S01xE03: “Time and Tide”
Agent Carter premiered its third episode to lower-than-usual second week ratings, but the heroic journey of Peggy Carter continues to grow in terms of intricacies, revealing new characters and relationships of interest. With the mysterious “Leviathan” organization pushing the narrative forward, Peggy continues to navigate between life as an under-appreciated superspy and neighbor/friend to those who do not know her secret. While helping Howard Stark find his missing weapons and giving all the credit to the boys at the SSR is a disappointing circumstance for the woman who helped Captain America “defeat” Hydra, Peggy’s journey is less about recognition and more focused on breaking stereotypes placed upon her by the patriarchy.
Spoilers Ahead, Sweetie…
SSR and The Male Ego
Viewers have no doubt that Peggy Carter is a capable spy and yet the male agents believe her to be weak-willed, incapable and secret lover to Captain America. While Peggy’s coworkers are intelligent, they are also closed minded and incapable of seeing the value in any person who doesn’t fit into the ideal patriarchal role, including Peggy and Daniel Sousa, choosing instead to confine each to easily identifiable, albeit inaccurate, stereotypes. By classifying Peggy as unable to perform her duties, Agents Thompson, Krzeminski and Chief Dooley are able to disregard her contributions to any cases and continue to treat her as a subpar addition to the agency. They do the same to Sousa, who escaped the war with a severe handicap, which his peers use as an excuse to belittle and marginalize him. While Peggy manipulates these stereotypes, Sousa works to fight against the notions of his coworkers, ever wary of the treatment his peers are giving him and Peggy.
Peggy: “I will call [the weapons] in and they will respect me.”
Jarvis: “But they won’t. They’ll only use it to tear you down.”
Jarvis, Peggy’s sidekick and the butler of Howard Stark, seems to be the only person who understands how Peggy’s worth is measured by her male peers. Unfortunately, the same stereotypes Peggy manipulates to her own use cause her to be dismissed and judged by the men in her division and she is forced to work toward finding the weapons without gaining any credit for her deeds. Jarvis convinces Peggy they need to call in an anonymous tip to the SSR regarding the weapons and it is Sousa and Krzeminski who get the call. While transporting the prisoner, Krzeminski murdered, an act that is blamed on the anonymous caller and Howard Stark. While Krzeminski is the epitome of misogynistic thought within the SSR (he is the same man who insulted both Sousa and Peggy) he also does his job and is well respected within the agency. His death further complicates the value that Peggy Carter places in herself and her covert mission for Stark, leaving her confused and upset, searching for comfort in her newfound female companion.
The Vestal Virgins of the Griffith Hotel
In a stark contrast to the daily activities of Peggy Carter is the life she supposedly leads under the watchful eye of landlady, Miriam Fry. At the Griffith Hotel, Peggy must not only conform to the everyday stereotypes inflicted upon her by peers but also follow the conventions held by this era’s women. The set up of the Griffith is reminiscent of the story of the Vestal Virgins, who were shut off from society in order to cultivate their own femininity and give strength to the community by remaining chaste and secluded. In the Roman culture, the virgins of the House of Vesta endured a rigorous entry process into the priesthood and were sworn to celibacy until the age of 30, after which they were allowed a pension and an arranged marriage. These virgins were considered the “housekeepers” of Rome, tasked with keeping the fires of Vesta burning continuously and performing state rituals. While Peggy, Angie and their roommates are not priests sworn to protect the spirituality of New York City, they are watched over, protected and punished by society in the form of one Miriam Fry. When, at the breakfast table, Fry publicly admonishes and then evicts Molly for breaking a house rule and having her boyfriend ascend the “impenetrable” stairs, the punishment is reminiscent of the penalties facing the Vestal Virgins if they failed to reflect the moral standards placed on them. For Peggy, this means adding another layer to her clandestine lifestyle. In order to remain an accepted member of post WWII society, Peggy is forced to reflect patriarchal values not only at work but in the home, as well. Here’s to hoping the exception to this rule will be her relationships with Jarvis and Angie. By aligning these two characters ideals alongside Peggy’s, they too are outside of the patriarchal structure and therefore just as suppressed as she. While we have seen Jarvis’ persecution come in the form of an interrogation by Agent Thompson, while Angie continuously faces enforced societal expectations at work. If these connections will help align these characters with each other remains to be seen.
Peggy and the MCU
While Peggy is secretly fighting Leviathan and working to gather Stark’s stolen weapons, she is still being stalked by a mysterious killer in green. This person seems to know that Peggy is working under the radar of the SSR and has had the chance to harm her, yet he does not. Peggy’s anonymous tip leads her coworkers to make the misconnection between the tipper and the death of Krzeminski, putting Peggy in a precarious position as a would-be government traitor. Along with Jarvis and Howard Stark, Peggy is quickly becoming one of the SSR’s most wanted criminals, and they don’t even know it. Luckily, the Howling Commandos have got her back, and you can count on them watching it on the next episode of Agent Carter (airing Jan 27). Tune in to the show, live tweet with me @nerdwrldprblms and come back on Mondays for my meta recap.
Agent Carter is on ABC, Tuesdays at 8pm.