Monday, March 21, 2016

Review: Agent Carter "Bridge and Tunnel"

And so, we never see Van Ert after this episode. I can only hope he ended up taking the carrot, earning himself a new life in another country.

Sadly, he went back to his old ways and helped Slugworth develop his very own Scrum-diddly-umptious bar.
Plot
This episode ends up cementing Peggy's civilian status quo in the same way that the first episode cemented her work status quo. Apart from that, it ends up resolving the nitramene mission, allowing Peggy to move on to the next stage of the investigation. And most importantly, it showed that Brannis and the nitramene wasn't even, as Dooley would say, the biggest fish.

Things don't exactly progress that much, but we do get plenty of set up for the rest of the season's plot twists. The photos. Leviathan. The reveal that they were after a specific invention. Things are slowly being set in motion.

Themes
At the core, this episode is about trust. Both how to, and why.

Sousa's comment on the risk of gambling applies to trust. To put it bluntly, nobody knows 100% if any given person should be trusted. That's why it's called "trust." You might not know for sure, but you have faith that it's the right decision to count on someone else.

And on the other hand, Peggy's lone wolf tendencies are mirrored in both Leet Brannis and Mustachio.

Leet Brannis is a rogue Leviathan operative who works alone against the wishes of his superiors, much like how Peggy is committing treason for Howard Stark. He ends up killed by a Leviathan operative, which mirrors Peggy's risk of getting found out by her own superiors.

Mustachio Furioso is a lone wolf on a mission to take down the man who robbed Howard Stark's vault, much like Peggy. And in the end, he falls off a cliff and winds up in an implosion because unlike Peggy, he doesn't have anyone to save his neck.

Their deaths basically hammer home the idea that even though Peggy wants to protect those she cares about, she will no doubt find herself in a position where she has to either accept the help of others or fail in her mission.

Characters
Before I talk about the characters, I feel it important to examine something real quick. As I was working on the first episode, I had some problems putting my thoughts together on exactly what was missing from the good, but not great premiere. Then frequent commenter That One Anon hit the nail on the head.

"...it's still hard to get invested in a story when all you can say about 90% of the cast is "WHO?""

That basically sums up the different problem with these characters. 

First of all, the SSR is filled with original characters that aren't from the comics, like with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. So they can't bank on people showing up for their favorite character. This means that characterization is very important; we have to love these characters ASAP, otherwise we as an audience will stop caring about them.

But that's the problem. The show didn't really spend much time developing the male SSR agents other than making them different kinds of sexists, meaning that the show's list of characters kind of feels like "Peggy, Jarvis, Howard... and the other guys."

I'm not saying that Dooley, Sousa, and Krzeminski are bad characters, I'm just saying that we need a bit more time focusing on them to get to know them.

But on the other hand, Agent Carter didn't have a standard-length season to develop these characters, so the few character moments crammed into the first two episodes can barely do the job of establishing these characters as individuals, rather than obstacles for Peggy. I can't help but feel that one more episode in the first season could have helped this a bit.

Agent Sousa
Sousa's developing friendship with Peggy feels very real. Last episode, she stopped by his desk to give him some "advice" about catching Stark. this episode, she stopped by to peek over his shoulder and give him her two cents on the horse race. It's a nice, subtle touch that flies in the face of what I just said about how this show struggles to develop the male characters.

Agent Carter
Like many superheroes, Peggy learns to trust the people she cares about. Well, Jarvis, anyway. Angie won't learn the big secret for a while, yet.

But Peggy learns that she can't hide from the world she's trying to save. Peggy might not want to see harm come to Angie, but that doesn't mean she should avoid her. Although as we'll see, it might take another episode for the lesson to stick.

Jarvis
Jarvis has easily slid into place as Peggy's Alfred and confidant. Continuing Jarvis's excitement over last episode's mission....

Jarvis: "I don't think I'll sleep for days."

Jarvis is quite eager to accompany Peggy on her missions. He talks about protecting her, but his actions (such as sabotaging the truck himself) show that he just really wants to see some action.

Leet Brannis
Leet Brannis is a glorified henchman; he robbed the vault and got caught while trying to take a piece of the pie for himself.

Though interestingly enough, Leet is one of the few comic book characters in this show. He appeared in one comic back in the 40's as an enemy of the Whizzer.

No, the Whizzer does not have super-peeing powers. Although his costume is yellow.
Mustachio Furioso
And so, the short tenure of Mustachio as the show's main "villain" is over. All things considered, he only existed to illustrate that Leviathan is out there, ready to enact some kind of scheme.

Sheldon McFee (Devin Ratray)
Again, a glorified henchman. The most interesting thing about the character is that he was played by the actor who played Buzz McAllister in Home Alone.

Miriam Fry (Meagen Fay)
It's clear from her first impression that she's strict and severe, but her character won't be developed much until next episode.

Visuals
I must say, the fight scene between Peggy and McFee was pretty brilliant. Cutting between Peggy's fight and the radio show's overdone sound effects (slapping ham, breaking a lobster, et cetera ) while "Betty" cheered on Captain America was a cool contrast that complemented the ubiquitousness of the Captain America radio show in this episode.

On that note, the Captain America radio show was originally going to be released weekly in podcast form, with plots that paralleled Peggy's... but this was quickly scrapped, since simply making this show happen on short notice would be difficult enough.

Still, I would have loved for that to happen.

Final Thoughts
While, much like the the last episode, it lacks that little bit of oomph and character development, the plot thickens enough to keep things interesting as the SSR agents threaten to close in on Peggy. I have to say that it was probably for the best that the first two episodes were aired together. They're not bad, per se, but they're just a little bit on the slow side.

Next time, Peggy has to deal with the consequences of juggling three separate lives. Eat your heart out, Peter Parker. See you then!

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