Agent Carter’ returns tonight with its third installment, “Time and Tide,” which finds Peggy perpetually just one step ahead of her male colleagues at the SSR as she and Jarvis continue to follow the lead left behind by the (now deceased) Leet Brannis. We may be three episodes in already, but ‘Agent Carter’ and Peggy herself are definitely not short on the action. “Time and Tide” eases up on the heavier elements of misogyny, finding a more relaxed rhythm for Peggy and Co.

Don’t get me wrong—Peggy and ‘Agent Carter’ still definitely exist in a time when things are just plain sh-tty for women all over, but where the first and even second episode used a more heavy hand to establish the woeful gender dynamics of the past, “Time and Tide” feels a little more natural. Take the moment, for instance, when Dooley scolds Peggy for screwing up their interrogation of Jarvis, effectively getting him off the hook: Dooley frustratedly points out to Peggy that she’s ruined the work of “this man,” and while Shea Whigham doesn’t add any emphasis to the word “man,” the emphasis is felt.

More broad moments are played up comedically, like when Krzeminski asks every male agent in the office to cover his night shift so he can take his wife out before he begrudgingly asks Carter to do it—and when he does, it’s as if he’s doing her a favor. It’s absurd in an enjoyable way, as are most of Krzeminski’s moments this week, particularly involving jokes about his wife/girlfriend. But the jokes are cut short for Agent K this week when Peggy and Jarvis track down Stark’s stolen weapons and call in an anonymous tip, leading the SSR to their man ... only to get Krzeminski killed for it when an agent from the enigmatic and nefarious entity that’s running the show ambushes his car, killing both the apprehended crook and Krzeminski.

We definitely saw some of Peggy’s physical skills in the last couple of episodes, and it’s good to see her facing off with another bad guy this week and totally wiping the floor with him. Peggy is overlooked and underestimated both at work and in the field, which she wisely uses to her advantage, but not as a crutch. It definitely comes in handy at the office when she smoothly rescues Jarvis from the interrogation room, and it’s totally satisfying watching bad guys underestimate her physical abilities based on her gender just before she owns them.

But Peggy isn’t smug and she’s not arrogant—part of what makes her so great is that she’s confident in her abilities and isn’t trying to prove anything to anyone. She’s just committed to doing the right thing, whether that’s helping to clear Howard Stark’s name and catch the people who are actually responsible, or walking into the SSR every day and doing her job. She sets a great example, and I can’t help but to think (or at least hope) that younger viewers or some superhero/comic book fans who aren’t very familiar with feminist ideals can learn something from watching ‘Agent Carter.’ It may be entry level feminism, but those who are unfamiliar with feminism need to start somewhere.

“Time and Tide” may feel like a sparse episode, plot-wise, but that’s part of what makes ‘Agent Carter’ effective and sets it apart from other contemporary series. It has breathing room, and it’s not trying to spin too many plates at once in an effort to heighten the drama and the thrills, as if catering to an audience entirely made up of the attention deficient. There’s something so classic about not just the aesthetic, but the story: a female agent who’s underestimated by her male peers is constantly one step ahead of them, as if they’re playing a game of two cats and one mouse. It’s a race against her own government agency as she sets out to pursue justice and clear the name of a brilliant man and friend. I mean, really. That premise sounds like it should be vintage. And while some may feel as though the feminist elements of ‘Agent Carter’ are too basic, if this show had been released in the ’50s it would have been revolutionary. Sure, this isn’t the ’50s, but the approach to these ideas is in keeping with the time, and it’s basic enough to serve as a gateway to less knowledgeable viewers.

There’s something about the classic qualities of ‘Agent Carter’ that feels contemporary. Everything old is new again, and “Time and Tide” is just as engaging and entertaining as the first two episodes of the series. With only five episodes left, I’m already getting a little bummed out about letting Peggy go.

Additional Thoughts:

  • You’ve definitely seen something like that typewriter communication device before—on ‘Fringe.’ I’m curious to know if this has real-life origins.
  • I’m still on the fence about Lyndsy Fonseca, who plays Angie. Her line delivery feels more like recitation and it’s very unnatural.
  • Speaking of Angie: Peggy and Angie have some minor drama this week when Angie wants to vent to Peggy about work and have some girly time (eating pie and drinking Schnapps! Sounds perfect to me), but Peggy is too busy to engage. Angie is totally overreacting, and I like the approach to showing how Peggy’s work is affecting her personal life—namely in that it’s hard to make friends.
  • The more I think about it, the more I feel like Liz Lemon and Agent Carter would get along really well.
  • I hope we never see Jarvis’ wife and she remains a faceless, vague presence, like Nanny on ‘Muppet Babies.’