TV Review | Agent Carter | Season 2
Previously in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Peggy Carter, grieving following the loss of Captain America, saves Howard Stark and New York City from a revenge attack by a fanatical Russian scientist and the Forties equivalent of Black Widow in the shape of Dottie Underwood.
Overlooked by her male superiors, Peggy continues to do her job no matter what obstacles are placed in her way...
Season summary: Agent Carter moves to Los Angeles to deal with the threats of the new atomic age in the wake of World War II, gaining new friends, a new home, and potential new love. (Wikipedia)
Having not checked ahead before starting this season, I was surprised to see that it was ten episodes long rather than matching the eight of season one. I had hoped that this would mean the climax of the story would be better paced, but I was unfortunately wrong.
Much like the majority of the Marvel Netflix shows, Agent Carter's second season feels just that bit too long, and there are some bumps in the road that are clearly there to pad out the season. This has the unfortunate effect of completely undermining the finale, as I just wanted the show to end.
Just to make things worse, the ending is pretty poor, with some really poor VFX work and cinematography combining to make the whole thing look pretty amateurish. I appreciate the ambition of what they were going for, but they clearly didn't have the budget it for it.
And that's another thing that's clear through this season: there was no real money behind it. Two more episodes to make, but it all looks and sounds like they didn't even have the same money they had for the eight of season one. It might sound obvious, but it really feels like a television show.
By that, I mean it doesn't feel like reality at all - the world Agent Carter inhabits only exists in what we see on-screen, and there's nothing else going on in the world at that time. It all feels very small and self-contained, with a potentially world-threatening villain coming off as wholly unimportant.
Wynn Everett's Whitney Frost is clearly based on the real-life genius that was Hedy Lamarr (seriously, go read about her life), but the constraints of the show completely undercut the character and leave us with what could've been a memorable female antagonist coming across as a limp threat.
Frost isn't the only character to suffer either, with Kurtwood Smith's Vernon Masters being so poorly written at times that he feels more like a parody rather than someone the audience is supposed to give a damn about. He's so obviously corrupt and under-handed from his first appearance that it makes other characters look dumb, stupid and idiotic for ever listening to him.
The show clearly positions Masters as someone with power and influence, and from seeing Smith in other works, that's a role he could pull off easily, but there's just no subtlety to the character. It's another waste of a character thanks to poor writing.
There are very few characters who escape the poor writing, and even that is more based on their performances instead of the script. Most of the returning cast from season one are still good in their roles, although Chad Michael Murray's Jack Thompson suffers the worst.
Murray isn't bad in the role, and his character has clearly developed significantly following the events of the first season, but his arc this time around is so poorly done that I feel for him. It does seem to be a running theme for this season that the potential greatness was squashed for various off-camera reasons.
Hayley Atwell is still fantastic as the titular character, despite some equally poor writing for her too, specifically Peggy's instant feelings for Reggie Austin's Jason Wilkes. Atwell utterly sells the emotional side of things, but I was just left wondering why she felt that way and the show never gave us any reason for such strong feelings.
It feels very similar to how I viewed the main character of Baby Driver, although Wilkes is never actually as unlikable as Baby. He's still a character that we only care about because another, actually good character cares about them - on his own, he's pretty uninteresting.
James D'Arcy and Enver Gjokaj return too, and are good enough in their roles, thankfully avoiding the worst of the writing, but neither ever really being given a chance to shine. They both have issues with the women in their lives for completely differing reasons, although Gjokaj's Sousa comes off the worse here, with his initial love interest vanishing halfway through, never to be heard from again.
The real scene-stealers of this season though are two other returning stars: The first is Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, who energises the episodes he appears in, bringing so much charm and charisma to the role that it almost makes you forget about how poor most of the events going on are.
The second is Bridget Regan as Dottie Underwood, who I would love to see get her own show, or at least an even bigger part to play than she's so far seen across the two seasons. Dottie is such a great character, and Regan is just perfect in the role - she's larger than life to be sure, but never over the top.
Even so, the few bright spots can't rescue the season from how poor much of the writing is. Too many characters often do what the plot needs to keep going rather than what those characters really should be doing. Everything plot-related feels contrived, forcing its way from A to B to C regardless of whether it makes any sense or not.
Agent Carter's second season is something of a disappointment, despite the stellar efforts of Hayley Atwell as the leading lady. Two more episodes than the first season, despite what looks like a lower budget, really don't help and the whole things just runs out of steam well before the end.