Part of the appeal of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is familiarity. There’s a climactic battle, some snarky quips, and death usually doesn’t stick. This isn’t a slam against the films at all; it’s a formula that works and sells tickets. Still, Marvel is really stretching its creative legs with its television programs. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hews pretty close to the film model, but Netflix’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones are both grounded in a gritty reality with complex characters and sharp writing. Agent Carter is breezier and more candy-colored than the darker Netflix offerings, but the spark and creativity is still there in full force. If the two-part premiere is any indication, season two may be even smarter and more stylish than the first run of episodes.
Picking up about a year after the end of season one, things have been shifting around a bit in the SSR. After the death of Chief Dooley (Shea Whigham), Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray, still squinty) now heads the New York offices; taking credit for Peggy’s (Hayley Atwell) prowess seems to have paid off for him. The SSR, although supposedly becoming obsolete, has also expanded to a Los Angeles location, taking with it Peggy’s ally and erstwhile crush Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) to run the new digs. Despite all these changes, the show’s namesake is still cracking skulls and kicking ass all over New York, finally capturing the elusive and dangerous Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan). When she only agrees to cooperate with Peggy during the interrogation, Thompson, displaying the cripplingly fragile ego that’s so common among men of his ilk, decides that Peggy is just the woman to assist Sousa with his new murder case. A woman is found frozen solid in a lake, mirroring the unsolved “Lady of the Lake” murders, so either the killer is back on the loose or they have a copycat on their hands. So, Peggy packs her bags, heads west, and reunites with the delightful Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), who has also switched coasts to assist with Howard Stark’s new film production company. Peggy and Jarvis are still the most adorable platonic twosome on television, who take the random presence of a flamingo in stride. Once in L.A., we finally meet Mrs. Jarvis, a forthright and spunky woman who is nothing like her husband except for her immediate liking of Peggy. On a lesser show, there would be tension between these two for the heart of Jarvis, but Marvel takes the better route by making the two fast friends and allies.
Once Peggy reunites with Sousa in the SSR offices (fronted by a theatrical agency, natch), things are more than a little awkward. Having spent most of the first season manfully pining for our heroine, Sousa has taken this change in location as a sign to move on. Peggy, finally able to see a love after Captain America as an option, is a little taken aback by the awkwardness and by his new love, Violet (Sarah Bolger), a kind and supportive nurse. However Peggy is the consummate class act and takes it all in stride. A little investigation, with the help of sickly local detective (Sean O’Bryan), proves that all is not what it seems with the murder of Jane Scott, as the body sucks all of the heat out of the room and glows blue. The bioluminescence is the product of a uranium particle accelerator, sending them to explore Isodyne Energy, a shadowy lab that happened to be Scott’s place of employment.
During the illicit search, Peggy meets Dr. Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin), who gives Peggy two things: wine that he made in the lab and the bit of information that Jane Scott had been having an affair with Isodyne Energy head Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham). The hunky scientist and Peggy build a charming rapport, proving that Peggy likes them nerdy and earnest. Still, Peg is all business, intent on hunting down Chadwick for more intel. While spying at the races, Peggy tries out a new hat and an American accent to try and get to the bottom of Chadwick’s connection to Jane Scott. Viewers also meet Chadwick’s wife, Hollywood actress Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett). It soon becomes clear that we have a Lady Macbeth situation on our hands and that Frost is the real mastermind behind Isodyne. Also apparent is that something evil is brewing in Isodyne, as prolonged exposure to the body of Jane Scott leads to the death and shattering of those around it. Wilkes also knows more than he lets on, as we see him observing some sort of writhing black liquid back at the lab. If you can learn anything from the Marvel Universe it’s that seemingly sentient liquids are always bad news. Things aren’t much better in New York, as Thompson is informed by FBI bigwig Vernon Masters (Kurtwood Smith) that the SSR is going to go the way of the dinosaur sooner or later. The war is over, so he advises Thompson to abandon the sinking ship while he can.