[Review] - Agent Carter, Season 1 Episode 3, "Time and Tide"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Studios
Well, that was a horrible "previously on" sequence to attach to the front end of a perfectly good show. The narration, the pacing, the way the footage was cut in. And the fact that it just kept going. Every time Peggy took a breath, you'd hope that it was over and we could move on. Once it did, everything was sunshine and roses. But getting over that hump was a real labour.

There was no change from last week in terms of the quality of the show. I have the utmost confidence in the creative direction of this programme, and I suspect I know why the airable result is at a higher level than most shows. Because of how heavily serialized the show is, it is clear that they are not writing by the seat of their pants, like some shows do. Nor, I suspect, are they working from a plan. I believe that Agent Carter is the product of a well orchestrated and executed map, whose beginning, middle and end were designed in their entirety well before pen got put to paper. Maybe this isn't the case, and if so, then all the more respect to the likes of Butter, Fazekas and Dingess for pulling the show together as they have. But this feels far too honed to be left to circumstance.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are accounted for; they're in Nevada.

Considering that the focus of this episode was Jarvis, this is as good a time any to discuss Stark's dogsbody. Last week, I was impressed with how naturally the writers were able to fold Jarvis into the same role that the female leads of the MCU movies. By which I mean, they are there, and prominent, yet never seem to accomplish as much as the hero (Gamora would be as close to subverting that as the films have got). Last week Jarvis felt like the gender-inverted variation on that. This week, the character really stepped up and felt like Carter's partner, and they did so not just by including him in the run of things, but by providing depth of character. With the ticking bombs out of the way, and the mystery an actual mystery, some honest to gods gumshoeing was able to pry open the past of Jarvis.

It hadn't struck me last week that, of course everyone, Jarvis included, would have been in the war. That's literally the set-up for the show. But considering his disposition, it hadn't occurred to me that Jarvis was a military man, and I turned out to be right. Considering that he is loyal, less than combat ready, and an able servant, that his backstory would combine all of those is an example of how well and organically the writers have balanced this series. Characters act according to what would naturally occur to them. A former military aid would absolutely make a fine butler, and one who was stood up for by a relative stranger who also secured the safety of his wife would absolutely display loyalty to his employer.

Until this week, I wasn't convinced that Howard Stark was entirely innocent. What we've seen of the senior Stark has suggested that he is self serving first. His Captain America formula was a military contract more than loyalty, and his interaction with the SSR during the war was as much self preservation as patriotism (a man of his renown wouldn't have been able to sit out the war with his reputation intact). We've seen the sort of man his son becomes, and it's yet to be seen how much of the selfishness that Tony exhibited before he became Iron Man was inherited. This episode lessened my concerns regarding Stark somewhat, given the selfless way he behaved towards Jarvis. It's hard to judge without the character being there himself, but based on the testimony of an admittedly biased witness, I'm willing to say that what we are being presented with on the surface is exactly what we're getting from Stark.

It struck me last week fleetingly, but made a much greater impression on me here, at how successful the directors and editors are able to make the series feel like a BBC costume drama. In the way the episode is shot, is lit, even the feel of the image on the television is so completely counter to the way American TV is made, which is worth noting because this is an entirely American show. But compare it to the rather bland and blase way Agents of SHIELD is shot on a regular basis, on par with most procedural dramas which could care less about doing anything other than making certain the actors are in frame.

Once again, the series surprised me. Network shows are not comfortable with this level of permanent emotional turmoil. They are more comfortable with the sort of stuff that can be undone after a couple episodes. Two separate scenes stood out: where Jarvis attempts to convince Carter not to call in their find of Stark tech, and when Krzeminski was shot. This is the second death the show has dealt us, both in a way at the fault of Carter. I've long maintained that character death in fiction needs to mean something, and Agent Carter feels emotionally mature enough that it will. It wasn't just that he happened to be unlucky enough to keep stumbling into evidence that pointed towards Carter, and thus had to be removed in order to keep her secrets believable. As I said last week, Carter is moving through the stages of grief, and while so many of her actions are about pushing her forward, things like this keep her from moving forward too quickly. Though, it did galvanize her into making better friends with Angie.

But more important was the scene with Jarvis, and the scene earlier when she was chewed out by her boss which informed it. Carter's desire is to be taken seriously, but is not afforded the opportunity to do so. Her work for Stark must remain secret if to be successful. Every step she takes forward in doing what is right damages her professionally and personally. She has to conform to the stereotype of the women of the time, in order to exceed the expectations of the men of the time. This is not a simple idea, and I applaud the writers for being willing to broach it. While this episode felt less serialized action-wise than the last two, it certainly felt like a direct continuation emotionally. Now that she's had both rousing success and utter failure, I look forward to watching her continued evolution towards a more rounded person. And I look all the more forward to seeing how Jarvis continues to be affected by his time in her company (and thank gods we know there won't be any romantic tension between them).
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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