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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: The Jig is up for Agent Carter

Peggy kisses a girl. Dottie kills the dentist. Ivchenko has a hypnotic ring.
Oh yeah, spoilers to follow.
With only two episodes left to go, Agent Carter is building toward a fairly serious implosion at SSR headquarters. The momentum of episode 6, A Sin to Err, was primarily pushing towards Carter’s ass-kicking escape from her fellow SSR agents, who have identified her as the girl in the blonde wig. After her cover was blown, things were still mostly going well for Carter – she and Jarvis took down a diner full of SSR agents in a rather jaunty fight scene, complete with punchy music. Carter used her magical combination of violence and goodwill with her co-workers to escape, headed back to her own apartment – where everyone was looking for her – and still managed to evade the authorities, thanks to some theatrics and lies from her neighbor Angie, who kept her safe.
The theme of the week seemed to be women being underestimated, unsuspected vehicles for espionage.
So, fittingly, after Carter’s multiple escapes, Dottie managed to use Carter’s knock-out lipstick formula to incapacitate her with a kiss in the hallway. I’m not sure why she first had to kiss Carter, and then try to stab her with a pointy object, except oh right I am sure because it’s television and Hayley Atwell is gorgeous. I  can’t even blame them for falling into that trope. The SSR agents show back up right as Carter falls and take her into custody, and the episode closes with Carter in cuffs.
Though this was still a solid episode, and the action and plot movements were there, I couldn’t help feel like there was a lot of mustachio-twirling silliness this week that held it back from being a stellar one.  Aside from the they-couldn’t-help-themselves-if-we-have-a-hot-spy-woman-she’ll-kiss-another-hot-spy-woman, we had:

  • Pretty much every scene with Ivchenko. SSR thought they’d captured a valuable asset in Ivchenko, but it turns out he’s basically a double agent. He’s also a psychological mastermind with level 20 persuasion and a weird ring that makes people do whatever he tells them to do. So they put him in a room with a low-level redshirt for supervision. Basically, I hated all of these parts.
  • Dottie killing a dentist in an office opposite of SSR so that she can point a sniper rifle at Ivchenko. But – gotcha! Instead of using the rifle, she uses its reflective light to communicate with him.
  • Ivchenko uses hand signals to communicate back to her, and she goes to the trouble of writing down everything he says for the camera, in English. It says kill Peggy Carter. Dun-dun-dun.

The above is where the episode just felt a little too silly for me. Without Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy, Agent Carter wouldn’t be half the caliber that it is, and it’s never clearer than it is in this thread.
Meanwhile, in a plot thread that could have been equally silly but ended up being my favorite of the episode, prior to her capture, Carter teams back up with Jarvis to review a full list of the women Stark has been sleeping with over the last six months, presuming at least one of them will have been a Leviathan agent bred out of the Black Widow program they discovered overseas. Because what better way to get information from Howard Stark than an attractive woman?  Jarvis is uncomfortable, Carter is disgusted – these are what these characters do best, and it’s great.
Nitpicking aside, a middling episode of Agent Carter is still a pretty damn good episode relative to its competition. Tracking tweets this week, it appears that a small campaign has emerged to drum up more interest in keeping the show around for a second season, in spite of its declining ratings.
#RenewAgentCarter. I’m still on board.
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