Thus far, Agent Carter isn't providing nearly as much wish-fulfillment as the short film version that appeared on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray. The 15-minute short painted a picture of a super-competent agent whose brilliance went unnoticed (at first.) But the television version of Peggy Carter makes lots of mistakes. Lots and lots.
In fact, Peggy Carter is quickly getting to be defined by her mistakes, and it's both fascinating and a little painful to watch. To some extent, her problems are still simply a result of her male colleagues not believing in her, and thus forcing her to go around them. But she also keeps digging herself deeper into the hole she started last week.
In the first episode of Agent Carter, she agreed to help Howard Stark prove that his deadly super-weapons were stolen from his vault, and Stark himself didn't just decide to leak them on the black market to raise some extra cash. She managed to track down a big stash of implosion bombs, but the main culprits were killed without spilling much info, and she only planted more circumstantial evidence that made Stark look more guilty.
This time around, Carter has to deal with two sticky situations, and neither of them turns out in a way that makes her feel good about herself:
1) Her SSR colleagues haul in Edwin Jarvis, because they've found the license plate from Stark's car at the scene of the big implosion at Roxxon. Jack Thompson is on the verge of making Jarvis talk, using his treasonous past and his fears for his wife as leverage (more on that in a moment.) So Carter is forced to intervene, producing Jarvis' report that his car was stolen in front of him, so Jarvis can use it as leverage to get himself out of SSR custody before he winds up confessing something. This winds up making Carter look incompetent, or worse — and the entire office full of men give her the stink-eye, while Chief Dooley lectures her about how she's ruined everything.
2) She and Jarvis track down the rest of Stark's purloined technology on a boat that happens to have the "heart with a wavy line through it" symbol that Leet Brannis drew last week. She wants to call in her discovery, but Jarvis convinces her that she can't possibly explain how she found this stuff. (Although actually, it was quite easy. Anyone who went down into the sewer under Stark's vault and did some simple deduction would have ended up in the same place.) So instead, she gets Jarvis to call it in as an anonymous tip — and when a henchman attacks her and Jarvis, she knocks him out. The henchman winds up getting shot by a professional killer, along with her SSR colleague Krzeminski. Everybody now believes that Howard Stark was responsible for Krzeminski's death, as well as the Roxxon implosion — so instead of clearing his name, she's only made him look more guilty. (And to be fair, some of that is her colleagues jumping to conclusions.)
Like I said, the scenes of Carter cringing as her boss tells her to get out of his sight, and then coming to work and finding out that Krzeminski is dead and it's sort of her fault, are kind of hard to watch. This show remains insanely fun, and there are enough funny bits to keep the whole thing light, even after Krzeminski dies. (I love Thompson volunteering to call Krzeminski's girlfriend, while Dooley calls his wife.) But it's definitely a lot darker, and less of a straight-up fantasy about female empowerment, than I was expecting. And that's a good thing, since hopefully when Carter does get some recognition, it will feel more earned.
Meanwhile, a lot of the most interesting stuff this week is about the Carter-Jarvis relationship, with the two of them definitely developing more buddy-cop chemistry. Most of the time, Jarvis is the more naïve one and Carter is scoffing at his illusions, but then the show turns this dynamic on its head and shows Jarvis warning Carter that she can't simply come clean to her colleagues.
And the more we learn about Jarvis' past, the more it seems like she and Carter are both outcasts. Turns out Jarvis was attached to a general, even before World War II, but he fell for a Jewish girl in Budapest, Anna. The general had the travel papers that Anna needed to get out of Hungary, but wouldn't spare any for her. So Jarvis forged his signature, and wound up getting arrested — until Howard Stark got him off the hook.
We also learn the truth about Leet Brannis and the other voicebox-less thug from last week (Sasha Demidov). They were both Russian soldiers during the war — and they both died, in 1944 or thereabouts. So not only did they have their larynxes cut out, but they also came back from the dead at some point. Also, the SSR now has Sasha Demidov's magic typewriter, although they haven't figured out how to use it.
In the episode's other big subplot, Peggy Carter blows off her new neighbor, Angie from the automat, who wants to drink Schnapps and eat pie and see which one makes them sick first. Peggy's too busy going spelunking under Stark Mansion — but after Krzeminski dies, she realizes that she needs a friend, so she takes Angie up on the Schnapps offer. Oh, and we get a better look at the Griffith, the women-only building where Peggy lives, and we witness the dire fate that befalls one resident who has a male visitor.