UK TV review: Agent Carter Season 2, Episode 1 (The Lady In The Lake)
Mark Harrison | On 28, Jan 2016
Already seen Episode 1? Read on for more spoiler-filled analysis.
Marvel’s Agent Carter was one of the TV highlights of last year. In among a whole bunch of comic book shows, many of them also coming from Marvel Studios, this one has its own distinctive flavour, developing the title character into one of the extended cinematic universe’s great assets. Now, it’s back for another run, with two extra episodes and new showrunners Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas, and Chris Dingess at the helm.
“I know my worth” was Agent Carter’s main takeaway from the first season and here, we find Peggy (Hayley Atwell) in full swing. A year later, she starts with a bruising dust-up with her nemesis, Soviet assassin Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan), during a sting operation at a bank. Dottie is apprehended by the SSR (the pre-S.H.I.E.L.D law enforcement department), but there’s little time for interrogation: Chief Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) soon reassigns Peggy to the newly formed west coast bureau.
Headed up by Peggy’s colleague Daniel Sousa, (Enver Gjokaj), the Los Angeles branch has been called in over a body found in a lake that has frozen over on the hottest day of the year. LAPD detective Andrew Henry (Sean O’Bryan) believes it to be the work of the Lady in the Lake killer, who was never caught and has been dormant for two years. Together with Sousa and her driver and confidante, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), Peggy not only has to determine whether or not the killer is linked to the freezing of the lake, but also figure out what the mysterious Isodyne Energy has to do with all of this.
Over its eight episode run, Season 1 of Agent Carter was a breakneck serial that largely developed its characters through action, with a few brief spells of introspection. Season 2 has two extra episodes to play with, and unlike the pilot, Now Is Not The End, this sometimes feels like it’s stretching its legs before the arc gets going properly.
The main problem is that the central mystery is the weakest element of the episode, feeling a tiny bit too procedural for this show. The weird science is fun, as always, but there’s awkward and repetitive exposition about Sousa having moved out to LA, and the whodunnit aspect becomes kind of obvious after you’ve been slapped in the face by a few red herrings. This story is sure to be important later, but there are a few too many missed beats.
On the other hand, the production team have faithfully created a Raymond Chandler-esque Hollywood (the episode title is a reference to one of his detective novels) just as well as Season 1 did post-war New York. Once again, this is staggering work on a network TV budget and the period detail remains one of the many sweeteners on a show with lots to like already. Even if the tonal homage doesn’t always work, it’s impeccably executed on the style front.
Meanwhile, Atwell and D’Arcy immediately recall their stellar double act as Peggy and Jarvis, with the latter craving a chance to get back in action after spending much of his time tending to Howard Stark’s taste for exotic birds, not to mention his pet flamingo, Bernard. We also finally get to see Mrs. Jarvis (Lotte Verbeek), who smashes out of her Maris-like unseen status with a brief but memorable turn.
Meanwhile, at Isodyne, Peggy meets a parallel and potential love interest in the form of Dr. Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin), a brilliant African American physicist who’s presumed to be a janitor by the white guys, just as Peggy was thought of as a secretary, despite working harder than anyone. Characters played by Wynn Everett, Currie Graham and Kurtwood Smith also figure in the episode at various points, all setting out their stalls as the narrative wheels start turning.
The Lady In The Lake is the start of a new story and it’s possible that its flaws might be easier to forgive once that story really gets going. There’s lots of interesting stuff going on with characters that we’ve grown to love, but it sometimes feels more like an episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. than Agent Carter. All of that said, this is a welcome return for a show that knows and has more than proven its worth over the course of the previous season and will hopefully continue in the propulsive serialised format it has set out so well.
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
– Let’s get the bad out of the way first: Detective Henry’s early aversion to touch, claiming that he catches a cold at any time of year, is a bit on the nose as foreshadowing that he’s the culprit. Dr. Wilkes’ red herring status is subverted twice by presenting him as a potential suspect and then revealing he’s up to his neck in something else at the very end, but Henry is the only obvious suspect – he’s the only one who knows to switch the shoes to pin it on the Lady In The Lake killer. He wants the SSR to help fix him, but he gets summarily dispatched (into smithereens) by the end. Even the cop who kills him shouting “I left my radio in the car!” is another awkward feint, in an episode full of them.
– On the plus side, it’s always good to see Dottie dominating her every scene and she had some particularly good ones with an insecure Thompson, who’s back to his old intimidatin’ ways in the interrogation room. He talks a big game – “You killed the carrot…” – but he’s as perturbed as any of us when she overcomes him. Then, Kurtwood Smith takes her away. His character, Vernon Masters, is high-up in the FBI and uses his personal connection to Thompson to persuade him that the SSR is a relic of wartime. But are his reasons for trying to coax him away nefarious or not?
– There’s a lot of mysterious black goo in that final scene with Wilkes, which is apparently a crossover with Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Given the scope of Marvel’s story universe, we don’t think this means you’ll have to keep up with both shows, but we do wonder if they’re teeing up a crossover between the two network shows at some point.
– Meanwhile in Hollywood, Howard Stark is setting up a movie studio, or he will be once the location scout stops letting him scout her locations. Amusingly, Jarvis ends up pitching a movie about Peggy to Hollywood starlet Whitney Frost (Everett) when he gets in a flap about distracting her. The title? Why, The British Are Coming, of course.
– That distraction comes in pursuit of Peggy’s suspicion that Isodyne’s industrialist founder and senatorial candidate Calvin Chadwick (Graham) might know what’s going on, as he cheated on his wife Whitney with the dead girl. We learn by the end that it might be Whitney who’s pulling the strings, which will be interesting to anybody who knows of the character’s namesake in Marvel Comics…
Main photo: ABC Studios & Marvel / Patrick Wymore