2015’s surprise hit Agent Carter is finally back, and TV lovers should — nay, must — rejoice. The Little Feminist Time Period Show That Could knocks it out of the park in a two-hour season premiere that moves the show across country and fixes all the minor problems that kept Season 1 from being the new gold standard in kickass lead dames.
Confession time: neither Marvel nor DC has produced a television property that has really clicked with me before. So, when I found myself hooked on the first season of Agent Carter, I knew there had to be something special there. The show’s first arc chronicled Peggy Carter’s attempts to be taken seriously by the men of the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), despite having already established herself as a hero alongside Captain America during the war. Peggy often got treated like a secretary by the ineffectual boys’ club all the while using her connection — father of Tony Stark, Howard Stark — to uncover an evil conspiracy and save the world. Pretty good for a superhero whose only superpower is Moxy, with a capital M.
The new season follows finds Carter summoned to Los Angeles to work alongside her former partner Daniel Sousa at the SSR’s West Coast division. There, her skills are quickly put to use on solving a sub-zero murder that has more in common with “Mr. Freeze” than the spy genre. Following a trail of exploding corpse-sicles, Carter is soon intertwined in the designs of a Business Illuminati, featuring a promising potential Big Bad in Twin Peaks’ Ray Wise.
The new coast is a perfect fit for the show, and offers a chance for sidekick Jarvis to reach his full “smarm/charm” potential. It’s also a refreshing break from the enclosed bureaucracy of the first season. Gone are the days of constant belittling at the hands of the SSR men, as Peggy meets a slew of new characters all aware and in awe of her myriad talents. Season 2 Peggy knows her value and has nothing to prove.
Easily the weakest points of the new season are the briefs returns to NYC reminding us of the dour men in Peggy’s figurative shadow — none of these people matter to us. Peggy’s opening scene, cementing her victory over a dangling villain from last season, likewise closes the door on our general interest in New York. The only slip in the glory that is all things West Coast is Mrs. Jarvis’ disconcerting accent as she randomly cycles through a range of European-like glottal stops. (This might just be me, feel free to let me know if the Dutch just sound like that.)
There’s also a pan-dimensional, maybe sentient, substance called Zero Matter, which is my new all-time favorite on-the-nose name for a MacGuffin. Zero Matter. Get it? Luckily, it seems like the chemical has already taken on a much more interesting form of Fem-Bad in Whitney Frost, the crazy-eyed actress turned super-villain. The two have yet to meaningfully interact but she seems like an excellent foil to Peggy, especially in the absence of Dottie Underwood.
The biggest surprise of the season is the budding romance between Peggy and nerdy/flirty scientist Jason Wilkes. While the inclusion of a black leading man is clearly meant to address criticism of Season 1’s overwhelming whiteness, it is equally exciting, as Season 1 Peggy was sexually frozen whereas Season 2 Peggy is not. Though she was still mourning Captain America, it felt bizarre that such a powerful woman would also be so detached from her sexuality. Watching her rediscover that side of herself only strengthens the season. The show even doubles down on this by suggesting that the unspoken bond between Peggy and Sousa might lead to the destruction of his own current relationship.
It’s hard not to be excited by the prospect of spending more time in this world. The first season was originally planned as a limited engagement, so it is refreshing to look ahead to a new season that is clearly setting out to build its own world; one that is both independent from, and deeply connected to, the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
God yes. Yes, please, Peggy.