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TV Review: Agent Carter - Season 2 "Lady in the Lake/View in the Dark"

01.20.2016

Join us each week as we review the latest episode of AGENT CARTER. Warning: the following review contains major spoilers for the newest episode of the show.

Episode 1/2: "The Lady in the Lake/A View in the Dark"

Synopsis: Peggy moves to the City of Angels to help Chief Daniel Sousa at the West CoastStrategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) investigate a bizarre homicide involving an alleged killer and Isodyne Energy, and reunites with some familiar faces. Peggy discovers her murder investigation has huge ramifications that can destroy her career, as well as everyone near and dear to her.

Recap: After last year's debut of Agent Carter, I have been anxiously anticipating the return of Hayley Atwell's SSR agent as she continues her post-CAPTAIN AMERICA development from love interest to superheroine. Peggy Carter, future co-founder of S.H.I.E.L.D., explored the backstories of Howard Stark and Jarvis while also giving us teases of HYDRA and the Black Widow program. This season kicks into high gear with more of the same but in much sunnier Los Angeles. The same characters are all back along with some new faces to go along with the new setting. ABC decided to air two episodes back to back to celebrate the return of Agent Carter and both hours are well worth the wait.

Season two is set in 1947, roughly a year after the freshman run of episodes. Peggy and Chief Jack Thompson are on the trail of Dottie, the Black Widow agent working for Leviathan last year. In the opening sequence, Peggy captures Dottie only to be sent to the new SSR West Coast office headed by Chief Daniel Sousa. Peggy and Daniel had some chemistry last season and this clearly serves as the change of scenery to get Carter to L.A.. Out West, Peggy and Sousa investigate a murder involving a woman frozen in a block of ice. This quickly turns out to be more than meets the eye and gets the SSR team on the trail of Calvin Chadwick, head of Isodyne Energy. Along for the ride is Edwin Jarvis, who is in California tending to Howard Stark's affairs while he is on location working with his burgeoning movie studio.

Through the first two episodes, the focus is squarely on Isodyne and the mysterious experiments they are conducting. Through their investigation, we are introduced to Peggy's new love interest, Dr. Jason Wilkes. Wilkes is a scientist working for Isodyne who shows Peggy the dangerous Zero Matter. This substance is what Chadwick's mysterious council votes to destroy, but the Isodyne chairman and his wife, Whitney Frost, seem to have other plans for the energy. Frost, who in Marvel Comics is also known as the villain Madame Masque, has ulterior motives beyond her husband's secret society. This group, also counting Marvel Comics character Hugh Jones (played by the great Ray Wise) as a member, seems to be the ancient group that would develop into HYDRA as shown in this season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. They use the same symbol on their lapel pins as Dottie was stealing in the premiere's opening scene as well.

Though the action does switch back to New York briefly, it is mainly to show Dottie being taken into custody by the FBI. Chief Thompson is met by a family friend, Vernon Masters, who helped get his career in the SSR started. Masters cautions Thompson against getting too involved in the Dottie Underwood situation and says the powers that be could have big things in his future if he plays ball. It is hard to tell whether Masters is also working for HYDRA/Leviathan or if he is just predicting the downfall of the SSR, but it seems clear that the development of the current Strategic Scientific Reserve into S.H.I.E.L.D. will happen in the span of this series should it continue. Meanwhile, there is plenty to mine in the L.A. setting. Dr. Wilkes being African American offers the writers a chance to explore racism in the 1940s along with the sexism that Peggy Carter faces which is put to heavy-handed effect in this premiere's second hour.

While we meet Jarvis' peppy wife Ana, the bulk of the new character focus is put on Dr. Wilkes and Whitney Frost. Wilkes seems to be a good counterpart for Peggy and should offer a nice non-military/SSR character to guide audiences through the season, even though the concluding events of this premiere lead us to believe Wilkes may be dead, we are given a glimpse of Frost in the beginning of her transformation into Madame Masque. While there is a lot of narrative setup over these first two hours, I still found myself fully engaged and searching for connections to the MCU at large. Thankfully, there are no references to Steve Rogers or any other forced big screen connections here, but there is a major tie-in to Phase Three (see the references section below).

Overall, Agent Carter is a welcome return to the retro, pulpy action we enjoyed last season. If you aren't a fan of the highly choreographed fight sequences and brightly colored television film style, this is still not for you. But, shifting the action fo Los Angeles makes great use of the buidings and landscape of California which results in a lot less green screen and artificial sets than we saw last year. Hayley Atwell fully inhabits Peggy Carter at this point and seems to have a lot of fun in the role. James D'Arcy continues to excel as Jarvis while both characters are accompanied by a better supporting cast than we saw this time last year. While we have yet to have an appearance by Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, there are still eight episodes to go.

Marvel Universe References: While the series calls it Zero Matter, the mysterious substance at the core of this season is more commonly known as Darkforce. Darkforce will also play a key part in this year's DOCTOR STRANGE. Hugh Jones and Madame Masque/Whitney Frost are also featured heavily in Marvel Comics.

Episode Grade:

Next on Agent Carter: "Better Angels" airs January 26th - Peggy's search for the truth about Zero Matter puts her on a collision course with her superiors as Howard Stark barnstorms in.

Source: JoBlo.com

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