Agent Carter Recap: “The Lady in the Lake”/”A View in the Dark”

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By Katie Hughes, @MsKatieHughes

 

MCU, 1947: Agent Carter cosplay is invented, along with the pink flamingo lawn ornament.  Awesome ladies, fabulous fashion, a dead body or three, a new city, mystery, action and a dash of romance. That’s how Agent Carter has returned to our televisions, and what a welcome return it is.  Here at The Nerd Machine, I’ll be having a go at regularly recapping the second season, and, as your interest is inclined, mention some historical context for the episodes — that is to say, time to nerd out about the history and comics that make Agent Carter what it is! Let’s get started, because there’s two whole episodes to review, and we need to travel back 69 years!

 

Episode 2×1: The Lady in the Lake

 

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Dottie Underwood, villainous Black Widow program graduate of season 1, is back, and has a frankly unhealthy obsession with Peggy (… don’t we all? Okay, maybe not quite. … maybe) to the point that she is rocking Peggy’s iconic red hat and blue suit (but with pants! Not gonna lie, I have cosplayed this same Peggy look, Dottie.) Peggy and the SSR track her down, with Peggy and Dottie brawling it out in the bank safe, Peggy emerging the victor. Now captured, it is revealed that Dottie was trying to steal a mysterious pin, and while she will only “talk” to Peggy, Dottie doesn’t seem inclined to reveal her secrets anytime soon.

 

Daniel Sousa, charming SSR agent and would-be love interest to our heroine, has accepted a position as chief of the SSR office in LA during the season break, and has also accepted an array of Hawaiian shirts. To be fair, perhaps sweater vests are not the best option for a heat wave in LA. Sousa and the SSR are called in to investigate a murder with homicide detective Andrew Henry — the murder victim, Jane Scott, is found in the Echo Park lake and copies the pattern of two other murders, the so-called Lady of the Lake killings (in real-life, perhaps a nod to the 1947 film The Lady of the Lake, which could visually be described as a film noir first person shooter, and also the yellow journalism tactic of giving catchy names to grisly murders, like the Black Dahlia.) The twist to this murder, however, is that half the lake has been frozen solid and, in a sight not unfamiliar to Captain America fans, the body has been uncovered in a block of ice. Corpsicle? Yikes.

 

Sousa phones his former home office in NYC for some backup, and Jack Thompson, now chief, specifically elects Peggy for the task, misdirecting intentions to both and leading me to suspect Thompson either wanted talented spitfire Peggy out of his hair, and/or he was shipping it.

 

Upon arrival in LA, Peggy begins a whirlwind day where she is reunited with Jarvis and meets her new housemate, Bernard Stark, the flamingo. We’re soon to find out that Jarvis is thrilled to have more adventures with Miss Carter, as Howard Stark is off opening his own movie studio, Stark Pictures (with philandering on the side,) and Jarvis finds LA distasteful. That being said, Jarvis’s adventures can’t be all bad, as we finally meet his fabulous wife, Ana. Ana becomes fast friends with Peggy, becoming Peggy’s own version of Bond’s Q, but with slightly less spy-tech and rather more personal styling. And what fashion in these two episodes!

 

Jarvis whisks Peggy off to Auerbach Theatrical Agency, the undercover LA front to the SSR office. There she’s greeted by Rose, the original “love the hat!” undercover SSR “operator” from season one. Rose seems to be treated to hopeful “talent” regularly while screening agents before taken back to the secret entrance to the SSR, hidden behind the R to the S filing cabinet (nice homage to Rogers, Steve.) Cue the somewhat awkward reunion between Peggy and Sousa before investigating the body of Jane Scott.

 

Jane’s body is not thawing, because it turns out she’s not actually frozen by ice, but the body itself is shockingly cold and luminescent due to exposure to radiation and a particle accelerator (I listened to this dialogue a few times, until eventually just deciding, sure, cheers to technobabble?!) The nearest particle accelerator is at Isodyne Energy, so our agents head off for some investigation/snooping.  

 

It’s here we meet Dr. Jason Wilkes, smooth smiling plasma physicist, brewing wine with which to woo Peggy and drop some information (also, hope you weren’t recently using any of that lab equipment for non-edible compounds, sir.) He IDs the body, explains she was a particle physicist, and indicates she was having an affair with Isodyne Energy owner, Calvin Chadwick, senatorial candidate. Chadwick is at the races with his actress wife, Whitney Frost, trying to gather votes, so the agents try to get more information about Jane directly from Chadwick, unsuccessfully.

 

Back in New York, Thompson has tried unsuccessfully to interrogate Dottie. While insistent on Peggy, she does agree that she would exchange information about the pin she was attempting to steal for a deportation deal. Before that can be arranged, FBI agents assume custody of Dottie.  After, Thompson talks to Veron Masters. Thompson, able to assume professional accolades with Peggy out of the office, is frustrated the FBI will get credit for Dottie’s capture. Masters explains that, if Thompson is really interested in climbing the ladder, he will recognize that the war is over, the SSR will come to an end, and Thompson should be in position to lead whatever organization comes next. (…we know roughly how this turns out with SHIELD, but sure, good luck to you, Thompson.)

 

Upon return to the morgue in LA, the coroner was affected by Jane’s body, solidifying and shattering at the lightest touch. Wilkes was brought in to advise, and was notably shaken by the death. It is here we discover the twist: detective Andrew Henry had accepted a lot of money from an unspecified entity to make Jane’s already-dead-and-infected body appear as if she was a victim of the Lady of the Lake killings. Henry is also infected with the solidifying radiation of Jane’s body. In a panic, he takes Wilkes hostage, attempting to get to Isodyne before he succumbs. Peggy and Sousa catch up to him, confront Henry, and while Peggy promises to have him cured, he indicates “they” won’t allow that to happen, right before taking a bullet from a police officer, which shatters and kills Henry.

 

We, the audience, see the police officer who shot Henry reporting to Chadwick and getting paid off. Chadwick tells his wife Whitney that she figured out how to fix everything. Whitney is pleased to have effectively covered up Chadwick’s affair with Jane and also have eliminated the infected Henry, who had presumably accepted his cover-up assignment from Chadwick.

 

Wilkes speculates that the ice-like radiation/infection was only spread through contaminated blood and is (hopefully) not contagious otherwise. He asks Peggy out for dinner and dancing (dancing!), but Peggy politely declines. Peggy and the SSR are left with the mystery of who paid off Henry. We later see Peggy suggesting a drink with Sousa, though he declines. Peggy comes to see Sousa heading out for the evening and smooching another lady. There is some complicated love triangle/polygonal geometry happening here.

 

The episode closes with Wilkes observing a dark morphing blob back at Isodyne Energy before cutting straight to…

 

Episode 2×2: A View in the Dark

 

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We dive into episode two with strongman suit-clad Jarvis lifting weights, to the bemusement of Peggy. Declining a fencing match, Jarvis proposes boxing and judo. It is roundly ridiculous.

 

Sousa gets to work and discovers that not only has Peggy met Violet, the object of his affection at the end of the last episode, they’re getting on quite well. Awkward.

 

We see the body of Jane Scott being loaded into a container (that is remarkably visually reminiscent of a Cap 2 flashback image to a cold storage container for the Winter Soldier) and being moved, but the employees moving her are shot before they can reach the waiting truck by a fedora-wearing man. The bodies and container are loaded into the truck. The truck and bodies are then abandoned, but the container with Jane’s body disappears.

 

Calvin Chadwick is meanwhile having a meeting with a mysterious council of men who tell him Isodyne Energy will be shut down. The council clearly pulls many strings, being cited as orchestrating the stock market crash of 1929, closing the lab, and having taken care of Jane’s body. Chadwick argues that the “substance” could be valuable, but goes along with the vote, unhappy, but in a position to take political power thanks to the council.

 

Peggy and Sousa head to Isodyne Energy to uncover more information about the dead and missing bodies, but there has been a “containment leak” and they are unable to access it, even with a warrant. They run into Wilkes, who ostensibly can’t help, but passes Peggy a note for a secret rendezvous. He then steals an Isodyne Energy filmstrip from their atomic program in the Mojave desert from 1940. This theft is, unfortunately, observed by a shady labcoated technician.

 

Peggy is invited to The Dunbar Hotel (indeed, a real-life African American community hotspot in the 30s and 40s on thriving Central Avenue, and Ella Fitzgerald did play there, along with more jazz greats.) Sousa suggests backup, but Peggy insists she can handle herself. A fumble of Sousa’s coat produces an engagement ring for Violet, with which he was planning to propose that evening. Peggy says she’s very happy for him, but, well, it all seems unhappy and quite complicated. For a secret agent, Peggy wasn’t doing a great job of hiding her emotions (but we love her for it.)

 

Peggy is stunningly outfitted by Ana and provided with a tricked-out vehicle of Howard’s by Jarvis, having all manner of Howard-style seduction accoutrements (oh dear.)  At the Dunbar Hotel, Wilkes and Peggy flirt a bit, but also talk some business: Wilkes’ life was classily threatened by suits, telling him not to talk about anything, and he wants a little more information about Peggy before he decides to trust her and divulge information anyway (and, again, the flirting is involved.) We find out Peggy likes whiskey, is from Hampstead, and was apparently a school hero in her younger days for pulling pranks. Wilkes insists on a dance (a dance!) and admits that he knows a few things: Chadwick didn’t kill Jane Scott, but he would definitely kill, and probably did, to cover up Isodyne Energy research. He invites Peggy to the Griffith Observatory to learn more, and they are observed leaving by the fedora-wearing man who secreted away Jane’s body earlier in the episode.

 

Meanwhile, Whitney Frost is filming her latest movie role and facing demeaning comments about her appearance from the director. As she touches up her makeup, Chadwick shows up and tells her that Isodyne is being closed down. She’s angry that Chadwick couldn’t stand up to them, and angry that zero matter, the powerful new energy source, is about to disappear.  This is a lady who does not like to stand idly by.

 

At the Griffith Observatory, James Wilkes shares a bit of his own past: working in orange groves with his family, facing prejudice, taking a second job as a janitor as the observatory, and saving money for an education. He went on to become a Navy engineer during the war and worked in the weapons propulsion lab. Rejected from many jobs, Isodyne was the only company who would hire him. Talking to Peggy about Isodyne is an intensely risky move for him.

 

Wilkes none the less shows Peggy the stolen footage of Isodyne’s atomic test: a test that didn’t go as planned, where, instead of creating a mushroom cloud, a black crack in space appeared, sucking in all manner of matter and leaving behind the mysterious quivering goo seen at the end of the first episode: zero matter. It is explained to be cold because the matter itself sucks up everything, including energy. Not much is known about it, but it may be from another dimension. Wilkes’ job was to contain the zero matter, and Peggy proposes stealing it (while they are making some eyes at each other and standing notably close.) The mysterious fedora man, however, shows up to ruin everything. Peggy hotwires the thugs’ car (presumably a trick learned in Nazi Germany at the same time as Steve Rogers, seen in Cap 2) and they make their escape toward Isodyne.

 

The car doesn’t make it far, Peggy and Wilkes have to hide in the car to avoid detection, where Peggy notices the lapel pin that matches the one Dottie was trying to steal, though she still doesn’t know what it means.

 

Jarvis gets the SOS that Peggy is in trouble, at least from the car at the Observatory, and relays the message to “Mr. Auerbach,” what Rose calls Sousa, who is about to go to dinner to, presumably, propose to Violet. Sousa is demonstrably upset (read: pitches a fit) about Peggy’s dangerous situation , which he attributes to a set-up by Wilkes, and pulls out all the stops to find her, including going to Isodyne with Jarvis to track her down.

 

Peggy and Wilkes find a phone, but face some prejudice to get change to use it.  The phone’s not working anyway, though we get the lovely character glimpse of Peggy Carter wanting to punch her way through problems. They think they’ve been discovered by the men chasing them (they haven’t), but they pull the classic “cuddling to avoid detection” ploy, which turns into kissing (!).  And then Peggy steals a car. As you do.

 

At Isodyne, Peggy takes out the thugs by way of punches, a lab coat and a crowbar, and Wilkes contains the zero matter by way of pneumatic tube. Whitney Frost unexpectedly (to Wilkes) shows up and insists in taking the zero matter for herself, saying she is the only person who knows what zero matter is capable of. They struggle over the tube of zero matter, it drops and breaks loose, there’s a massive explosion, and Frost and Wilkes are gone.

 

Sousa and Javis show up at Isodyne, and encounter and uncharacteristically shocked and distressed Peggy. Sousa sends her home with Jarvis, and Sousa follows suit, going to see the adorable Violet (Sousa needs to work out his feelings). Ana brings a recovering Peggy whiskey instead of tea, and they helps Peggy sift her emotions — and the undoubtedly unshakable feeling that another man that Peggy kissed has just disappeared.

 

The last scene of the episode is Chadwick trying to talk to Whitney, closed in a dressing room, about the Isodyne explosion and missing zero matter. We see a disheveled Whitney move aside her hair to reveal a crack of zero matter on her forehead. Not good.

 

Coming Up

 

Instead of a specific preview for next week, overall for season 2, looks like we’ll be seeing Peggy unravelling the secret council conspiracy, donning a variety of new disguises and spy-tech, and having more adventures with Jarvis and the SSR team. While it woefully seems like we’re not to expect much in the return of season 1’s Angie Martinelli, we are to expect the return of Howard and Dottie. Fast action and fabulous 40s fashion are to be expected, we’re likely to find out more about zero matter and the disappearance of Jason Wilkes, and we’re on the countdown for a showdown between Peggy and Whitney Frost.

 

Want to stay steeped in Agent Carter while waiting for the next episode? Here’s a list of some topics touched on this week that are great for further exploration. Get your Google on — be warned, anything uncovered while reading up has the potential to be a spoiler, but you’ll also learn some really cool new stuff!

 

Historical:

  • Hollywood in the 40s, the seedy underbelly, and the Hollywood Blacklist
  • The African American community in Los Angeles in the post-war period
  • The early Cold War, McCarthyism and the Red Scare

Comics:

  • Zero Matter and the Darkforce
  • Whitney Frost and Madame Masque
  • The Secret Empire
  • Jason Wikes
  • Comic Peggy’s Romantic History

 

Ultimately, I am thrilled to have Peggy Carter back on my screen. I’m curious and hopeful to see where we go this season, and I love watching the nuance, style, and punching through life attitude of Peggy. Until next week, with some slightly chipped red nail polish from typing up this epic recap, signing off!


    2 Comments

  1. rudy924January 23rd, 2016 at 2:57 am

    Great recap. Reading it made me realize I missed a couple of details so I’ll have to rewatch before next week.
    Here’s something I did catch: was one of the council members in Ep2 the head of Roxxon Oil who we also saw early in Season 1? I think his name was Hugh Roxxon? If so this would tie into the comics where Roxxon was involved in global and extra dimensional conspiracies (like the Serpent Crown)

  2. Kathy HarenskiJanuary 23rd, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Great job, Katie!

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