Recap: Marvel’s Agent Carter, “Time and Tide” (1×03)

Rest in peace, Agent Ray Krzeminski. You may have been rude, disrespectful, the type of guy who would “let” Peggy take his evening shift like it was a prize – but Chief Dooley is right. If it wasn’t for Howard Stark, the Chief wouldn’t have to make the worst of phone calls to Krzeminski’s wife (and Thompson to his girlfriend). We know Stark didn’t pull the trigger, nor did he hire the professional assassin with impeccable taste in hats (well, probably not). But whether Carter likes it or not, Stark’s propensity to invent dangerous weaponry without a thought about the consequences does lead to Krzeminski’s death. Stark may not be a bad guy, but he also isn’t always a good one. World War II is over – maybe there is no clear side of the angels anymore. And even if there is, Peggy might not be on it.

Peggy and Jarvis’ sloppy escape from the Ruxxon refinery, combined with the continued proficiency of the SSR, brings trouble down upon them when Peggy’s coworkers confirm the license plate and bumper left at the scene belonged to Stark’s car. Jarvis dutifully reported the car stolen, but Thompson and the Chief don’t believe that story for a second, which is a nice touch. The SSR’s investigation is hampered by their prejudice, not by a lack of skill, which is a refreshing change from the bumbling official agencies we’re used to seeing. They’re talented interrogators, they’re able to locate the lair with the psychic typewriter, and they figure out that all the men they’re pursuing “died” in the Russian military years ago.

Jarvis is hauled in for questioning, and although his composure lasts admirably long, Agent Thompson is eventually able to find the butler’s key weakness: his past treason charge, and what that means for his beloved wife. Last week, I mentioned that Peggy weaponizes people’s paltry expectations of her in order to get what she needs for her investigation, and in order to free Jarvis before he snaps, she needs to play up her ‘ineptitude’ and it’s heartbreaking to watch. There may be nothing in the world more terrible to Peggy Carter than for others to perceive her as incompetent. Her boss and the other agents at the SSR leap to that conclusion so quickly, it’s as if they were just waiting for proof. Confirmation bias is a terrible thing, and yet it’s the only way to save Jarvis. And Stark. And probably herself.

Peggy’s willing to steel herself and endure these repeated assaults on her dignity because she holds out a charmingly naïve hope that working twice as hard and twice as long will pay off. She’ll get the bad guy, and then, as she tells Jarvis, “I will call them in, and they will respect me.” But Jarvis is right – they won’t. Their mistrust and misconceptions will indeed encourage them to tear Peggy down, so for now, she has to work in the shadows. Any hope of achieving professional success comes from clearing Stark’s name and returning him to a place of power, so he can serve as her patron and force the establishment to take notice of her.

Until then, it’s a lonely path for Peggy Carter, with Jarvis as the only person able to come to her aid – but the discovery of the treason charge brings his trustworthiness into question. Because Peggy knows how often others’ assumptions can be incorrect, she’s not willing to accept Stark’s trust in Jarvis as enough to justify hers. She tries incredibly hard to be okay with Jarvis’ repeated refusals to volunteer the circumstances around his treason charge, but she can’t, and she finally demands answers. It turns out that Jarvis received his dishonorable discharge from the military for forging his superior’s signature on a letter or transit for his Hungarian Jewish girlfriend – now wife – and Stark ended up saving both Jarvis and her. “I was arrested in the middle of Whitehall. On a Tuesday.” The specificity of the memory indicates precisely how this permanent black mark of disloyalty affects Jarvis, a man to whom loyalty is a professional and personal mark of pride. Now, Jarvis’ loyalty lies with Stark and his wife, to whom he stays honest, even if he’s not always truthful.

Fortunately for everyone on the island of Manhattan, Leet Brannis’ deathbed sketch of a heart and squiggle leads Jarvis and Peggy from Stark’s vault, through the sewers, to a boat called The Heartbreak. On board are Starks’ missing inventions, including a glowing green muscle constrictor that started out life as a back massager. When Jarvis goes to use a horrible Brooklyn accent to call in an anonymous tip to Sousa about the location, Peggy finds out that there’s some muscle on the boat too, to protect the haul. Turns out Muscle is fine killing women, and even though Peggy is a talented fighter, he’s almost a match for both her and Jarvis – until Peggy pulls out Chekov’s muscle constrictor, knocks him out, and they escape in the nick of time.

As soon as Muscle told Krzeminski about the English broad on the boat, both men were a goner, because plot. So when the Well-Hatted Man rear-ends the vehicle, there is no surprise when he summarily executes both. The question is, why? Was he killing Muscle because of what the man knew of his employers (presumably Leviathan)? Or did he kill the men because they knew of Peggy’s involvement? Whom was he protecting?

Despite Krzeminski’s boorish nature, his death – and her role in it, however accidental it was – hits Peggy hard. Earlier, a bottle of schnapps and half a rhubarb pie wasn’t enough to tempt Peggy to let loose with Angie. But now, Peggy decides to try Jarvis’ honest if not truthful method, and seeks out Angie to talk about her day, and her loss, in an oblique but sincere way. If nothing else good comes out of Peggy’s collaboration with Stark, maybe it will force her to work through her grief over losing Cap and return to the land of the living.

Odds and Ends

– Peggy spent a week in the sewers of New York during the winter of 1942. I want that story!

– Jarvis, as he’s being taken to the station: “Well, this will be novel; I haven’t been in the back of a car in years.” Jarvis is amazing.

– Literally everything Peggy wore this episode was amazing. The pantsuit to the boat and the red plaid jacket at the end get special props, and I would buy that robe of hers tomorrow if I could.

– Peggy’s next door neighbor Molly gets kicked out for having a gentleman caller climb in her window, and the new girl taking her place at the Griffith is Dotty Underwood, a ballet dancer from Iowa, played by the wonderful Bridget Regan. There is no way her character is actually Dotty Underwood, a ballet dancer from Iowa.