"You don't sell the steak, you sell the sizzle."
Oftentimes, when people want to pitch a movie, or TV show, or what have you, they'll whip up what's called a "sizzle reel." Basically, a short little example of what people could expect from a full film/series. It often works much better than simply explaining the premise in words. It can work so well, in fact, that the Agent Carter One-Shot, while not intended as a sizzle reel, managed to get ABC to demand an Agent Carter series.
So let's begin the NewtCave's ongoing look at the return of Agent Carter.
|Because calling this Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. prequel "Agents of the Scientific Strategic Reserve" was a bit of a mouthful.|
Captain America: "Peggy... this is my choice."
The diving plane transitions into a whistling teapot as we cut to where Peggy is now: New York City. Peggy pours herself a nice cuppa while listening to "That Man," by Caro Emerald, an upbeat jazz number that won't be recorded for over 60 years from Peggy's time. The time in question is 1946. The place is Peggy's apartment.
Peggy reads the newspaper, discovering that her old pal Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) seems to be under fire following some kind of shady weapons deal. After flashing back again to the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, Peggy sets the paper down and get ready for work, her morning routine interspersed with flashbacks of her in action. Most of the clips come from Captain America: The First Avenger, but at least one of them comes from the Agent Carter One-Shot, which, as I've mentioned previously, can't possibly be in continuity with this series.
The clip shows Peggy fighting Zodiac goons. If it were canon, then Peggy would go to work today and be given a promotion to S.H.I.E.L.D., like we saw in the One-Shot. This will not happen. Peggy's day will be much more interesting than that.
As Peggy puts up her foldaway bed, her roommate, Colleen (Ashley Hinshaw), comes in and tells her not to. She's not feeling well today, having had to work overtime.
Remember what I said in my Agent Carter One-Shot Recap about the menfolk coming back home from World War II and saying, "You had your fun taking our place in the factories, get back in the kitchen"? Well, it seems as though Colleen's workplace hired ten men what came back from the war. And now Colleen has to train these ten new greenhorns that they hired to replace ten experienced women.
Colleen: "I had to show a guy from Canarsie how to use a rivet gun."
Oh, man, sounds like they let Rosie go.
Colleen's looking ill, too. She jokes about having tuberculosis, but I bet she'll be up and around by the end of the episode. Peggy offers back the hat Colleen loaned her, but Colleen tells her to keep it. Maybe it'll catch some lucky man's eye.
Peggy: "Well, don't hold your breath. 'Specially with tuberculosis."
Colleen: "You know, there's a difference between being an independent woman and a spinster."
Peggy: "Is it the shoes?"
As Peggy secretly grabs her gun, Colleen reminds her of their plans to go see one o' them moving picture dealies together. Peggy says she'll try to make it, but the office keeps her busy.
Colleen: "Peg. You work at the phone company. It ain't life and death."
Peggy: "Darling, you have no idea."
And so, Peggy does end up wearing the hat to work, if only to provide a brightly colored contrast to all the drab, similar-looking men walking the streets in the opposite direction.
|IT IS A SUBTLE METAPHOR.|
Chief Dooley: "Agent Carter. We just caught a redball out of D.C. All hands on deck."
Well, at least this guy's less of a sexist jerk than the now-non-canon Agent Flynn.
Chief Dooley: "Meaning cover the phones."
Well, spoke too soon.
Peggy solves the problem by phoning up Rose and telling her to forward all calls to the briefing room. Then she follows Chief Dooley and the others inside, where they all get to enjoy one of those over-dramatic 1940's newsreels. While Tony Stark prides himself on being a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, it seems that the question of 1946 is whether or not Howard Stark's titles include "traitor."
Voiceover: "Accused of selling weapons to the enemy, the founder of Stark Industries was recently called to Capitol Hill."
|Like father, like son.|
|"Hello, my name is Agent Thompson."|
"And I'm Agent Sousa."
"We'll be your contrasting archetypes for the series."
Chief Dooley: "Why am I not surprised?"
Agent Carter: "I knew Howard Stark during the war. His help was invaluable. He may be a great many things, but he's not a traitor."
In response, Chief Dooley does himself some mansplaining several decades before the term will be coined.
Chief Dooley: "I'm sure being Captain America's... 'liaison' brought you into contact with all sorts of interesting people. But the war's over. Let the professionals decide who's worth going after."
|Man, you ogle Captain America's body once, and they never let you live it down.|
Agent: "Sounds like Carter knew a lot of guys during the war."
Other Agent: "What'd you say, Krzeminski?"
The other agent, Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), attempts to stick up for Peggy's honor, but it doesn't quite work out. Krzeminski asks him to hurry and literally stand up for her, but Sousa doesn't. Because, as we soon see, Agent Sousa uses a crutch. And I think anyone with a brain can figure out that Sousa here will be the love interest. After all, Peggy keeps a picture of Steve back when he was a skinny kid from Brooklyn, not the paragon of human perfection.
At the moment, Peggy wants to let Sousa know exactly how much she appreciates his help.
Agent Carter: "I wish you hadn't."
Agent Sousa: "You're an agent, they treat you like a secretary. I just wanted..."
Agent Carter: "And I'm grateful. I'm also more than capable of handling whatever these adolescents throw at me."
Agent Sousa: "Yes, ma'am. Doesn't mean I have to like it."
Agent Carter: "Well, that's another thing we have in common."
And speaking of the way they treat her, Agent Thompson comes over and tells Peggy to file his paperwork, since he'll be heading up the investigation against Stark.
Agent Thompson: "You're really so much better at that kind of thing."
Agent Carter: "What kind of thing is that, Agent Thompson, the alphabet? I can teach you. Let's start with words beginning with A."
A letter that Captain America taught us doesn't stand for "France."
Agent Thompson: "Thanks, kid. Adios. Auf wiedersehn. Aloha."
Agent Sousa: "Poor guy. Heard he got his personality shot off in Iwo Jima."
After a hard day's sexism, Peggy has dinner at the local automat. Which, for those of you under 80 years of age, is a restaurant where all the drinks, meals, desserts, et cetera are behind glass doors that you can open up. For a dime. Like if somebody turned a vending machine into a building. As Peggy reads the front-page story about the manhunt for Howard Stark (which uses a big ol' picture of that dreamboat Captain America to sell the story), the waitress (Lyndsy Fonseca) comes over to talk about how she met Captain America once at a USO show before noticing Peggy's mood.
Waitress: "Everything alright, English?"
What are you, Amish?
Peggy: "Fine, Angie, if you don't count work."
Peggy explains that during the war, she had a goal, and a sense of purpose. But now... she's not quite sure what to do with herself, and the jobs she gets at the "phone company" are usually busywork. So Angie sits down and tells Peggy about her day. She took three trains uptown for an audition, sang two bars, and was dismissed.
|"Some dumb show called 'Brigadoon.' It'll probably go nowhere."|
Peggy: "I'm afraid I can't carry a tune."
|The only singing she'll do will literally be in her dreams.|
But alas, the world intrudes upon their conversation. A man at a nearby table is frustrated that Angie suddenly stopped doing her job. Which is pretty reasonable of him. But then he decides to complain about his BLT to "the girl," which is just about the worst thing a customer can do.
Here's a tip for you all: Don't complain to the hired help. Waitresses don't cook the food, the stocker doesn't decide how much a purse costs, and the guy behind the counter at the gas station doesn't determine the price of fuel.
Angie goes to deal with the problem as Peggy gets herself some dessert. But when she gets back to the table, she discovers that there's a note on her napkin. "Meet in the alley in 5 minutes" After looking around for a possible source, she complies. Once in the alley, a British accent greets her.
Voice: "Miss Carter?"
Peggy: "Do I know you?"
A man in a suit (James D'Arcy) steps out of the shadows, his face concealed under the shadow of his fedora.
Fedora Man: "You're coming with me."
|"I need a date for the Benedict Cumberbatch Lookalike Contest."|
Howard Stark: "I know, I shoulda called first."
Soon, the stranger is driving the car while Howard and Peggy talk in the backseat about the situation.
Peggy: "They're calling you a traitor."
Howard Stark: "I'm calling it a setup."
Howard explains that his most-secretest of secret vaults was broken into. Triple-thick, lead lined, and full of what he calls his "Bad Babies." See, every once in a while, Howard Stark makes something he shouldn't have, either by mistake or on purpose. The most dangerous stuff, he keeps locked up in the Bad Babies vault.
Peggy: "Which begs the question, why invent them at all?"
Howard Stark: "I can't help what I think of. But I can damn well control what I sell."
Until last month, when he returned from Monaco to find a hole leading from his vault to the sewer underneath. And then the Bad Babies turned up on the black market. Howard told the truth right away, but people seem to think it's more likely that he cut a hole in his own vault and is trying to make some extra money. So with nowhere else to turn, he wants Peggy to clear his name.
Peggy: "You can't be serious."
Howard Stark: "I try not to be; sometimes it just slips out anyway."
He explains that as long as the SSR is gunning for him, they won't be looking for the right guy.
Peggy: "Howard, you're asking me to become a traitor in order to prove you're not one. You do see the irony?"
|"Do I look like some kind of 'Irony Man' to you?"|
The car arrives at the pier, where Howard has a boat ready to take him overseas to find some of the Bad Babies that were already sold. Peggy needs to stay behind and take care of the ones still in the U.S. of A. Including one that's supposedly going to be sold within the next two days: the formula for molecular nitramene.
Howard Stark: "Technically, we're not even sure it works. But, well, let's face it, I invented it. So it works."
Says the man who showed up at the Stark Expo with a hover car that barely flew.
The tiniest bit of nitramene could potentially level a city block, so they might want to get the formula back ASAP. Peggy won't be going at this alone, though. The British man that Peggy punched in the face? Howard introduces him as his butler, a Mr. Edwin Jarvis. Peggy and Howard hug, and he gets in his boat and sets off, after telling her that only a select few fences can sell something as dangerous as his formula.
Howard Stark: "And I figured you'd never have any trouble finding a man."
Peggy: "The trick is finding the right one."
And so, Howard speeds off as Peggy gives Jarvis some advice.
Peggy: "The next time you approach a woman in a dark alley, you might introduce yourself."
Jarvis: "Well, I shall endeavor to remember that. Provided my concussion isn't too severe."
Oh, yeah, I think we're in for some classic Avengers-style banter.
|Not these guys.|
Peggy: "What happens at nine?"
Jarvis: "My wife and I go to bed. 7:00, sherry. 8:00, Benny Goodman. 9:00, bed."
Peggy: "You're new to espionage, aren't you?"
Jarvis: "Far from it. Last summer, I caught the cook pocketing the good spoons."
The next day, Peggy begins he new job as a traitor. She shows up at the office, where she finds that Sousa has been burning the midnight oil to find any leads on the Stark case, including a picture of Stark in a speedboat with a blonde. In order to throw Sousa off the trail, she mentions that Stark must have really liked that girl, seeing as how he's completely terrified of water. Can't even swim. Totally. No, you're acting suspicious.
|"What about this picture of him swimming naked in his own pool?"|
"He was very drunk."
"Okay. Story checks out."
Chief Dooley's no fool, though, and he recognizes that Agent Carter's in a meeting where she shouldn't be. When he asks her what she really wants, Peggy says she wants a sick day.
Chief Dooley: "What's the matter, got a headache?"
Agent Carter: "Among other things. ...Ladies' things."
The men, made uncomfortable by implied menstruation, tell her to take all the time she needs.
|"If I remember health class correctly, you're not contagious. But I won't be drinking that coffee, just in case."|
A very blonde Peggy Carter in a snazzy dress piles on the charm and a fake accent to make her way to Spider's office, but not before she applies her secret weapon, a lipstick labeled "Sweet Dreams." Two guesses as to what happens next. Once inside Raymond's office, she closes a window and tells him that she knows about a certain formula. And she may or may not be interested in it. And if he has it, she'd certainly be interested in him. A little flattery and flirting gets him to spill that he does have what she's looking for, but he steals a kiss and falls asleep before she can get more out of him.
Peggy: "Well, that was a bit premature."
With Raymond knocked out, Peggy uses her super spy watch to crack Raymond's safe, which has something amazing inside.
Peggy: "Crikey O'Reilly."
|One of the Green Goblin's pumpkin bombs?|
Peggy: "They've weaponized it."
Jarvis: "Miss Carter?"
Peggy: "Do you know anyone else handling high explosives at this time of night?"
Jarvis: "Well, as a matter of fact, no. It's just that I promised my wife a soufflé, and if I don't get it in the oven by...."
Peggy: "Mr. Jarvis, what was once a theory is now a bomb, so apologies to your wife, but dinner will have to wait."
Jarvis agrees and rushes to get a note that Howard left regarding this very possibility.
Jarvis: "Is the nitramene, by any chance, glowing?"
Jarvis: "Well, that's not ideal. An orange glow would indicate that the nitramene has reached peak volatility and should be handled with caution."
The good news is that there's no danger of an explosion. The bad news is that a nitramene detonation causes an implosion, with a radius of 500 yards. Jarvis tells her the simple chemical bath she needs to disarm it, and that she needs to avoid touching the core to the containment ring, lest bad stuff happen. Then his wife, Ana, comes home, and he's suddenly very eager to get off the phone.
Peggy: "Mr. Jarvis, you do realize that this job will have certain after-hours requirements?"
Jarvis: "So does my wife, Miss Carter."
In the club below, Agent Thompson, Agent Krzeminski, and Agent Nameless arrive, flashing their guns at the bouncer to be let in for a little "socializing." The bouncer informs a bodyguard, who heads upstairs to inform Raymond. The bouncer, expecting to find his boss and a blonde, instead finds his boss unconscious while said blonde stuffs something in her purse. With no time to bluff her way out, Peggy grabs a stapler and smacks the guy in the face with it until he gets knocked out. And if the normal comic rules apply here, I think we've just seen the secret origin of the villain known as... Stapleface!
Peggy heads downstairs, passing a mustachioed man heading the other way (James Hebert) and has a dance with a random guy who flirted with her earlier. Raymond wakes up to find his safe empty. The mustachioed man... well, let's call him "Mustachio Furioso," finds Raymond in front of the empty safe. And he's not happy about it. So, despite Raymond's protests, Brannis shoots Spider Raymond in the head, unheard by the partygoers downstairs.
After a quick dance to avoid the feds, Peggy heads toward the exit as the SSR agents find Raymond's dead body in his office. Thompson orders the other agents to seal the exits while Mustachio, outside the club, watches Peggy get into a cab....
Some time later, Peggy arrives home, ready to create a chemical bath to neutralize the nitramene... right after dodging her roommate's questions about what she was doing out and about in that sexy dress. Luckily, Colleen's still not feeling well, so Peggy has some privacy in the bathroom as she gets to playing with the dangerous science.
Step 1: She adds baking soda, vinegar, and perfume together in a bowl.
Step 2: She puts the mixture in the perfume bottle.
Step 3: She carefully removes the active core without it touching the containment ring.
Step 4: She sprays the core with the mixture, neutralizing it.
Step 5: She pours a hit of whiskey to calm her frazzled nerves.
But before she can down the sweet, sweet booze, she hears noises coming from the apartment. She exits the bathroom, and finds the room disheveled. And Colleen dead. And to make matters worse, Mustachio emerges from the closet and prepares to do the same to Peggy. Luckily, she sees him coming in the mirror and starts fighting him off.
|Green suit, giant mouth... Are we sure this guy won't end up becoming the joker?|
With the threat gone, Peggy takes a moment to mourn Colleen, who now resides in the special part of heaven populated by people who only die in order to motivate another character.
|I'm sure she'll start up a poker game with Uncle Ben, Jonathan Kent, and the Waynes.|
|Because two people sitting in a restaurant with their backs to each other while not eating isn't suspicious at all.|
Peggy: "I seem to have a habit of losing people closest to me. Perhaps 'losing' is too nice a word. I get them killed."
She says that she was happy to see Howard again, especially for the chance to be a hero. But now, an innocent bystander is dead simply for the crime of living with Peggy and having blonde hair. Jarvis, ever the gentleman, hands her a handkerchief before telling her that she was trying to do what she always does: the right thing.
Peggy: "But was it worth it?"
Jarvis: "I don't think we'll know that until the job is truly done."
After a gag where Jarvis explains that his wife thinks he's getting a stubborn ex-girlfriend of Howard's out of one of the Stark penthouses, Peggy tries to figure out how to discover where the nitramene bomb came from, since she can't tell her co-workers. Luckily, Jarvis knows a man at Stark Industries, and they arrive within the space of a cut to talk to him.
Jarvis: "Dr. Vanko, what do we have here?"
Dr. Anton Vanko (Costa Ronin), future father of supervillain Ivan Vanko, examines the residue and identifies it as an unstable substance that must have been made close by. There were only three refineries capable of making such a substance, and only one of them is still open. Roxxon Oil.
|"Sorry to hear about Howard. I wish there was something I could do for him.|
After all, I know he'd come to my rescue if I were suddenly accused of being a traitor."
Dr. Vanko: "Yeah, we occasionally use them in our experiments to stabilize...."
Peggy: "I know what they do."
Peggy quickly heads to the office, where she takes a look at the old "Project Rebirth" files from 1942, taking a moment to look at an old picture of skinny Steve while flashing back to his last moments.
Steve: "I'm gonna need a rain check on that dance."
In the present, Agent Sousa comes across her and apologizes for sneaking up on her while she was... thinking.
Agent Sousa: "You know, after I got hit... at the field hospital, the chaplain asked me was there anybody I wanted to send my effects to? Should, you know, the worst happen. I told him I didn't think my dad had much use for two pairs of green socks and an old paperback. Let him remember my life, you know? 'Course, I didn't die, which was inconvenient, 'cause the chaplain had already trashed my footlocker. Still missing half my stuff."
So... you lost a pair of socks and half of a book?
Agent Sousa: "Can't find my leg anywhere."
They share a chuckle. Before Sousa walks off, Peggy has one thing to say.
Agent Carter: "You're one of the lucky ones."
Once alone, Peggy pulls out what she was looking for: a Vita-Ray detector. Elsewhere, Brannis plugs some kind of transmitter into a typewriter and sits down to type.
|Typing alone in his darkened room? What a loser.|
...I'm very sad all of a sudden.
He gets a reply.
"SSR AGENT. CARTER. MARGARET. REQUEST PERMISSION TO TERMINATE"
"COMPLETE MISSION AT ALL COSTS"
With the Vita-Ray detector working, Jarvis and Peggy arrive at the Roxxon refinery under cover of darkness, where Peggy immediately takes note of the well-armed guards before getting ready to break in. And for some reason, Mr. Stiff-Upper-Lip thinks he's going to come with her.
Peggy: "Mr. Jarvis. That cook with the spoons. Was she a large woman? Violent?"
Jarvis: "Well, no, she was quite diminutive, actually, but she had a vicious tongue and extremely long...."
Peggy hands him a walkie-talkie and gets to work.
She hops the fence and gets to detecting some Vita-Rays. After some searching, and the knocking-out of a guard, she finds the main lab where the stuff is being synthesized by a single man (James Urbaniak), on the behalf of Brannis himself.
Outside, Jarvis spots an inbound truck and tries to inform Peggy. She quickly silences her walkie-talkie, but she's already gotten the attention of the bad guys. As the scientist goes to investigate with his gun, Brannis, dressed up as a milkman, grabs the latest nitramene bomb and gets ready to load it up.
Peggy incapacitates the scientist with a strobe light gun before heading after Brannis. She fires a couple of shots with her real gun, and immediately thinks otherwise when he opens the backdoor to the milk truck, revealing racks upon racks of glowing nitramene bombs. She advises Brannis against going for the gun in his pocket, but he doesn't have one. He has an electronic voice box because, like Mustachio, his larynx was removed.
|You know, I don't think the milkman gimmick will catch on. Batman villains are laughing at this guy.|
Peggy: "By murdering people?"
Brannis: "I-DON'T-MURDER-PEOPLE. I-JUST-SELL-TO-PEOPLE-WHO-DO."
But she asks him about his friend who does.
He refuses to give any more information, because if Mustachio's here, they're both dead anyway and she might as well pull that trigger.
Before Brannis the evil milkman can elaborate, he smashes the bomb to the ground.
As he drives off to escape the implosion, Peggy runs off and tells Jarvis to bring the car around. The urgency makes him bold enough to ram the gates while being shot at, and they soon meet back up when Peggy grabs onto the roof of the moving car. After she gets in, they drive off, as the Roxxon refinery blows up real good... before imploding with enough force to rip the back bumper off the car. With the implosion over, Jarvis and Peggy get out and look at what just happened.
Jarvis: "It would seem it works."
Back at SSR HQ, they finally have a lead. The bouncer they took into custody finally woke up and he claims that some blonde was in Raymond's office around the time he died.
Chief Dooley: "Why didn't he stop her?"
Agent Thompson: "'Cause they're still pulling staples out of his face."
So much for the evil reign of Stapleface.
Chief Dooley: "So we're looking for an angry blonde. Have you called my house?"
Better than that. They have a photograph. But that might have to wait; a phone call informs them that the Roxxon refinery just blew up.
Agent Thompson: "Any casualties?"
Agent Sousa: "Hard to say. They can't find the building."
The next day, Jarvis and Peggy are back at the automat. He's still a little shaken, but she tells him he did a good job.
Peggy: "Your wife would be very proud."
Jarvis: "She must never, ever know."
Peggy: "You'll get used to that."
But they're both still thinking about what Brannis said was coming.
Jarvis leaves to check Howard's files while Peggy gets an address off a milk bottle, intending to investigate the distributor next. Before she can, Mr. BLT from the other day is back, complaining about the food to Angie and giving her a little pat on the caboose. So while no one's looking, Peggy walks up and pokes a fork in his side.
Peggy: "Just so we're clear, this is pressed into your brachial artery. It may be dull, but I'm determined. Keep smiling. Once you start to bleed, you'll lose consciousness in 15 seconds, you'll die in 90 unless someone comes to your aid. Now, given your recent behavior, how likely do you think that is to happen?"
|The fantasy of everyone who has ever worked in the service industry.|
Jarvis: "Swish the glass with the vermouth, tip it out, then add the gin."
But he also leaves us with a bit of a twist.
Jarvis: "Miss Carter's an excellent choice. I don't think she'll have any suspicions at all."
And on that note, the episode ends. So let's review Agent Carter's first outing and see if they managed to find a story to tell, after ABC demanded they tell a story.