Peggy (played by the charming Hayley Atwell) captures Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan), who was wearing an approximation of Peggy’s trademark red hat. Dottie was in the midst of robbing a bank vault when Peggy knocks her out with a bag of money, deadpanning, “Love the hat.” SAME, Ms. Carter. Same.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), the chief of the SSR office out there, ends up partnered with a local cop, Detective Andrew Henry (Sean O’Bryan). A dead woman’s body is found in a lake, inexplicably in a block of ice. A serial killer who’d never caught is supposedly to blame.
Back in NYC, Peggy begins to interrogate Dot about the pin she’d taken out of the safe deposit box at the bank. They spar brilliantly, but Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), the new NYC chief, cuts in. He sends Peggy to L.A. to help Daniel with his investigation, slyly lying that Daniel asked for her specifically.
Peggy, glamorous and badass, lands to find a waiting Jarvis (not a bad greeting). Unfortunately for Jarvis, his nemesis appears to be Howard Stark’s latest pet: an unruly flamingo (he later refers to him as “the Devil in pink”). Jarvis’ (James D’Arcy) rant about California is hilarious: “Ms. Carter, you have no idea how foreign Los Angeles will seem to a civilized person such as yourself. They eat avocados. With everything. The foliage is preposterous. Take the palm tree: would you trust the structural integrity of such a thing? They offer no shade. Everybody says it’s a very dry heat, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t unbearably hot. And worst of all, the drivers are both abundant and abundantly irresponsible.” It turns out he has grown bored stiff running errands and polishing floors.
They arrive at what appears to be a dance studio. Jarvis gapes, “Are we certain this is the place?” To which Peggy replies, “Positive as pie.” Somewhere, Dean Winchester is nodding in approval. The studio is an SSR front (lovely to see Lesley Boone as the frontwoman), and Daniel and Peggy fumble through awkward hellos and a slight case of Googly eyes, but eventually get down to business.
Detective Henry inserts himself into the investigation. At the morgue, Peggy asserts that she thinks the frozen lake and murder are unrelated, and the audience learns the murder victim’s body glows like ET’s finger in the dark. They deduce that she must’ve been near a particle accelerator, and there is one nearby at Isodyne.
Once there, Peggy slips inside, while Daniel charms the curls out of the receptionist’s hair. She runs into scientist Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin), who identifies the dead woman as Jane Scott, who had an affair with the company’s owner. Wilkes brews Peggy a lovely glass of test-tube wine (really), and he clearly thinks she is smokin’. The chemistry there is lovely, but I’m naturally suspicious of conveniently gorgeous, smart, charming men. So.
Detective Henry insists on doing things his way, through the media. Daniel gives him the go-ahead, while Peggy and Jarvis go to investigate Calvin Chadwick (an aspiring politician, who owns Isodyne) and his movie-star wife Whitney Frost at the race track. We finally get to meet Jarvis’ stunning and capable wife Ana (Lotte Verbeek), who sewed Peggy a garter with a gun holster and doles out whiskey as needed. My kind of woman. She outfits Peggy for the races. Once there, Jarvis distracts Whitney while Peggy corners Calvin (politely at first) about his affair with Jane. Chadwick (Currie Graham) says he’ll spill about Isodyne, once she has clearance. Peggy exits with a clipped, “Mr. Jarvis, our horse lost.”
Back at the morgue, the medical examiner is dead, crumbled into icy pieces (I swear, it sounded like his name was Doctor Meltor, which would be hilarious. I have a warped sense of humor, I know). Peggy talks to Wilkes about what would cause this, and he surmises it had to be some kind of exposure. It wasn’t the stab wounds that did Jane in. It was organ failure.
It turns out that it was the cop the entire time, who takes Wilkes hostage. Peggy, Jarvis, and Daniel go after them—and Detective Henry eventually confesses that he cleans up other people’s messes, right before he’s conveniently shot by another cop. (This was at the order of Chadwick. Well, his wife Whitney—the Lady Macbeth brains behind his smarm.)
Peggy apologizes to Wilkes for putting him in harm’s way. He asks her out again, but Peggy says no. She later asks Daniel out for a drink. He declines, and she spies that he has a girl (Violet, played by the lovely Sarah Bolger). Ouch. No wonder he didn’t call Peggy or even call her back.
Meanwhile, back in NYC, Jack Thompson tries (and fails spectacularly) to interrogate (read: intimidate) Dot, who proceeds to kick his butt and pin him under a table. Red Forman (sorry, Vernon Masters, played by Kurtwood Smith) of the FBI comes in and takes her away. A later scene at the bar between him and Sir Squints a Lot (Thompson) is all political maneuvering, and I’m not sure I care about it yet.
We find Wilkes staring at a swirling black blob in a glass jar, which is where the first episode ends.
The second picks up in a manner I have no complaints about: Jarvis is wearing exercise gear (D’Arcy is lovely). He and Peggy end up sparring, each flipping and pinning the other. There’s more than a slight undercurrent of spark (or maybe my shipper heart is being a jerk), but Ana doesn’t even bat an eye.
Rose lays into Daniel for not telling Peggy about Violet. He hems and haws, only to walk into the office to find Violet and Peggy chatting over cookies—resulting in Violet insisting that Peggy join them for dinner that night. Daniel looks like he wishes the floor would swallow him up.
Elsewhere, in a fancy room in a fancy secret club, Chadwick addresses a mysterious cabal of old men and candles (no, really; they vote by candle). They tell him they’re shutting Isodyne down. There’s been too much attention and exposure. He pouts, before assenting. Or claiming to. Lady Macbeth—sorry, Whitney—is highly displeased when he reveals this.
Jane’s body is stolen from the morgue, and the ambulance turns up empty. The cabal is tying up loose ends. Peggy observes, “Clearly, we’ve kicked a very formidable hornet’s nest.” But Daniel and Peggy get a warrant to search Isodyne, which has a convenient, dangerous leak (LIES). Wilkes slips a note to Peggy about meeting later that night at the Dunbar Hotel. Daniel tries to go as her backup, but she insists he keep his dinner plans—especially after he accidentally drops an engagement ring. She’s perfectly collected and perfectly crushed. Her subtle, elegant sadness is beautifully rendered.
Peggy and Wilkes end up having a rather lovely date that Ana dressed her for. (It must be noted that she borrowed Stark’s car, which is what would happen if one combined a Bond car with every seduction tactic known to man, included a mirrored ceiling and a seat that fully reclines. It was hilarious.) There’s whiskey, getting-to-know-you talk, and dancing. The visit afterward to the planetarium (okaaaay) was intriguing. Race was brought the conversation in a pointed way, but Peggy eventually redirects: “I’ve quite enjoyed myself this evening, but if you’ve only brought me up here for the view, I’m going to be very cross.”
Wilkes shows her an instructional film (again, okaaay) and fills her in on Zero Matter, which is the black blob we saw earlier. It was all very charming and vaguely romantic, until they get shot at and need to flee. Peggy hotwires a car, flips a switch on Stark’s to alert Jarvis (who was battling “that pink atrocity”), and drives off. Unfortunately, the car overheats, leaving them stranded.
Peggy and Wilkes snag change for the phone booth from a decidedly racist shop clerk. Peggy is visibly ticked off at this, and Wilkes wonders, “You gonna punch all of L.A.?” Peggy amusingly responds, “Maybe. I could do with a hobby.” That could’ve been a throwaway line, but it isn’t. The subtlety there is that Peggy takes a stand whenever it’s needed, no matter the odds. And it is nice to see her brazenness extends to social issues. She and Wilkes end up kissing in a phone booth, before heading off to steal Zero Matter from Isodyne, which is being shut down that night.
Jarvis contacts Daniel, and when they can’t find Peggy, Daniel flips his lid. There’s a particular frustration and helplessness a person feels when a loved one is in danger and unaccounted for. And Gjokaj nailed it.
At Isodyne, Peggy heads off to take care of the people closing things down, while Wilkes uses a vacuum tube to get the Zero Matter. He is interrupted by Whitney, who he delightfully pauses to gape at, and they struggle over the container. Somewhat predictably, the container shatters after the grapple for it, leaving a huge hole in the building. Neither hide nor hair of Wilkes is seen, but we later glimpse Whitney, with a thin black line in her forehead. If the studio she works for hates wrinkles, imagine their reaction to that.
Peggy emerges out of the rubble, shaken and teary-eyed, but clinging to her responsibility. She attempts to launch herself back into work, but Daniel (relieved down to every inch of his soul) sends her home. Jarvis kindly drives her.
The next day, we find Peggy wearing a gorgeous robe I am envious of. Ana brings her glass of whiskey (bless), and Peggy muses how she didn’t know Wilkes for very long, so it’s odd that she’s affected by his presumed death. Ana says something rather remarkable in that moment: “Doesn’t take long to realize you’ve met someone special.”
The premiere was filled with great deal of setup for the season, but that makes sense, given it’s only ten episodes long. Still, we get to see Peggy kick ass, look fabulous, get pinned underneath Jarvis, make out with a hot guy, and threaten to punch all of L.A. as a hobby. Presumably, she won’t put avocado on everything, but her self-assurance and strength are brilliant. I, for one, am looking forward to her adventures on the West Coast.