AGENT CARTER Debriefing: Schnapps and sucker punches

Courtesy ABC

Apologies for the delay everyone. Crazy real-life work schedule + terrible internet connections = awful backlog on my DVR and not nearly enough time to talk about any of it.

This week on Agent Carter, we delve a little deeper into the Stark disappearance mystery, while gaining some much-needed backstory on one Mr. Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy). Plus, Peggy (Hayley Atwell) foils her colleagues by pretending she’s dumb, while proceeding to kick ass in a variety of ways, as per usual. Then someone at SSR is killed (spoiler alert!), and the plot thickens.

Peggy might be living in a relatively swanky boarding house for women, albeit with some stifling moral restrictions, but she hasn’t lost her edge, as she proves when her neighbor’s suitor mistakes her window for his girlfriend’s and meets the business end of her weapon. (I totally lounge around my living room in my pajamas and a Glock, too.) There isn’t any time to waste: Jarvis gets picked up for questioning by the SSR when they figure out the bumper they found in the Roxxon wreckage last week belonged to Howard Stark’s car.

This is when things really get interesting. Not only is dear Jarvis trying to keep mum on the whole secret-spy-nightlife deal he has going on, but it turns out he’s a person of interest because he was accused of treason back in Blighty as a soldier before the charges were mysteriously dropped and he was dishonorably discharged, then went to work for Howard. Detective Douchebag, er, Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) threatens to report Jarvis to the 1946-version of INS, to get both he and his wife deported, unless he fesses up about his involvement in the Roxxon implosion and Howard’s whereabouts. Jarvis is a heartbeat away from throwing in the towel, when Peggy’s quick thinking saves the day: she sneaks out Jarvis’ supposedly incriminating file folder from boss Roger Dooley (Shea Wigham), only to publicly announce to him, within Jarvis’ earshot, that she was returning the boring administrative paperwork she “accidentally” took from the interrogation room, which lets Jarvis know they have nothing on him. He walks out a free man, but Peggy is read the riot act from her colleagues for screwing up their case. It was a pretty lame ploy given that they are trained agents who should have noticed Peggy’s caginess, but if we worried about that, we’d have no show.

Oddly, I feel that Peggy deserved the scolding; we know that she and Jarvis are in the right, but as far as the SSR is concerned, all the evidence leads to Jarvis and Howard Stark, and Peggy just majorly compromised their case with her alleged incompetence. It’s an interesting line to straddle, and I actually hope we see some more nuance like that as the series progresses. It’s so much more enjoyable to see our heroes delve into the shades of gray in their work, when their “foes” at the SSR aren’t cartoonishly evil or unprofessional. It makes Peggy and Jarvis work harder for what they have, and in my opinion will likely make for a richer story.

However, a freed Jarvis and a sanctioned Peggy gives us more time for hijinks! This time, our super-spies decide to follow the trail of the robbers who broke into Howard’s estate to steal his weapons, to figure out how they penetrated the fortress in the first place and where they might be siphoning their ill-gotten goods. The crumbs lead them into the sewer drains, from which they surmise the loot is being sent right into the river, then picked up by boat and sailed off, Howard and the police none the wiser. You know Peggy means business when she shows up in a kicky pant suit, and it doesn’t disappoint. Not only because we get some much-needed insight into Jarvis’ backstory (more on that in a minute), but because we are then rewarded with Peggy following said trail right onto a shady-looking boat donning the symbol Leet Brannis drew in the sand on his deathbed last week, on which she finds some volatile Stark magic super weapons, guarded by an equally-shady-looking Bad Guy, whose ass she promptly kicks.

Jarvis rightly reminds Peggy that despite her desire to prove to her colleagues that she is a good agent by bringing in the criminal, she can’t actually claim credit for it, because her story would never stand up to the SSR’s scrutiny. I loved watching ordinarily mild-mannered Jarvis “cross-examine” Peggy so harshly, to prove to her that her case didn’t hold water as far as her bosses were concerned. He seems to be filling in the role of her conscience of sorts, and I’m enjoying him acting as the voice of reason in her exploits. Besides, I’m liking that we’re seeing some of Peggy’s flaws, here: she’s an amazing woman, and being so headstrong is how she’s made it this far, but it’s also what can likely blind her to her own limitations. In any case, Jarvis only has her best interests at heart and sees the writing on the wall when he tells her, “They’ll only use it to tear you down,” and that was the moment I pretty much fell in love with him, not gonna lie.

So, Peggy takes off, and Jarvis “anonymously” — and hilariously — calls in the theft to Souza (Enver Gjokaj), terrible fake accent masking his own distinctive one and all. He and the guys discover the weapons, and the unconscious weapons dealer, and are befuddled at how neatly it all ties up. Ray Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer) is tasked with bringing him back to the precinct, and when the suspect finally comes to and reveals that his assailant was an “English broad,” you know they both have to be dead meat, because that’s the law of TV. (It also makes you wonder how bright they really are if they haven’t clued in to Peggy’s unusual good fortune when it comes to cracking cases, and how she might be involved here.) Sure enough, while waiting at a rail crossing, their car is rear-ended by the requisite Black Car o’ Spooks, after which they are both fatal shot from yet another mysterious bad guy. Talk about a plot twist!

The entire SSR team is shocked and bereaved at losing one of their own, and despite not even liking the misogynistic jerk, Peggy is rattled by his murder. Her choice of work is once again hitting too close to home, and while Ray wasn’t her favorite person in the world, he was an innocent man who got caught in the crossfire of international espionage. (It may or may not be stirring up feelings of losing Steve, too.) Intriguingly, Dooley maintains that whether or not he fired the bullet, Howard Stark is responsible for Ray’s death, which makes Peggy more than a little uncomfortable (and guilt-ridden). Meanwhile, Souza waxes poetic about the futility of life, since it can all end in the blink of an eye, but Peggy takes another tack: she goes to the diner, where Angie is at work being sassy, and offers an olive branch by way of sharing a (highly abridged) version of her day with her neighbor, who is pleased as punch that her new friend is actually opening up to her.

While Angie came on strong last week, and I thought she maybe didn’t give Peggy enough of a chance early on in this week’s episode before getting mad at her for the brushoff, I like that she forgives just as easily, and appreciates the effort Peggy is putting into their budding friendship. I enjoy seeing Peggy realize that she can’t do everything on her own — as she’s tried to do so far in the series — and that she needs the human element in her life to stay sane, whether it’s Jarvis’ help in the field, or Angie’s help by way of girl talk and Schnapps. Plus, the last shot of the women through the diner windows was downright Edward Hopper-esque, which I appreciate as part of the show’s aesthetic.

Though all the action in this episode was exciting, my favorite moment, other than maybe Peggy’s heart-to-heart with Angie, was learning more about Jarvis. While I was wondering if they were heading toward a double-agent betrayal after the pilot, his actual story as of now is so much more compelling. Peggy needling Jarvis about his past might have been a little irritating, but finding out that his beloved wife Anna is a Jew who he helped flee Hungary before she would have been captured by the Nazis was an unexpected turn. His act of “treason” was actually his only way to save the girl he’d fallen in love with on deployment, and he was cleared of the charge almost immediately once the reason came to light, especially after Howard Stark had a talk with his commanding officer, who happened to be his friend. Thus why Jarvis feels so indebted to Howard, and why he’s embraced America so heartily. It was more nuance than I expected from a Marvel adaptation so early in the series’ run, and I’m hopeful it bodes well for further character development. (Fingers crossed this also nips any romantic pairing between Peggy and Jarvis in the bud, because neither of them would look good after that reveal.)

Here are a few other random moments that amused me:

  • “At the time I was strapped to a very amusing Spaniard.” – Jarvis explaining to Peggy how he acquired his considerable rappelling skills.
  • “No woman’s going to trade a red, white and blue shield for an aluminum crutch.” Ray to Souza, proving why it’s really hard to be sad that he got shot in the head.
  • Jarvis, re: wanting to conceal and carry: “Do you have another one of those?”
    Peggy: “Someone is getting very confident.”
  • Bittersweet callback to Ray’s womanizing ways, post-mortem:
    Boss: “I’ll call his wife.”
    Thompson: “I’ll call his girlfriend.”

How did you like the third instalment in the Agent Carter series? Is Peggy still kicking ass right into your heart, or does she need a little more tough love?

Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

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