Agent Carter 102 “Bridge and Tunnel” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman
Episode two of a new show is often the trickiest to get right: by throwing as much as possible into the pilot in an effort to get the show picked up, often the second episode feels a lot different, and often not quite as polished. Fortunately, Agent Carter gets around this problem by making episode two not so much episode two as episode one, part two, continuing the case of the missing formula set up in the pilot and moving things along organically. It also makes sense considering the show only has eight episodes to tell a compelling story, and a lot of shows struggle to do that with upwards to twenty episodes in a season.
So we begin back where we left off, with Peggy, her colleagues at the SSR and the mysterious voiceboxless assassin all hunting separately for the Nitramene, and all at various different steps of the investigation. Having identified the location of the dairy from which the other voiceboxless villain from episode one took the milk truck full of Nitramene bombs, Peggy poses as a health inspector and goes to find it. It’s a nice sequence which shows not only how competent Peggy is, but how she understands that confidence and a clipboard can get you into pretty much anywhere almost instantly. However, she finds that the one milk truck she needs is missing, and has to track down the driver to his home in New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Sousa tells Peggy he has tracked down some photos of the mystery blonde lady from the club who was, of course, Peggy in a wig. After he locks them in his drawer, we get a brief but ultimately largely pointless sequence of Peggy trying to break into the drawer and hiding under various desks in order to evade her colleagues on their lunch breaks. However, she never makes it to the drawer and eventually just waits for Sousa to look at the photos himself while she is called away to deal with some other business at Roxxon Headquarters: there, after a quick chat with the CEO of Roxxon, the folks at the SSR have figured out that the person responsible for the implosion at the Roxxon facility will likely still have traces of vita-rays on their clothes.
So they set about scanning all of Roxxon’s employees using Peggy’s vita-ray scanner, until she spots Miles Van Ert, the creepy scientist she blinded in the previous episode: he makes a run for it, and while the male agents wear themselves out chasing after him directly, Peggy simply asks for directions to the stairwell, saunters downstairs, grabs an attache case from a passing employee, and takes intercepts Van Ert with a swift blow to the stomach; because for all their bravado and misjudged heroics, Peggy’s colleagues at the SSR just aren’t as good at their jobs as she is.
So while Van Ert is being brutally ‘questioned’ by Agent Thompson, and the green-suited assassin is systematically killing his way through everyone associated with Leet Brannis, the man in possession of the Nitramene, Peggy manages to track down the truck owner with the help of Jarvis, who plays every scene as though he really should be enjoying a nice cup of tea rather than engaging in all this espionage.
But, while the chump in possession of the milk truck is pretty useless and gets knocked out all too quickly, Brannis makes an appearance and gets an opportunity to reveal that Leviathan, mentioned in passing last episode, is an organisation that he has betrayed and stolen the Nitramene from. For those of you wondering, Leviathan as it exists in the comic books is an organisation which is, in basic terms, the Soviet version of Hydra: it’s likely that the similarities between the two will be played down somewhat in the show to steer clear of the show’s central mission being too similar to that of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but it makes sense in a world where the Second World War is over and the threat of Hydra has been (supposedly) eliminated to introduce another group connected to the emerging superpower of the age.
Anyway, there’s a thrilling car rooftop confrontation between Peggy and the assassin which results in the entire milk truck being driven off a cliff into a lake and imploding, turning the lake and everything around it into a big ball of rubble just like the Roxxon facility. As Brannis dies from various injuries, he draws a symbol in the dirt that looks like a heart with a wiggly line through it, presumably something to do with Leviathan that will come into play at a later date.
In a quick series of wrap-up scenes, the SSR agents find a trail of women’s footprints at the scene of the latest implosion, believing it to be the same mystery woman from the club, and Sousa finds a key to a hotel room dropped by someone involved in the milk truck fight. Also, back at the SSR Sousa reveals that the mystery blonde successfully avoided all camera shots, and so Peggy’s identity is kept safe; and Peggy moves into a strange convent-like building housing ‘proper’ women waiting to get married as suggested by her waitress friend Angie. Finally, the SSR agents dismantling the remnants of the Roxxon facility find a license plate from the car belonging to Howard Stark that Jarvis was driving, and disposed of by leaving in Hoboken with the keys in the ignition: all evidence continues to lead to Howard Stark, and just how culpable he is in all of this remains to be seen.
As a final thought, the memory of Captain America runs deeper through this episode than the previous one, largely in the ingenious addition of ‘The Captain America Adventure Program’, a radio show that crops up at various points during the episode. The portrayal of ‘Betty Carver’, clearly meant to represent Peggy Carter, is entirely at odds with the real person, fulfilling the role of ‘damsel in distress’ who constantly relies on Captain America to get her out of tough situations: whereas really, as Jarvis tells Peggy, it was Captain America who was reliant on her. The radio show provides a nice counterpoint to what is going in the show, and points out the problems with media not only back in the 1940s, but today as well.
While not quite on the same level as the first episode, “Bridge and Tunnel” is still an extremely good second episode which provides us with some intriguing hints towards the longer-running arc of the series as well as more grounded, human moments.