Agent Carter Season 2: Not Bad, but Somewhat Gimmicky and Fumbles Representation

Image: Kris Anka for Marvel/ABC via EW

Genre: Sci-fi/Superhero/Historical

Synopsis: Peggy Carter gets called out to LA to help handle a mysterious investigation, where a lake was frozen over and a body found. She teams up with her old friends Jarvis and Sousa, trying to unravel a cover-up that goes high up the political ladder. And her enemies aren’t afraid of playing dirty, or going after the people she cares about.

Series: 2 seasons

I’ve Watched: All of it

Verdict: Not as enjoyable for me as the first season as a whole, and the changes it deliberately tried to make didn’t go deep enough.

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This season’s strengths were the same things that were strong in the first season. Peggy’s friendship with Jarvis, the energy Dottie adds to all of her scenes, the steady focus on a sole white woman’s journey navigating the obstacles of her time. A sense of adventure, of working off the books to get the job done if that’s the right thing to do. But the elements that were newly added to the show in the second season tended to be less solid in execution, even when they were things that were needed.

I like enough about the second season to have finished it, but I’m not really into it. The scenes and character subplots seem to be less connected, the storyline feels less focused. The season is also a tad too heavy on the comedy for my liking–all of the scenes individually were fine, but taken as a whole, it was a bit too much too often. The tone of the show has become more comedic, and it’s not quite working for me.

Several times, the season sets up a scene in order to deliberately subvert our expectations. This can be done well, but I generally felt that these scenes were clunky. They came off as gimmicks. Having too many gimmicks in too short a time makes it harder to take the story seriously.

And the love triangle. Why did there have to be a love triangle? I loved that the first season had no love interest for Peggy. I knew going into the second season that this would no longer be the case, and I was prepared for that. I was not prepared for an actual love triangle, especially not one which pitted a disabled character and a black character against each other. (And I could have lived a perfectly happy life had said love triangle never gotten its own musical number.)

Then there’s the much talked about issue of this show and representation. On the plus side, the writers actually listened to the fans, making an effort to tackle some of the issues they didn’t in the first season. But I feel like this season didn’t quite get those issues. The progress the show has made comes with qualifiers.

Other women now interact with Peggy, and some of those scenes are awesome–but it’s like a revolving door of (white) female characters all passing through the show, none of whom is allowed to become more than a tertiary character. A black man was cast as a soft-spoken and charismatic scientist, and he gets some cool scenes as well, but he’s the only PoC who isn’t a background character. Then he spends the whole show either flirting with death or defection to the other side, not even getting that much character development despite having the most done to him. And intersectionality barely exists in the show at all. 

I believe the writers genuinely had good intentions, here, but I personally felt these changes didn’t go deep enough. And maybe not everyone agrees with me, maybe I’m overlooking some important strides in progress, but I personally expected more. 

So overall, the things season one did well, so did season two. But I feel like season two bit off a bit more than it knew how to chew, and the tonal shift doesn’t work for me. It’s harder to take the show seriously this season. Nothing was so painful that it became unwatchable, but there was a level of frustration mixed in the enjoyment for the elements that did work well.

Favorite Quotes:

“The foliage is preposterous. Take the palm tree. Would you trust the structural integrity of such a thing?”

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