‘Agent Carter’ season 2 kicks off with suspense, wastes no time connecting to Doctor Strange

If I could describe “Marvel”s Agent Carter” to someone who has never seen the show, this is what I would say: If you”re a fan of intrigue, mystery, murder, mayhem, secret societies, and fast talking foreign agents, then “Agent Carter” is for you. While it is directly connected to the comic book world of Marvel and a slew of Marvel films like “Captain America” and “The Avengers”, it”s also a fantastic serial mystery show that will satisfy the tastes of any armchair detective looking to test their powers of deduction.

Season two begins with a robbery and a double cross — Russian assassin Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan, “White Collar”) is holding up a bank to steal a silver lapel pin from the safety deposit box of a secret society. Her heist is interrupted when our heroine, Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell, “Captain America: The First Avenger”) busts in on Dottie with a riffle. Dottie is quickly disposed of, and the pin is returned to the safety of Peggy”s covert government agency, the Strategic Scientific Reserve, or SSR for short. Our badass lady agent is then called to Los Angeles to investigate a murder. While murder isn”t typically the type of case the SSR investigates, this one is special: a radioactive body has just been found in a frozen lake in the middle of a California summer. Sound interesting enough?

Peggy is then whisked to Los Angeles where she is reunited with her best friend, the dapper and enchanting butler Mr. Edwin Jarvis (James D”Arcy, “Broadchurch), and the man she began falling in love with back in season one, Chief Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj, “Dollhouse”). While Peggy attempts to reignite the sparks between her and Daniel, Daniel pulls away. It”s later revealed that he has fallen in love with someone else, a nurse named Violet (Sarah Bolger, “Once Upon a Time”). Peggy is devastated, but quickly starts falling for a handsome scientist, Dr. Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin, “The Omen”), who is called in to consult on the case of the radioactive woman in the lake.

Where the two hour premiere really kicked off was at the introduction of a strange atomic energy called “Zero Matter”. This “Zero Matter” was discovered during a weapons test is the Mojave Desert. While most atomic explosions create a large mushroom cloud that pushes matter away from it, this explosion began sucking things into it, eventually making all the cars, people, and equipment around it completely disappear. Peggy and Dr. Wilkes resolve to steal this strange matter from the company Wilkes” works for – Isodyne – and put it into the safe hands of the SSR. Before they can do that, however, multiple attempts are made on their life. Apparently the secret society who owned the lapel pin from the bank heist doesn”t want anyone to know about Isodyne”s discovery of the “Zero Matter,” so they send assassins to kill both Dr. Wilkes and Agent Carter. Carter survives the attacks, but Dr. Wilkes is not so lucky…or is he? 

While trying to smuggle the “Zero Matter” out of Isodyne, Wilkes and a Hollywood starlet, Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett, “The Newsroom”), are caught in the blast. Wilkes is the only person who knew that Ms. Frost was also trying to steal the “Zero Matter”, and now they are both presumed dead.

This is where “Agent Carter” solidifies its connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Firstly, the “Zero Matter” has been seen before, on “Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Coulson faced off against a villain who drew his powers from the “Zero Matter”, only they called it the “Darkforce.” “Agent Carter” showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas mentioned this “Darkforce” connection recently, saying it also ties into the upcoming “Doctor Strange” movie. Secondly, the substance and the effect of the “Zero Matter” looks a lot like the monolith in this season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” where the monolith acted as a portal to another world. This “Zero Matter” could also be a portal, possibly to outer space (hence the extreme cold it generates) or to another dimension, which would explain its connections to “Doctor Strange”. Lastly, the biggest connection to Marvel this season is the secret society. The symbol on the lapel pin and the symbol above the secret meeting room is the same Hydra symbol that Fitz uncovered this season on “S.H.I.E.L.D.” While the traditional Hydra symbol is the octopus (as seen in both “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Captain America: Winter Solider”), its origins are much older and date back to an inverted version of a ram's head, or, as seen on “Agent Carter”, a stylized upside down  “V”. 

If that isn”t an enticing arm chair mystery worth watching Tuesday”s evenings, then I don”t know what is. The other delightful elements of “Agent Carter” is its cast. Hayley Atwell and James D”Arcy are like the British version of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Their interactions are classy and charming, always maintaining that classic British sensibility. I would watch the show if it was just 60 minutes each week of Atwell and D”Arcy.

The supporting casting is also fantastic. Enver Gjokaj portrays Daniel Sousa as a kind-hearted war veteran who isn”t afraid to leap into danger, or let a woman lead, even if he does use a metal crutch. Lesley Boone plays Rose, the receptionist of the SSR and one of Peggy”s confidants. She is the epitome of classic Hollywood style and smarts. Edwin Jarvis”s wife, Ana, is played by the fabulous Lotte Verbeek, who played the outrageous Geillis Duncan “Outlander”. Ana”s flirtatious and bold approach to life is a rare compliment to her husband”s quiet reserve. “One Tree Hill”s” Chad Michael Murray also plays an SSR agent, Chief Jack Thompson, and his attitude towards Peggy reveals the anti-female sentiments of the day. Murray looks great in a suit though, and even if he is antagonizing our heroine with his 1940s chauvinism, I really enjoy seeing him on the show.

Dr. Wilkes, though presumed dead, is also a wonderful addition to the cast. As an African-American man in the ’40s, his character shines a light on the racism of the day — and you can tell that he and Peggy have really great chemistry, in part because they both know what it”s like to be judged for being different. Lastly, this seasons Hollywood bombshell, Whitney Frost, so far, is the embodiment of noir Hollywood. Wynn Everett plays Frost perfectly, and has given her character the butter voice of a reincarnated Bette Davis. The first two episodes of “Agent Carter” premiered this week, and the rest of the season is shaping up to be a full blown atomic era murder mystery.

Check out the full season trailer below, and if you haven”t seen the series premiere yet, be sure to catch its encore performance on ABC, this Sunday, January 24 at 9/8C:

“Agent Carter” airs Tuesdays on ABC at 9/8C.