Agent Carter: The Lady in the Lake

“California is gonna go to hell in a handbasket.”

Margaret Carter, how I have missed you.

The opening of the episode should have been familiar if you’d seen season one. A beautiful brunette confidently striding through a sea of men, instantly identifiable by a bright red hat. That this time, that woman happened to be Dottie Underwood instead of Peggy Carter was beyond perfect. Dottie is clearly obsessed with Peggy and has been since season one when she broke into her apartment, rummaged through her panty drawer, stole her lipstick, and then kissed her. All of which was most definitely necessary for the mission at hand </sarcasm>. After playfully suggesting that her next disguise might be as an SSR agent last season, Dottie has emerged as a Peggy doppelgänger, although taller and rather deranged. Like I said, obsessed.

Watching the SSR take down Dottie at the bank was so cinematic and satisfying it even got me to cheer for that undeniable ass Thompson. For about a minute. Dottie was attempting to steal a mysterious lapel pin with a seriously intriguing design.

We have to get into some Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. mythology here. The symbol on the lapel pin bears a striking resemblance to the logo of Project Distant Star Return, the organization that sent Will Daniels (aka Jemma Simmons’ space boyfriend) to the mysterious blue planet known as Maveth. While Project Distant Star Return was, to all appearances, under the auspices of NASA, it was in fact controlled by HYDRA. Project Distant Star Return was secretly engineered to transport astronauts to Maveth via the monolith in order to return an alien confusingly known only as “It” to earth. According to Gideon Malick, getting “It” to earth has always been HYDRA’s number one priority, a feat they accomplished in the mid-season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also worth remembering: we recently learned that HYDRA is actually the modern form of an ancient secret society that predates World War II. So despite Arnim Zola, the man who would later build HYDRA into S.H.I.E.L.D. being in prison (or having been out of prison for less than six months), it’s entirely possible, even likely, that HYDRA is controlling Isodyne and is related to the lapel pin. Are you confused yet?

Okay, back to the present, by which I mean the past. Peggy begins her interrogation of Dottie only to be undermined by Thompson who’d rather grab the glory of a confession himself. Faster than you could say “Thompson, you asshole,” Peggy was on her way to sunshine and palm trees, leaving Dottie to nearly kill Thompson with a table. Which I loved.

Peggy’s move to Los Angeles allows the show to head in a distinctly noir direction. In the first episode alone we have the murdered mistress of a powerful politician, dirty cops, and a dramatic scene under a bridge. Also, a flamingo named Bernard. Which may or may not be a film noir trope; I’m not overly familiar with the genre.

Sousa, being the second most competent person in his field office (after Peggy, of course), has been promoted and given his own field office in Los Angeles in the six month gap between seasons. He’s also gotten himself a girl. More on that in the next review. His current case reminded me of an early Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode. In it, a device caused a pool and a person to freeze. It doesn’t seem to have any connection with this mystery, which appears to be rooted in a toxic substance, a toxic substance that killed one Jane Scott, former mistress to Calvin Chadwick, owner of Isodyne energy, politician, and definite bad guy. Whether her death was an accident or intentional is an open question, although I’d put my money on accident. It seems like an overly complicated way to rid oneself of a troublesome mistress. Death by freezing is also a reference to Captain America, currently frozen in the Arctic. Poor Steve.

Speaking of romantic interests, I want to like Dr. Wilkes and his Fitzsimmons-esque enthusiasm for science certainly helped that along, but he’s just so…smooth. Way too smooth. He ruffled Peggy. No one ruffles Peggy. He’s probably evil. Just a note about potential romance for Peggy: she says in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that her husband was saved by Steve during the war. Just something you might want to be aware of.

I have to say I’m a little disappointed with the introduction of Ana Jarvis. Not that I dislike her character particularly, but because I’m a fan of the character who inexplicably never appears onscreen thing. Ana has certainly appeared onscreen now and is just as vivacious and friendly as her husband is proper and polite. I had indeed been expecting “Mr. Jarvis in a girdle.” This is better. She’s already struck up a fast friendship with Peggy. A garter holster: the ultimate way to Agent Carter’s heart. Ana feels a bit like a replacement for Angie who Peggy sadly left behind in New York. I was totally on board for the action to move to Los Angeles, but I wish it didn’t have to come at the loss of such a great character. And honestly, I’m not sure it had to. Couldn’t Angie have tagged along to Hollywood with Peggy? She’s an aspiring actress, I’m sure she could have found something to do.

Intel and Assets

--The episode takes its name from a Raymond Chandler novel.

--When Peggy heads into the Los Angeles office for the first time, you can see a marquee with Whitney Frost’s name in the background.

Peggy: “Love the hat.”

Jarvis: “Miss Carter, you have no idea how foreign Los Angeles will seem to a civilized person such as yourself. They eat avocados with everything. The foliage is preposterous. Take the palm tree. Would you trust the structural integrity of such a thing? They afford no shade. Everybody says it’s a very dry heat, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t unbearably hot. And worst of all, the drivers are both abundant and abundantly irresponsible.”

Peggy: “How is…everything?”
Rose: “Everything is through the first door to your right. You can’t miss him.”

Jarvis: “This would be a spy picture. You’d play a female agent. Tough as nails.”
Whitney: “Now I’m intrigued. So she doesn’t have a love interest?”
Jarvis: “We haven’t found the right actor yet.”

three out of four pairs of fabulous red sunglasses


migmit said...

I missed her too. How great that PTB decided to give "Agent Carter" a second season.

I was also suspicious about Dr. Wilks. But I remember being equally suspicious about Souza — and, basically for the same reason. They are both too likeable. Adding Jarvis (Mr.) to the bunch gets us a likeable males overload.

BTW, after second episode I'm much less suspicious about Wilks.

Ana, I think, is great. I can totally see Jarvis going to great lengths to help her escape from Budapest. It doesn't make him a hero, it just proves that he is sane.

Finally — about Thompson. I have a soft spot for this guy. Yes, he always thinks about his own interests... but I bet he would end up doing the right thing. And then turn it into another medal for himself. I think if he thought that Peggy really is the only one who can break Dottie, he won't let her go to LA. He might be wrong. Guess we won't find out.

Marianna said...

I also missed Peggy Carter! I expected at least a good chunk of the season to be focused on capturing Dottie Underwood (or whatever her real name is) so I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly that plot thread was handled. Although as a New Yorker I am a bit disappointed that it seems like the whole season will be taking place in LA. It does make sense though if you've seen the Peggy Carter one-shot (which Marvel has said takes place after this show), there's a scene of Howard Stark in what looks like his home in LA. If you haven't, I strongly recommend it:

Josie Kafka said...

Are you confused yet?

Oh, god, yes. I had no idea that so much backstory was happening on SHIELD; I hope I don't have to start watching that show again.

Also, a flamingo named Bernard. Which may or may not be a film noir trope; I’m not overly familiar with the genre.

I love you, Sunbunny.

I really enjoyed this episode, mostly because I love:

1. Peggy Carter
2. 1940s LA
3. Sunshine Noir
4. Peggy Carter
5. Cats (I got to cuddle with mind while watching)

FlopHairedWuss said...

Yay it's finally back!!

It's amazing how quickly this show found its footing compared to SHIELD, which while I do like it, is still quite uneven. It also doesn't have anyone as interesting as Peggy (May comes close) nor as charismatic as Hayley Atwell.

Mostly I love how much fun this show is. Especially when shows like The Flash, which initially embraced that element of their show, are going down a more dour and broody path (in terms of the protagonist anyway).