‘The Lady in the Lake’ opens the new season of Marvel’s Agent Carter with a rematch between Peggy and ‘Dotty Underwood’, the one loose end from the first season (as a dazzling opening montage of last year’s run reminds us).
Dotty is breaking into a bank vault, but the SSR are a step ahead and Peggy is in the vault waiting for her. One well-choreographed fight later, and Russian Agent Dotty is being interrogated at SSR HQ. The single item she was trying to steal? An innocuous looking hat-pin stored in deposit box 143…
…and although it seems likely we’ll learn more about that as the season progresses, at this point the episode takes something of a left turn and without so much as a mention of a relocation package Peggy is despatched to Los Angeles to help Agent Sousa.
“That’s Chief Sousa to you!”
Yes, sorry. Daniel (Enver Gjokaj) has gone up in the world. Probably. He’s definitely been promoted to Chief, and is certainly in charge of opening up the SSR’s LA office. But it’s understaffed, its agents all inexperienced – and the SSR itself may be under threat, some high-up in the FBI telling us that post-war “the SSR is going the way of the dinosaur”.
But whether or not it turns out to be a good career move, Sousa is the SSR chief in LA and is brought in by the police to help investigate a lake that has frozen in the middle of a heatwave – and with a dead body frozen into it, which is why the police are interested. It takes Peggy to ask the obvious question as to whether the two cases (the murder and the freezing) are connected, and in a bizarre sort of way as the episode unfolds we discover that they are and they aren’t.
In addition to former colleague Sousa, her trip to LA also reunites Peggy with Mr Jarvis (the lovely James D’Arcy).
Howard Stark, we learn, has moved in to the movie business, hence the relocation, but he is absent a great deal of the time which means Jarvis is once again free to act as Peggy’s chauffeur-cum-stooge. For a show generally very happy with a bit of alliteration (the Blitzkrieg Button last year, the Lady in the Lake this week) the script shies away from actually naming the Casting Couch but the reason for Howard’s new-found interest in film is made pretty clear with the comment that the movie’s location scout “allows him to scout her locations.”
It’s a confident return for the show, confident enough for them not to have made any drastic changes from Season 1 – even the new location is, so far at least, just a backdrop. There’s a very enjoyable sense of business as usual, hitting the ground running.
The identity of the dead lady leads the SSR to the Isodyne Energy company, where Peggy meets the Dr Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin). Not one to participate in gossip, he nevertheless indicates that the dead woman was involved with Isodyne’s CEO.
If there’s a weak link in the plot, it is in fact the subsequent inclusion of Dr Wilkes. The police pathologist is discovered frozen solid beside the body from the lake, and at a touch shatters into hundreds of pieces of an unidentifiable black glass-like substance.
So, in a slightly odd move for the Strategic Scientific Reserve, Peggy calls on Jason as apparently the only scientist she knows and asks him to look into the substance for her. It’s clearly a means to an end as far as the plot is concerned, because of course Wilkes knows more than he’s saying, but it is an unusual moment where we see the exposed gears of the plot turning.
Just as with last year, nobody is quite what they seem.
Daniel dodges Peggy’s offer of a drink because “he’s busy”, but in fact it’s because he’s involved with someone else. Police Detective Henry, supposedly investigating the case, is in fact responsible for dumping the body in the lake. The cop who ‘accidentally’ kills Henry before he can reveal who he was working for receives a wad of dollars for his trouble.
And probably most long-reaching of all, there’s the affable Dr Wilkes. Having agreed to look into the mysterious black substance for Peggy we later see him back at his lab – staring at a glass chamber containing a huge, ever-changing blob of it.
All this, and I’ve not even mentioned the first appearance of Mrs Jarvis in a quite scene-stealing moment from Lotte Verbeek. Oh, and there’s a flamingo. Called Bernard.
Aired at 9pm on Thursday 28 January 2016 on FOX.
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