Warning: Spoiler Alert
The premiere of ABC’s new Marvel show “Agent Carter” starts off exactly like it’s supposed to. Not because it was predictable, but because it’s the way it needed to start. The “I have to put her down” scene from Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger. This is where Captain America’s unwavering pursuit of the greater good compromises his own life. The scene is integral to the way both stories move forward. This is the point where Peggy Carter says her last words before Captain America sacrifices himself. They speak of a future date neither will ever attend on account of Steve Rogers being dead. Or so she believes.
Our journey begins in New York, 1946. We are instantly dropped into the post World War 2 New York where women were expected to resume their previous duties as American soldiers return home. By and large the execution of the period is something that would make the show runners of Mad Man pleased. Peggy Carter shares an apartment with Colleen. A unknowing simple woman who I believe might be a nurse. Peggy gets ready for work with Colleen going on about dating. Peggy grabs the standards (unknown to Colleen) her purse…and her gun. To go to work at the phone company.
Colleen: If I don’t see you, remember we’re going to movies on Saturday. I have the night off.
Peggy: I’ll try. You know how busy the office keeps me.
Colleen: Peg, you work at the phone company. It ain’t life and death.
Peggy: Darling, you have no idea.
One thing if nothing else is abundantly clear, the men in the office completely discount a female agent, or they are seriously intimidated. Regardless, this is the moment when at least the immediate plot unfolds. Howard Stark, father to eventual Avenger Tony Stark (aka Ironman) is also a weapons designer. Only it appears now that something has happened painting Howard Stark as a traitor. During a lovely montage of newspaper clippings and black and white video we see a nice parallel. Howard Stark getting short with the Congress during a Congressional hearing. Almost to the letter but in more 1940’s style politeness to the same exact way that Tony Stark behaved in Ironman 2 when forced to present himself to a Congressional hearing almost 60 years later.
Agent Carter sits in on a meeting in SSR to decide on how to bring Howard Stark in. Carter is the only one who knows better. She attempts to vouch for Stark from experience and her contribution is laughed out of the room. Stark is in the wind and naturally a government agency’s first thought is that he’s fleeing, as traitors do.
Carter heads over to a diner one must admit feels like it will be recurring. There Angie, the waitress, chews the fat with Carter. By the way, I love that Angie calls her “English”. Their pow wow is interrupted by a rude regular. Some might recognize him as Farva from State Troopers or Landfill from Beerfest. When Angie departs and Carter returns to her table there is a note written on a cocktail napkin. “Meet me in the alley in 5 minutes”.
A man emerges from the darkness of the alley. If you were imparted with the details of who would play a major role in at least this episode, you would not have to be a Marvel historian to know who the man in the grey suit and hat is. The specific type of English accent, the stature, the cadence in his delivery. Even if all you knew was the Marvel Cinematic universe that began with the first Ironman (circa 2008), you would know who this is. Jarvis. In the flesh. That’s right newbies, Jarvis the computer was modeled after an actual man.
Jarvis (who Carter doesn’t know yet) says, “Ms. Carter, you’re coming with me.” Then she punches him square in the face and attempts to run off, eluding the man in the car-not Jarvis. The man in the car is Howard Stark. Stark claims the traitor bit is a setup. His ‘Bad Babies’ have been stolen from a vault not intentionally sold by Stark. Bad Babies are the name he gives his inventions that are too horrible for anyone. Howard’s going to flee in order to chase down two of his Bad Babies he knows have already hit the black market overseas. He’s going to need Carter to work the angles at home. Not all bad news, Stark is leaving the help.
Stark: When you’re not humiliating him, that gentleman over there is my butler. Edwin Jarvis. He’ll help you in any way he can.
Jarvis (hands her a business card): Should you need me. Call anytime before 9.
Carter: What happens at 9?
Jarvis: My wife and I go to bed. Seven o’clock, Sherry. Eight o’clock, Bennie Goodman. Nine o’clock, bed.
Carter: You’re new to espionage aren’t you?
Jarvis: Far from it actually. Last summer I caught a cook pocketing the good spoons.
There is a night club owner, shades of Harlem Nights, who has bought something from the sketchy silent broker who goes by Leet Brannis. The club owner wants to do more business but he Brannis stays silent. Carter drops by the club in a dress, an American accent and blonde hair. Can’t say that I enjoy the blonde hair, but who’s being picky. She makes her way into the club owner’s office and mentions a ‘formula’. He is instantly defensive. Then Carter lies on the charm. She gets close enough to kiss him with special lipstick that knocks him out. Only, he’s the one that initiated the kiss. Just long enough for her to crack his safe. Inside the safe is a glowing yellow glass ball. Carter calls Jarvis from the office where the nitromene ball was found. Jarvis explains how to diffuse it safely then attempts to return to his soufflé.
Carter: Mr. Jarvis, you do realize that this job will have some after hours requirements?
Jarvis: So does my wife Ms. Carter, good night.
An agent discovers a blonde woman in the office. He then notices the owner hunched over at his desk. The agent attempts to do something. Then Carter reacts in a way that can only be described as being ‘stapled’. She essentially neutralized the situation by beating the man with a stapler.
The owner comes to and sees his safe door open. He runs over to it hoping they stole something else. From his knees he discovers that’s not true. Then a new man appears. Stoic and silent like Brannis. The owner tries to reason with the man, but in the end takes a bullet to the forehead.
Carter arrives home, engages in small talk with Colleen then grabs a three chemical bottles from the kitchen. She very carefully pulls the core of the weapon from the glass ball canister. She hears a commotion. Colleen has been shot in the head. A struggle then begins with Carter and this assailant. Resulting in the assailant getting flung out of the window. When she goes to see his splattered body, she sees nothing but broken glass. Then she walks over to Colleen and engages in a very uncomfortable crying scene.
During an attempt for Carter and Jarvis to have a public conversation without looking as if they are there to see each other, Carter mentions that she needs to find out what this is. This referring to what’s left of the nitromene casing. Jarvis knows a guy. Anton Vanko. Yep, the same Anton Vanko whose son tries to exact revenge upon Ironman in Ironman 2. At Vanko’s lab they discern what facility could possibly make something like this. The answer is, survey says, Roxxon. Roxxon and Vanko are only two of the most recent Easter Eggs in this episode. The third of which is ‘Project Rebirth’. Project Rebirth references the program that allowed scrawny Steve Rogers to be turned into Captain America. The Vita Ray technology that was used to create Captain America is the same technology that created these nitromene bombs.
In typical Marvel fashion, they create relative technology for these shows and movies that would never seem realistic to us now, but in a period piece like this work beautifully. Our second silent bad guy sits at a desk with a typewriter. He then plugs it into a tin of talcum powder, then twists an old razor handle into it. Extends the razor like the antenna on an old radio. Opens the razor (where the blade should be) and Abra-cadabera we have typewriter internet. The man at the desk types a message. Then waits a moment and the typewriter replies to his message on its own. Everything about these silent killers just oozes of Hydra. But this is Marvel, and I’d hate to jump the gun. The man identifies Agent Carter as a bump in the road.
Carter insists on giving Jarvis the ‘stay in the car’ treatment. Something I’m sure is not likely to remain for long. Carter hops a fence and sneaks into the Roxxon factory to find out what they are doing and more importantly if the nitromene bombs are in said factory. Jarvis’ call on the radio alerts the two men that they are not alone. They search for this additional person. Ultimately leading to Carter finding Brannis closing the doors on a van loaded with these bombs. At gunpoint, Carter questions him about his friend. The other gentleman who has no voice and the same scar on this throat. Brannis claims to have no such friend. Feeling like a little Jason Bourne thing happening here. Then Brannis says something that has to be critical.
Brannis: Leviathan is coming.
Brannis throws one of the bombs to the floor leaving smoke billowing out. Carter begins running down the long corridors of this factory. Calls Jarvis to ask if he’d bring the car around. This is once again, a lovely parallel. She’s running and giving Jarvis no indication of where she is or will be. She eventually jumps off a platform landing on top of the car Jarvis is driving. Fast forward to the big action sequence in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Falcon ran down the hall of a high-rise as the building imploded behind him. He calls out to Black Widow who is with Fury flying their ‘Quinjet’. At the last possible second, Falcon jumps through the glass at the end of the remaining hallway and lands on top of the Quinjet. Just as planned.
Jarvis and Carter race away from the factory in the nick of time just to see the entire area, buildings and all implode. As opposed to explode. All surrounding matter, metal fencing, smaller building, vehicles, etc all get pulled inward toward the factory.
Jarvis: It would seem it works…
The next morning Carter and Jarvis meet for their silly back to back, let’s pretend that we don’t know each other by sitting in separate booths, meeting. Carter is complimentary of Jarvis. Jarvis just hopes his wife will never find out. Jarvis departs and while Carter is feeling a sense of moderate accomplishment, the diner regular is back. And being just as verbally abusive to Angie as before. This time, Carter is going to do something about it. She walks up and strategically places the prong end of a fork into a vulnerable part of this patron’s torso. She then explains how bad it could get. Then suggests he find a different place to eat lunch. And suggests he tip generously. That might just be the end of Farva’s run on this show.
Outside the diner, Jarvis sits in the car observing Carter. He is on a phone with Mr. Stark. This would generally be an unimpressive scene. That is until Jarvis says something that eludes to a bigger plan. The initial reaction is to assume he’s referring to something sinister. I have a theory on it, and that theory would be anything but sinister or negative. But we’ll have to wait and see what unfolds.
Jarvis (to Howard Stark): You’re quite right. Ms. Carter is an excellent choice. I don’t think she’ll have any suspicions at all.
At the diner, Angie engages ‘English’ in a conversation. She then notices Carter circling posts in the for rent section of the newspaper. Angie in a roundabout way suggests that Carter move to her place. Then Carter looks down and sees Colleen’s picture in the obituaries. Classic Spider-man complex. Those closest to you are destined to be harmed as collateral damage. Besides, she is going to see a place eminently. That place, would be one of Howard Stark’s many residences. He doesn’t need it while he’s chasing down is Bad Babies overseas anyway.
Neither Carter, nor Jarvis can find any record of any reference to ‘Leviathan’. Carter intends on visiting the milk company distribution to see if she can’t find the milk truck transporting the implosives. Meanwhile, the man only referred to as the Green Suit who has been chasing both Brannis and Carter, sits at the typewriter again. In his messages he refers to Brannis as ‘the thief’. However, they do share a similar inability to speak and throat scars. This one probably won’t solve itself any time soon.
The following morning, Carter impersonates a health department agent at the distribution center to surprise check their entire facility. In a rather interesting American accent. Decidedly different from that of the identity she used at the nightclub. She finds nothing, but that’s because the truck she’s looking for hasn’t reported back.
SSR has what’s left of the Roxxon factory brought in. It basically resembles what a metal trash might look like when run through a compactor, but instead of soda cans it’s an entire factory reduced to the size of two sedans stacked on top of each other.
SSR travels to Roxxon home office to speak to the head of Roxxon. They are pulling at straws to create a connection from Roxxon to Howard Stark. Which as it turns out, wasn’t that difficult. These two men have a history. And Roxxon has agents working within Stark Industries that confirm that he is trying to build something using nitromene. As an answer to the question of what might have caused this damage. They call Carter in to assist in the sweeping employees for Vita Radiation. Something she probably still has remains of on her person.
As the line progresses down, a suspicious man steps up. It’s the guy from the factory explosion whose name is not Brannis. Thinking quickly, Carter suggests they should be scanning the employees clothes not their person. The radiation would be much stronger in the fibers of clothes than human skin. This prompts our guy to flee, quickly. Carter takes the stairs, turns the corner, borrows a briefcase, and de-cleats this guy with said briefcase.
SSR interrogated this gentleman with no success. They even give him the “you’re not the droids we’re looking for” bit. He still doesn’t bite. Laying on the table in front of both men are a branch (about 18″ long and a solid inch thick) and a long carrot. The boss grabs the carrot and walks out. Leaving another man, Van Ert (the perp) and a branch in a room. The other man walks over and picks up the branch.
Van Ert: You can threaten me all you want, I’m not going to talk.
Agent Yauch: I’m not here to make you talk Miles. I’m here to make you sing. (presents the branch to Van Ert) You’re gonna want to bite down.
Carter has Jarvis drive her out to the suspected location of the missing dairy truck. She finds the man listening to the Captain America radio show (a device that was interesting the first three times they referenced it, getting old at this point). Carter secures him in short order. Suddenly there is a sound outside. Its Brannis attempting to steal the dairy truck. Carter quickly puts her gun on him. Then Jarvis comes around the corner holding a piece of the engine.
Carter: I told you I don’t need your help.
Jarvis: An ideal butler provides service without being asked.
Brannis refers to the Leviathan as a what not a who. An employer it seems, but maybe not just one someone. He also claims that the Leviathan only wanted one thing from Stark. And he wants protection before he shares what that something is. The driver has fled, tied to a chair and all. They depart in the dairy truck when they are eventually intercepted by the man in the Green Suit. Carter and the Green Suit guy face of on the roof of the truck in a pretty intense fight sequence for what it is. Carter stabs his hand to the roof of the truck, drops a cheesy line and pulls both Jarvis and Brannis out of the moving truck. It drives off the road an into a lake. Imploding.
Brannis lies motionless on the road. Carter approaches, kneels and asks about the rest of the what he stole from Stark. She implores him to help in his last moments. “Leviathan is coming”. He reaches over and draws a symbol in the dirt. The symbol looks like a cartoon heart with a curved line over top. I’ve got nothing.
Back at what I assume is a Stark residence, Jarvis stitches up Carter’s wounds. What follows is a conversation about support. Carter worried than anyone close to her might find themselves in danger and Jarvis insisting that she can’t do this on her own. With one mention of Steve’s name we see Carter’s first and maybe largest flaw, she is comparing her efforts to what she believe Steve Rogers could and would do. Then Jarvis replies that as great as Steve was, Steve relied heavily on Carter. A wonderful scene that I’m afraid would lose a great deal of impact if the two participants were not British.
Apparently Carter is attempting to gain entrance into a home for professional women? The supervisor of which has many rules. If she chooses to stay here, I’m sure most of those rules will get broken somehow.
SSR has spent a couple of days now trying to pry apart the remains of what used to be the Roxxon factory. Slim pickings until they discover a bent license plate. If memory serves, as Jarvis drove away during the implosion, the bumper of that car was ripped off. If this license plate belongs to that car, it will make clearing Starks name that much more difficult.
. . .
All week comic book enthusiasts like myself have been counting down to tonight. While Agent Carter was a very very good episode(s), most of us were more excited about the Ant-Man trailer. For those that aren’t aware, and believe me I am no Ant-man historian, this was the big moment of the evening. I know, ‘Ant-Man’ doesn’t really conjure images that seem on the level with a Captain America, Thor, Ironman or Hulk. But I assure you its going to be good. Short of Marvel being the thing every actor wants to get in on, some credibility needs to be given to Ant-Man based solely on the inclusion of Paul Rudd (in an only slightly clever role as opposed the outright comedic roles he’s used to) and Michael freaking Douglas. I’m not the biggest Michael Douglas fan in the world, but Michael Douglas doesn’t sign on for this role at this point in his career for something that is not expected to be big.
I’m sure social media will be inundated with the Ant-Man trailer in the morning, so I will refrain from giving you the cliff notes. One thing is curious. The motivation for Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is his daughter. An element Marvel has not done in their current cinematic universe. This is a story of second chances. And I would be remiss if I didn’t say that hopefully this will mean the inclusion of Wasp as well. There are significant rumors that as this Avengers story progresses, not all of the Avengers team will continue on. Which is why we are seeing the inclusion of Ant-Man, Wasp (hopefully), Quicksilver (Avengers 2) and The Scarlet Witch (Avengers 2). So even if you think “Ant-Man” has got to be stupid, I strongly suggest you give it a chance. Besides, since 2008, when has Marvel not been impressive?