Season 2 of “Agent Carter” returns with more Peggy and Dottie

Out in L.A., Peggy and Sousa investigate a legitimately intriguing case: a woman’s corpse was found in a lake, which froze around her in the middle of a heat wave. It becomes clear very quickly that something hinky is going on with the body, as it all but refuses to thaw and glows in the dark. From the second we met Detective Henry (Sean O’Bryan) and his mysterious summer cold, I knew the strange freezing was going to be contagious, and it was going to take him; I have watched this procedural television thing before, you know. What I appreciated about his arc was that rather being a good cop tragically lost to fantastical contagion, he was an antagonist. That’s an unusual choice! Henry spends his screentime talking down to Peggy, making racist assumptions (yes, Det. Henry, the man in a lab coat is clearly a janitor, great detecting), and getting in the SSR’s way. He died as he lived: an asshole. I like this because it avoids mawkish, manufactured sentiment and instead makes his ultimate demise not only useful exposition but a fun minor chase scene.

It turns out that the dead woman was a physicist who worked with a particle accelerator (of course! This is the atomic age, people!) and she was having an affair with the lab’s owner, nefarious politician Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham). I like that she was a physicist and not a secretary! I also suspect we may discover that they weren’t having an affair, and all of this is covering up a much bigger secret at Isodyne Laboratories, but that remains to be seen. In the meantime, as Peggy and Sousa chase down leads, we meet another new character: admitted genius Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin).

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Let’s start with the good here. Wilkes is charming, sweet, helpful, black, brilliant, and very into Peggy. If Peggy’s going to have a male love interest, I am fine with this. I’m pleased to see the show putting a character of color front and center, and making sure his intelligence and competence are emphasized. His slight aw-shucks demeanor (which sits alongside a much more knowing charm—“I’m glad to know you find me interesting,” I see) fits nicely into the slightly madcap, very funny tone the premiere largely emphasized. That Peggy actually can’t date him is also very much not a problem for me here at Peggy/Angie and also Peggy/Dottie HQ. Why a physicist who “works in containment” is both able to run tests on frozen chunks of former bodies and synthesize deliciously unnaturally-colored wine is beyond me, but we’re in comic book land here. I really enjoyed spending time with Wilkes!

And then in the very last shot of the episode, my heart sank. They seem to be hinting that Wilkes is a villain. Anyone familiar with the idioms of TV knows what a shot like that means, but anyone who watched the first season of Marvel’s Agents of Shield also recognized that squirmy blob he was staring at. It’s the same blob that the show introduced as the Darkforce. I’m not going to go into all the details of what this thing is and its history in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but trust that it is Bad News, it is almost certainly the reason for all this iceberg madness, and—well, technically spoilers, I think. (You can read about it here if you want to.) Regardless, if our brand new delightful black character turns out to be a bad guy I will be pretty disappointed.

On the whole, however, I loved this episode! I laughed a lot: James D’Arcy has really cranked up the comedy as Jarvis and is knocking it out of the park, his chemistry with Hayley Atwell remains unbeatable, and his finally-onscreen wife, Ana (Lotte Verbeek), is exactly as fantastic as Peggy declared her to be. The aesthetic is still working for me (loved the new credits with vintage L.A. footage) and the flamingo is an admirable replacement for Howard Stark. Most of all—I already loved the characters—I’m legitimately intrigued by the mystery we’ve been given. While the show seems to be setting up a number of points of continuity with the larger MCU, it’s doing so with a light touch, and the trappings of the case itself are fun and different for the show. (I recognize that human bodies freezing and shattering to pieces is not typically described as “fun,” but when you compare it to last season’s hypnotic ramblings they start to seem pretty lightweight, I’m just saying.)

Bits and pieces:

  • Loved Jarvis’s concern for his #aesthetic.
  • “He’s the devil in pink.”
  • Does anybody else get distracted wondering if police procedure was different in the 1940s? I saw Wilkes sitting on the back of that police van in time-honored television fashion and got sidetracked for a while wondering if that was a thing back then.
  • I was also pleased to note that the headcount of women is higher this year! Or maybe not the absolute headcount, but women with significant speaking roles felt more abundant to me. I hope they keep it up.
  • Also, I hope to see Rose (the SSR doorkeeper) on a surfboard one day. Please give this to me.
  • HAHA, DOTTIE CLOWNING ON THOMPSON.