Agent Carter Season 1 Review

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Two days ago was the UK premiere of the second season of Marvel’s acclaimed Agent Carter TV series, following Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter from the first Captain America movie. In preparation, then, I’ve collected all the ‘mini-reviews’ that I wrote each week over on my facebook page, which you can find here.

Now is Not the End (1×01)

So, I watched the first episode of Agent Carter today, because it’s finally getting a UK release. I quite enjoyed it, actually; Hayley Atwell is brilliant (although the “Crikey O’Reilly” line is awful, she delivers everything else more or less perfectly) and some fairly interesting plot lines have been set up. I’m not exactly sold on the Leviathan idea, because vagueness doesn’t really translate to an interesting mystery, but we’ll see where that goes.

I was surprised at how violent it was, actually. It was great seeing Peggy fighting and winning quite so often, but it was certainly a level up from Agents of SHIELD – the stapler and the cooking hob both stood out. As did the rather brutal death of Peggy’s friend, come to that.

Still, I quite enjoyed it, and I’m going to keep watching it. Obviously.

Bridge and Tunnel (1×02)

Another week, another episode of Agent Carter. ‘Twas another interesting one; Hayley Atwell is, of course, still brilliant. What I do find interesting is that they’re giving her what is typically a male narrative – that of the loner who cuts themselves off from others, blaming themselves when harm comes to those closest to them, and so on and so forth. They did something similar with Watson in series 3 of Elementary, to largely good effects, so I’m interested to see where this is going.

Also of note is the Betty Carver triage nurse radio show angle. (I think I got her name right) It’s… interesting, in that it provided a nice presentational device, but they never really used it to any great impact to comment on, say, propaganda, or interpretations of heroes, or where ever they might have wanted to go with that. If it does reappear, hopefully, it’ll be in a more interesting capacity

Time and Tide (1×03)

This week’s did well for the various supporting characters, I think. Jarvis, Angie, and Kaminsky. They each felt a little more fleshed out – I knew the backstory about Jarvis’ wife was coming, but it was still a suitably dramatic moment, and James D’Arcy does really well. Particularly liked the “Still is, I’m pleased to say” line, as well as the clear rage replacing his normal calm when his wife is threatened.

I think the death of Kaminsky was quite well handled – even though no one exactly liked him, and he’d been very much the butt of every joke (even in death – “I’ll call his girlfriend”), when he did die, it clearly shook everyone up. It was a clever way to show the impact of what was going on.

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The Blitzkrieg Button (1×04)

It was kinda rubbish, this episode. Bit of a shame, really, that at 4 weeks in they’re already at “comedy filler episode”, especially given that it’s essentially a mini-series; you’d expect the whole show to have a much tighter arc and direction. This was the one where it became obvious that they don’t exactly know what they’re doing – they have a thinly sketched stock mysterious villain, and a weak overall plot, which can’t exactly drive the series. “Clear Howard Stark’s name”. Well, okay, what does that translate to on a weekly basis? So far it’s matched up alright with the ongoing investigations of the SSR, but this week, things just felt lacking.

There were good bits – some of the jokes were funny, and some of the more serious lines did fairly well – but ultimately this episode was just a sloppy, directionless mess. I’d say it’s probably worse than even the lower tier Agents of SHIELD episodes (a show I’ve not always been kind to, but am more or less now quite pleased with.)

The Iron Ceiling (1×05)

This was the one with the Howling Commandos in it. That’s probably the only notable thing about it, isn’t it? Actually, that’s unfair. Fleshed out the character of Thompson a bit, which was nice; tragic backstory, and possible PTSD, were an interesting inclusion if nothing else. Peggy’s story in this episode worked well too, I think, as the SSR characters began to give her a little more respect.

It still feels like, with three episodes left, that there’s a fair amount of ground left to cover on the big important arc plot – which, admittedly, is not feeling all that interesting yet.

(Also – this wasn’t in the original facebook comments, but something I wanted to comment on now: Isn’t The Iron Ceiling such a clever title?)

A Sin to Err (1×06)

In this particular episode,  Peggy’s SSR buddies find out about her illicit escapades, and also the good Russian man is secretly evil.

We’ll start with the Russian man. It was actually an interesting twist, the way that they revealed he was evil – Dottie was signalling to him with her gun, rather than getting ready to shoot him. It’d be a lot more interesting if it wasn’t so contrived, mind you – shouldn’t she have had, like, a telescope or something? Also, thinking about it, why did she kill the dentist? I actually liked that earlier, because she killed him because he was being a lecherous creep… but isn’t the whole point of the Black Widow program that they can manipulate people with their sexuality? That’s why she has that anesthetic lipstick to use later on, after all. Hmm.

As for the SSR reveal, I think it worked, more or less. The fact that she gained the respect of the others last episode gave this a bit more weight, but it’d probably have worked better if we’d seen her with their respect for another episode. Also! Putting her confrontation with Thompson and her confrontation with Sousa one after the other lessened the impact of them, given that they ended up being functionally very similar, even though they shouldn’t have been – Peggy’s relationship with both of them is different, and that should have been considered.

Still! At least this episode gave me a lot to say. It was a definite improvement over the previous two weeks.

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Snafu (1×07)

I can pretty confidently say that this episode was, in fact, the best of the series. In part, I think, that’s because a lot of the different plot threads that they’d been dangling over the past eight weeks were now beginning to reach their close – as well as that, though, there’s more depth to the characters by this stage, so it was all a little more impactful generally.

The interrogation montage at the beginning of the episode was quite neat; it does a genuinely impressive job of juxtaposing the different reaction Peggy’s colleagues had to her betrayal alongside one another. One of the flaws I picked out in the previous episode was that they didn’t do enough to emphasise the differences in Peggy’s relationship with Sousa and with Thompson – a far better job of that was done here.

Similarly, the death of Chief Dooley was actually rather poignant; on its own, the invocation of his family might have seemed a little cliche, but I think in allowing us to actually see his family through the hallucinations the show was able to out something of a more interesting spin on events. It helped to give the episode a greater emotional weight, and really did up the tension, heightening the stakes for the finale.

Valediction (1×08)

The eighth and final episode managed to further improve on the standard set by its predecessor; it does a decent job of resolving the different plot threads we’ve running throughout. The reintroduction of Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark was an excellent move, because he imbues his performance with a real charm and charisma that elevates every scene he’s in. There was some real pathos, in fact, in framing Howard’s narrative so explicitly in terms of Steve Rogers; much like with Peggy, the love of Captain America and his absence haunted the character.

We did see a rather neat resolution to that, though, and it’s one of my favourite moments in the entire show; Peggy was able to talk down Howard, preventing him from bombing the city, in a scene that explicitly mirrored and parallels Steve’s own “death” in Captain America. In many ways, this can be regarded as something of a second chance for Peggy, and the start of a second life – as evidenced by the closing scene, wherein she reaffirms her own value, and slowly pours away Steve’s blood.

Overall

I mean, it’s very much a case of strengths and weaknesses. They did a decent job with the characters, I think it’s fair to say, although it did take a while to get going in that regard. Some things felt a little sloppy; the overarching Leviathan plot was not really as tightly planned as I would have liked, particularly considering this was a miniseries. Certainly, there’s no way the story could have sustained a standard 24 episode season, and it’s perhaps difficult to argue that they managed to properly sustain it across these 8.

I do think that it is genuinely good thing for the MCU that this program exists. I do think that it’s managed to introduce some excellent characters. I also think there is a genuine and inherent value in introducing a female lead television program of this nature.

But across the second season, the writing will need to pick up; it has to be more in the vein of the later episodes than the earlier episodes, if not even better still.

Let’s hope the show can come to know its own value, and realise its untapped potential.

This article was previously published on the Yahoo TV website.

Related:

Here’s everything I’ve written about Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD

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The Flash: Who is Zoom?

the flash series 2 enter zoom hunter zolomon jay garrick teddy sears eddie thawne fight hd image

Across the course of The Flash season 2 so far, a new villain has been established – Zoom. The overarching villain of this season, Zoom has already demonstrated he’s a significant threat; he stole Jay Garrick’s speed, kidnapped E2 Harrison Wells’ daughter, and completely decimated Barry in their only confrontation of the series. 

We know that Zoom is a force to be reckoned with. But we don’t know who he is.

The question of Zoom’s identity has been hotly debated, with various possibilities emerging; you’ve got E2 Harrison Wells, Jay Garrick, E2 Barry Allen, Henry Allen of either Earth, Barry Allen from the future, and Patty Spivot. (That last one is, obviously, most likely. They do both wear blue, after all.) Any possibility could be quite compelling, of course, but when it comes down to it, to me there’s only one identity for Zoom that could really, truly work.

And that’s Eddie Thawne.

Now, allow me to explain. In case you’ve forgotten, Eddie Thawne was one of the central characters throughout much of last year’s run; he was a police detective, partnered with Joe West, and in a relationship with Iris West. (That, obviously, lead to something of a love triangle between Barry, Iris and Eddie; your mileage will vary on quite how successful you considered it to have been.) Crucially, Eddie was also revealed to be an ancestor of the time travelling Reverse Flash, who was the overarching villain of that season; in the final episode, Eddie sacrificed himself, committing suicide to stop the Reverse Flash from ever having existed.

He died, saving everyone. So, how can he be the villain this season?

the flash eddie thawne zoom reverse flash eobard thawne jay garrick hunter zolomon season 2 rick cosnett

Well, in comic book television programs, death is only as permanent as the writers want it to be. You can see that on The Flash last year, with the many deaths and returns of Ronnie Raymond; the same has been true over on Arrow, with various characters returning after their presumed demise. Previously you could at least say that a character wasn’t dead unless you’d seen the body – but even that’s not true anymore, with Arrow showing us the emaciated corpse of Sara Lance before promptly returning her to life.

It follows, then, that the same could be true of Eddie. His death is in fact particularly suspicious when you realise that his corpse was pulled into a wormhole, and his body not seen since then; that’s exactly the sort of event that could give someone speed related powers, isn’t it? Notably, Zoom’s lightning has been shown in shades of blue, implicitly linking him to that same wormhole; perhaps this indicates that his powers come from the wormhole?

Interestingly, Jay Garrick described Zoom as being “a speed demon”; that, I think, is the sort of description that could be applied to someone who died, and exists in a state of temporal limbo as a result of being pulled into a wormhole. (An obvious counter response to this would be asking how Zoom found himself on Earth 2 before the wormhole opened; it’s just another case of the peculiarities of time travel, really.)

Two upcoming villains in the latter half of season 2 indicate, perhaps, that Zoom is Eddie Thawne; now, I’m only going off officially released information, but this could still constitute spoilers, so you might want to skip this paragraph. We’ve got two villains confirmed to be appearing soon: the Turtle, and the Reverse Flash. Both are important, albeit for different reasons. The Turtle’s powers are the ability to speed down time; this is something typically linked to the character Zoom in the comics. (He, notably, is not Eddie, but there are several distinct similarities that indicate Eddie could have been inspired by him.) It’s also the sort of power one might expect someone to get from a time-y wimey wormhole; the Turtle could be foreshadowing and establishing this power set for Zoom.  The relevance of the Reverse Flash is obvious; if he still exists, it indicates that perhaps his ancestor Eddie wasn’t quite so dead after all.

That covers the circumstances that could lead to how Eddie became Zoom; another, more interesting question, is why.

the flash reverse flash zoom eddie thawne jesse quick violet beane rick cosnett tom cavanagh teddy sears jay garrick hunter zolomon kidnap captive

I don’t mean why in terms of motivations, though; I’ve honestly no idea what they might be. Could be as simple as wanting revenge, or Eddie going crazy; if I were to guess, I’d figure it’s a bit of both, but perhaps with the addition of elements of Zoom’s motivations from the source material. (Essentially fighting the Flash to try and make him a better hero; arguably this was signposted with the revelation that Zoom is trying to make Barry faster.)

No, I mean why in terms of why, thematically speaking, Eddie being Zoom gives us the richest and most compelling storylines.

Recall, if you will, how the season began: Barry felt like he wasn’t the hero of Central City, not really, because Eddie was the one who had stopped the Reverse Flash, not him. Eddie’s death was a really significant, emotional event for Barry; consider how seismic a revelation it would be for Barry to find out that his friend, whose sacrifice pushed him to be a better hero, is now the man trying to kill him. The same would be true of Iris as well, in fact; the man she loved is now a murderer to be feared.

(This, incidentally, is why Zoom shouldn’t be someone’s Earth 2 counterpart; it’d strip the revelation of any emotional significance. If Zoom was Eddie from Earth 2, none of the above is true; Zoom is simply someone who looks like a person they cared about. It really wouldn’t work in the same way. Furthermore, though, they indicated in The Darkness and the Light that Zoom knows about Barry’s personal life, which does suggest he’s from Earth 1.)

They’ve also built a few parallels with Eddie into Zoom’s story now; as you can see in the above picture, Zoom has been holding E2 Wells’ daughter captive, in much the same way that Wells last year held Eddie captive. It’s an interesting reversal, and to me it does indicate that there’s some weight to the idea that Zoom is Eddie; the writers are intelligent people, and the parallels here would be obvious to them too. It’s entirely possible I’m reading too far into this, yes, but I do think it’s worth consideration.

More telling, though, is one of Zoom’s first lines spoken to Barry: “Heroes die”. It’s a firm rejection of Eddie’s dying words – All I ever wanted was to be your hero.” Well, Eddie was a hero, and he died because of it. Whilst the connection I made between Wells imprisoning Eddie and Zoom imprisoning Jesse could, arguably, be a bit of a stretch, I doubt that the writers would include such an overt parallel without it being intended to mean something. To me, that’s one of the most significant pieces of evidence that foreshadows the revelation that Eddie is Zoom.

In any case, though, that concludes this little theory. I’d be interested to see if I’ve convinced you, or if you still disagree; let me know what you think in the comments.

Regardless of what happens, I do know one thing – it’s going to be really, really impressive.

This article was previously posted on the Yahoo TV website.

Related:

The Flash season 2 reviews

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