Written by Eric Pearson, Lindsey Allen, Sue Chung, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Stan Lee, & Jack Kirby
Directed by Lawrence Trilling
With a limited series, there’s more time that can be spent setting up the characters as well as the setting. The problem is keeping the series from being boring as this is happening. In the MCU, they’ve become really good at this, giving enough humor and side-stories to develop the characters to be entertaining, all the while promising more to come.
In A View in the Dark, having settled in at one of Howard Stark’s mansions, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) interrupts Jarvis’ (James D’Arcy) exercise routine and finds out he’s been training. She has him give her a ride to “the office” where she meets Chief Daniel Sousa’s (Enver Gjokaj) girlfriend, Violet (Sarah Bolger). Peggy has arranged for the body of the mysterious woman’s found frozen in a lake in the prior episode to be transported from the coroner’s office to the SSR so their scientists can examine her. Unfortunately, the escorts are murdered and the body is stolen.
Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham) is brought to a meeting with a mysterious Council, populated by powerful men of the country, which is troubled by the fact that his experiments haven’t yielded any results and have attracted federal attention. They want to shut down Isodyne despite Calvin’s assertions. When Peggy and Sousa arrive at Isodyne with a search warrant, they are told there was a containment leak preventing them from entering the Lab despite the search warrant.
Peggy later meets Dr. Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) at a hotel bar. He gives her information on what’s happening at Isodyne as well as evidence he stole from some files. The two of them also get to know each other a little better. They go up to the Griffith Observatory where he shows her a film of one of the experiments in the desert with an anomaly known as “zero matter.” No one is quite sure what it is, except it sucked in a bunch of men and equipment who haven’t been seen since the experiment went awry.
The two are then chased by men who seem to be trying to kill Doctor Wilkes. They escape, but Howard’s car takes a hit. Jason and Peggy enter a diner looking for a phone, and Peggy experiences the racism of the time as Doctor Wilkes is called “boy” by the owner.
When Chief Sousa goes to the scene of the shootout, at the behest of Jarvis, all they find are bullet casings and the car with the tires slashed. Sousa is upset and orders an APB put out on Doctor Wilkes.
Meanwhile, Jason tries to steal some of the zero matter from Isodyne. Unfortunately, Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) catches him. She threatens him with a gun and tells him to hand over the zero matter. They struggle and the zero matter is released. Peggy goes back into the building and finds no sign of Jason Wilkes or Whitney Frost, just a gaping hole in the laboratory.
Sousa sends her home with Jarvis. Peggy is very distressed by what happened. Chief Sousa returns home to find Violet waiting for him. He apologizes profusely for the night before. Meanwhile, Whitney Frost is locked in her bedroom at home. The zero matter is apparently inside of her now.
There’s a lot that happens in A View in the Dark. We are first introduced to The Council of Nine, seemingly a precursor to the American branch of Hydra later seen in the MCU films. The offhand remark about causing the Crash of 1929 seems to point to the powerful men steering events and history to the benefit of a select few as well as consolidating power on their hands. Will this have an impact in this season, or is it something set up to be considered later on?
The villain this season would have appeared to be Calvin Chadwick, but with the events of A View in the Dark, it’s looking more like Whitney Frost will be the real villain. There’s a scene where she’s shooting a film and the director talks in a derogatory fashion about her age; there’s no mistaking the fact that she’s an aging movie star who is starting to feel the pressures of aging in an industry that relies on youth and beauty. She’s still quite beautiful and not all that old, but she’s also not as young as she once was. It sets her up nicely as someone grasping for power to stay relevant and demand the respect of those who deride her.
There’s also the question of Chief Sousa’s girlfriend. What initially seemed like a love triangle as Peggy has come to terms with the death of Steve Rogers and can now think about dating again, seems to be much more. Peggy and Violet meet and neither seems threatened by the other. Violet is seemingly the perfect girlfriend. She’s amazingly understanding when Sousa has to dash off from their night out (where he was intending to pop the question) to rescue Peggy, and even greets him at his home the next morning in her nurse’s uniform with donuts and compassion. My hunch, at this point, is that she’s one of those Soviet operatives like Dottie, in this country to get close to someone powerful and found an easy target in Chief Sousa.
Refreshing here is the great dynamic between Peggy and both of the Jarvis’. There’s a complete lack of jealousy between Ana and Peggy, even when Ana catches Peggy and Jarvis indulging in a bit of friendly sparring. Where in the first season Peggy seemed to be going it alone for the most part, here she’s comfortable in the role of friend and letting the real her come through when she’s with either of them. Jarvis may be the one who comes to her rescue when she needs help, and Ana is the one who Peggy turns to when she’s trying to process the loss of Jason Wilkes. Angie may have been Peggy’s friend in Season One, but there was never the depth to the relationship that Peggy and Ana have the potential to have. Peggy always tried to shield Angie from what was going on and wouldn’t open up unless absolutely necessary. With Ana, they are completely open with one another. It’s an enjoyable situation to watch.
I was wondering if there would be any moments where the racism present in the era would rear its head. I kept thinking it was unrealistic how there was no pushback from anyone with Peggy and Jason being seen together. There was an attraction present in the first episode, The Lady in the Lake, but it seemed like Jason was going to be a heavy and it might not go anywhere. Here, she meets him at a bar in a hotel that seems to have mostly blacks present. There’s a moment of hesitation on her part as she’s caught off-guard, then goes right on in to meet him. I was expecting a little more push-back here, but we don’t see any reference again to race until they enter the diner later on. I had the feeling it was a more sugar-coated depiction of the times in that regard.
The performances are great across the board. There’s really not a weak one among the cast. Everyone seems to be comfortable in the roles and in making their characters – and their actions – believable. There’s not much science fiction here. It’s primarily character and situational set-up. The little bit of effects involving the zero-matter is done well without being a bit too much for the time. I especially liked being left hanging by the appearance of Whitney Frost having been violated by the zero matter and unsure of how to proceed. I thought the actress here did a tremendous job creating someone who is seen by the outside world as nothing more than a pretty (but aging) face with little substance, when she’s really much, much more.
All in all, this is a solid episode that sets up so much for the rest of the season, and possibly into the MCU universe, without being boring at all or dragging. It is enticing in a way that makes the viewer want to continue watching the series.
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