Last week on Agent Carter, we found Peggy adjusting to her new living arrangements, and dealing with a death of one of the more prickly members of the Strategic Scientific Reserve in Krzemenski. This week, things take a turn for the wacky as Howard Stark’s return to the show ushered in a flurry of one liners, jabs, gags, and zingers. Jumping right in to a light-hearted romp, with constant misunderstandings sprinkled in, was jarring after last week’s serious finale, which embraced the pulp theme of the universe with a dash of humor — not a full blown downpour of it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but outside of Dominic Cooper’s delightful portrayal of Howard Stark, a lot of it just fell flat, as it took us further away from the main storyline.
Let’s start with my favorite part of the episode, though: Howard Stark. Watching Dominic Cooper bounce around the screen really does make you believe that, yes, this guy is definitely Robert Downey Jr.’s father. It’s no surprise that tonight’s list of quotes (in the Agent of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A. section below) comes primarily from Stark Senior. He lives up to his tomcat status, and entertainingly so, especially when he’s holed up in Peggy’s current residence, the Griffith. The best line of the night arguably came from the idea that Howard instantly knew of the location once Peggy brought him there, with a sigh.
However, this also brings us into the humor problem in this episode. Marvel Studios has always danced a fine line between action and humor, managing to find a sweet balance between the two in most of their movies — and every so often in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — but considering the darker tone of last week’s episode, it was something of a shock here. I like to compare Agent Carter to Indiana Jones, as they are both pulp fiction novels brought to life. With the Indy movies, they did a great job of delivering the humor while Harrison Ford found himself in sticky situations and perilous death traps, advancing the plot as he threw out a one-liner here and there — something that Agent Carter seems to aspire to. There’s a scene in this episode where Peggy has to drag Stark out of a blond-haired resident’s room that has, I swear, the exact same setup and punchline twice within a five minute span. This could have been played up for big laughs, but ultimately, it just seemed lazy in the delivery.
On to the other big weakness of tonight’s episode: the Strategic Scientific Reserve. When you have antagonists, or characters meant to be seen as roadblocks in the path of the protagonist, and you’re going to devote serious screen time to them, you need to make them compelling. Here, the S.S.R. just comes across as one-dimensional, making it a chore to sit through any scenes they’re involved in. In particular, the scenes with Sousa and his capture, and interrogation of the drunk at S.S.R. headquarters. I can understand where the writers were coming from here, trying to hammer home Sousa’s struggle with his disability, but ultimately, it’s something that we’ve seen explored a lot for him already, and it’s starting to become his entire character rather than just a facet of his character. What made this all the worse is that it resulted in nothing. No new information was gained here, and it didn’t forward the plot one bit.
Something that seems to be sticking in the back of my mind as the series continues is its lifespan. When Agent Carter was originally presented as a mini-series, and the pilot episodes had a strong premiere, I thought we’d be in for a fast paced romp through the past of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, sitting through scenes of futile interrogations and trips to Germany by the S.S.R. head, it just doesn’t seem like these are events the show need focus on. We only have four more episodes with these characters, and a lot of them are taking backseats to plotlines that are undeservedly pushed to the forefront. I miss the frequent interactions between Carter and Jarvis, and was disappointed with Hayley Atwell, who for the most part acted as a wet blanket to Stark’s shenanigans.
This episode wasn’t a complete disaster. The confrontation between Peggy and Stark at the revelation of Howard still holding on to Captain America’s blood felt natural and well-earned. It was reminiscent of the war of words between Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans in Avengers. Also, the shockers in Dotty killing off Mr. Monk (obviously being more than she appears to be) and a traitor in the midst of the S.S.R. were both interesting story beats.
Overall, this week was a serious stumble in the series so far, as it just didn’t manage to keep the momentum going from the premiere, and to a lesser extent, last week’s episode.
Episode Rating: ★★
Agent of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A.
– Always nice to see a Stan Lee cameo!
– Young Black Widow in next week’s episode? Possibly. You may be wondering, “wait, how could Scarlet Johannsen even be born yet?” Well, something that wasn’t really touched upon in the movies, but was a sticking point for the character in the comics, is that she is much older than she appears, having taken a formula to halt her aging to an certain degree.
– Sousa beginning to figure out that Peggy was the woman in the picture by coloring in the hair red. Come on, there had to have been a better way for him to have figured this out.
– “I can’t agree to such, pardon my language, extortion.”
“This ain’t extrawrtion!”
– “My favorite foreigners!”
– “Jarvis, Does Peggy know you can do 107 one-armed push-ups?”
– “The Griffith. How’s Miriam?”
– “Son, I’d let Gary give me a hickey if it meant getting to the bottom of this.”
– “Don’t have to get changed with the door closed. Thought we were friends!”
– “Why is your mustache so sad?”
– “You don’t get to climb the ladder without picking up some bad habits along the way.”