Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: Agent Carter "Time and Tide"

You know, I’m just glad that after this episode, I’ll rarely have to attempt to spell “Krzeminski” again. Proofreading these has been a pain in my butt.

Plot
After the deaths of Leet Brannis and Mustachio, the series is taking a little break from the villain’s side of the action for a bit to focus on Peggy and Jarvis’s ongoing teamwork. As opposed to the last two episodes’ approach of having big reveals and major plot twists, this episode is a smaller, character-driven affair which buoys the episode up. The deal with finding the missing Stark weapons and solving the mystery of how they were stolen are, all things considered, small potatoes in terms of the ongoing Leviathan plot. After all, the big cache that Peggy found are pretty much just the leftovers. Whatever Leviathan was really after, they have it. And they’re probably making plans to use it.

The original plan for the episode would have seen Peggy enjoying a girls’ night out with her new neighbors. This idea was mercifully scrapped. Not that I have anything against girls’ nights out, or anything. But not only is the whole “get the new girl to loosen up with a girls’ night out” plot kind of a cliché, but the writers realized that Peggy Carter is a professional who would rather be doing her job rather than goofing off. And they managed to fit this conflict with the original idea into the episode itself, where it causes a bit of friction between Angie and Peggy.

Themes
This episode is about betrayal, and it goes about it in several different ways.

When Peggy brushes off Angie, she considers that to be a betrayal of their friendship.

Leet Brannis and his hired goon are betraying Leviathan, an act that gets them and Ray Krzeminski killed.

When Jarvis’s allegations of treason emerge (a betrayal in and of itself), Peggy feels personally betrayed and wonders if Jarvis is worth that trust he worked so hard to get last episode.

And finally, Peggy, unintentionally and through circumstances, betrayed the trust of the SSR by getting Ray Krzeminski killed. Is it her fault that Krzeminski is dead? Not directly, no. But by deciding to have Jarvis call in an anonymous tip to save her secret investigation, her decision led to the events of Krzeminski’s death.

The stakes have just been raised. If she doesn’t end up clearing Howard Stark’s name, than her colleague’s death will have been for nothing.

Characters
Agent Peggy Carter
Peggy is a tough lady, but these events are starting to take their toll on her. She has to juggle three identities as an operator, a secret agent, and a double agent. She has to figure out how to keep working on the Stark case without letting Angie know anything about her other two lives, straining their friendship. She has a bit of a problem trusting other people (or herself), meaning that she takes it hard when the one person she can trust with every aspect of her life is accused of treason. And to top it all off, she got another agent killed.

At least it was the most expendable one.
At the end of it all, it seems as though she’s beginning to open up to Angie. I mean, sure, Peggy’s a strong independent woman and all, but she’s not a robot. She has feelings. She can reach her breaking point. While she might not have quite reached that point yet, it’s definitely on the horizon. And she might reach it sooner if she didn’t have Angie by her side, ready to offer the one thing Jarvis can’t: companionship.

True, Peggy and Jarvis’s bond seems to be just as strong as ever after he tells her about Budapest, but Jarvis still has duties to the mansion and to his wife. Angie, on the other hand, is willing to drop everything and stop working for Peggy.

Edwin Jarvis
Jarvis is the best thing about this episode, hands down. Previously, he could be seen as a poor man’s Alfred Pennyworth; an excellent butler, but without the worldly experience that allows him to give advice to Batman. But here, Jarvis demonstrates that not only does he have enough life experience that he can be counted on in a pinch, but that he’s also willing to break the rules when he deems it necessary. And in that same vein, we learn that he’s an honorable man who will deem it necessary not for money or power, but for love.

This is about where the Jarvis/Peggy shippers lost their steam, but it wouldn’t completely die until Ana was introduced officially in Season 2. But Jarvis’s story also makes his awakening daredevil tendencies make sense. Jarvis was not originally a butler. He was a soldier who became a butler after his dishonorable discharge. There’s probably a part of Jarvis that yearns for the adrenaline rush he used to feel. Remember, Jarvis said he served “before the war” and when things got bad, he got Ana right out of there.

Jarvis probably did not experience much of World War II, so it’s conceivable that he might not have seen the worse parts of that particular war. And that would explain why he treats Peggy’s serious work almost like a bit of fun. There’s definitely a difference between knowing that somebody was destined for a concentration camp and seeing the horror for yourself.

Agent Krzeminski
Peggy is absolutely right; the guy was a piece of crap. But he didn’t deserve to die. As a character, he really only existed to make the other agents look marginally less sexist. Well, that and to show that Peggy’s actions do have consequences.

Miriam Fry
Miriam is basically a Hogwarts teacher. Remember how it seemed like every Harry Potter book had that bit where our heroes had to sneak out of bed after hours and avoid whatever teacher was on the prowl that night? That will be Miriam’s job: enforcing strict order. But instead of taking away points from Gryffindor, she’ll simply kick you out then and there.

Her building, the Griffith Hotel, is based on a place called the Barbizon Hotel for Women which aimed to act as a similar haven for women, making sure that they could have a safe place to come home to. Miriam rules hers with an iron fist.

Her primary narrative purpose is to mirror the SSR. Neither the SSR nor anyone in Peggy’s civilian life can know about her secrets’ lest consequences happen. If the SSR found out about Peggy’s investigation, she’d be under arrest. And if Miriam found out about Peggy’s role as an SSR agent or a traitor… well, Peggy would be out on the streets. So while Miriam might basically be a headmistress cliché, she and her strict policies serve to keep the stakes and tension high even when Peggy is supposed to be safe at home.

Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan)
Dottie… well, we’ll get to Dottie. But let the record show that the big twist is pretty much blown within the first minute you meet her if you know what to look for.

Hears a hint: It's not the fact that she's from Iowa. Because it's obvious that she isn't.
Jerome Zandow (Rob Mars)
Here, he’s simply hired muscle. In the comics, he was Zandow the Strongman, of the original Circus of Crime. Yeah, this show keeps tripping me up by using both original characters and obscure characters even I don’t know about. Apparently, Chief Roger Dooley was a piece of crap S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in the comics who actually did try to have She-Hulk strip-searched for his own amusement. Go figure.

Visuals
This episode is a lot more subdued than the first two. No big, flashy special effects, no super-sci-fi weapons… but that adds to the atmosphere. The only thing eve nremotely over-the-top is the fact that the Constrictor glows green.

"Hey, this glowing thing looks like something I paid Emily ten bucks to use on me."
"Please stop talking."
This is a story about people, and the down-to-Earth look compared to the last two episodes reinforces that.

Final Thoughts
All in all, it’s not a bad little character piece that gives Jarvis a little bit more depth while also raising the stakes on the SSR’s hunt for Peggy Carter.

Next time, Howard Stark returns as the hunt for his most dangerous creation begins. See you then!

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