Before dialing up the third episode in Marvel’s Agent Carter, I was disheartened to find out that the show’s ratings are already a disappointment. Its 2 hour season premiere underwhelmed, and the slide continued with last night’s episode. After a promising and rousing two part pilot, I was ready to cry foul. Unfortunately, this third episode deserved the slight nose dive in ratings; it was a boring and formulaic hour that really only got interesting as it was ending.
I’m still onboard Agent Carter; Peggy Carter is a worthwhile heroine, and the show provides a needed dose of brevity, old-school charm and cheese to TV. But it’s disappointing to happen upon what felt like a filler episode (even if it pushed the seasonal arc forward) when there are only eight episodes a season. Such a tight allotment should ensure a maximum amount of excitement, and lean storytelling. Well, in “Time and Tide,” there’s certainly lean storytelling: there’s not much of it to go around.
After Leet Brannis (James Frain) died last week, drawing out a heart with a line through it in the sand in his last moments, Peggy finds her nose in a comically straightforward “Book of Symbols,” searching for answers. Her reverie is interrupted by someone creeping around her new apartment, climbing up to her window. It’s not an agent of Leviathan, however. It’s an out-of-breath man (Jimmy) at the wrong window, looking for his girlfriend (a 5’5” blonde). His reward for climbing several stories? A gun in the face and a window slamming. It’s humorous, the kind of wrinkle we’re sure to get often with Peggy moved into a strict ladies only apartment building.
The next morning at breakfast (powdered eggs!), Jimmy’s girlfriend Molly Bowden is kicked out for her transgression of the rules. You’d think Jimmy would’ve mentioned that her neighbor pointed a gun at him, but if he did, Molly ain’t talking, as she’s forced to pack her things. I’m sure Peggy’s super stoked Angie roped her into this place.
At the SSR (the-men-who-would-be-SHIELD), Agent Thompson actually proves he’s good at his job this episode. He’s found that apparently Leet Brannis has been “dead” for three years, that he was a Russian soldier during WWII, and his death was clearly a fabrication. Agent Sousa has also figured out that the license plate and bumper that Agent Krzeminski uncovered from the Roxxon Oil wreckage is from a car belonging to…Howard Stark.
Peggy visits Jarvis, the driver of said car. Before they know it, Thompson and Sousa are at the doorstep, with Peggy “hiding” inches away from the door. Jarvis rebuffs their intentions to come in (I filed a stolen car report), so Thompson suggests coming into the office, believing Jarvis drove the getaway car and is involved somehow (he’s absolutely right). There, he interrogates Jarvis. He’s getting nowhere until he brings up a nugget from Jarvis’ past: apparently he was charged with treason, and was discharged from the military during the war. When Thompson threatens his wife, Jarvis shows more emotion than we’ve ever seen him, including anger simmering beneath the surface. Before he can incriminate himself, Peggy swoops in, “finding” the stolen car report that Jarvis filed. It’s silly how easy this is…and how it completely stops their investigation. I didn’t blame Dooley and Thompson for being pissed at Carter. She sabotaged their interrogation and case (quite transparently, in fact), for what appears to them, no reason whatsoever. It was a cloying end to what had been an interesting exchange. At the very least, Chad Michael Murray’s Thompson has proven that he’s not just a jerk. He’s a jerk good at his job. I don’t know if it makes him more palatable, or worse.
Even Jarvis’ treason charges aren’t evidence of something exciting in his past, unless you’re easily smitten by off-screen romance. Carter can’t work with him unless he trusts him, so she pulls the truth out of the butler. Jarvis forged his Captain’s signatures on letters of transit to get his Jewish love out of Budapest. It’s wonderful and heartwarming, Casablanca with a happier ending, if we believe it. Jarvis is certainly adorable, but there’s obviously something going on with his “wife.” We haven’t seen her, and we only have heard what we presume is her, but she sounds an awful lot like his mother, or perhaps Jarvis is schizophrenic and hears voices.
That night, back at the Barbizon Hotel inspired women’s apartment, Angie comes over to vent about her day (only $.50 in tips!), but Peggy rebuffs her, which leaves Angie miffed. We also meet a new resident, Dottie Underwood, a young lady training to become a ballet dancer. Considering Dottie’s played by Bridget Regan, an actress from Jane the Virgin and White Collar, I assume she’ll have something to do over the course of this season. Is she a spy? Just another lady friend for Carter? Another ally placed by Stark? One of those things is true.
Peggy returns to Stark’s household to investigate the break-in, a break-in that was only obviously in regards to the “Bad Babies” that were stolen when they hop through a ginormous hole in the hallway (apparently Jarvis slept through the crime). Jarvis and Peggy hop into the sewers and follow the water, out into the docks, where there’s a boat with the symbol Brannis drew in the sand. It’s all way too easy.
Ray and Sousa are working the night shift, where Ray tells Sousa to give it up with Peggy: She’d never trade in a red, white and blue shield for an aluminum crutch. Dick move.
Peggy and Jarvis enter the boat and lo and behold, there are Stark’s “Bad Babies,” in Indiana Jones-style crates. Peggy cracks one open and finds a glowing green (like Kryptonite green) back massager that actually breaks bones on contact. We obviously know it’ll be used by the end of the episode–oh shit, a giant man in a wife beater and suspenders (also similar to Indiana Jones/every 1940’s thug) comes by to beat up Peggy. “I’m not afraid to kill a woman,” he grunts, unfurling a haymaker.
Jarvis is away making a call to Sousa, telling them about the discovery in a fake American accent, because Peggy can’t take credit for her find. She’d be thrown into the conspiracy and tried for treason (and probably rightfully so, even if we know she’s in on the side of good). He returns to save Peggy from what has to be Butch Wallace (an assumption made after a cursory glance at the episode’s IMDb page). It doesn’t end well, until Peggy zaps Butch with the Hulkified back massager, breaking his arm on contact. Because Ray and Sousa are close, they have to LEAVE THE WITNESS there, which seems short-sighted. If they were just gonna do that, Peggy should’ve just called it in (and it’s not like calling the SSR’s private line wasn’t suspicious to begin with).
As Sousa and Thompson pack up the goods, Ray drives the witness into custody. He doesn’t get very far, and the only remotely surprising thing that happens in this episode occurs: Ray and the witness get murdered from a mysterious assailant. Someday Kyle Bornheimer will be on a show longer than a few episodes. But not on Agent Carter unless there’s some funny business. It’s likely someone involved with Leviathan, and my early guess is Sousa called in the hit, mostly because this happened a couple scenes after Ray burned the guy hardcore. Sousa could still be a sweetheart, but he and/or Angie aren’t going to end this season on Peggy’s good side.
Peggy learns about the tragedy when he comes into work the next day. Dooley blames Howard Stark; they’re only working this case because of him. It’s easy to make the leap to blaming Peggy, and this hits Peggy hard, needing Angie and schnapps to cope, now willing to talk about her day at the Automat. Angie’s delighted to be a confidante, even dealing in death, if only so she can complain about a customer who merely wants a refill.
After this episode, I’ll need the full seven days before requiring a refill of Agent Carter. I’m fairly confident this is merely a bump in the road, and that I’ll be singing the show’s praises next week. Or at least, I hope so. A small sliver of doubt has seeped in.