The Agent Carter season opener, “The Lady in the Lake,” covers a lot of ground very fast. Dottie (Bridget Regan) is still on the loose; Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) is Chief of the new L.A. SSR office; Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) (ugh) is no longer acting chief of the New York office, but it’s real, honest to goodness muckety-muck, to borrow a phrase from the smooth and mysterious Vernon (Kurtwood Smith). No sooner have we returned to the Dottie/Peggy (Hayley Atwell) show than we find Peggy shipped off to L.A. to assist Sousa with a mysterious murder, where she encounters Jarvis (and finally Ana!), flamingoes, a charming physicist, another hard-headed bigot of a law enforcement agent, and remarkably stubborn ice. In general, the show seems to have made some effort to address the criticisms it faced last season regarding diversity, though with somewhat mixed results.
Let’s start with what is, for all of us here at AfterEllen, the juiciest bit: Dottie is clearly obsessed with Peggy. I would like to note for the record that this is the fulfillment of all my hopes and dreams as stated in my recap of the Season 1 finale. Dottie has clearly not identified a self of her own to be; instead, she’s being Peggy. As she said in “Valediction,” “I used to be so jealous of girls like you. I would have done anything! To walk like you, to talk like you…”
Well, she’s doing it. (Okay, she doesn’t walk like Peggy, but she dresses like her and for one brief moment talks like her.) This is obviously creepy in the general way—which is par for the course for Dottie—but in the context of Agent Carter’s heightened, slightly pulpy world, I love it. It goes beyond the fun misdirect in the opening, with a woman we might presume to be Peggy in her bright red hat going against the crowd of grey-suited men (note that still, she’s walking in the opposite direction Peggy was in her equivalent shot—a nice little bit of symbolism!). It’s how Dottie seems to eat up every glimpse of Peggy she gets. How she stares at her. How she asks for her when she’s gone and makes sure to tell Thompson to tell Peggy “bye.” (I’m sure he won’t, because he’s a selfish prick.)
The thirst is real. (Source)
Somebody’s got a massive, deeply unhealthy crush! I’m so on board! The return of the “girls like you” conversation tickled me pink. I’m doubly pleased that we saw Dottie again after the opening, as it suggests she may show up again this season. I hope she’s part of the New York plotline and not just a premiere callback.
Intellectually, I’m on the fence about this development in terms of representation, I admit; if Dottie truly does have feelings for Peggy (of the heart or the pants variety), it would be another case of Queer Villainy. One of the odd things about the era we live in is we’re starting to abandon queercoding (assigning traits that read as queer to evil characters to help show that they are deviant), but only in favor of villains who are just openly gay. I’m not sure this is an improvement. While I’m well aware of all this, and we’ll see where it goes, for now, I’m still just really enjoying Dottie’s dynamic with Peggy. I’d understand if others don’t, but I am eating this up with a goddamn spoon.
Moving on to the rest of the episode: it seems clear that Thompson picked Peggy to send out to L.A. for two reasons, neither admirable. First, as Peggy pinpoints immediately, he’s insecure. Just before he makes the decision to send her, he spends a while sitting in a room with two complete Peggy fanboys, and it’s clear he’s uncomfortable with their admiration for her. Second, I sincerely believe he just wanted to mess with Peggy and Sousa because of their epic case of missed connections. It’s exactly the kind of thing the same guy who set up Sousa to walk in on Peggy while she was changing would do.
Speaking of Thompson’s low morals and weak character, I have the feeling that Dottie’s release to the FBI and the mysterious promises made by his buddy Vernon are hinting at the beginnings of HYDRA’s return. (If any of you watch this show and nothing else of Marvel’s, HYDRA was the spooky Nazi division that Captain America and Peggy defeated in the first Cap film, which we learned in the second had actually reconstituted itself within SHIELD—an agency that will be born from the SSR—and slowly rebuilt its power and influence while hiding in plain sight.) My bet is if we see Dottie again, this will be why. This is a very smart direction to take the odious Thompson. It’s entirely fitting that he’d be the dupe who backdoors HYDRA into SHIELD, though I suppose it also creates the opportunity for a redemption arc. Let’s not do that, though. (By the way I quite liked the little nod to networks of privilege in that bar scene between him and Vernon: he got his job at least partly due to family connections. Of course he did, the twerp.)