Imagine the final scenes of last week’s episodes drawn out all too long. Then subtract the snappy dialogue and the Howard Stark of it all. And layer it with flashbacks to a ten year-old Peggy Carter that have little to nothing to do with the overall plot.
It leads the first act to be very boring and, well that’s really about it. Nothing of consequence eventuates. It’s dragging its feet without good reason.
And then out of nowhere the episode really begins. Mr Jarvis arrives and Peggy springs into action, delivering a comedic and powerful action scene to apprehend a hulking menace. Sousa arrives and makes a much more convincing point to the love triangle than he ever mustered in Season One. It’s back to business as usual for the odd couple.
The flashbacks continue a little more insightfully, highlighting the rampant sexism of the early twentieth century. Agent Carter has always leant heavily on this angle to varying degrees of success but the younger, less worldly Peggy’s realisation to it all it a character moment rather than a depressing cliché. It’s also strange to see her vulnerable, and while a pre-war Peggy is intriguing perhaps a whole linear flashback episode would have suited rather than an interlocking jumble.
The war continues to cast its shadow over the season. There were rumours the series would skip decade to decade similar to the X-Men prequel series, eliminating this element from future seasons. Carter has never been a reliable historical drama but it does get the war attitude completely right. World War II completely changed the world and the lives of billions of individuals. It was a near-universal event too. To alleviate this crucial element to the series would have been a mistake, and there’s always Ant-Man to have Hayley Atwell in ridiculous prosthetic.
As the episode continues to pick up speed it becomes more incredulous it started so slowly. Vernon Masters, shady War Department big wig, comes face to face with Agent Carter. He’s a threatening old force determined to slowly unbolt the framework to the SSR and the show’s current position. It’s not playing it safe and it’s exciting.
Further flashbacks indicate our heroine was previously engaged to an obnoxious fool and her brother did not approve. Upon her brother’s death she took up a role with Tommy Lee Jones that would lead to the events of Captain America: The First Avenger. So genesis complete? So no more flashbacks? Yes? YES? YES!
An interrogation occurs and a hitman spills some secrets to the SSR. There’s some clever ideas floating about and stands above a regular cop procedural by harnessing the time period inventively. Peggy bugs the hitman and allows him to escape, leading him to the door of our evildoers and revealing that the evil folk would rather break away from the nefarious council sooner rather than later. Schemers.
Whitney Frost, secret genius and disgruntled Hollywood starlet, reveals her supernatural abilities to her husband by way of murdering the assassin. A final flashback shows her younger doey-eyed self being wooed by a talent agent for… no reason. It’s as though the show had a really solid twenty-five minute script, an interesting sibling angle for Peggy and not a lot else going on so it padded it with senseless fluff.
Still Agent Carter’s senseless fluff is heartier than Legends of Tomorrow’s more poignant moments. The show is allowed to collect its thoughts and change pace to avoid repetition. It’s clearly making a conscious effort to slowly destroy the SSR. S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the horizon. Maybe at the end of the third season, because who doesn’t love a trilogy?
It’s just after three blockbusters it’s disorientating to stop so suddenly, then speed up back to excitement, and then jar quickly at the end. It was fine in retrospect, but it was not the Agent Carter this reviewer has been praising all season long.