Showing posts with label Agent Carter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Agent Carter. Show all posts

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Review - Agent Carter: 2x10 - "Hollywood Ending"


Agent Carter
Episode 2x10 - "Hollywood Ending"

Synopsis

With Whitney Frost empowered by the Zero Matter, Agent Carter must rely on both friends and former enemies to engineer a plan to rid the world of the alien substance and restore things back to normal.

Review

With no formal confirmation on a Season Three yet, this season finale of Agent Carter had the difficult job of providing viewers with a sense of closure but offering enough teases to get them to return for more. Season One managed this brilliantly by having Dottie Underwood escape into the night and dropping hints about Dr. Faustus and Armin Zola forming a partnership which would ultimately lead to the Winter Soldier's brainwashing in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Here, the writers rely more heavily on a potential third season with post-episode stinger that killed off one of the series' lead characters without any real explanation – if the series doesn't get renewed, it will be one sore kick in the teeth to fans of the show and yet another frustrating unsolved mystery due to a cancelled TV show. Yeah, I'm still bitter about the season finales of Alcatraz and FlashForward, even now! While this second season didn't have the same momentum and pitch-perfect social commentary as the original, it remained an enjoyable romp set against the glamour and glitz of Hollywood.

Despite the shock ending of last episode which saw Dr. Wilkes seemingly exploding into a mass of Zero Matter, he somehow managed to survive the experience and was even purged of the substance. The unpredictable nature of the Zero Matter was something that frustrated me throughout the whole of this series, and while the writers did address it with a few lines explaining that it affects individuals in different ways, I found myself slightly disappointed at the lack of information that was discovered about the substance. Hopefully, the air of mystery surrounding the Zero Matter and the Portal means that the writers plan to revisit it again in future storylines, perhaps even in Agents of SHIELD, although it does bear too many similarities to that series' current plot-line revolving around Terrigenesis and Inhumans. Despite a weak core to its season-long arc, Agent Carter has managed to shine through its wonderful roster of characters and the strong acting skill of its cast, and this final episode was no exception. I loved that this finale brought all of the lead and supporting characters together, with the notable exception of Dottie Underwood, and gave them all vital parts to play in defeating Whitney Frost. This series' strength came from its characters and relationships, to the point where I let out an audible gasp when Carter finally kissed Sousa and got her own 'Hollywood Ending'.


While it was great to see Carter and Sousa finally paired off together after Season One's subtle flirting and the rather under-utilised love triangle of this season, it remains to be seen whether Sousa is the man she eventually marries and is mentioned in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I'd like to think that he is, but Peggy has plenty of adventures before she reaches that hospital bed in the future – let's just hope ABC decide to continue showing them on their TV channel. If the series does return, I suspect it will revolve more around the Arena Club and Council of Nine, given Thompson's unceremonious exit in the episode's stinger. Perhaps we will find out why Dottie Underwood was so keen to get her hands on the key during the Season Two premiere? I'm guessing there is possibly some Russian influence behind the Council, linking the two seasons together and sending Agent Carter into the Cold War era. It would be fun if the series moved away from its post-war timeline and focused more heavily on the 1950s and classic espionage tropes. This season proved that simply increasing the super-powered elements doesn't always result in a stronger storyline, and perhaps a return to the series' original concept as a historical spy drama would work better.

This review feels more negative than I intended it to be when I started out – I certainly enjoyed this season finale, which offered a fitting end to Season Two's game of cat-and-mouse with Zero Matter, and my main criticisms stem from the pacing of the season and unfairly comparing it against its predecessor. As I said earlier, the ensemble cast continue to shine brightly in this series, especially Hayley Atwell, and the recent additions and change of scenery served only to enhance the series. While Season One felt like a spiritual sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, filling in the blanks after Steve Rogers disappeared and left Peggy Carter alone and heart-broken, this second season felt a bit more out of place, borrowing elements from its mother series, Agents of SHIELD and fitting them into its post-War late 1940s setting. Hopefully, a third season (and this show needs and deserves a third season) will rectify these problems and craft a far more compelling season-long arc for Peggy Carter and her friends at the SSR. Judging from the stinger at the end of this episode, it is certainly a possibility.


Score - 9.3 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • N/A
Mysteries
  • Who killed Jack Thompson?
  • What does the Arena Club key open?
  • What is the importance of those classified files involving Peggy Carter, and why did the Assassin take them?
  • Where is Dottie Underwood?

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Review - Agent Carter: 2x09 - "A Little Song and Dance"


Agent Carter
Episode 2x09 - "A Little Song and Dance"

Synopsis

Determined to find out more about Dr. Wilkes exposure to the alternate dimension, Whitney Frost begins to experiment on him – whilst Peggy and Jarvis find themselves at odds as they attempt to escape Manfredi's men. Meanwhile, Agent Thompson reveals his true colours as he attempts to engineer a plan to defuse the Zero Matter problem…

Review

Even in its penultimate episode, Agent Carter continues to experiment with its narrative structure with an opening dream sequence that resembled a musical production of the 1940s. While it was fun to see the main cast singing and dancing their way through Peggy’s romantic sub-conscious, this sequence did overrun slightly and offered nothing constructive to the episode aside from a brief cameo from Angie, Peggy’s room-mate from the first season. Earlier in the season it would have made a nice diversion from the slow-burning storyline, but with the stakes raised and the plot hurtling towards a conclusion, it did feel like an over-indulgent way to open this episode. Admittedly, after the fast-paced action of last episode, “A Little Song and Dance” did feel somewhat slow at times, rebuilding the tension and suspense for the final episode.

The main thrust of this episode was Chief Thompson and his wavering loyalties – after seemingly establishing him as an ally in the preceding episode, the show’s writers kept the audience guessing as to his true motivations with multiple double-crosses and bluffs. I must admit part of me did think he was stupid enough to betray everyone in order to gain a seat on the Council of Nine – in fact, I was surprised at how quickly the writers raised and dismissed that notion. It would have been more fun if they’d played with it a bit longer before letting us (and Peggy) in on Thompson’s plan. Despite the fact he was working on the right side, Thompson’s extreme plan was met with criticism from both Carter and Sousa, leading to a tense confrontation outside the junkyard. I suspect it will be quickly resolved once they become aware of Dr. Wilkes’ explosion inside, but it made for an interesting stand-off and injected some dramatic tension in the episode’s final moments.


My initial guess that Dr. Wilkes had been possessed by an alien entity turned out to be completely wrong and it seems he has instead observed a massive amount of Zero Matter, which has made his body unstable and extremely volatile. His final scenes, which saw him accept his fate and exploding all over Whitney Frost and Vernon Masters, suggest that he has inadvertently empowered the pair of power-mad villains, giving Agent Carter and her friends two super-powered threats to eliminate. I’m curious to see the aftermath of this development and how much it has changed Masters and Frost. With Joseph Manfredi and Dottie Underwood also on the side-lines, the season finale has been littered with a number of antagonists for her heroes to deal with and I hope it manages to deliver a satisfactory ending to what has been a slightly uneven second season. With the stakes raised, I do worry about the safety of our heroes – particularly Thompson and Sousa – who are the most expendable of the cast.

As a prelude to the grand finale, this episode of Agent Carter does a tremendous job in setting events in motion, although it was slightly off-centre at times. In amongst the scene-building for the finale, there were some great character moments, especially between Peggy and Jarvis as the two let loose their pent-up frustrations about the other. It was great to see the series deal with Jarvis’ footloose “love affair” with the espionage and spy world, which has been a subtle ‘narrative fruit’ that has been growing throughout the season. While the relationship has been played for laughs throughout the two seasons of Agent Carter, it was great to see some genuine character moments between the two and seeing Jarvis grow out of the caricature foppish butler role and into a three-dimensional character. While the first season was firmly focused on Peggy Carter herself, this second season has done a great job at sharing the spotlight, providing secondary characters like Edwin Jarvis, Daniel Sousa and Dottie Underwood with some intriguing character development.


Score - 9.4 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • The opening dance sequence feels like a blend of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, "Once More with Feeling" and "Restless".

Mysteries
  • What happened when Dr. Wilkes exploded?

Next Episode - "Hollywood Ending"
Peggy needs Howard Stark to eliminate Zero Matter as they are faced with a mission none of them could come back.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Review - Agent Carter: 2x08 - "The Edge of Mystery"


Agent Carter
Episode 2x08 - "The Edge of Mystery"

Synopsis

As Jarvis and Peggy deal with the aftermath of Whitney’s invasion of Stark’s home, she begins her plans to re-enact the atomic explosion that introduced Zero Matter into our universe with the aim to increase her power and mastery over the alien element. With things heading towards a climax, there are some surprising last-minute changes of allegiance as the two sides clash.

Review

This was a stand-out episode of Agent Carter, which much like “Life of the Party” served to push the narrative closer towards the season finale. I was surprised by the amount of character development that occurred in this episode, with both Dr. Wilkes and Chief Thompson making sudden switches in their allegiance and revealing their true colours. As Wilkes snapped and turned against Peggy and Sousa, it seemed clear that the love triangle was something of a red herring and the writer's planned for Peggy and Sousa to get together – although, I can't shake the feeling that either Sousa or Thompson might not make it out of this season alive. In fact, the moment when Thompson stood up to Vernon Masters, I half-expected him to receive a bullet in the gut for his reward, but luckily he only received a mild case of amnesia. I really liked seeing the two SSR boys working alongside Peggy – it felt like old times, and was one of the highlights of the episode was both Thompson and Sousa shouting at Samberly to “do as Peggy says”.

There was also a dramatic change in character from Jarvis, who displayed some wonderfully human moments when he was beside his wife's hospital bed. Both the writing and James D'Arcy's performance were top-notch, elevating the character beyond a simple side-kick and buffoon. It was interesting to see him driven by revenge, especially the way he shot Whitney Frost in the chest without warning. It adds a whole new dimension to the character, demonstrating how easily good men can snap and become ruthless, dangerous and bad-ass. He's like the 1940's version of The Punisher! With his last will and testament stored in his wife's care package in the hospital, it seems clear that the writer's want us to think that Jarvis is in serious danger, but considering his double-act with Peggy is one of the defining elements of the series, I would be very surprised if he was killed off. On a side-note, I thought the revelation that his wife was unable to have kids due to her internal injuries was a bit out of the blue – it felt like it was merely introduced to give Jarvis more reason to want Whitney dead, but I don't think it was needed.


The climactic set-piece in the desert certainly felt 'big' as all of the lead characters congregated in one place. If it has been two episodes later, it could easily have been the final battle, but clearly something else has been introduced into the mix that is bigger than Whitney Frost's hunger for more power, and I suspect these remaining two episodes will position Wilkes (or whatever is inside him) to be the new “big bad”. Once he went inside the void, I wasn't expecting him to be spat back out into our world, and I definitely wasn't expecting him to have things crawling about underneath his skin. It's interesting to note how similar this particular aspect of the plot is the current one running in Agents of SHIELD, which saw saw Grant Ward also returning through a portal and possessed by an alien entity. I am very eager to find out what has happened to Wilkes, and what he has brought back with him. The whole scene was masterfully paced, creating a genuine sense of uncertainly as the two scientists opened up a black hole to another dimension. Given that there are two nukes, I expect Whitney will attempt a second breach in the finale, and I can't wait to find out more about the dimensional rift and what lies behind it.

This was a superb episode that set things up nicely for the finale and provided viewers with a wonderful cliff-hanger ending riddled with mysteries. I must admit that the ending had me eager to watch the next installment – something that rarely occurs with TV shows nowadays – I think the last time I was this excited for the next episode of a TV show was at the end of the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad's final season. With two episodes left to go, I hope that the show's writers don't lose the pace established in the final quarter of this episode as it truly felt as if things were coming to a head. It will be interesting to see how Sousa and Thompson work together to rescue Peggy and Jarvis from Whitney Frost's clutches, especially with her pet mobster Joseph Manfredi in charge. There's also that loose end of Dottie Underwood, who I sincerely hope returns during these final two episodes, especially if a Season Three looks unlikely. It would be a great twist if she partnered with Sousa and Thompson to rescue Peggy, possibly even redeeming herself in the process. I have no idea how things will play out over the next two episodes, but the events of this episode have certainly gotten me ready for what promises to be a thrill ride of a finale!


Score - 9.7 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • N/A

Mysteries
  • Where is Dottie Underwood?
  • What has happened to Dr. Wilkes?
  • Where did Dr. Wilkes travel to when he went inside the dimensional rift?

Next Episode - "A Little Song and Dance"
Peggy desperately tries to save Dr. Wilkes with a dangerous plan to stop Whitney Frost. But Thompson makes a surprising move that could destroy them all.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Review - Agent Carter: 2x07 - "Monsters"


Agent Carter
Episode 2x07 - "Monsters"

Synopsis

With Dottie Underwood being held captive by Whitney Frost, it is a race against time for Peggy to rescue her nemesis before she reveals key Intel to Frost and her cohorts. Meanwhile, Doctor Wilkes begins to make the first steps towards regaining his corporeal form, but could that be cut short by Whitney Frost’s nefarious plans?

Review

In the aftermath of Whitney Frost's decimation of the Council of Nine, the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles is looking rather different than it did the night before. With the majority of the first season of Agent Carter focused on Peggy's attempts to get recognition and legitimacy from within the SSR, it is another interesting parallel to see Whitney, already portrayed as mirror image of Carter, achieve her goal of “female empowerment” through a power play, relying on fear to gain prominence in an all-male environment, as opposed to respect. It's interesting to see these two strong-willed women clash, especially with Dottie Underwood caught in the middle and acting as a wild-card. Despite her disappearance at the end of this episode, I suspect she may return before the season's end, possibly to provide assistance to Peggy once more. I certainly hope she does, and her reappearance in both this episode and the preceding one has reinvigorated the season after a slight lull.

This episode was firmly focused on Whitney Frost, allowing the viewers to see her true personality now that she had finally gotten rid of her husband, Calvin Chadwick. After her attack on the Council of Nine, which acted as a metamorphosis for the character, she seems to be embracing her dark side and the obsession to gain more power and more Zero Matter continues to motivate her actions. Given the discussion she has with Dr. Wilkes at the episode's climax, and the strange symbiotic relationship the two of them have when they come into contact, I suspect that Wilkes may find himself following her down the dark path to re-enacting the Atomic Experiment that caused the Zero Matter to manifest in our universe. Replacing whiny Calvin Chadwick is the hot-headed Joseph Manfredi, who acts as Whitney's muscle and will no doubt become another hurdle that Carter and her team will have to deal with before they confront Whitney Frost. It's a shame that they couldn't use the Spider-Man villain, Hammerhead, as he'd have made an excellent 1940s gangster with his pin-striped suits and metal-plated forehead.


While there was less action in this episode compared to “Life of the Party”, the show's writers managed to create a genuine sense of unease as Ana Jarvis was put into danger. In a nice “bait and switch”, the writers focused on Ana's fear of her husband being hurt in action to make the readers think that Jarvis was in danger, but then turned the tables and had Ana injured instead. Considering that she wasn't declared dead in this episode, I suspect she'll pull through and perhaps this incident will have a profound effect on Jarvis and his continued partnership with Agent Carter. While he has primarily been a figure of fun in the show, James D'Arcy did a fantastic job at making the foppish and pedantic Edwin Jarvis appear very human when his beloved wife was shot down in front of him. The action also showcased the ruthless side of Whitney Frost – a trait not wholly shared by Peggy, as she quite rightly stayed with her injured friend rather than give chase after Frost.

While it may have been something of a transitionary episode that moved the various pieces into their places for the next big action sequence, this was a solid and enjoyable episode of Agent Carter. Events moved along at a decent pace, including some further development to the awkward love triangle between Peggy, her boss and the weird ghost fella. It was funny to see Jarvis and Carter discuss her love-life on the way to their mission, both of whom were equally uncomfortable with the situation as each other. Personally, I am rooting for Carter and Sousa to get together, mainly because the only interesting thing about Dr. Wilkes is that you can walk through him. Once he gets his corporeal form back, he's just a boring scientist who likes to make wine with a Bunsen burner kit. As we head towards the final three episodes of this season, I'm looking forward to seeing more physical transformations from Whitney Frost, or at least an appearance of the iconic gold-plated mask that the character wears in the comics. Both her and Vernon Masters have done a great job at establishing themselves as “love to hate” villains, and I can't wait for them to get their comeuppance over the next few installments.


Score - 9.4 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • N/A

Mysteries
  • Will Anna Jarvis survive her gunshot wounds?
  • What does Whitney Frost intend to do with Dr Wilkes?

Next Episode - "The Edge of Mystery"
Peggy and Sousa propose a trade with Whitney Frost, while the SSR gets help from Howard Stark that may be the key to eliminating Zero Matter.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Review - Agent Carter: 2x06 - "Life of the Party"


Agent Carter
Episode 2x06 - "Life of the Party"

Synopsis

Still injured after her encounter with Whitney Frost, Peggy must turn to her worst enemy in order to retrieve some vital Zero Matter to prevent Dr. Wilkes from disappearing into the void forever. Meanwhile, Whitney finds herself coming face to face with the shadowy Council of Nine with dramatic repercussions.

Review

I must admit that Season Two of Agent Carter hadn't grabbed me in the same way that Season One had – while I liked the relocation to Los Angeles, the storyline revolving around Whitney Frost and the shadowy Council of Nine failed to excite me. It was only when watching this episode and seeing Dottie Underwood cause mischief amongst Carter and her colleagues that I realised how much she brought to the first Season of the show, and how much I’d been missing her. As powerful and evil as Whitney Frost is, she lacks that psychotic spark that Bridget Regan brings to the character of Dottie Underwood. The chemistry between her and Hayley Atwell is brilliant, and far outshines the supposed sexual tension between Peggy, Sousa and Wilkes. I’m really enjoying seeing their relationship develop into a Holmes/Moriarty-esque rivalry – you can’t escape the feeling that these two might be friends if they were on the same side. With this in mind, it was great to see Underwood temporarily helping out Carter, even though it was inevitable that she’d attempt to escape or betray Peggy.

This episode featured a very similar structure to the preceding episode with a seemingly impossible task outlined at the beginning, resulting in Peggy drafting in some unlikely help to achieve her goal. Despite the thematic repetition, I really enjoyed this episode – even moreso than its predecessor – thanks mainly to Bridget Regan’s involvement. Not content to rest on its laurels, the episode saw dramatic development in Whitney Frost’s story-arc as she finally addressed the men of the Council of Nine, only to be betrayed by her spineless husband. This resulted in the best display of her Zero Matter powers yet, as she seemed to remotely drain the life-force from her targets, conjuring tendrils of Zero Matter out of the floor. It felt very reminiscent of Spawn or Venom, and not at all like the Madame Masque character from the comics, but given how cool the scene was, I’m prepared to ignore the drastic changes to continuity. After the more grounded threat seen in Season One, I’m excited to see Carter take on this more super-powered enemy, although I suspect Howard Stark will return from Peru with some gadget that will drastically de-power Miss Frost, allowing Peggy to defeat her.


One of the most interesting elements of this episode was seeing Peggy in a wounded state, recovering from the dramatic injuries she sustained in her battle with Whitney Frost. After her almost superhuman antics, it was quite startling to see her suddenly immobile and unable to even open a door – however, this temporarily disability meant that Jarvis and Underwood took the spotlight. In fact, this episode offered a greater focus on the series’ supporting characters than of late – providing us with a glimpse of some tension between Jarvis and his wife over his second, more adventurous day-job, and further developing the love triangle between Carter, Sousa and Wilkes. I also liked seeing the return of Jack Thompson, and I actually squealed with delight at the prospect of Jarvis and Underwood having to avoid his gaze during the party. It was almost like a Frasier episode, but set in the 1940s and instead of social embarrassment, the consequences would be death or imprisonment. Thompson continues to be a divisive figure – while he seems easily led and eager to please the higher-ups, I wonder if he’ll follow Masters’ orders and turn his back on Carter and Sousa. Given his limited screen-time this season, and the unfortunate fate of the last SSR chief, I have a feeling Thompson might meet a sad end no matter where his moral compass points.

This was easily the best episode of the second season thus far, capitalising on the relationships set up in Season One between Peggy and Dottie, as well as Peggy and Thompson, to create some genuinely engrossing moments. I loved every scene that Dottie Underwood appeared in, and Bridget Regan seems to be relishing every moment too – I sincerely hope that she remains a central character for the remainder of this season, and hopefully a third one too? As this season’s storyline becomes more complicated and new threats emerge in the form of Underwood and Thompson, I've found myself becoming more engrossed. With the additional two episodes this season, the story has felt slightly padded out and it has definitely shown in the third and fourth episodes. Hopefully now that Dottie is back in the picture, and Whitney is on the warpath, the series will continue to deliver knock-out episodes like this one!

Score - 9.8 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • N/A

Mysteries
  • What does Whitney Frost plan to do with Dottie Underwood?

Next Episode - "Monsters"
As Peggy plots a rescue mission, Whitney hunts for even more dark power; and Jarvis learns he should not make promises he cannot keep.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Review - Agent Carter: 2x05 - "The Atomic Job"


Agent Carter
Episode 2x05 - "The Atomic Job"

Synopsis

With Whitney Frost determined to recreate the experiment which release Zero Matter into the world, Agent Carter and her friends find themselves drawn into a heist to steal two Atomic bombs before the deranged movie star can get her hands on them.

Review

After the slightly slow-paced “Smoke and Mirrors” which focused heavily on the pasts of its leading ladies, this episode saw Agent Carter return to form with a fun “heist” at the heart of the storyline, bringing an unlikely crew of thieves together to steal two Atomic bomb cores. The series blended some wonderful character humour, pairing Sousa and Carter up with clumsy scientist Dr Samberly and plucky receptionist Rose, who instantly became adorable supporting characters that I'd love to see again. While previous episodes have featured post-War themes such as Communism and Russian spies, this episode gave Atomic weapons the spotlight, and delivered two “Chekhov's Bombs” into the hands of our heroes. The last few episodes have meandered slightly without any main motivation for the villains of the piece, but here we get a clearer idea of Whitney Frost's endgame – she wants to recreate the experiment that brought Zero Matter into our dimension.

Despite the fact that we know Peggy Carter survives long into old age, based on her appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I must admit I was still shocked when she purposefully plummeted from the balcony and into a metal rebar. We've not really seen Peggy sustain any injuries during this season and last, so it was quite shocking to see her in grave danger like this. It was also quite a juxtaposition to the comedic elements from earlier in the episode, reminding viewers that while the series is willing to use humour in places, there are still real risks for its main players – even the ones we think are safe. We also get to see that Sousa still has feelings for Peg, and rather awkwardly for Daniel, his new fiancée also gets to see this. As much as I prefer Sousa over Wilkes as a love interest for Peggy, I strongly suspect that the writing is on the wall for our limping detective, and that he might make some sacrificial gesture to save Peggy's life before the season is out.


While I thought Dottie Underwood would form the bulk of this second season, the writers have opted to focus on the cold-hearted Whitney Frost instead. I'm enjoying watching her develop further into her villainous role as her evil actions are reflected by the damage to her face. It's like a reverse version of The Portrait of Dorian Grey – the more people she kills, the uglier her face becomes. Given her husbands weak stomach, I suspect that he might not last for much longer – probably succumbing to the same fate as her manager and poor Mr Hunt. The first encounter between her and Peggy was positively thrilling, especially knowing that Frost's touch has the ability to kill. While Peggy was clearly outmatched in this skirmish, I suspect that she will prevail with some scientific back-up, in the form of Wilkes and Stark.

As with Agents of SHIELD, the strength of this series is its ensemble cast and with the two new additions to the team in this episode, Agent Carter seems to be building up a nice group of characters to bounce off each other. The series has always managed to maintain a light-hearted tone that sets it apart from its 'mother show' and the darker Netflix MCU shows, like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. I particularly liked the slapstick of Peggy's infiltration of Hugh Jones' office and the number of times she had to use her mind-wipe device on him. It was hilarious and campy, and fit perfectly with the era established in the show. I just can't imagine similar set-pieces appearing in any of the other MCU films and television shows. Judging from the action in this episode, Agent Carter has overcome its mid-season slump and the remainder of this season will bring the dual threats of the Council of Nine and Whitney Frost together to cause Peggy Carter some more trouble.


Score - 9.5 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • The gangster who Whitney and Calvin visit is Joseph Manfredi, son of Silvio Manfredi - the Mafia-based supervillian known as Silvermane. In the comics, Joseph became a supervillian like his father, adopting the name BlackWing. (First app: Daredevil # 118)
  • The red van the gang use to travel to the Isodyne Lab is labelled "Civil War Antiques" - could this possibly be a meta-reference to the upcoming Captain America: Civil War?

Mysteries
  • What will happen when Whitney Frost absorbs some more Zero Matter?
  • Where did Dr Wilkes disappear to at the end of the episode?

Next Episode - "Life of the Party"
When Peggy realizes she cannot save Wilkes on her own, she turns to her most unexpected adversary for help while Whitney makes a move to control the deadly Zero Matter.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Review - Agent Carter: 2x04 - "Smoke and Mirrors"


Agent Carter
Episode 2x04 - "Smoke and Mirrors"

Synopsis

Desperate to find out more about the sinister Council of Nine at the Arena club, Peggy and Sousa attempt to interrogate one of its muscle men for more information. Meanwhile, a series of flashbacks reveal the similarities and differences between Whitney Frost and Peggy Carter's childhoods and the decisions that led them into their current roles.

Review

The addition of two extra episodes for this second season of Agent Carter allows the series the opportunity to experiment more with its narrative – something that is most evident in this episode, in which the main storyline takes a backseat to two duelling flashbacks that flesh out the backstories of our leading ladies: Peggy Carter and Whitney Frost. Throughout these flashbacks, the scriptwriters make some interesting parallels between Peggy and Whitney's childhoods, presenting them both as trapped in roles they don't want to be in. Interestingly, Peggy is the architect of her own “prison”, forcing herself to marry a man and live a “normal” life while her brother attempts to get her to live out her destiny. Meanwhile, Whitney's attempts to make use of her genius intellect are stifled by her upbringing and surroundings, up until the point where she takes control of her life and uses her looks to open doors for herself. It's interesting to see the character's measured against each other like this, especially since Dottie Underwood has already been established as a dark mirror-image of Peggy.

With such a flashback-centric narrative, it comes as no surprise that there is little movement on the present-day storyline. Aside from an amusing interlude where Peggy and Jarvis kidnap the Arena Club's hired goon, there are no real standout action sequences. That said, the writers have fun with the premise by having Carter and Sousa attempt to break Mr Hunt's iron will with some classic misdirection and manipulation. Despite the slower pace to this episode, it does end with some revelations that promise to push the story into new directions – firstly, our heroes have a better idea of the power behind the Arena Club with the Council of Nine finally name-checked, and secondly, Whitney Frost's powers have been revealed to her husband and to a lesser extent, Peggy and Sousa. Unfortunately, this is all knowledge that the viewer already had going into the episode, so it feels somewhat light on developments from our point-of-view.


The episode is noteworthy in that it provides the viewer with the first glimpses of Peggy Carter's life before Captain America: The First Avenger, developing the character's history in surprising ways. Hayley Atwell does a great job at portraying a less confident version of Peggy, burying her spirit beneath an obedient housewife façade. It makes for a brilliant juxtaposition against those scenes where Peggy takes charge, almost infallible in her decisions as she pursues the truth behind the Isodyne Energy explosion. It's interesting to note that Vernon Masters, played with pitch-perfect menace by Kurtwood Smith, threatens to brand Carter as a Communist – not only does this play into the zeitgeist of the era, but it also offers the writers the opportunity to put Carter outside of the law again. While it may be rehashing plot elements from Season One, it would be fun to recapture that sense that Peggy is working on her own against multiple factions, including the law enforcement.

Overall, this episode did suffer from its reflective stance, revisiting the two secret histories of its female lead characters. While I appreciated the symmetry in their stories, it definitely weighed down the plot and ultimately felt cut short when it begun to get interesting. I'd have liked to have seen more scenes of Peggy's first days working in the Special Operations Executive, following her brother's death. It would have been equally as satisfying to see Whitney Frost begin her role as a scientist in Isodyne Energy and gradually turning to the dark side. Perhaps there are plans to finish off these narrative threads in an upcoming flashback-centric episode – after all, it would fill up the space provided by those additional two episodes. While I do like the fact that Agent Carter is willing to experiment with the narrative structure of its episodes, it needs to work harder at finding the balance and providing viewers with necessary and relevant information. While interesting, none of the flashbacks seen in this episode felt vital to the plot and only served to break up the action during the present-day scenes.


Score - 9.0 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Vernon Masters threatens Peggy and Sousa through references to the Hollywood Ten – ten screenwriters and directors who were blacklisted in 1947 after refusing to answer questions about alleged involvement with the Communist Party.

Mysteries
  • What will happen to the crack in Whitney Frost's face as it gets bigger?
  • Why is Doctor Wilkes having visions of the inter-dimension portal?

Next Episode - "The Atomic Job"
As Jarvis’ precision and quick-thinking skills are put to the ultimate test, Peggy must find a way to stop an atomic explosion that threatens to destroy all of California.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Review - Agent Carter: 2x03 - "Better Angels"


Agent Carter
Episode 2x03 - "Better Angels"

Synopsis

Distraught after the apparent death of Dr Wilkes, Peggy increases her efforts to discover what is happening behind closed doors at Isodyne Energy, raising the ire of Whitney Frost and the shadowy Arena Club. Meanwhile, Howard Stark becomes embroiled in events when his scientific know-how becomes critical to solving the mysteries surrounding Zero Energy.

Review

As with the first series of Agent Carter, Dominic Cooper reprises his role as Howard Stark but in a guest star capacity. While the plot of the original series provided a fairly credible narrative 'excuse' for his absence, it feels slightly more obvious that it's a scheduling issue in this season as Stark disappears to Peru to find one of his old mentors. However, no matter how fleeting his appearance, Stark's presence definitely propels the story in new directions as his scientific expertise allows Peggy to discover more about the season's latest MacGuffin, the Zero Matter. The writer's throw a nice curve-ball by making the viewers think Peggy has been infected by the Zero Matter, but it transpires that she's actually being “haunted” by the “ghost” of Doctor Wilkes, who is able to regain visibility, thanks to Stark's convenient inventions. I'm confused by the inconsistency of the Zero Matter and how it affects people in different ways, causing the female Isodyne worker to freeze to death, Doctor Wilkes to lose his corporeal form and whatever is going on with Whitney Frost. While it adds an air of unpredictability to the compound, it does stretch credibility somewhat.

The investigation into the Arena Club forms the bulk of this episode and I really enjoyed the tense sequence where Peggy attempted to sneak out of their inner sanctum without being seen by the security thug. It was a great way to inject some tension into an episode that was relatively free of action sequences, apart from the assassination attempt towards the end. The majority of the episode was spent developing the mystery surrounding Isodyne and the Arena Club, but also fleshing out the character of Whitney Frost, who is revealed to be a Soviet scientist masquerading as a Hollywood starlet. This incarnation of the character is quite the departure from the modern-day Marvel Comics version, giving her super-powers to go along with the shift in time-line. However, I do like that the series is concentrating on her loss of beauty with the scar on her face – hopefully it will develop further and bring her closer to her Marvel Comics counterpart with her Madame Masque persona.


The arrival of Jack Thompson in Los Angeles not only reunites the original cast from Season One, but reminds viewers how much of an arsehole he is. Clearly his insecurities surrounding Peggy's competence are driving his actions, leading him to become more embroiled in the conspiracies with the Arena Club and the Council of Nine. While he may be a bit of a dick, there seems to be some chance that he may redeem himself and help Sousa and Carter with their investigations. Much like with the Season One storyline, there are plenty of storyline elements blending together with the communist threat and this mysterious secret society both striving for control of the Zero Matter. I'm looking forward to seeing where Dottie Underwood fits into all of this when she inevitably returns to the fray – it seems that Jack's friend (played by Clarence Boddicker from Robocop!) is responsible for freeing her from custody and may have plans in hiring her to work for the Arena Club.

This was a solid episode for the series, which focused more on developing the plot further without any real standout action set-pieces. Clearly, the return of Howard Stark was the core attraction for the episode and events seemed to revolve around his brief guest-spot. I'm intrigued to see where the series is going as we've not got a clear motivation behind Whitney Frost's machinations or the purpose behind the Arena Club's Council of Nine. However, unlike Season One's more mystery-focused story-arc, this adventure feels less dense and multi-layered which is surprising considering that the season contains an additional two episodes. Hopefully, the remaining seven episodes will flesh out the story-arc without dragging the pace down to a snail's crawl. While I do enjoy the Los Angeles setting and the quick banter between the lead characters, this second season of Agent Carter lacks the same punch as the opening episodes of the original.


Score - 9.4 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Howard Stark is making a Western movie based on the adventures of Kid Colt. Kid Colt is a cowboy character who appeared in numerous Western-themed comic series from Marvel Comics, even travelling in time to the modern era at times. (First app: Kid Colt # 1)
  • When showcasing the new alarm system, Jarvis comments on how he’d hate to exist as a disembodied voice, unwittingly foreshadowing Tony Stark’s A.I. support system J.A.R.V.I.S, which was based on his father’s butler, as seen in Iron Man.

Mysteries
  • Where exactly did the Zero Matter come from?
  • What is happening to Whitney Frost?

Next Episode - "Smoke and Mirrors"
Agent Carter and the SSR learn there’s more than just a pretty face behind Hollywood star Whitney Frost, Peggy’s most dangerous foe yet.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Review - Agent Carter: 2x02 - "A View in the Dark"


Agent Carter
Episode 2x02 - "A View in the Dark"

Synopsis

With loose ends being tidied away with brutal efficiency, Agent Carter finds herself in a race against time to discover which experiments at Isodyne Energy caused the Lady in the Lake victim to become frozen solid. Meanwhile, Doctor Wilkes offers to provide Peggy with some answers, but can he be trusted?

Review

After introducing Peggy Carter to her new locale of Los Angeles, this second episode spends some time building up her key relationships and sowing the seeds for some interesting romantic entanglements down the line, with Sousa and Dr Wilkes positioned as potential suitors for our titular heroine's heart, although each of them comes with their own baggage. While Sousa initially appeared to be moving on with a new woman in his life, it seems clear that the reappearance of Peggy has caused him to doubt the strength of his feelings for his would-be fiancée.

However, this episode seemed to focus more on Dr Wilkes as a love interest, following on from the brief flirtations seen in the previous installment. I did enjoy the scenes highlighting the bigotry and racism prevalent in late 1940s America, but it seemed clear from the outset that Wilkes wasn't going to be the man for Carter. Their whole “date” seemed laden with foreshadowing and I fully expected Wilkes to be either revealed as a traitor, or killed off to isolate Carter further. As it happens, the writer's went with the latter, although it seems clear that the door isn't firmly shut on the character. It would be funny if he was transported to the same alien world that Agents of SHIELD's Agent Simmons ended up on, but it's unlikely!

There was a slow and measured pace to this episode, which sought to develop the mystery surrounding Isodyne Energy and this new substance, Zero Matter. Whereas the season premiere served to raise questions, this episode focused on providing viewers with a rough framework to how the remainder of the season will play out, introducing a new mysterious threat in the shadowy cabal of lapel-pin wearing businessmen and explaining the newest scientific “MacGuffin” that they'll all be chasing after. As a double-bill premiere event, these two episodes worked nicely back-to-back, acting as well choreographed introduction to this new season.


Even though this episode filled in many of the blanks left behind from “The Lady in the Lake”, there were plenty of unanswered questions remaining at the end, such as the motivations behind the secret cabal of lapel pin owners and the fate of Dr Wilkes and Whitney Frost. Given the way that her face was crumbling away, and the emphasis on her old age and fading looks earlier in the episode, I suspect that her plot-line will see her face becoming disfigured like in the comics, providing her with a motivation – to return her looks. It's interesting to note the similarities between Whitney's condition and the way that the 2005 Fantastic Four movie decided to do the origin of Doctor Doom – I wonder if Whitney's face will peel away to reveal an organic metal mask beneath.

Hayley Atwell remains the heart of this show, and it's great to see her playing off against her supporting cast members, particularly James D'Arcy's Edwin Jarvis – the pair make a brilliant double-act. While Whitney Frost doesn't quite have the same presence as Dottie Underwood, I am enjoying the way that her storyline of pushy trophy-wife seems to be developing into something more unusual. I do hope that the writer's get around to weaving the New York storyline revolving around Thompson, The FBI and Dottie Underwood into this Los Angeles story-arc. With the appearance of the mysterious lapels, it seems highly likely that we will see Underwood reappear to menace Peggy in the very near future.

Overall, this was a great episode which did a brilliant job of outlining the remainder of this season's storyline, whilst leaving plenty of scope for surprises down the line. I'm really enjoying the series' central theme of post-war atomic weapons and the huge risk that they pose to the world. This was explored in Season One with Howard Stark's dangerous inventions and is set to continue with Isodyne's inadvertent creation of Zero Matter. It's great to see the origins of scientific experiments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, knowing that these old forays into science-fiction will eventually led to things such as Iron Man's armour and Bruce Banner's Gamma experiments. Moreso than any of the TV shows on ABC or Netflix, Agent Carter feels absolutely vital to the DNA of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, showcasing the evolution from Captain America: The First Avenger to Iron Man.


Score - 9.5 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Hugh Jones, Howard Stark's former friend and President of Roxxon Oil is revealed to be a member of the Arena Club, having previously appeared in the Season One episode "Bridge and Tunnel".

Mysteries
  • Where does Zero Matter come from? Is it related to either Gravitonium or the Monolith from Agents of SHIELD?
  • What happened to Dr Wilkes?
  • What is wrong with Whitney Frost's face?
  • Why does Whitney Frost want the Zero Matter?
  • Why did Dottie Underwood want to get one of the secret society lapels?

Next Episode - "Better Angels"
Peggy's pursuit of the truth about Zero Matter places her on a collision course with her superiors.

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.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Review - Agent Carter: 1x08 - "Valediction"


Agent Carter
Episode 1x08 - "Valediction"

Synopsis

Working on the same team, Agent Carter and the SSR, aided by Howard Stark hatch a plan to lure Leviathan out into the spotlight and prevent a national catastrophe from occurring. All of the events of the previous seven episodes lead here as secrets are revealed and friendships are tested to the limit.

Review

This grand finale of Agent Carter wastes no time resting on its laurels after a spectacular penultimate episode. Quickly getting the Agents up to speed on the stolen gas and its effects, the episode then swiftly deals with the remaining exposition and mysteries, having Howard Stark arrive at the SSR and reveal all the unanswered questions. Now, I can understand why he didn't turn himself in to the SSR since they were all out for his blood, but it seems ultra-convenient that he didn't mention the Battle of Finow, or the Midnight Oil to either Peggy or Jarvis in either of the two times they've met up throughout the series. I guess the only explanation is that he assumed that they were about the Blitzkrieg Button and Steve's blood, and therefore didn't mention anything about the Midnight Oil, plus the Finow sub-plot was always more Dooley's investigation rather than Peggy's.

The speed of the “plot dump” was a little bit fast, but I'd manage to piece most of the mystery together on my own – I make quite the armchair detective when I want to be. One element that was finally explained was the reasoning behind Brannis and Demidov's laryngectomy operations – rather than being used to keep them quiet, it was because they were legitimate survivors from Finow who had ingested too much Midnight Oil and needed the emergency treatment to prevent from asphyxiation. With all the loopholes dealt with, the episode concentrated on the action, following the SSR's attempt to lure Dottie and Doctor Faustus out of hiding using the bait of Howard Stark.

The remaining three-quarters of the episode truly felt like a cinematic release – the action and long-awaited confrontations between heroes and villains were pitch-perfect and there were moments of genuine peril where I thought either Thompson or Sousa were going to become the final martyr of the series. Faustus and his powers of hypnotic suggestion are quite easily one of the scariest and unsettling powers I've seen on a Marvel Cinematic Universe television show, and ironically required the least amount of visual effects. Luckily, there series wisely kept both Faustus and Dottie in play, hinting at a potential follow-up adventure for the next season. Given that end credits tease that Arnim Zola is now cell-mates with Doctor Faustus, I really hope that a second season is green-lighted and we can see more from Toby Jones and Ralph Brown, especially as a dastardly duo out for revenge on Carter and the SSR.


It's quite hard to review this episode as the pace was so thrilling and watchable that I often forgot to make notes and discussion points, which is a high compliment in itself. Each scene was compelling and had my eyes locked onto the screen, eagerly anticipating the conclusion. I also loved the sequence where Peggy had to talk down Howard Stark from completing his suicide mission, echoing the similar scenes from the end of Captain America: The First Avenger. The scene gave both Peggy and Howard a degree of closure over losing Steve Rogers, and helped restore their damaged friendship – it was also provided a more dynamic element to the storyline, moving the action to the air whilst the SSR agents attempted to apprehend the two enemy agents.

As I write this, there still hasn't been a decision either way about whether to renew Agent Carter for a second series. With murmurings of low ratings, and the irrational decision by Channel 4 not to air the eight-part series in the UK to fill in the Agents of SHIELD hiatus, it isn't a dead cert that we'll see a return.  If this series doesn't get picked up for another season, it will be a massive travesty – it was a solid eight episode miniseries that put a female role model front and centre, targeting a demographic that is often overlooked and ignored. If this series fails to get picked up, it just sends the wrong kind of message about whether female leads are able to sustain TV shows. As it is, I'm bitterly disappointed as an Englishman that Channel 4 decided not to air the series and no other service (NetFlix / Amazon Prime) picked up the scraps, but I will be even more aghast if ABC decide to drop the show. Here's hoping someone sees sense and Agent Peggy Carter returns to duty next year.


Score - 9.7 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References

Mysteries
  • Could the partnership between Arnim Zola and Doctor Faustus be foreshadowing for Bucky's brainwashing into the Winter Soldier?

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Review - Agent Carter: 1x07 - "Snafu"


Agent Carter
Episode 1x07 - "Snafu"

Synopsis

Trapped in the SSR offices and suspected as a spy, Agent Carter must convince her former colleagues of the real danger before Leviathan can launch their attack.

Review

Despite mainly taking place in the SSR offices, this penultimate episode remained a tense and engaging affair as the ‘disgraced’ Agent Carter struggled to prove her innocence and alert the team to the real traitor in their midst – the hypnotist Doctor Ivchenko. Through the introductory flashback sequence, we finally got confirmation that Doctor Ivchenko was actually the Captain America villain, Doctor Faustus. He was referred to by his civilian identity in the comics, Doctor Fennhoff, but because that was a bit too cryptic, he was also seen reading “The Life and Times of Doctor Faustus” to further identify him as the character.

There was a distinct “24” vibe about this episode, with the action occurring almost in real-time. It certainly helped ramp up the tension as Peggy struggled against the tight deadline to protect her distrusting colleagues from a Leviathan attack. The sequences where Doctor Faustus got inside the mind of Chief Dooley were really creepy, especially after seeing how he manipulated Agent Yauch to commit suicide. There is something particularly unsettling about seeing heroic characters being mind-controlled by the villains – I’d imagine we’ll be revisiting this sense of unease in Daredevil, with the recent confirmation that Kilgrave the Purple Man will be appearing in the series, played by David Tennant.

Even though the stakes were pretty high, the show maintained its sense of humour, such as in the scene where Peggy and Jarvis are attempting to escape a locked interrogation room by throwing a table through the two-way mirror. It is always a joy when Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy are on screen together and their back-and-forth banter is just pitch-perfect and I hope that if the series returns for a second season that Jarvis maintains a central presence. The relationship between the two unlikely partners has been great throughout the season and the reason why “The Iron Ceiling” stands out as the weakest episode was mostly due to the lack of their interaction.


Interestingly, there were echoes of The Avengers in this episode, in the sense that Dooley’s death united Thompson, Sousa, Carter and Jarvis together to fight against a greater enemy, in the same way that Coulson’s death gave the Avengers something to avenge. It was a great way to end the penultimate episode, setting up a great finale as our heroes must now work together to stop Leviathan from unleashing a deadly chemical weapon onto the streets of New York. However, it was a shame to see Dooley go as the character had definitely evolved over the seven episodes from the chauvinistic boss to a staunch supporter of the truth.

The pieces of Leviathan’s plan became clearer in this episode, with the revelation that the invention that they were after was Item No. 17; a poisonous gas which when inhaled drives its victims into a murderous rage. I’m guessing it was this gas that was used at the Battle of Finow, given that the level of carnage seen at the cinema tallies with the description of the massacre seen there. Perhaps, Leviathan have chosen to steal the invention, as opposed to the Nitramene and Captain America’s blood, because it provides a sense of irony to their plan of revenge on America – killing their people with the same experimental weapons used on them. It seems that both Dottie and Doctor Faustus are working for someone, possibly the man glimpsed in last episode’s flashback. Hopefully, we will see the mysteries surrounding Leviathan, such as the missing vocal chords, revealed in the finale.

Overall, this was a cracking penultimate episode, and quite possibly the best episode of the series yet. The finale has a lot to live up to, but with the promise of a Dottie / Peggy fight sequence still out there, I’m sure it will meet expectations. I am sad to see Dooley go, but at least he went out in a blaze of glory (quite literally!) – Given the series’ penchant for killing off characters, part of me is a little bit worried that either Thompson, Sousa or Jarvis might not make it out of the finale alive, but hopefully all three supporting characters survive.


Score - 9.9 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Ivchenko is reading Doctor Faustus in the flashback, which heavily suggests he is the MCU version of the character of the same name. Doctor Faustus is an enemy of Captain America, who is well versed in psychiatry and uses hypnosis as a weapon. (First app: Captain America # 107)

Mysteries
  • What does Leviathan plan to do with the “mania” gas?

Next Episode - "Valediction"
Peggy faces the full fury of Leviathan, as Howard Stark makes his return in the explosive season finale of Agent Carter.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Review - Agent Carter: 1x06 - "A Sin to Err"


Agent Carter
Episode 1x06 - "A Sin to Err"

Synopsis

Reunited with Edwin Jarvis, Peggy Carter continues to investigate new avenues to determine how Stark's vault was robbed, but whilst she works on her own investigations, the SSR have finally uncovered her duplicity and role as Howard's Stark's accomplice. With all this in-fighting at the SSR, are Leviathan poised to make their move?

Review

After a slight lapse in quality last episode, “A Sin to Err” saw the series returning back to its winning formula by partnering Agent Carter back with Edwin Jarvis, as the two explored the possibility that one of Howard Stark's ex-girlfriends may have been a member of Leviathan's “Red Room” training facility. Unfortunately, her investigation was cut short by the fact that Agent Sousa had worked out that she was the mysterious female who'd been impeding their investigations all along. It was here that the episode leapt into overdrive, pitting Peggy against her former colleagues as she strove to escape the SSR.

I quite liked how both Dottie and Peggy's storylines mirrored each other – both of them were 'double agents' hiding in plain sight from those around them, and both of them were “outed” in this episode. It neatly referred back to the central theme of this miniseries: men underestimating the female of the species. Dooley, Thompson and Sousa never conceived that Peggy could be capable of independent thinking or working underneath them – in fact, this chauvinistic attitude still pervaded their thoughts when they gave both Angie and Dottie the benefit of the doubt. Even, Howard Stark, who clearly recognises Peggy's talents was blind to Dottie Underwood's real agenda. Out of all the male characters seen in the show, only Jarvis seems to truly understand and appreciate the power of the female.

Duality was a recurring aspect of this episode with Doctor Ivchenko appearing to aid the men of the SSR in their investigations of Leviathan, but in actual fact, it was a part of a larger plan to get access to the confiscated weapons. The Doctor's use of hypnosis was quite eerie, and continues to point towards the possibility that he might be long-time Captain America enemy, Doctor Faustus, under an alias. The sequence where Dottie had taken residence in a Dentist's office to the SSR building had me thinking that she was there to silence him with the sniper rifle, but in a wonderful bit of misdirection it turned out that they were communicating via Morse code instead.


The episode zipped along at a great pace, especially once Carter and Jarvis were forced to go on the run. The fantastically choreographed fight sequence in the restaurant set the tone for the remainder of the episode as Peggy found herself having to out-think her comrades. To be honest, she would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for that pesky lipstick! I must admit I was as taken back as Peggy was when Dottie planted that kiss on her – given that she had already been established as having some kind of perverse attraction to the SSR agent, I almost expected it to be a genuine kiss, but then it turned out that it was a way to use the 'knock-out lipstick' on her.

Now that Peggy has been revealed as an accomplice of Howard Stark, these remaining two episodes are going to be somewhat different than the six that preceded it. The whole espionage and double-agent aspect that I loved is no longer needed, so I'm guessing we'll either see Peggy convincing the SSR of her innocence and working alongside them to expose Leviathan, or perhaps she'll somehow escape from their interrogation and return to working outside of the law to prove both her and Howard Stark's innocence. It's strange, even though we know she eventually becomes one of the founders of SHIELD, there is still a great deal of tension in the air as she faces interrogation at the hands of Sousa and Thompson – I have no idea how the writers are going to write her out of this corner, and I can't wait to see how they do it.

One of the most intriguing elements of this series has been the shadowy Leviathan organisation and the mystery of what happened at Finow. I'm guessing that one of Stark's “bad babies” was tested in combat without his agreement, and perhaps it is this same devastating weapon that the Russians are after. But then again, where does Steve Rogers' blood come into it? We know that it gets used by the government later on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's chronology to create the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk, but presumably that is one of the vials that Howard said was already in the US Government's control. I'm really interested to see where this is all leading to, and whether it will have any impact on the Agents of SHIELD present day time-line.


Score - 9.6 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • N/A

Mysteries
  • Which one of Stark's inventions does Doctor Ivchenko want from the SSR Labs?
  • What happened at Finow to lead Howard Stark to build his vault?

Next Episode - "Snafu"
Peggy is cornered and more vulnerable than ever as Leviathan makes their move against her. As the SSR zeroes in on Howard Stark, they may pay the ultimate price when they find out their true enemy is closer than they realized.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Review - Agent Carter: 1x05 - "The Iron Ceiling"


Agent Carter
Episode 1x05 - "The Iron Ceiling"

Synopsis

Having severed ties with Howard Stark, Peggy invests herself more heavily in her SSR duties, earning herself a place on an overseas operation to thwart a Leviathan deal. Reunited with her old war comrades, The Howling Commandos, Agent Carter has the opportunity to prove her worth to her chauvinistic SSR colleagues.

Review

Still reeling from her betrayal at the hands of Howard Stark, this episode saw a change in direction not only for Peggy Carter herself, but also for the series, as it moved away from the espionage and intrigue of its story-arc to return to a much more military-focused storyline, more in line with the events of Captain America: The First Avenger. Having really enjoyed the post-War 'double-agent' status of the previous episodes, seeing Peggy thrust back into a covert military operation did feel slightly jarring, even with the return of her Howling Commando friends.

The episode's central plot-line of Agents Carter and Thompson attempting to interrupt a supposed arms deal between Howard Stark and Leviathan felt like a bit of a distraction from the over-arching plot and stuck out compared to the finely tuned investigative elements of the past four installments. While it was fun to see Agent Carter proving herself to the chauvinistic men of the SSR with both her intelligence and her combat skills, this episode didn't feel as polished as its predecessors. While it boasted a heavy injection of action with the Howling Commandos helping out against the Leviathan agents, it seemed to contrast against the tone already established.

Despite my distaste for the military-focused scenes, I must admit that I did enjoy seeing the flashback to Dottie Underwood's time in 'The Red Room' and how she was trained to become an emotionless killer. She is fast becoming the most enigmatic figure in the series, with her creepy invasion of Peggy's bedroom seeming less like an attempt to discover Captain America's vial and more of a way for her to learn as much as she can about her prey. There was a distinct hint that Dottie wants to become Peggy, adding a further layer of mystery about the character and her motivations. It seems likely that she has some ties to Leviathan considering that her Red Room training facility was the same location used for the trap that Agents Carter and Thompson later found themselves in.


While the team's mission in Belarus wasn't quite as successful as they would have hoped, both Chief Dooley and Agent Sousa had developments in their own private investigations. Dooley seems to be forming his own theories about the Battle of Finow and Stark's involvement afterwards, possibly even warming up to the idea that he is being framed as a traitor as a result of his disagreement with the US Army over Finow. I still think that one of Stark's weapons was field-tested with catastrophic results and he threatened to blow the whistle, leading to his current predicament. Perhaps despite all of this Russian smokescreen, Leviathan's agents are actually American – it might explain the lack of vocal chords and decision to use internet-enabled typewriter's to communicate. Given the high stakes of the investigation and the series' unflinching readiness to kill off characters, I wonder if Chief Dooley might be digging his own grave with his probing questions.

Like a dog with a bone, one-legged Agent Sousa continues to obsess over the photo of the blonde from Spider Raymond's night-club and with an accidental glance at a scantily-clad Peggy Carter, he finally gets the last piece of his puzzle, matching her bullet wound scars and determining that she is the lady who kept interfering with their investigation. Given his emotional attachment to Peggy, I wonder if he will let this information out or if he will approach her first for some kind of explanation. Either way, it seems like the net is beginning to close in on Peggy, and perhaps being accused of treason might force her to seek out Howard Stark and rekindle their investigations into Leviathan.

One other interesting plot element was the two prisoners that the SSR team discover in the Red Room's prison cells. Their cover story that one of them, Nikola, was an engineer and the other man was his psychiatrist, there to keep him grounded and focused on the task at hand seemed a bit flimsy – even moreso when the psychiatrist, Dr. Ivchenko, kills his patient without much remorse in order to save one of the Howling Commandos. I suspect that this Doctor is the sole reason that Leviathan engineered this elaborate scheme – to get one of their men into the SSR organisation, presumably to find out what they know. With his cover story as a psychiatrist, I wouldn't be surprised if he turned out to be Doctor Faustus – the psychiatrist mind controlling enemy of Captain America in the comics.

I must admit that I found this episode to be the weakest in the series thus far, mostly due to the way it strayed away from the status quo set up in the previous four episodes. Luckily, it was only a temporary diversion, so I'm sure that things will return to normal for the remaining three episodes. There wasn't much in the way of revelations or plot developments, aside from Peggy's acceptance into the SSR, which is probably going to get snatched away once Sousa reveals her secrets. It feels like this episode was mostly set-up for the concluding half of the series and we'll see the various plot threads such as, Dottie Underwood, Captain America's Vial, Peggy's double-agent status all come together in the next few installments. I've read online several theories about how this series will end, and while it seems likely that it will replicate the events of the Marvel One Shot and send Carter on her way to setting up SHIELD, I also wonder if we'll see the vial of blood used by the Russians to revive Bucky, setting up his role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.


Score - 8.9 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Dum Dum Dugan, “Happy” Sam Sawyer, Junior Juniper and Pinky Pinkerton make up the 107th Regiment, aka 'The Howling Commandos' – last seen in Captain America: The First Avenger.
  • The Russian boarding school where Dottie grew up bears a strong resemblance to the “Red Room” which was where the 'Black Widow' training program for both Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova was held in the comics. (First app: Black Widow (vol 1) # 1)

Mysteries
  • Why did Howard Stark punch General McGuinness after the Battle of Finow?
  • What is Dottie Underwood's mission, and why did she break into Peggy's bedroom?

Next Episode - "A Sin to Err"
Peggy discovers the shocking truth about Leviathan but doesn't realize that her true enemies are even closer than she imagined. Meanwhile, Sousa is close to confirming the truth about Peggy and may just put her in the cross-hairs of the SSR.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...