Agent Carter Recap 1.3: Three Episodes In, All Is Well (For The Audience)

ubvwcgjexwra3ehpkfxnWith the third episode of Agent Carter down, I think it’s safe to say that this is a good TV show that I will be happy to keep watching. Unlike the subject of my last Recap series, The Strain, Agent Carter has so far maintained a steady and consistent pace and escalation that is so essential to any longform serialized story. Driven by two great performances from Hayley Atwell & James d’Arcy and some great direction and writing, Agent Carter has started this year in television off right.

This week turned the spotlight more directly onto Jarvis, not only giving d’Arcy some opportunities to display his talents but also giving our friendly neighborhood butler some effective backstory. When SSR agents bring Jarvis in for questioning, it’s revealed that he was once charged with treason, until Howard Stark paid for everything to go away. It’s a revelation that plays nicely off the suggested deviousness of Jarvis and Stark from the first episode, and also drives home the unease behind Peggy’s mistrust of others during this story. Of course it’s revealed that Jarvis’ act of treason was to secure his Jewish wife’s escape from the Nazis (when Peggy deduces that Mrs. Jarvis was Jewish, Jarvis corrects her by saying “Still is, I’m glad to say” which is a line I liked for reasons beyond definition) which reinforces the idea that Jarvis is out to do right by the people he’s close to whether it’s legal or not. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean what he’s doing for Stark is necessarily good, or that he isn’t dragging Peggy into deeper and deadlier waters.

The moral murkiness of the situation is driven home in the finale, after Peggy and Jarvis track down Stark’s missing inventions and alert SSR to their whereabouts. We see a guard they had subdued (and SSR agent Krzemenski, who’s guarding him) get killed by an unknown assassin before he can out Peggy as a double agent. Afterwards, the SSR office is in mourning and team boss Dooley drives home that Howard Stark is still responsible for what happened whether he’s a traitor or not, which clearly also applies to Peggy. It’s a blunt and surprisingly effective moment that highlights the potential consequences of Peggy’s actions, and how her drive to prove herself and outsmart her boorish SSR colleagues might cause at least as much harm as it does good. An important part of this equation is how Krzemenski, a secondary character, was defined enough as a character that his loss can be felt. Even though he was a douchebag in every stereotypical way, he was a balanced part of the overall dynamic, so his death and the resulting impact on the others works better than it had to.

Another major element in the show so far has been the direction, which is clean and effective and keeps the show from feeling static or small. After Louis D’Esposito (who directed the initial Agent Carter short) and Joe Russo (he directed some movie, I dunno) on the first two episodes, the show has a very strong visual side to match the well-structured narrative. The action is clean, practical and hard-hitting, and perfectly calibrated to the scope and stakes of the series. Combined with the dramatic-yet-witty scripts, it makes for a fun experience overall, and one that fits right into the aesthetic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For me at least, that’s about all I could ask of Agent Carter, and so far she’s delivering with aplomb.

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