Saturday, 23 January 2016

Review - Agent Carter: 2x01 - "The Lady in the Lake"


Agent Carter
Episode 2x01 - "The Lady in the Lake"

Synopsis

A year after her previous adventure with Howard Stark, Agent Peggy Carter finds herself drawn into another exciting mystery as she is transferred to Los Angeles to help out Sousa and the SSR’s West Coast division. Meanwhile, Dottie Underwood re-emerges from hiding with a new mysterious agenda and her obsession with Peggy still firmly intact.

Review

After the success of its initial eight episode mini-series, Agent Carter returns to TV screens to once again fill in for Agents of SHIELD during its hiatus, this time for a ten-episode run and substituting the dark streets of post-war New York for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. Straight off the bat, the series addresses the loose plot thread of Dottie Underwood before setting up its newest season arc, although I suspect that Miss Underwood will return to menace Peggy at the most inopportune moment. It was interesting to see a different side to Peggy this time around, bolstered with confidence and support following on from her success at apprehending Leviathan – in fact, it was this new-found respect and recognition within the team that made Thompson, now Chief of the SSR, somewhat envious and eager to transfer her over to the west coast offices.

The writers clearly know they have a good thing with the pairing of Carter and Jarvis, and the two are quickly reunited and a new perspective is introduced to their relationship with the first on-screen appearance of Ana, his wife. In fact, with Sousa, Thompson and Underwood all returning for this second series, Agent Carter managed to maintain the same atmosphere and tone as its inaugural series, despite the change in locale. The decision to relocate to Los Angeles is an inspired one, and I love that whole 1940's Hollywood vibe, and while it isn't overly apparent in this first episode, I hope that the series will tap into that whole gritty detective noir mood. I'm a massive fan of that “Hollywood Grime” genre, exemplified by stories such as LA Noire and the Black Dahlia. There's something about explored the seamy underbelly of Hollywood excess that appeals to me, and this 1940s time period is so evocative. Most of my enjoyment from the first series came from the effectiveness of its period-centric storytelling and the way the series felt like a spiritual sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, showcasing the world that Steve Rogers left behind. I certainly hope this continues with this sophomoric outing.


The murder mystery at the heart of this episode is a fascinating one, and much like the theft of Stark's inventions in the first series, I like the subtle introduction of science-fiction into this 1940s time period. This is a world before alien invasions became a routine, almost annual, occurrence for the people of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it's good to see the series adopt a restrained approach to its more colourful elements. Once again it seems as if scientific advances are at the heart of this storyline with the mysterious Isodyne Energy corporation behind some experimentation that led to the “cold virus” that spread through its victims in this episode. It's a great visual hook, and much like the Nitramene from the last season, it seems wholly believable in this 1940s environment where scientists are busy creating the latest nuclear weaponry.

While most of this episode was dedicated to reintroducing the characters in their new situations and setting up the new status-quo, I found myself enjoying the beginnings of this latest mystery, which had enough similarities to the previous season-arc to feel  true to the spirit of the series, but also distinguished itself to ensure that it wasn't just retreading old ground. It seems that the Agent Carter writing team has a clear vision of what made Season One so great and is building upon that for its second season. Hayley Atwell remains pitch-perfect as the charismatic lead, bringing Peggy Carter to life as the unflappable special agent who is able to take charge of things in a male-dominated world. She's a fantastic actress and a brilliant role model for female empowerment – something that has been lacking in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and comic book TV shows as a whole. Yes, I'm looking at you, Supergirl!


Score - 9.7 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Whitney Frost is the civilian name of Madame Masque, a love interest and enemy of Iron Man in the Marvel Comics Universe. She wears a golden mask to cover up her disfigured face and has no super-powers, although she is skilled in hand-to-hand combat and a keen marksman. (First app: Tales of Suspense # 98)
  • Frost’s latest movie “Tales of Suspense” is a reference to the name of the comic she first appeared in.

Mysteries
  • Why did Dottie Underwood break into a bank just to steal a lapel pin?
  • What was it that caused the corpse, the mortician and Detective Henry to freeze to death?
  • What is the mysterious substance that Dr Wilkes was observing at the episode climax?

Next Episode - "A View in the Dark"
Peggy discovers her murder investigation has huge ramifications that can destroy her career, as well as everyone near and dear to her.

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