by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)
So, we all remember Agent Carter and her wonderful Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. prequel show, right? Peggy runs around as an Agent of the SSR post-war intelligence, aided by Howard Stark, his butler Jarvis, and various and sundry other characters in a 1940’s-style wardrobe with enough moxie to out-do every single one of these men! This season, Agent Carter was sent to Los Angeles and finds herself embroiled in strange miraculous scientific doings, dark cabal murder plots, internal agency corruption and yet there’s still time for some epic slices of romance!
Originally Agent Carter, after showing up all her male counterparts right smartly as she often does in the New York SSR branch, went to L.A. in theory for some enforced vacation time. It turns out Agent Sousa, a kind of love interest from season one, is now Captain of the L.A. offices of the SSR, and of course, Peggy has to go visit him and find out what’s hopping here in California. Unsurprisingly, smart Stark butler and Jarvis of all trades, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), is out in L.A. keeping Howard Stark’s (Dominic Cooper) ridiculous house with his wife while Howard concerns himself with making movies. Peggy meets very smart scientist Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) while hot on the trail of murderers and something scientifically out of this world, called Zero Matter. Secret genius and sultry starlet Whitney Frost gets involved with the Zero Matter too, causing all sorts of ripples in the secret society world of her politician husband Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham), and thug underworld boyfriend Joseph Manfredi (Ken Marino), too.
So, how does it all stack up against some of the admittedly best ever television series about superheroes, on-going right now? I adore you, Peggy Carter, I really do, but it just doesn’t seem like enough. The expected popularity of the series was based on two things: the badassery of Agent Carter herself, and the prequel setting-up of S.H.I.E.L.D. back during the original Captain America times. And while Peggy is forever the epitome of togetherness with her smart dresses, perfect makeup and hair, always ready with a witty comeback whenever she’s slighted by her male coworkers, season two of Agent Carter proves, once again, that she simply cannot do it alone. Having Jarvis as a walking, talking helper (as opposed to the dis-embodied voice Tony Stark uses), like Watson to her Sherlock, is always a treat, and does provide a backward continuity of sorts. Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), sent by various good and bad guys from New York to L.A. to keep an eye on whatever the hell Peggy’s up to, plays a good double agent, we’re never quite sure what he’ll respond with. As Ward clearly demonstrated on Agents of SHIELD, just because I help you once, that does not make me an actual good guy. And Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), well, he tried to make a life out here in the sun, with a pretty little nurse fiancé even, which went all to Hades just as soon as Peggy showed up.
So Whitney Frost is, aside from being your typical diva starlet, a super-secret scientific genius, and as soon as she learns about Zero Matter, oh, she is hot to trot for it and anything, and anyone, else connected to it! Dr. Wilkes manages to get himself infected with Zero Matter during a tussle, too, and now has a bit of a seriously lacking-weight problem. He also has a bit of a troubling attraction to Peggy, who does seem to reciprocate his interest, at least somewhat, but this introduces the unfortunate eggshells part of the show. To “walk on eggshells” basically implies tiptoeing very carefully around mentioning anything that could offend, entice, or otherwise anger other people, right? Well, the fact that Dr. Jason Wilkes is a handsome, intelligent scientist and a black man in 1940s America means his choices for employment are extremely limited, and he’s actually generally considered lower on any totem pole than even Peggy herself. But approaching that unpleasant truth in a superhero show would be tantamount to suicide, so Agent Carter touches this fact lightly, and only once or twice, nor does Peggy for even a moment consider his race a factor in her attraction to him.
And, it does have to be mentioned, they brought back perhaps the best villainess from the first season: Dottie Underwood! Rotting away in prison with her no-longer peroxide-blonde hair, our Peggy comes to spring Dottie because, well, she’s got a snatch-and-grab job that needs help and Dottie (Bridget Regan) is the perfect foil to Peggy’s armor!
The sets used are perfectly serviceable, standard Marvel tropes as far as fighting in abandoned tenement buildings or warehouses, and the show went to great pains to have age-appropriate cars and window shading. Season two even had a 1940s musical number featuring — what else — men, and some women too, fighting over Agent Carter! But it’s the costumes themselves, given to us by designer Gigi Ottobre-Melton, that really truly make Agent Carter seem like it sashayed out of the 1940s. The men’s suits are cut from the finest broadcloth, and the women’s dresses, patterns, and even colors are just to die for. No one wears it better than Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter herself, and the sharp, bold coloring of what she wears makes her stand out nicely against the lighter and occasionally deliberate sepia tones of the surrounding show. Visually, the show is an absolute treat, there’s no question about that.
So will Agent Carter be saving the day, yet again, in season three? What will happen to Jarvis and Stark and company, now that they’ve opened (and hopefully closed) a dimensional portal on a movie studio lot? Will Peggy and Dottie finally sit down and have a Ladies’ Night that doesn’t involve fisticuffs together? What about that epic kiss that Peggy finally planted on Sousa? We’ll just have to hope for the best, but don’t forget to raise your voice and be heard in the desire to bring back Peggy’s iconic red fedora for a third round of epic feminine badassery!