a possibly apocryphal story about Harry Houdini visiting the house to perform amazing feats and yet never magicking his way upstairs.
“Whether by force or trickery, this building is impenetrable,” she boasts, and impenetrable is a good word for whatever secrets the house will reveal at this point. Still, the domestic side of things gives us more of Lyndsy Fonseca as waitress friend-turned-neighbour Angie, who nails the more grounded influence in Peggy’s life by offering secret schnapps and a morbidly scatter-brained story about her cousin Ralphie.
Writer Andi Bushell peppers the script with such lines and anecdotes, bringing an inner life to the supporting characters that the opening two-fer didn’t find any time to explore. There are plenty of zingers and one-liners here to pep up an episode that deepens the mystery of the series without necessarily making any progress in unpicking it.
Time and Tide aims more for the period police procedural aspect of the show than the espionage adventure of previous weeks – aside from the appearance of one gruesome gadget, this is a more down-to-earth episode than you might have expected. A late plot twist is in keeping with the tone and comes at the perfect time to shake up the regular characters, just as we’re getting to know them.
Over a short and serialised eight-episode run, we wouldn’t expect too many episodes like this, but it’s reassuring to find that the show is just as strong in a lower register as it is when delivering rounds of high-concept action adventure. Agent Carter the character is still very much in the driver’s seat, but we also learn more about the other characters who are along for the ride, and Agent Carter the show is all the better for it.
Agent Carter Season 1 and 2 is available on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 Sky Entertainment Month Pass subscription – with a 7-day free trial. It is also available on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Spoilers and further consideration
– So, what did we learn about Jarvis? Thompson reveals that Stark helped him dodge the noose, after he was dishonourably discharged from the army for treason, which understandably alarms Peggy. Then we find out that his crime was forging a general’s signature on a letter of transit for Anna, who was Jewish when trouble broke out in Europe and “still is, I’m happy to say”. We love Jarvis even more for that, but as we said in the main review, it’s cold when he changes tack and reminds Peggy that his colleagues won’t respect her, to prevent her from calling in the stash of Stark weapons. Keep an eye on him.
– The roped heart symbol turns out to be the insignia of the Heartbreak, a ship in the docks on which the bad guys have stocked the aforementioned weapons. One of them is the Constrictor, which was apparently intended to be a back massager and actually turns out to be a very nasty little gizmo. It reminded us of the paralysing Stark tech used by Obadiah Stane in the first Iron Man movie. We’d have pocketed it just in case, but Peggy left it for the SSR.
– Although other characters come into play in a bigger way, Peggy does get the best line of the week: “Mr. Stark would trust a shark not to bite him if it were wearing a short enough skirt.” Zing! On another dialogue related note, we wonder if the interrupted stories about the amusing Spaniard and Peggy’s mission in the New York sewers during the war will come back later.
– This week’s deaths: hired muscle Zandow and Agent Ray Krzeminski, who are both shot at a railroad crossing by unknown attackers, just as Zandow was telling his captor about “the English broad” who apprehended him. We expected that the train would do the job from the setup of this scene, but the execution was more surprising and proved that these guys mean business.
– The effect of Krzeminski’s death impacts the SSR office in a darkly absurd kind of way. With Dooley and Thompson solemnly dividing up the duties of informing Krzeminski’s wife and informing his girlfriend, Peggy is unexpectedly upset by the senselessness of it all, even though she didn’t think much of her late colleague. We know no more about the enemy behind all of this than after this week’s episode and their actions have only redoubled the resolve behind the investigation into Howard Stark.
Photo: © 2014 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.