Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Marvel Thud: “Time And Tide” Is An Agent Carter Dud!

The Good: Plot progresses, Acting is adequate
The Bad: No significant character development, Dull plot, No superlative acting moments
The Basics: Despite trying to ground the episode “Time And Tide” with a big tragic moment, Agent Carter has its first real dud with its third episode.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in an odd place. While 2015 is virtually guaranteed to be a big year for Marvel’s arm of Disney with Ant Man and the new The Avengers sequel, until they arrive, television is where the Marvel Cinematic Universe it at. Plugging the mini-series Agent Carter with a full night premiere and the first trailer for Ant Man only seemed to show how Disney was hedging its bets. Agent Carter is, by its nature, a tougher sell than any other Marvel-related series. Having just rewatched Captain America: The Winter Soldier (reviewed here!), the whole “purpose” of Agent Carter is that she helps to found S.H.I.E.L.D. So, whatever happens in Agent Carter the viewer knows that the title character must survive and some element of the show is either Carter discovering how to reorganize the SSR into S.H.I.E.L.D. or forestalling the inevitable, either of which is not exactly great fodder for entertainment.

Picking up where “Bridge And Tunnel” (reviewed here!) left off, Agent Carter continues with its heavily-serialized story with “Time And Tide.” For those who have missed the prior two episodes, there is little point in starting with “Time And Tide.” While Captain America: The First Avenger (reviewed here!) might not be essential viewing to get into Agent Carter, the prior two episodes are. After all, this is the third episode focusing on the trail of clues that follow the theft of Howard Stark’s prototypes and the assassins and thugs of Leviathan who are set up to fence or use those prototypes!

Agent Carter is doing research on the symbol left at the last dead body on her hunt for Leviathan when a man climbs up to her window (he’s there for another woman in the house). Meanwhile, her colleagues for the SSR track down the special typewriter the members of Leviathan are using to communicate with one another. The SSR has discovered the body of a man who was supposed to be dead for years and Howard Stark’s license plate in the debris of the corporation destroyed by Stark’s weapon. With Stark’s license plate tying him to the scene, the SSR brings Jarvis in for questioning. As Jack Thompson interrogates Jarvis, Agent Carter becomes concerned that Jarvis will crack and reveal some of their secrets.

After Carter gets Jarvis sprung from the SSR, she and Jarvis discover how the prototypes were actually stolen from Howard Stark’s saferoom. Together, they investigate both the spillway used to steal the prototypes and the warehouse where the prototypes have been moved (thanks to the symbol the last corpse revealed). When Carter wants to call in the find of the prototypes, Jarvis tries to convince her that the SSR will only tear Carter down using the information.

With “Time And Tide,” Agent Carter reveals itself to be a thinly-veiled rework of Alias (reviewed here!) set in the late 1940s. As a result, Agent Peggy Carter finds herself juggling between the SSR (where she is not respected), her private investigation into the theft of Howard Stark’s prototypes, and the much lamer plot revolving around her personal life outside work, at the women’s home where she lodges. So, Peggy Carter has a wisecracking, strong best friend at home, Francine, er, Angie and the reticent professional at work, played by a more-established, respectable actor, in this case James D’Arcy’s Jarvis, and she runs around trying to keep the three parts of her life in balance. So far, at least, there is no ridiculous romantic subplot to screw things up (arguably just because Captain America “died” . . . wait, Alias started that way, too!).

“Time And Tide” seems derivative for no particular reason, save the soap operatic nature of Carter’s interplay with Angie and the way mundane “clues” in her daily life suddenly clue Carter into something in her professional life. So, really, Agent Carter, British superagent who worked with Howard Stark and Captain America never thought about how Howard Stark’s prototypes were stolen until someone tries breaking into the woman’s home?! It’s not the overt men of the SSR who don’t respect Agent Carter; it is the writers of Agent Carter (ironic in this case because “Time And Tide” was written by Andi Bushell!). Bushell might have just been stuck with the rough chapter to write in the longer arc (something that happens with collaborative writing on series’s), but she does not exactly make it easier on women or Peggy Carter. It is hard, after watching “Time And Tide” to wonder who would care about Agent Carter if they were just coming to the series. In other words, Peggy Carter is not a particularly likable or interesting protagonist in Agent Carter. In fact, in “Time And Tide,” she has no superlative qualities.

Near the climax of “Time And Tide,” there is a death at the SSR and perhaps the big problem with the episode is that after less than three hours, none of the characters have popped. As a result, none of them are particularly distinct or worth empathizing with. In order to discuss members of the SSR team, I still have to check the IMDB just for character names; it’s not a lack of attention on my part, it’s that three hours in we have Leader Guy, Chad Michael Murray (the actor), Crushy McPolioSuvivor and The Rest Of The Guys. So, trying to make a death at the SSR seem significant, especially in the Marvel Universe where (so far), no one has remained dead, save one or two people on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., is a tough sell. Director Scott Winant does not land it with “Time And Tide.”

As for the rest of the cast, Hayley Atwell does fine with Peggy Carter (despite how flawed the character is!) and James D’Arcy is able to sell the ethical gray area in which Jarvis lives with his beautiful British timbre. Lyndsy Fonseca is given more screen time in “Time And Tide” and she makes fine use of it, though her character is a pretty mundane supporting role that does not give the actress much room to do anything with.

The result of “Time And Tide,” though, is a plot-heavy episode that seems more and more unremarkable the more one considers the chain of evidence and minimal plot developments. Agent Carter was granted an eight-episode mini-series arc; perhaps before ABC/Disney signed off on it, they should have figured out if there was enough story, character development and genuine substance to flesh out eight hours. “Time And Tide,” distilled from its filler and tangents probably would have been about ten minutes otherwise.

For other works with Lyndsy Fonseca, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Kick-Ass 2
Hot Tub Time Machine
How I Met Your Mother - Season 6
How I Met Your Mother - Season 5
How I Met Your Mother - Season 4
How I Met Your Mother - Season 3
How I Met Your Mother - Season 2
How I Met Your Mother - Season 1

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agent Carter - The Complete First Season, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of Agent Carter here!


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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