Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Marvel's Agent Carter 1.01: "Pilot"

“During the War, I had a sense of purpose, but now I connect the calls but I never get a chance to make them.”
- Peggy Carter

So while our current day Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are on break, we are getting a glimpse into the past with “Agent Carter”. As you likely know, Peggy made her debut in “Captain America: The First Avenger” and she was Cap’s girlfriend. Of course, we know he went down in an iceberg and was lost for like 70 years but that’s how things go. We find Peggy now in 1946 in New York and she’s working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), the precursor to SHIELD. Her friends think she works at the phone company but she’s really an agent. Unfortunately, now that the war is over and men are returning, the women who worked in all of these typically male-oriented positions are being pushed to the sidelines and treated like dirt. This is especially clear when the agents get called into a briefing because Howard Stark (Tony Stark’s father) is being accused of selling weaponry to the enemy and now he’s missing. A real hotshot agent, Thompson, is assigned to hunt Stark down. Clearly Peggy is not happy about this given her close connection to Stark during the war and his efforts with the super soldier program. But it’s a real boys’ club and they treat her like a secretary. She’s got one guy in her corner, Agent Daniel Sousa (played by the ever versatile Enver Gjokaj whom you should know from his days in the Dollhouse). Obviously, Peggy doesn’t need a man to defend her but she appreciates that he feels offended on her behalf. That night, she’s at a diner when someone slips her a note to meet in the back alley. A handsome Brit approaches her and when he says she’ll be going with him, she beats him up and shoots out the tire of the oncoming car only to realize it was Howard Stark trying to get her attention.

Stark thinks he’s being framed and he explains to Peggy en route to the docks that he came back from a trip to find his super-secret vault with a giant hole in it and all his bad inventions (the ones he can’t help thinking up and creating but that he couldn’t sell because of the negative repercussions) were gone. Some have already been sold in Europe and some are still trying to find buyers in the US. Stark tasks Peggy with finding the real bad guy and clearing his name. This of course means working a bit counter to her SSR colleagues which could be dangerous. She’s a very good spy though. She finds Sousa the next morning looking at photos of Stark and a woman on a boat. Peggy convinces him that Stark can’t swim and is afraid of the water so getting on a boat is the last thing he’d do (which we obviously know is a big fat lie). And Thompson is having a briefing on a fence who he thinks is going to snap up one of Stark’s inventions. Peggy inserts herself into the meeting via coffee and when she’s learned who they are going after and his preferences in women (he likes blonds) she excuses herself with a “woman’s issues” excuse and gets dolled up for the night. She worms her way in with her feminine wiles and then uses some paralyzing lipstick (did she steal that from Captain Harkness during the War?) and breaks into the vault where she finds a little shiny and glowing device which I’m guessing isn’t what she was looking for but it’s good she’s found it. Oh and the thief who took all of Stark’s inventions is played by the ever nefarious James Frain. Seriously, I can’t think of a role he’s played recently where he wasn’t evil (or creepy at least…I guess he turned out to not be evil on Sleepy Hollow).

It turns out, as Thompson and his guys show up, that what Peggy found is the formula that Stark had developed put into practical use and weaponized. She calls Jarvis for help and luckily Stark left some handy notes on how to handle and dispose of it. She heads home with it and has to do some quick thinking on the dance floor to avoid her co-workers seeing her. And it seems that James Frain’s character has goons who are cleaning up messes including the fence. Peggy manages to get home and successfully diffuse the bomb but no sooner has she done that than her roommate is shot dead and two gunmen surround her in her apartment. Oh dear, how is she going to get out of this?

As we know, Peggy is no pushover in hand-to-hand combat and after some improv she manages to best the guy and toss him out a window. She’s devastated over losing her roommate though and she feels responsible. Jarvis tries to cheer her up but she’s not having it. At least not until the mission is done. Jarvis has an idea of where they can go to get the answers they need on how the device was made and it turns out it likely came from a nearby factory and the device is still letting off a certain type of radiation which was used in the super soldier program. While Peggy is at work retrieving a device and recalling her last conversation with Steve, the guy she tossed out the window is using a very Fringe-like typewriter to get permission to kill Peggy to salvage their operation. I like how they are weaving in bits from the first Captain America movie (and I’m sure Chris Evans isn’t complaining either since they probably have to pay him some sort of royalty to use the footage).

Peggy and Jarvis head to the facility and she is pretty badass breaking in and taking out one of the guards. I have to say though I don’t see why she didn’t take the guy’s weapon. Also, Peggy and Jarvis are hilarious with their banter. I quite enjoy them. It turns out the radiation bomb devices are being mass produced and James Frain’s character has a truck full of them and apparently he’s got voice issues and speaks like Steven Hawking. The other scar-throat guy isn’t with him and calls him the Leviathan. Cryptic. The facility ends up blowing up and imploding so there’s no building left. Thompson and Sousa and their boss go check it out while Peggy heads back to work and Jarvis shares a very cryptic phone conversation with Stark in which it really sounds like they’re secretly Hydra which would piss me off to no end.

For a pilot episode, I thought it was pretty well done and it introduced us to our lead heroine and gave her some interesting (if chauvinistic) supporting characters) to work with. Let’s see how the rest of the season progresses. I do hope we get a complete story with these eight episodes.

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