Thursday, March 12, 2015

TV Review: Agent Carter (1×03) – “Time and Tide”

TV Review: Agent Carter (1×03) – “Time and Tide”
Reprinted from The Young Folks as posted on January 15, 2015

It’s hard out there for a secret agent, doubly so if you’re a woman, triply so if you’re a woman in the 1940s. With the deck stacked against her in so many directions, it’s not too hard to find a reason to root for Peggy Carter in her situation. Not being taken seriously by your male peers is one thing, but to not be taken seriously while you’re sitting on correct information that clashes with the intentions of those peers is a whole other level entirely. It’s in these (among other) complications that Agent Carter’s third episode, “Time and Tide,” finds itself a solid dramatic footing to balance out with the thrilling action of its extended premiere last week. While the premiere juggled many familiar elements, an action scene here and a comic book-y weapon there, “Time and Tide” eases on the gas pedal to explore its two leads and their actions.

Jarvis is brought into S.S.R. interrogation on account of Howard Stark’s car being found on Roxxon property, and the interrogation serves to both raise the tension between Peggy and the S.S.R. agents as she sneakily helps Jarvis out of his jam and also peel back the layers on his backstory. It’s revealed that Jarvis had been dishonorably discharged from the British military and dodged a charge against him for treason, which the S.S.R. guys attempt to use against him in their little chat, in addition to prying at Jarvis’ relationship with his wife Anna. Although Anna has remained offscreen so far on the show, her heightened presence indicates that she’ll most likely show up in the flesh before the season wraps up its short 8-episode run.


The bond between Peggy and Jarvis also deepens beyond this in ways they could not have been foreseen, and also raises the stakes on their mission through unfortunate consequences. The stylized 1940s look of the show evokes a sense of classicism in the way these conflicts play out: we sympathize and side with these two because they’re the “real” good guys butting heads with the other good guys who are barking up the wrong tree and can’t be told otherwise. It’s a time-tested theme that has remained since this historical period because it works, and the story throws a curveball our way that shows it’s willing to shake things up. Jarvis’ anonymous tip ends up backfiring when S.S.R. agent Krzeminski gets shot and killed in the line of duty because of the call.

Their actions, well-intentioned as they were in the name of what’s right, end up setting them back in multiple ways and also add more weight to what could otherwise have been a standard spy story with its sandbox of tropes. Krzeminski’s death hangs a mournful air over the S.S.R. office, allowing us to have sympathy for these agents who, like Peggy, also have good intentions that aren’t working out. When Shea Whigham’s Chief Dooley makes an emotional call for his men to take down Howard Stark because of their fellow agent’s death, it comes from an understandable place of grief and frustration, even if the audience knows that Howard Stark is innocent. Dooley, Thompson and the others may be (sexist) obstacles in Peggy’s pursuit to save Stark’s reputation and life, but they’re still the good guys too.


On the less successful side this week is the time spent with Peggy’s personal life outside of the office and fieldwork. Lyndsy Fonseca’s waitress character Angie has effectively replaced Peggy’s now-deceased roommate as her connection to the “normal” world. This means that the show will have to keep up with the double life angle as Peggy has to balance both lives, but rather than play out in a predictable series of misunderstandings and ignorance of the real danger on Angie’s part, it looks like the show will use this more to emphasize Peggy’s need for a friendly connection. Jarvis has proven himself to be a fine friend and ally, but Peggy lacks a friend unconnected to the spy life full of danger, betrayal, and deceit. This relationship with Angie looks to bring out the lighter, humane side of our heroine, but their stay at a women-only boarding house leans more on the broad side (no pun intended).

“Time and Tide” continues with the feminism theme set up from the start of the show, but the portrayal of the boarding house, mostly its cartoonish leader, isn’t as successful as Peggy’s office woes dealing with resistant co-workers. Much more fun is seeing Peggy’s continued fighting skills as she fends off an anonymous henchman, showcasing the character’s physical strengths along with her sheer determination. One small victory for the show is that, in having Hayley Atwell as the lead, it doesn’t follow the usual pattern of waif-like female action heroes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Resident Evil’s Alice (no offense to Sarah Michelle Gellar and Milla Jovovich). It’s in this and the other previously mentioned ways that Agent Carter nudges against the grain where it finds its greatest strengths.

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