Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Hunt For Leviathan Takes Agent Carter Through “Bridge And Tunnel!”

The Good: Decent performances, Good plot development
The Bad: Light on character development, No great moments for the actors to wow the audience
The Basics: “Bridge And Tunnel” moves forward the plot of Agent Carter, but runs into the conceptual problems that are already plaguing the period-based series.

As the series premiere of Agent Carter reached its climax, the Captain America: The First Avenger spin-off made it clear that the eight-episode limited series would be heavily serialized. The show, which progressed into the second episode “Bridge And Tunnel,” finally introduced the villain of the series as Leviathan. While those savvy to the Marvel Cinematic Universe have no reason to doubt that Leviathan is merely some not-so-clever offshoot of H.Y.D.R.A., the show has something of an obligation to develop the villainous organization in order to make Agent Peggy Carter’s post-World War II adventures seem vital.

Picking up where “Now Is Not The End” (reviewed here!) left off, “Bridge And Tunnel” seems, oddly-enough, more dependent upon Captain America (reviewed here!) than the pilot episode. However, the episode also makes numerous callbacks to “Now Is Not The End,” so it stands poorly on its own. It is very much a “next chapter;” resonating character elements like Carter not wanting to move into the same women’s building as her friend, Angie, given that her only other friend in the U.S. was killed in the prior episode, make far less sense without seeing the preceding episode.

After bemoaning the way she is presented in a radio recreation of the work she did during World War II with Captain America, Agent Peggy Carter goes searching for leads into the men who unleashed the Nitromene weapon at Roxxon. Returning to the Strategic Scientific Reserve, Carter discovers that her friend in the SSR is actually very close to discovering that she was present when Spider Raymond was killed. Realizing that vita radiation might expose her, Carter tries to eliminate the radiation on her as the SSR works to expose the villains who are trying to sell and use the Nitromene weapon. While the SSR interrogate the man Carter recognized at Roxxon, Carter continues her own investigation.

Jarvis and Carter find McFee and he leads them to the “milkman” who made off with the stash of Nitromene. But recovering the Nitromene only provides them with the information that Leviathan is an organization, not an individual, before Carter and Jarvis come under attack. The milkman gives them a clue to Leviathan before he dies and Carter’s SSR coworkers start moving in on Agent Carter!

Agent Carter is presented as something of an accessory to her own mission in “Bridge And Tunnel.” Rather than being at the forefront of the investigation of Roxxon employees, Peggy Carter struggles to keep herself from being exposed and then reacts in a smarter fashion to Van Ert fleeing than her male counterparts at the SSR. Instead of pushing to the forefront of her own mission, Carter pretty much facilitates the process of the men getting the job done. While it makes sense that all of a sudden the supporting characters at the SSR would not suddenly lose their chauvinistic attitudes after one episode, Peggy Carter does not do enough overtly to move them off of their dated positions. The result is somewhat unsatisfying to watch.

The revelation that Leviathan is an organization is somewhat underwhelming, as is the subsequent chase of Carter and Jarvis by a gunman. One of the fundamental problems with Agent Carter comes to the forefront in “Bridge And Tunnel.” Unlike virtually any other spy thriller, Agent Carter is robbed of a sense of suspense no matter how much danger the protagonist is put in. Hell, James Bond could be killed (perceptive fans know that “James Bond” is just an alias) and the series would go on. But Agent Carter cannot even do that with its protagonist. Peggy Carter was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (reviewed here!). So, just as H.Y.D.R.A. cannot be an overt force in Agent Carter, no matter how much apparent danger Peggy Carter is put in, she cannot die in the course of the series. That, like the near-constant reminders that women are treated as second-class citizens in the time-period of the series, starts feeling pretty repetitive and boring.

Fortunately, “Bridge And Tunnel” has enough intrigue to be watchable. Agent Carter has quickly turned into a buddy spy series with Carter and Jarvis plodding their way through the weak clues that lead them from one lackey to another on their way to stop the spread of Howard Stark’s stolen arsenal. The supporting cast of “Bridge And Tunnel” is good; Ray Wise makes decent use of his brief appearance in the episode to make the head of Roxxon into a credibly strong adversary. Wise is tasked with playing a character who is essentially the rival of Howard Stark and Wise has enough gravitas to do just that.

In a similar way, Chad Michael Murray is actually decent as SSR Agent Jack Thompson in “Bridge And Tunnel.” Murray plays a character who is essentially a buffoon following well-behind the heels of Agent Carter and the strength of his acting in Agent Carter is that he does not stand out at all in the episode. Chad Michael Murray is used to playing off his natural charisma and virtually every role he takes on involves him delivering with some sense of swagger. That self confidence, innate charm and raw charisma is absent from the way he plays Thompson.

Hayley Atwell is decent as Peggy Carter. “Bridge And Tunnel” features a parody of Agent Carter in the form of the radio show based on the adventures of Captain America back in World War II. Unfortunately, ABC’s advertising campaign does not seem to pick up on the in-show issues with diminishing Carter (their poster campaign is a lot of legs and lips!) to a character type. While “Bridge And Tunnel” does not offer Atwell enough time and space to actually emote impressively as Carter. This is not a key episode for emotional power, instead it is very plot-heavy.

James D’Arcy is so good in the supporting role of Jarvis that it wasn’t until I looked him up that I realized that he was the same performer I enjoyed in Cloud Atlas (reviewed here!). Like Atwell, D’Arcy is not given the chance to do any heavy lifting in “Bridge And Tunnel.” Still, D’Arcy and Atwell make a good on-screen couple (in a heroine/sidekick way) and their interplay offers the show the glimmer of potential on the character front.

Until the potential of the character interplays and some twist is revealed that makes Agent Peggy Carter’s adventures more essential to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems like we’re stuck at the peak that “Bridge And Tunnel” represents: Agent Carter is pushing forward in a time where the protagonist is relegated to cleaning up the loose ends of Captain America and the best the writers can say about the time is that there was overt sexism.

For other works with Ray Wise, be sure to check out my reviews of:
X-Men: First Class
The West Wing - Season Seven
"Hope And Fear" - Star Trek: Voyager
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Twin Peaks
"Who Watches The Watcher" - Star Trek: The Next Generation

[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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