Overview: Agent Carter travels to Los Angeles to solve a murder mystery. 2015; ABC Studios/Marvel Television; TV-14; 10 episodes
Better Angels: Agent Carter built itself a stable foundation with a freshman season that promoted a supporting film character into a sustainable, compelling television lead character. This promotion permitted a stylish, retro corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a background for any number of seasons. However, the execution of the show’s sophomore season makes viewers re-question if the lead character’s post-war adventures are worth exploring at all.
The series seems to have lost the drive that made the first season so entertaining and interesting to watch. Where season one focused on feminist themes and the post-war struggles of Agent Carter, season two focuses on Peggy’s developing romances with a couple of suitors. Romance storylines aren’t inherently bad, but the season uses it in a way that doesn’t add anything to the characters or the overall narrative. Peggy continues her “will they, won’t they?” relationship with Sousa but then Jason Wilkes is allowed into the equation as another potential love interest. However, the Peggy/Jason storyline is sidelined when he turns into a ghost or whatever for 80% of the season. The season even reveals Peggy to have a deceased fiancée, but like the living romance, this element doesn’t unfold or develop in a meaningful way. The romances and the focus on Peggy and her friends don’t serve anything narratively, other than to give more history about a popular character. It felt like the only motivation for this season was to tell more Agent Carter stories, even if the story runners had no clue what it would be about.
A Little Song and Dance: The stories in and of themselves are harmless, mild entertainment. The season doesn’t try to tackle anything grand (thematically or universe wise), which allows them to focus on more flashiness and fan service. The writers force a lot more “Peggy & Jarvis” moments on the viewers, but the forced execution comes off just as bad as an unearned pun. It’s a shame they forced an aspect of the show that used to feel so natural, and it’s even worse they introduced and sidelined Jarvis’ wife, because at least that would’ve given his character fresh material to work with.
The Los Angeles setting is a nice change of scenery and the season pulls off a pretty fun musical in the opening of episode nine, but the show remains mostly the same. More of the same “investigate the shady organization” subplots (from season one and its sister show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), more of the same random guest appearances of Howard Stark, and more of the same adventure structure. There was only a second season because of the demand on social media and the creators’ love for the character, and so it’s not that big of a surprise the writers would focus on what made the series work in the past, instead of exploring new approaches to the characters.
Monsters: Given that, it’s no surprise that the season’s saving grace comes from a newly introduced character, Whitney Frost (in the comics, Madame Masque). She was the only part of the new season that was fresh and compelling enough to watch. The season begins with her and her husband seeking to gain political power in Los Angeles (think House of Cards), but then morphs into something much crazier when she comes into contact with a substance that gives her power. Every episode was worth watching just to see how Frost’s quest for power would continue to corrupt her and ultimately leave her lifeless, mostly because Wynn Everrett really pulled in a dynamic, layered performance. She’s a great follow-up to last season’s antagonist, Dottie Underwood. Dottie is another remarkable addition this season, even if she’s only in a couple of episodes, because the writers are aware what makes her compelling to watch and what makes her popular with the audience.
Overall: Marvel Television delivers a jolly, meaningless Los Angeles adventure with Agent Carter season two. It’s a disappointment made watchable by a compelling villain and the love Hayley Atwell has for the character.