Friday, October 21, 2016

The Emphasis On Relationships Forces "A View In The Dark" In An Awkward Direction!

The Good: Competent performances, Good special effects
The Bad: Tone, Dull plot, No genuine character development
The Basics: "A View In The Dark" oversells the relationships belabored in the second season of Agent Carter while only minimally progressing the season's mystery.

The second season of Agent Carter worked very hard in its premiere episode to do two important things. The first was that it clearly established that the second season would be a season-long mystery, not one that was instantly resolved, and that it was making much more explicit ties to Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Given that the first episode of the season tied into the third season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. through the pin that Dottie Underwood tried to steal from the bank vault at the episode's outset and that image is featured prominently in "A View In The Dark."

Picking up where “The Lady In The Lake” (reviewed here!) left off, "A View In The Dark" is tough to discuss without some references to the prior episode. After all, "The Lady In The Lake" concluded with what appeared to be Gravitonium from the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "The Asset" (reviewed here!), which makes it clear that Agent Carter is committed to tying into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe in its second season . . . and someone involved in the mystery is a mad scientist, probably with ties to HYDRA.

Opening with Peggy Carter walking in on Jarvis weight training, Carter quickly illustrates that he does not have the skills to take her down. Chief Sousa arrives at the office to discover that Carter has already met Violet, his new girlfriend. Carter is all business, eager to get the autopsy done on Jane Scott. But, when the people transporting her body are killed and the body stolen, Calvin Chadwick is called onto the carpet by the secret society for which he works. Isodyne Energy - Chadwick's pet project - is being shuttered, much to his chagrin. After Carter gets the warrant she needs to investigate Isodyne Energy, she arrives at the facility to find Dr. Wilkes coming in and he slips her a note with a time and place to meet him.

After meeting with Wilkes at a nightclub, Carter appears to earn the scientist's trust, even though he is being tailed. Wilkes takes Carter to his office, where he shows her the footage of the creation of "zero matter," a by-product of a failed atomic test. When Wilkes's and Carter's enemies track them to the observatory, Carter has to activate the S.O.S. system Jarvis provided her. Returning to Isodyne Energy, Wilkes and Carter discover that the facility is in the process of being scrubbed and they work to recover the zero matter that is tied to Jane Scott's murder.

Working "zero matter" into "A View In The Dark" creates a problematic mystery for Agent Carter. After all, in order to make the presence of Gravitonium in 1947 make any sense, there has to be a plausible reason why it would pop back up for another 65 years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wilkes worked on the containment system for the zero matter and the viewer is expected to believe that however the second season is resolved, the zero matter has remained contained without creating more casualties like from "The Lady In The Lake" for 65 years. In fact, while the whole magnetic containment system for the zero matter makes sense, the small transport tube for it is somewhat ridiculous.

"A View In The Dark" features a number of problematic and ridiculous spy show conceits, most notably that Peggy Carter fails to observe any of the tails on Dr. Wilkes and the gunfight that ensues late in the episode results in no casualties. Both Wilkes and Carter have firearms training and real-world experience, but do not manage to hit a single one of their targets.

Chief Sousa is fleshed out in "A View In The Dark" through his relationship with Violet being revealed to be far more serious than Carter suspected. Carter is shocked to learn that Sousa is planning to propose to Violet, but the night he is to propose is the night everything goes wrong with Carter and he has to come to her rescue. The forced romantic conflict with Sousa - who has a special affection for Carter still - feels utterly unnecessary and viewers can pretty much figure where that tension is going to go with his relationship with Violet. "A View In The Dark" telegraphs the direction of that relationship in an unfortunate way.

Peggy Carter gets her first overt chance at a real romantic relationship in "A View In The Dark" and it, too, feels forced and abrupt. After all, Carter has shown no serious romantic inklings before - in fact, she spent the entire first season painfully ignorant of any of the romantic tension surrounding her. But, by the second episode of the second season, Peggy Carter is suddenly willing to hook up with a guy in a way that she had not been since Captain America (reviewed here!).

The romance aspect of "A View In The Dark" might not not be so problematic were it not for the poor writing in general and the way the episode quickly forces together the romantic relationship on the heels of two other characters abruptly having romantic subplots. And with racism, Agent Carter runs into a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation in "A View In The Dark;" the show would seem absurd if it did not address racism in 1947 - especially after belaboring to death sexism in the prior season - but when it pops up in "A View In The Dark" it feels incredibly forced.

The performances in "A View In The Dark" are competent, but in no way extraordinary. The mystery that Peggy Carter finds herself investigating progresses, but in a minimal way and with forced sass and inorganic flow. The result is an hour of television that misses more than it hits and is a fairly unnecessary endeavor on all fronts.

For other works with Casey Sander, please visit my reviews of:
The Newsroom - Season 3
The Big Bang Theory - Season 5
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
16 Blocks

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


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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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