Agent Carter – “Valediction”

This week marked the end of Agent Carter, the limited series run that was tiding us over until Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next week, and while this episode was a great hour of television, it definitely left me wanting more. If anyone from ABC happens to be reading this, please renew this series. This can’t be the end of it. Now, onto the actual recap.

The episode starts off with Peggy, Thompson, and Sousa checking out the aftermath of last week’s movie theatre bloodbath, and I couldn’t help but break into a wide grin watching Peggy amble up with the guys as if this was the norm. If it wasn’t official before, it is now. Peggy is finally considered an equal. After Sousa is accidentally doused with the rage inducing gas, the team is able to determine that it contains a dangerous hallucinogenic that makes those who ingest it immediately turn into killing machines. At this point, Howard Stark himself arrives on the scene, and as always, James D’Arcy’s comic timing is masterful, as Jarvis’ reaction to the SSR agents’ demand of, “Hands up!” is priceless.

Stark explains that the gas was intended to be a way for soldiers to stay awake for days at a time during the war, but when its dangerous side effects became known, the gas was stolen under the orders of one General McGinnis and dropped on the Russians before the Battle of Finow. Now we know why the Russians were all dead before the battle even started, as well as why Stark was there in the immediate aftermath. He deduces that Dr. Ivchenko, now known to be Johann Fennhoff (aka. Doctor Faustus in the comics), wants revenge for the destruction of his comrades and family that Stark’s invention inflicted, and so Stark offers himself up as live bait in the form of a public press conference on the steps of city hall to draw out Fennhoff and his associate, Dottie.

Naturally, Peggy thinks this plan is too risky, but Stark insists, claiming that his conscious needs him to fix the mess his invention created. Of course, Peggy’s worries are proven correct when the press conference is interrupted by gunfire and Stark is kidnapped and taken to his private airplane hanger where Fennhoff is waiting to complete his plan of vengeance. Using his powers of hypnosis, Fennhoff convinces Stark to pilot a plane over Manhattan and drop the gas over Times Square, where hundreds of thousands of people have gathered to celebrate V-E Day. Peggy and company arrive just in time to see Stark take off, and a plan is quickly hatched to stop him. Peggy will try and break Stark’s hypnosis over the radio, while Jarvis will act as the back up plan; going after Stark by plane under orders to shoot Stark down if Peggy doesn’t succeed.

I don’t think very many people were ever in doubt that Peggy would succeed in getting through to Stark, but that doesn’t make the scene any less poignant, as Peggy finds herself once again talking to a man she cares deeply about over the radio as he’s threatened with death. It’s a beautiful scene that perfectly illustrates the bond between these two characters, and how they are both still trying to get over the loss of Captain America. Steve Rogers may have been the love of Peggy’s life, but he was also the first time one of Stark’s inventions brought something good into the world, and their shared grief in this scene is palpable.

Of course, Peggy finally does get through to Stark, and upon his return, everything appears to get wrapped up nicely. Fennhoff is arrested, Peggy is finally able to say good bye to Steve by pouring the last of his blood into the Hudson, the other agents at the SSR give Peggy a well deserved round of applause for her work on the case, Angie (remember her?) and Peggy become roommates at one of Stark’s more luxurious residences, and Sousa finally takes a chance and asks Peggy out on a date. It’s everything you’d expect in the final episode of a season, however, like most season finales, it also lays the groundwork for future story lines. Jarvis hints to Peggy that he would like to continue his work with her, Thompson proves that old habits die hard when he takes most of the credit for solving the Stark case, and Dottie is revealed to have escaped. But all of this pales in comparison to the final scene, when it’s revealed that Fennhoff’s new cellmate is none other than Arnim Zola, the once and future henchman of Hydra. He tells Fennhoff that they are in America, the land of opportunity, and as such, they have much to offer each other. Cue end credits and me praying to the TV gods that Agent Carter will be back next year. Seriously, are you listening ABC?

All in all, Agent Carter made the most of its eight episodes, and produced many solid hours of television. However, beyond that, it really succeeded in adding to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, and in particular, it managed to create more depth to the characters and the relationships between them. I know that after tonight, every time I hear Tony Stark spit out the line, “That’s the guy my father wouldn’t shut up about?” in The Avengers, I’ll think about Howard Stark piloting a weapon of mass destruction towards Manhattan under the illusion that he is finally going to find his long lost friend; an illusion made possible because it exploited his greatest shame and vulnerability. It certainly puts an extra level of shading to the relationship between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, one that will likely pay off for years to come, so once again, ABC? Please keep this show going. That’s all I ask. Oh, and if you could renew Galavant, I’d greatly appreciate it, but I don’t want to get too greedy. I’m fine with just Agent Carter.

That’s it for these recaps, but new shows are debuting every week, so stay tuned for more TV Watch to come.

Line of the week: “Howard, you are the one person on this earth who believes in me. I can not lose you.” -Peggy

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To Kiss Or Not To Kiss: A Lesson in French Greetings

Living in another country for an extended period of time gives you the chance to really get to know and understand a culture and how its people think. Since my arrival in France, I feel like I could write a book about the French way of doing things, because things certainly are done differently here. Not better or worse, just different. Case in point: how you greet people.

I am a woman, which means that in France, I can either be referred to as Madame or Mademoiselle, depending on my marital status, or lacking that, my age. While France has recently made steps towards banning this distinction on official forms, it is still fairly prevalent in everyday conversation, because as we all know, old habits die hard. Unfortunately for my fellow Parisians, I don’t have a ring on my finger to make the distinction immediately clear, which means that I often put them in the undesirable situation of having to guess which one to call me based on a split second assessment of my age. Now, I don’t mind being called either, but it has been interesting to see how my hairstyle and wardrobe affect this decision. Hair up? Always Madame. Hair down? I’ll almost always get Mademoiselle. However, if I’m in my running gear, we’re back to Madame, no matter what my hair is doing. I also recently discovered that I’ve been inadvertently flirting with several of the men in my apartment building when a friend pointed out to me that in France, if you correct someone from Madame to Mademoiselle, what you’re actually doing is signalling your interest in that person. No wonder some of the women in my building have been giving me stink eyes in the elevator.

Next up is a very important grammar rule in a language full of grammar rules and gendered spellings. While I am enjoying my time learning the French language, it is exceedingly annoying how it contains the ability to grossly insult someone without ever resorting to profanity. I’m talking of course about the dreaded “tu” vs. “vous” decision that is in of itself a minefield of potential social blunders. Both tu and vous mean “you”, with tu referring to the singular form of the word and vous referring to the plural. What I didn’t know upon my arrival in France, is that vous is also used as a formal expression of you, and it’s used as a sign of respect towards people both in the singular and the plural. Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way on one too many occasions that the French do not take too kindly to being addressed improperly, and despite the leeway I’m given as a foreigner still learning the language, I’ve managed to ruffle quite a few feathers by using tu too early. Take my advice; when speaking French, always remember to err on the side of formality. The French will tell you when it’s okay to start using tu, and you’ll impress them with your language skills in the process.

Finally, we come to the kisses. When meeting new people, I am accustomed to shaking their hand as a standard form of greeting. At the end of the encounter, if it’s a formal setting such as a job interview, you shake their hand again, but if it’s someone you met in an informal setting, such as a party, you hug your new friend at the end of the night. I myself love hugs, and I will go in for one at every opportunity, but I’ve had to curb this habit since I moved to France. Here, the standard greeting is what is called a bisou, or the two cheek kiss, and everyone does it. Women to women, women to men, men to men, it doesn’t matter. The standard greeting and goodbye to people, even those you’ve just met, is to give two air kisses to the cheek, one on each side. If you forget and go in for a hug, it really weirds Parisians out. I know this from experience because there have been many times where I found myself going for a hug, only to try and clumsily transition into a bisou. It’s unbelievably awkward every time, but as I said before, old habits die hard, so it still happens with embarrassing frequency.

Learning a new language and culture is fascinating, but you have to be prepared to look like an idiot from time to time. I know I have on many occasions as I’ve bumbled my way through Paris, but it’s the only way to really learn and know a country and its customs. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t learn from my mistakes, so the next time you find yourself in France, remember to use caution when correcting people, always go for formality, and pucker up, because there will be a lot of bisou coming your way.

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Agent Carter – “Snafu”

After last week’s cliffhanger ending, I couldn’t wait to see how everything would play out, and this week’s episode of Agent Carter did not disappoint. After a brief flashback to Russia and the origin of Dr. Ivchenko’s crazy hypnosis ring, we’re promptly back in the interrogation room, where unsurprisingly, Peggy is handling the situation quite well. She doesn’t reveal anything too damaging, she staunchly maintains her innocence, and when her competence is questioned, she simply calls out Dooley, Thompson, and Sousa individually for how their attitudes towards her have enabled all that she has accomplished. It’s a wonderful scene that shows just how far her three fellow agents have come as characters over the course of the series. Sousa, who previously bonded with Peggy over their shared experiences of discrimination, feels genuinely betrayed by her perceived treachery, while both Thompson and Dooley seem at least willing to hear Peggy’s side of the story.

It isn’t long before the interrogation is interrupted by Jarvis, who shows up at the SSR demanding to see Dooley and waving around a written confession from Howard Stark as his entry ticket. After a short and rather one-sided negotiating session with the Chief, it’s decided that upon arrival of Stark at the SSR with a signed copy of his confession, Peggy and Jarvis will go free, and not a moment earlier. Peggy isn’t exactly thrilled with this deal, but she becomes downright enraged when she finds out that the confession is a fake; one concocted by Jarvis in a panic when Peggy didn’t arrive at their rendezvous after last week’s events. Stark’s loyal aide is still convinced that they can prove his boss’ innocence, but Peggy is far less optimistic. That is, until she witnesses Ivchenko tapping out morse code on the windowsill of Dooley’s office to Dottie across the street. She quickly interprets the message, and realizes that not only is the good doctor working for Leviathan, but her former neighbour is just across the street plotting something big with him.

Peggy immediately marches up to Dooley and declares that she’s ready to talk, and talk she does. She tells Dooley, Thompson, and Sousa everything that has happened from the moment she first met Stark in that alley, and she does this in the hopes of gaining their trust so that they will believe her about Ivchenko. Sousa is the first to believe her, with Thompson not far behind, and before long, Dooley is sending a task force across the street to look for Dottie. Unfortunately, this action is witnessed by Ivchenko, who quickly springs into action once he realizes that he’s been compromised.

While Dottie is taking out the team across the street, Ivchenko uses his ring to hypnotize Dooley, and uses this power to have the Chief take him down to the SSR’s lab to retrieve an item of great importance. We’re led to believe that it’s Steve Rogers’ blood, but Ivchenko bypasses the vial in favour of another seemingly innocuous box and heads for the door. Throughout this entire sequence, it’s unclear as to whether or not Dooley really is under the doctor’s spell, or whether he’s just faking it in order to prove Ivchenko’s guilt. I will admit that when Dooley finally does let the doctor walk out of the SSR and into Dottie’s waiting car with the mysterious box in hand, I was more than a little disappointed that Dooley wasn’t stronger in overcoming Ivchenko’s mind games. I guess I had underestimated how much I had grown to like Dooley as a character, and it was sad to see him fail his team in such a big way.

Even more sad was the state his team later finds in him, when he is discovered in his office wearing one of Stark’s more volatile inventions: a jacket that is set to overheat and explode at any moment. While the team tries desperately to figure out a way to get Dooley out of it, the Chief knows that his time is up, and in a heroic last stand, he runs himself out of a window to save them all from being consumed in the explosion with him. It’s a shocking end for a character I never once thought to be expendable, and it succeeds in dramatically upping the stakes for next week’s season finale. It also provided the show with one of its best moments so far, when seconds before his leap out the window, Dooley asks Peggy to promise him that they will get the people responsible. He singles her out specifically, and in doing so, he places his trust and faith in Peggy to get the job done. It’s the validation that Peggy has craved throughout the entire series, but it came at too high of a cost for all of them.

The only good thing to come out of all of this is that Peggy’s name has now been fully cleared, and judging by the way her co-workers are seemingly following Dooley’s lead in their attitudes towards her, Peggy is free to get on with the task at hand. And this will be no easy task, as it’s revealed in the closing moments that the item Ivchenko stole from the SSR is a gas capable of turning anyone who comes in contact with it into a frenzied mob of violence and destruction. Not exactly a good thing to have on the loose in the streets of New York City. Next week’s episode promises to be action packed, so please check back to find out how this all wraps up.

Line of the week:

Dooley: (to Peggy) “And you, promise me you’ll get the son of a bitch who did this. Say it!”

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Agent Carter – “A Sin To Err”

Okay, now I’m all caught up and I have to wait until next week for the next Agent Carter, and after this latest episode, that is entirely too long of a wait. As of right now, I’m mentally willing ABC to renew this show despite its less than stellar ratings, because to only have two more episodes left is a huge injustice to a show that is this fun and this well executed. But for now, that’s all we’ve got, so we might as well enjoy them.

We start off this week’s episode in 1944 Russia, where four men are being offered positions within Leviathan, the program at the heart of the conspiracy surrounding Howard Stark. Offered may not be the best word, however, because it is made quite clear that if they refuse, both they and their families will be put to death, so it’s not so much a job offer as it is an ultimatum. One of these men is Dr. Ivchenko, the psychiatrist Peggy and Thompson picked up in Belarus last week. Flash forward to 1946 New York, and Dr. Ivchenko is being questioned by the SSR about Leviathan. Dooley wants to know about Howard Stark, but Peggy can’t stop badgering the doctor about the training facility they found for the killer little girls we saw last week. Peggy’s got a hunch that it was through one of these women that Leviathan got at Stark’s weapons cache, given his weakness for women, and in a welcome change, Dooley lets her investigate this hunch. Thankfully, last week’s vote of confidence from Thompson seems to be spreading to the rest of the team.

Meanwhile, Dottie has showed up for a job interview at a dental office across the street, but it soon becomes clear that she isn’t in need of a job, just the office’s location, when she quickly disposes of the dentist and takes up residence in the window with a sniper rifle. Her scope is trained on Dooley’s office, and while it initially looks like Dr. Ivchenko is about to join Krzeminski as one of Dottie’s victims, it’s soon revealed that the doctor and the assassin are in league with each other, and are using this time to send messages back and forth. Ivchenko tells Dottie that he needs more time to find a certain item, and Dottie receives a new directive: kill Peggy Carter.

At this very moment, Peggy is traveling all over Manhattan in an effort to track down Stark’s many former flames to try to find the one who may double as a Russian assassin. Jarvis is back as her wingman, and although he is happy that Peggy has resumed contact, he is less than thrilled about coming face to face with all of the women he has had to reject on behalf of Stark. Apparently, being Howard Stark’s proxy in this matter is bad for your health. Several face slaps and kicks to the shin later, Peggy and Jarvis finally find the right apartment, but unfortunately for them, the apartment’s former occupant has long since cleared out.

Also unfortunate is the fact that Peggy’s double agent status has finally been revealed when Sousa positively IDs her as the mysterious woman who’s been thwarting the SSR’s efforts to bring in Howard Stark. They attempt to arrest Peggy at her usual diner, but she expertly takes out several agents, including Thompson, before heading back to her apartment to retrieve the hidden vial of Steve’s blood. This sequence is awesome on many levels, not the least of which is because even Jarvis gets in on the action of helping Peggy to escape when he administers several well placed dinner trays to the heads of the arresting agents. After bumbling his way through most of their previous missions, it nice to see him finally have his moment in the sun.

Jarvis heads for a rendezvous location, while Peggy arrives home at the Griffith, however, the SSR are close behind. After grabbing the vial, Peggy hears her colleagues coming up the stairs and soon finds herself trapped on the ledge outside of her window, desperately looking for a way out. The situation is looking a bit dire when of all people, it’s Angie to the rescue. Choosing her friend over the men with badges, Angie lies to the SSR agents, covers for Peggy’s whereabouts, and when Thompson heads for the window, she pulls out the waterworks to distract him with a story about her dying grandmother and her failed acting ambitions. It’s a great scene, and serves as a reminder that watching men awkwardly trying to deal with a crying woman is hilarious no matter what decade you’re in. After a quick thank you to Angie, Peggy is off on her grand escape, or at least she would be if it weren’t for Dottie who shows up at completely the wrong time to complete her directive. She knocks Peggy unconscious, but before Dottie can finish her off, Thompson and Sousa show up to haul Peggy away in handcuffs. She’s taken back to SSR headquarters, handcuffed to the interrogation table, and looks ominously at Sousa as he says it’s time to get started. Cut to Agent Carter’s title card and my disbelief that a show could get this good in just six episodes.

There will be a lot of ground to cover in the next two episodes, but I’m more than sure that Agent Carter is up for the task. I’m also more than ready to find out how this all ends, so can it please hurry up and be Tuesday already? That’s not too much to ask, right?

Line of the week:

Peggy: “You think Ginger Rogers is a Russian assassin?

Jarvis: “You should have seen her eyes when I escorted her from Mr. Stark’s villa. The darkest gates to the abyss.”

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Agent Carter – “The Iron Ceiling”

Once again, Agent Carter proved that it’s one of the smartest shows on television when it delivered yet another terrific episode last week. It had character revelations, crazy plot developments, and some pretty great action sequences, so let’s get started.

First off, remember in the last recap when I said it wasn’t clear which side Dottie was on? Well, after “The Iron Ceiling”, I think we can safely say that whatever she is up to, it’s nothing good. This episode opens with a flashback to a Russian boarding school from hell, where little girls are handcuffed to their beds at night, force fed English lessons through Disney cartoons, and forced to fight each other until the winner snaps the loser’s neck. Later, it’s hinted that this is where Dottie comes from, but even after she steals Peggy’s apartment keys and breaks in to search the place, we still don’t know exactly what it is she’s after. She steals a photograph of one of Stark’s weapon boxes and stares into a mirror pretending to be Peggy, and while it’s all creepy and mysterious, it gives little in the way of explanations. Am I the only one who wants to know her entire backstory ASAP?

The reason Dottie is able to sneak into Peggy’s apartment undetected is because Peggy is off on a mission with the SSR. The message from the typewriter that came through last episode was unsurprisingly written in code, and when Peggy is the only one who can decipher it, she decides it’s time she stopped taking lunch orders and actually saw some action on the front lines of a mission. Naturally, Thompson and Dooley are reluctant, but after Peggy arranges for the Howling Commandos to join them on their mission, she is told to pack her bags and ship out to Belarus. The typewriter’s message outlined a plan to pay off Howard Stark at that location for providing weapons to the Russians, and Thompson and Dooley, convinced they’ve finally got their man, want to catch Stark in action.

Of course, things aren’t quite that simple, and once in Belarus, Peggy and her team not only discover that the message was sent as a trap to get them there, but they also uncover evidence that proves Stark’s innocence and the overall plan to set him up. Thompson also gets to witness Peggy in action with the Howling Commandos, and see just exactly what she’s capable of when she gets to work with colleagues who actually respect her. But even better than all of this is Neal McDonough’s guest starring role, who along with his always awesome bowler hat, is back as one of the Howling Commandos, and therefore a lot of good natured banter and ribbing ensues among the agents that is a welcome respite from the overall seriousness of the episode.

While Peggy and Thompson are off on their mission, Dooley is doing some digging of him own, and after a chat with a journalist friend of his, he comes to the conclusion that the conspiracy might be much bigger than he first realized. He also decides that Stark may not be the clear cut villain he has been made out to be, and Dooley extends an olive branch to the elusive billionaire through Jarvis. The Chief claims to just want the truth of the matter, but I’m not entirely convinced of his change of heart. From the looks of it, neither is Jarvis, who takes Dooley’s card somewhat reluctantly.

Back on the plane from Belarus, Peggy is trying to cheer up Thompson, who is clearly not happy about how he froze during the firefight that preceded their escape. She tries to reassure him that it happens to everyone, and that the important thing is that he recovered, but to her surprise, Thompson opens up about the true story behind his navel cross award. He reveals that when he fought in the Pacific, he fell asleep on guard duty one night, only to come to when six of the enemy soldiers entered his camp. Before his comrades could wake up, he had shot all six of them dead, only to realize too late that they were carrying flags of surrender. This secret has haunted him ever since, as he feels that the navel cross has forced him to pretend to be someone that he’s not, and in confiding in Peggy, they finally share a bond that brings them onto equal footing. By the time they’re back in New York, Thompson is including her in the guys’ night out of drinking, and it looks like Peggy will finally get the respect she deserves from her co-workers. The only glitch in this plan is Sousa, who has finally figured out that Peggy is the mysterious woman who has been working against the SSR to bring in Howard Stark. He hasn’t said anything yet, but something tells me he won’t stay silent for long. Check back tomorrow to see what the ramifications are, because I’m sure they’ll be big.

Line of the week:

Jarvis: “[You are a Federal Agent] finely trained and skilled in the art of fetching coffee. These men you call your colleagues, they don’t respect you. They don’t even see you. Do you honestly expect they’ll change their minds?”

Peggy: “I expect I’ll make them.”

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Agent Carter – “The Blitzkrieg Button”

Now that Galavant has wrapped up, it’s time to catch up on Marvel’s latest foray into television: Agent Carter. Last time we checked in, the SSR had declared war on Howard Stark over the loss of Krzeminsky, and Peggy was racked with guilt over her role in her colleague’s death. I know it’s been awhile since the last Agent Carter recap, so let’s get started. We still have another episode to go before tomorrow’s new installment.

The episode begins with Jarvis trying to engineer a smuggling job, and of course, he is doing a spectacularly bad job of it. Not only does he have an enormously obvious tell for when he is lying, but when the two goons on the other side of the deal unsurprisingly up their delivery fee, Jarvis responds in an ever flustered manner. Nerves of steel that one. Thankfully, Peggy is there to back him up, knocking out the goons’ security guards and saving Jarvis from yet another disastrous attempt to be disreputable. With the deal finally secure, they make their way to the cargo hold and discover that the smuggled goods are none other than Howard Stark himself.

Yes, turns out Dominic Cooper’s five minute cameo in the season premiere was more than just a way of further emphasizing the show’s cinematic roots, as his character is back in a big way this week when he returns to retrieve one of his inventions that has already been picked up by the SSR. The problem is, his usual hide outs are found to be compromised, and so Peggy hides him at her apartment, giving Howard plenty of time to reveal that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree in terms of the Stark men’s appetites for women.

In the meantime, Sousa is still following up on Jarvis’ anonymous phone call, one which ultimately led to Krzeminsky’s death. Sousa’s search leads him to a homeless man with a great distaste for police, who may or may not have been a witness to who placed the call. While Sousa attempts to bond over their shared experiences of coming home from the war as unwanted GIs, it’s Thompson who finally succeeds in getting the man to talk. The homeless man reveals only that he saw a dark haired woman and a well dressed man enter the boat before the SSR’s arrival, which both Sousa and Thompson admit isn’t much to go on. Unfortunately, Thompson gets this information at the expense of humiliating Sousa, and it’s at this moment that Thompson would have tipped fully into the chauvinist caricature he was headed for if it weren’t for a brief scene later on with Peggy, during which he questions her loyalty to an institution that will never acknowledge her value. It was a very interesting and much needed shading to a character who up until now had been very one note.

Unknown to him, Peggy has been very much proving her value when she retrieves the so called Blitzkrieg Button for Howard, only to discover that instead of being a device that can wipe out the electrical systems of an entire city as he claimed, it contains a vial of blood. Steve Rogers’ blood, to be specific, and when an enraged Peggy confronts Howard, he claims his intentions are honourable and that he means to use the blood to create vaccines and cure diseases. Peggy is less than convinced, believing him to only be in it for the profit, and she angrily demands that he vacate her apartment by the time she returns. She then leaves, just in time as it turns out, because the ripped off beneficiary of the deal Peggy and Jarvis reneged on at the beginning of the episode has arrived to collect his debt. However, before he can enter Peggy’s apartment, her neighbour Dottie, who moved in last episode, takes him out with some rather impressive neck breaking skills. It’s hard to tell from this scene whose side she’s on, but something tells me that Dottie has a much bigger role to play in the episodes to come.

Finally, while all of this has been going on, Dooley travels to Germany to speak with an ex-Nazi before his execution. Since the Leviathan assassins were supposed to have died in the battle of Finow, he wants some answers as to how they were still alive and kicking in New York City until just recently, but what he gets is only more questions. He learns from the Nazi that there was no battle of Finow, and that the Russian forces were all murdered well before the Germans showed up. Furthermore, the first Allied plane to reach the site of the massacre contained none other than Howard Stark himself, thereby convincing the SSR Chief that there’s a true conspiracy afoot. Just as he’s coming to this conclusion, the mysterious typewriter from the first episodes begins to type in the background. I’m guessing that whatever message it contains will only spell more complications for Peggy, Jarvis, and Howard.

Agent Carter has quickly gained the reputation of being one of the best comic book series on television right now, and it’s easy to see why. This was a solid episode full of much needed and expertly executed character and plot development. For once, I’m happy that work and travel forced me to fall behind on these recaps, because now I can immediately dive into the next episode, instead of waiting a week to find out what happens. Next recap will be up shortly, and then check back tomorrow for a recap of the latest episode.

Line of the week: “Could I borrow the sports section?” – Stan Lee, proving that his Marvel cameos are extending into network television.

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Galavant – “My Cousin Izzy” and “It’s All in the Executions”

Travel and work forced a mini-break from TV Watch and the weekly recaps, but I’m back at it, and today I’m finishing up Galavant, the crazy musical medieval fantasy hybrid that has been airing on ABC on Sunday nights. Last we checked in there were a lot of loose threads to be tied up, and while the two part season finale didn’t exactly deliver on all of them (well, any of them), it was still a heck of a lot of fun, so let’s get right into it.

First up, Galavant continued its streak of completely amazing guest stars when Anthony Stewart Head dropped in to start the episode off with a quick cameo as Galavant’s father. In a rather succinct two minutes, the show managed to explain a lot about Galavant’s character, outline the many problems inherent in expectations of masculinity, and sum up the issues in modern depictions of male/female relationships. All in song, naturally. It was actually quite impressive. Afterwards, we immediately flash forward to the current timeline, where Galavant is busy planning a way to escape from the dungeons. He’s also trying to finish the song his father started all those years ago about how this is his moment in the sun, but just like dear old dad, he keeps getting interrupted. This time, it’s by the palace guards, who have arrived to bring all of the prisoners up to the throne room so that Kingsley can become better acquainted with the kingdom’s dungeon inhabitants. However, before this gets very far, Richard, who is fed up with his big brother, challenges him to a dual. Of course, this dual is to be fought by champions, and not by the royal brothers themselves. Kingsley swoops in and chooses Garth as his champion, and so Galavant decides to offer up his services as champion to Richard, on the condition that everyone goes free when he wins.

The scene is set for an epic dual, but before the swords can be drawn, Isabella’s cousin, Prince Harry, shows up to rescue his fiancee. Turns out, Isabella’s parents have already promised her to another man, something Galavant is less than pleased to discover, especially considering that her fiancee is merely a child whose voice hasn’t even broken yet. Richard immediately adjourns the dual for a welcome feast for the new royal, and everyone heads back to the castle. Back in the dungeons, Sid and the jester mistake the cheering over the impending feast to mean that Galavant has been killed, and they take it upon themselves to break free. This leads to a showdown during the feast, before which Madalena inadvertently produces an epiphany in Galavant that he doesn’t have to hide his feelings to be a hero. When everyone starts choking on the food the chef has prepared (the food was full of allergens, not the arsenic his lady love had originally suggested), Sid and Co. burst into the room to hand a sword off to Galavant, and he immediately heads for Isabella to confess his feelings. Prince Harry sees the writing on the wall and concedes defeat in the battle for Isabella’s heart and departs, and Richard finally stands up to his brother and declares that he will fight in the dual instead of a champion. Too bad Kingsley doesn’t feel the same way, because now, he’s just excited to watch his brother get killed by his best friend. Also, somewhere in there, Galavant finally manages to finish his song, and as expected, it’s pretty much a big let down.

The second episode begins with the worst kind of fake out, as the show’s amazing theme song begins, only to have the jester cruelly cut off by the other characters before he really gets into it. I actually gasped in disappointment at this. That theme song is just so darn catchy! Anyway, Galavant comes up with yet another plan to save everyone, and this one involves gaining the trust of King Richard. Therefore, with the promise of juicy gossip about Madalena, Galavant and Richard are off on a night of drinking and bonding over the woman that scorned them both. Before long, Galavant has convinced Richard to kill his brother that very night, and after a hilarious drunken trip through the castle, they finally arrive at Kingsley’s bedside, ready to do the evil deed. The problem is, their secret plan didn’t stay quite so secret, and before long, Richard finds himself locked up in the dungeon with the rest of the gang. He pleads to Gareth to let him out, but the muscle man is not to be swayed, pointing out that this whole mess is pretty much all Richard’s fault.

By the morning, however, after Richard’s drunken rendition of a childhood song wafts its way through the castle, Gareth has had a change of heart. He sends Galavant and Richard off with some pirates, lets Isabella and the prisoners go (but keeping Sid as leverage), and heads to the throne room to tell Kingsley and Madalena of his disobedience. Kingsley is outraged, but his tirade is cut short mid-sentence when Madalena stabs him in the back. Literally. It’s hard to keep up with the double-crosses at this point as Madalena and Gareth take their positions on the throne. Meanwhile, Isabella and Co. have arrived at her cousin Harry’s palace in search of sanctuary, and while he takes them in, he reveals that he’s built his future wife a tiny little house for her to live in, inferring that he thinks of her as no more than a little doll. It’s more than a little creepy.

This is where the theme song finally kicks back in for real, as it outlines where all the characters stand at the end of season one, and while I was happy for the song’s return, I was disappointed that it came at the expense of a resolution for nearly every plot point. It’s almost as if the writers were daring ABC to cancel the show, and while on one level I applaud the boldness of it, it also left me feeling annoyed with the whole thing. The creators of Galavant had to know that this show was always going to be a tough sell, and to not acknowledge this fact by not giving the audience at least some semblance of a resolution is more than a little maddening.

So as it stands, Galavant and Richard are rowing off into the distance in the company of some pirates, Isabella is trapped in a dollhouse type hell, Sid is Gareth’s hostage, and Gareth and Madalena are sitting on the throne of Valencia having just murdered Kingsley. All I can say is that there better be a season 2. Are you listening ABC?

Line of the week: “So, that’s the King and Queen of Valencia, their daughter (she annoys me), my ex, my former boy-toy slash jester (he was cuter pre-dungeon), and not sure who the black kid is.” -Madalena introducing everyone to Kingsley

Lyric of the week: “Will all the singing kill our Nielsen ratings?”

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Trailer Talk – Magic Mike XXL

Release Date: July 1st, 2015

I’ll be the first to admit that I couldn’t wait for Magic Mike to hit theatres in the summer of 2012. A movie about male strippers starring Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, and Joe Manganiello? Count me in. Surprise, surprise, other women felt the same, and the film was a hit, which meant that Hollywood immediately ordered up a sequel. I was more wary of this idea, mostly because it seemed to me that the film had already said all there was to say about the topic, not to mention the fact that everyone involved probably laughed all the way to the bank when Magic Mike ended up having the highest profit margin of any other film that summer. Why risk all this success on a potentially mediocre sequel? Earlier this week, the teaser trailer for Magic Mike XXL hit the web, and all of my worries instantly melted away. This trailer is so firmly tongue in cheek that even if the plot and dialogue end up completely sucking, it’s clear that we’re all still going to be in for a good time. If you’re in need of a laugh, or perhaps you need something to brighten your day, take my advice and watch the above trailer about a half a dozen times. You’re welcome indeed.

Verdict: Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from seeing this one.

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Yet Another Top 10 Lessons Learned from Living in Paris

It is hard to believe, but I have now lived in Paris for five months, and while I would like to think that I have this whole Parisian thing down by now, the truth is, I’m still learning everyday. Therefore, without further ado, here is this month’s list of top 10 lessons learned from living in Paris.

1) I am very lucky, in that I live in an apartment with a washer for doing laundry. However, a dryer is nowhere to be seen, because that is standard in France. Apparently, the French believe that dryers will cook your clothes, and therefore most go without them. This means that when doing laundry, you really have to plan out your time, because things like jeans take a full day to dry.

2) Those who know me well know that I love journals and notebooks. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before I would break down and buy some here in Paris. However, I have discovered that French notebooks and journals do not come in the typical lined variety, and unless you want to pay extra for an imported brand, the only type of notebooks you can buy are ones that consist of pages full of little squares instead of lines, meaning that all notebooks in Paris are effectively made from graphing paper. This is something that I’m still getting used to.

3) I have previously written about how picking up after your dog is optional, but I’ve also come to learn that having your dog on a leash is also optional. I’ve also observed that dogs in Paris are a special mutant breed of dogs that instinctively know not to run out into the street in front of cars, because I’ve lost count of how many dogs I’ve seen obediently trotting along off leash behind their owners in some of the busiest traffic areas of Paris, and not once have I ever been worried about the dog’s safety or its ability to stay away from traffic. This behaviour is diametrically opposite from every other dog I’ve ever known.

4) Cafes and brasseries can be found on nearly every street corner, and many of them have tables outside where you can sit and people watch. However, you pay for that view, because the price for drinks is cheaper if you stand at the bar vs. sitting down at an outdoor table.

5) Apartments in Paris don’t have any numbers on them. I have yet to discover why this is, but I quickly learned that directions to get to new apartments are filled with instructions such as, “fourth floor, right door” or “ground level, door across from the elevator.” Always pay attention to these directions. They are very important.

6) Most Parisian apartments will have a shower, but shower heads that are permanently mounted on the wall are of the rarer variety. Instead, a typical shower head will be attached to a hose that you have to hold yourself and move around manually. Of all the things that are different in Paris, this is the one that has taken me the longest to get used to.

7) Every time you step outside in Paris, it is a chance to dress up and look good. I have also observed that Parisians in general prefer a very dark colour palate, with lots of blacks, greys, and dark blues on display. This means that if you run out to quickly grab a baguette wearing yoga pants and a hot pink running shirt, you will get lots of strange looks, frowns, and outright grimaces of disproval. I may or may not know this from experience…

8) The weather in this city changes constantly, making it very difficult to dress appropriately. There have been days where it has changed from clouds and rain to blue sky and sun up to a dozen times in a 12 hour span. Just the other day, I walked to a nearby store while snow was falling, and when I exited the store, there was nary a cloud or snowflake to be seen. I am not exaggerating when I say I was in that store for less than five minutes. All of this uncertainty means that when you leave your house, you have to wear lots of layers and have gloves and an umbrella tucked into your purse at all times.

9) When you go to see a movie, always check first to see if there is a V.O. or V.F. after the showtime. V.O. means version originale, meaning that the movie will play in the original language it was made in with French subtitles. V.F. means version française and the movie will be dubbed in French. While I’d like to think that my comprehension of the French language is getting better every day, I am nowhere near the level needed to understand an entire dubbed movie, and therefore those little initials become very important.

10) As these Top 10 Lessons posts took a break over the holidays, this one is less timely than the others, but still worth mentioning. If you love Christmas and have a chance to visit Paris during that time, I can’t recommend it enough. The entire city decorates up for the holidays, so much so that even the local butcher down the street from my apartment set up a little lighting display above its storefront. However, if you are not a fan of Christmas, stay away from Paris during this time at all costs, because with the amount of lights and decorations that are on display, it’s like Christmas vomited on this city, and you may find it a bit much. Happily, I fall into the first category, but either way, you have been warned.

That’s it for this month! I’m sure there will be lots more lessons to come, so please check back the next time the 6th of the month rolls around.

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Galavant – “Completely Mad…Alena” and “Dungeons and Dragon Lady”

This week, Galavant reminded viewers that it really is a limited series run (the final episodes air next week), because the top of this week’s hour found Galavant and Co. finally reaching the end of their journey, and by the end of the hour, all the pieces were in place for a climatic finale. In between, there were quite a few plot problems that revealed the limitations of the show’s premise, but the entertaining guest stars and ever clever song lyrics kept things moving along, so let’s get into it.

This week marked Galavant’s arrival in Valencia, and while he is eager to save the kingdom and his lady love, Isabella is racked with guilt over the imminent reveal of her betrayal. To stall for time, she convinces Galavant to head to a local monastery to wash up in preparation for the battle ahead; a monastery inhabited by singing monks led by none other than Weird Al, in the first of two completely awesome guest spots this week. While Galavant is being prepped, Isabella confesses her guilt to Weird Al Monk, and the next time we see her, she’s clearly had a change of heart, because she confronts King Richard to offer up her kingdom’s jewel in return for the lives of her parents and Galavant. Of course, Richard refuses, as he is determined to prove himself worthy of his wife’s affections by killing Galavant, and so with her parent’s lives still at risk, Isabella heads back to Galavant to put the trap in motion. Needless to say, when the knight is ultimately captured and Isabella’s role in it is revealed, Galavant is crushed, Richard is ecstatic, and Isabella finds herself thrown into the dungeons for her troubles.

The wildcard in all of this is Madalena, as she has grown tired of waiting for Richard to be an effective King, and she has decided that once again it’s time for a change in leadership in Valencia. This week, Madalena’s character really comes into her own when the true extent of her ambition and her flair for manipulation is finally put front and centre. Not only does she use the castle’s cook’s affection for her handmaiden as a weapon to get what she wants, but once she discovers that Galavant is on his way to rescue her, she puts her own plan into action; one that saves Galavant from the gallows, places the hapless cook there instead, and summons to the kingdom a mysterious figure whom she claims will execute her evil plan. Also, somewhere in there the cook and the handmaiden sing a hilarious song about what it means to be in love in the Middle Ages, which is easily the best song of the night.

The second act begins right where we left off, with Madalena explaining her intentions to a confused Galavant. While he is still hopelessly clinging to the idea that she loves him, she basically informs him that he’s no more than a pretty face to her, and until her co-conspirator shows up, it’s back to the dungeon for Galavant. Madalena also orders Isabella to be killed and the rest of the group tortured, and all of this is done with such a gleeful flourish and wicked sneer, you wonder why it took the writers this long to give Mallory Jansen something of substance for her character. Clearly she’s having a ball with it.

The other plot line of this episode is far less successful. It follows Richard’s journey to see the magician Xanax (Merlin’s replacement), who is wonderfully and ridiculously played by Ricky Gervais. While I’m always happy to see Gervais in pretty much anything, his guest spot here amounts to nothing more than a wasted opportunity, as he plays a medieval drug dealer who gets Richard high in order to help him understand why no one takes him seriously. This whole section of the episode just feels off and it is deeply unfunny, but it does give Richard some backstory as a second son who unwittingly became King when his bully of an older brother set off to rape, conquer, and kill throughout the land. Still high on his newfound confidence, Richard hightails it back to Valencia to break up with Madalena, but he’s halted in his tracks when it’s revealed that the person Madalena is working with is none other than Richard’s big brother, Kingsley, who’s back and wants Richard’s kingdom for himself. “Oh this is going to be fun,” cackles Madalena. Once again, somewhere in there, Galavant and Isabella finally come to terms with their feelings for each other (through song of course), and when it’s discovered that none of the doors in the dungeon are actually locked, they set off to save the day.

So that’s where things stand heading into next week’s finale. While I confess that these two episodes didn’t leave me as giddy with laughter as previous weeks, I still really enjoy this show, and given its recent slide in the ratings, I have a feeling that next week will be Galavant’s last episodes. I, for one, plan on making the most of them. Check back next week to find out how it all wraps up.

Line of the week: “I know you’re not a hugger, but if you were, I would wrap myself around you like a leather jacket made of love.”

Lyric of the week: “We could wile away each hopeless day comparing open sores.”

 

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