Last Night's Episode Of Agent Carter Was Immensely Satisfying

It's only been a month, but already it feels as though Agent Carter has been putting us through the wringer. Our favorite war hero has been disrespected, double-crossed, and forced to feign incompetence in front of her colleagues. But last night, she finally got to show what she can do. Spoilers...

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There's just something immensely satisfying and thrilling about seeing Peggy Carter finally getting her props, and it's way more gratifying after four episodes of mistreatment. "The Iron Ceiling" begins with another scene where Jarvis tries to manipulate Peggy (who's pissed about Stark lying to her) — Jarvis plays the "we respect your abilities, and your colleagues don't" card yet again. But this time, when he asks if she just plans to sit around waiting for them to appreciate her mojo, she says no — she plans to make them.

And for the rest of the episode, that's precisely what she does.

The SSR is dealing with the fallout from that long-distance communications typewriter coming to life — there's a message, which the top code-breaker from Washington can't decipher. Peggy makes short work of it, uncovering a planned meeting in Russia in 48 hours, where Howard Stark will get a handsome payment for a super-advanced reactor. Dooley orders Thompson to assemble a team to go to Russia, and Carter insists on going along — an argument she finally wins because she can deliver the Howling Commandos as their tactical team.

Carter gets more than her fair share of hazing, but once she's actually going on the mission it's clear that she's way more experienced and confident than the blustery Jack Thompson. And once she's reunited with the Howling Commandos, who clearly think of her as a valued comrade in arms, the other SSR guys start to look a bit silly for not believing in her.

By the time they actually arrive at the target location, she's already co-leading the mission, helping Thompson realize his lack of tactical smarts. (Like when he wants to split the team up into pairs.) And instead of getting everybody killed or turning out to be a millstone around the crew's necks, as they predicted back in New York, she pretty much saves the entire crew when the mission inevitably goes pear-shaped.

When Peggy gets back to New York, she's the hero of the hour, getting some rare praise from Dooley and an invite to go drinking with Thompson and the gang. (So of course, you know it's not going to last.)

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Thompson's secret

The biggest surprise this week is delving into the cocky, jerktastic Agent Thompson, who's been one of the biggest thorns in Peggy Carter's side since she joined the SSR. He's a war hero with a Navy Cross, and a tough-as-nails, can-do, man's man. Except once he's back in the field, when he suddenly reveals he hasn't jumped out of a plane apart from eight practice jumps. And he's not quite as blustery, next to the genuinely larger-than-life Howling Commandos.

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Illustration for article titled Last Night's Episode Of Agent Carter Was Immensely Satisfying

Turns out Jack Thompson got his medal for shooting six Japanese soldiers who sneaked into his camp in the middle of the night and nearly slit the C.O.'s throat — only, by the end of the episode, we find out that's not how it happened at all. In fact, the Japanese soldiers were carrying a white flag, and hoping to surrender. When Thompson realized his mistake, he buried the white flag and pretended it was a sneak attack.

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And when shit goes really crazy, and their team is trapped under attack from Russian troops, Thompson freezes and can't handle the danger — or the guilt, one or the other. Carter is forced to pull Thompson's fat out of the fire while also taking down a shit-ton of Russian soldiers single-handed.

(And of course, Thompson, who taunted Sousa that not everybody needs a shoulder to cry on, turns out to need a shoulder to cry on.)

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This show continues to do really interesting things with war-time trauma as a flipside of the big, impressive legends represented by Captain America, and by the Howling Commandos. A lot of the dysfunctional behavior seems to come back to people trying to live up to their own legends, while also coping with hideous experiences they can't process in a postwar world.

Dooley goes digging

And meanwhile, Thompson's SSR boss apparently gets tired of being led by the nose this week, and starts digging for the truth about Howard Stark and the Russian organization Leviathan. Dooley keeps getting phone calls from the Vice President at home, asking when they'll capture Stark — but Dooley still has enough integrity to see a possible set-up.

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So Dooley goes drinking with a journalist who fills in some of the gaps about the Battle of Finow, that massacre where a bunch of Russians were killed. Turns out Howard Stark objected to something the U.S. military wanted to do with whatever killed all those people — so much so, that Stark punched a general and got in a huge fist-fight. And then severed all ties with the Army.

Dooley has enough doubts about Stark's guilt that he reaches out to Jarvis and asks him about the Finow incident — which Jarvis apparently knows nothing about. And Dooley offers to listen to Stark's side of the story, if Stark wants to contact him.

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Illustration for article titled Last Night's Episode Of Agent Carter Was Immensely Satisfying

When Carter's team comes back with a Russian doctor and some Stark plans, but no sign that Stark was ever in Russia or ever worked with Leviathan, Dooley continues to question the story they've been following up to now. It seems a bit convenient that Dooley is suddenly having an open mind, but it's also cool that Carter's colleagues aren't portrayed as totally incompetent meatheads.

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What was the mission about?

I'm still unclear on what was going on here — hopefully, we'll find out more next week. Was the meeting in Russia a set-up? Or a trap? We know (or at least we think we know) that Stark isn't a traitor, so why did Leviathan mention Stark by name in their typewritten message, if not as part of an effort to trick the SSR?

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Illustration for article titled Last Night's Episode Of Agent Carter Was Immensely Satisfying

And if this was just a trap for the SSR fighters, why was it such a sloppy one? The message leads Peggy and her team to a facility where Leviathan trained girls to go undercover as spies in the United States (more on that in a moment.) They find one young girl, who stabs "Dum Dum" Dugan and fatally shoots another Commando. Then they find a cell, where the aforementioned Russian doctor is looking after a supergenius scientist, Nikolai, who turns out not to be very smart when the chips are down.

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It's unclear why Leviathan would lure Carter's team to this facility, letting them see all this stuff and discover possible proof of Stark's innocence along with the secret plans to a super-bomb. The only thing I can think of is that the Russian doctor, who seems awfully eager to go with Carter and Thompson back to New York, might be a plant.

Dottie Underwood's dark past

And yes, the facility in Russia that the SSR and the Howling Commandos sneak into is the Red Room, where girls are trained to be undercover assassins — and this is the beginning of the program that eventually creates Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow from the movies.

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At the start of the episode, we see Dottie Underwood's training, which involves being handcuffed to the bed, reciting dialogue along with Snow White, and fighting to the death — killing another girl, whom Dottie had shared a precious bread roll with not long earlier. This makes it especially creepy in the present day, when Dottie likewise offers to share her roll with Peggy.

Peggy gets a pretty good look at the facility, including the cuffs, the weird American movies, and one of the inmates — probably enough to figure out what they're doing there.

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And meanwhile, Dottie keeps busy. She steals Peggy's keys and sneaks into Peggy's room. She doesn't find the hidden vial of Steve Rogers' blood, but she does find some photos of stolen Stark tech (one of which she keeps). And as she goes through Peggy's stuff and pauses with the photo of Captain America, she seems to get kind of Single White Female about imitating Peggy in the mirror.

And then when Dottie goes to bed, she cuffs herself to her own bedpost, because once you get used to sleeping in handcuffs, it's hard to sleep any other way.

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Sousa figures out the truth

And finally, just as Peggy is getting the respect of her colleagues at last, she's about to be exposed as a traitor. Sigh. Sousa catches sight of Peggy's bare shoulder in the locker room, thanks to one of Thompson's dumber pranks, and notices some telltale wounds — which match those on the mystery blonde in the photos he's been studying. (The one who was the last person to see that arms dealer alive, back in the first episode.)

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By the end of the episode, Sousa seems pretty sure that Peggy Carter was the mystery woman — but he's kind of an insomniac wreck, maybe because he doesn't want to turn in his only friend at the SSR. Still, judging from the previews for next week's episode, it looks like he gets over his hesitation pretty soon.

Which only makes sense — we should have known that Carter can't catch a break for too long.

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DISCUSSION

Cool_Breeze
Cool_Breeze

MISS UNION JACK!

God this episode was fun. Everything about it was awesome – Peggy showing Thompson what's what, Sousa doing some superb detective work, THE FREAKING HOWLING COMMANDOS. Come on Marvel, quit it with this goodness (please don't).

Now, I did say before that I thought the Chief had it out for Stark (he did) and that it was because he was involved in something…sinister. However, I'm changing my mind because this is AMERICA and Peggy and the Howling Commandos fought for my right to change my mind. I think Chief was fed the party line and just ate it up. Stark was an obvious and easy target, and at the time he thought Stark was the bad guy. Now, facts are starting to come out. 247 Russians killed and NO ONE wants to take credit? As soon as Stark got to the scene, he decked a General (got beat in response, but he tried!), who resigned a WEEK later, and then turned down a SEVEN FIGURE military contract. I still think someone is dirty in the office, though…

When Peggy decoded the message from Leviathan (Way to go, by the way. That Pre-FBI lackey wanted to take that machine away..NO WAY HO SAY), and weapons were sold for $100,000, it LOOKED like Stark was caught (and Thompson still thinks so) but compared to the SEVEN FIGURES Stark turned down, Chief is starting to realize that something is up. It really is fishy that as soon as Stark walked away from the contract, he all of a sudden becomes persona non grata and accused of treason.

1. Man the Red Room program was creepy. I get that they probably hand cuffed the girls to the beds so they didn't have any runners, but DAMN how creepy was it to see Dottie still handcuffing herself at night? Geez. And the way Dottie took out that other girl IN TRAINING? Holy shit.

Side note: It was interesting how they showed that Dottie had retained a lot from when she was younger, besides all the murder. She still handcuffs herself because that's what she was used to for so long, and probably comforts her. She tried to share the baguette with Peggy, just like the now-dead-because-of-Dottie girl did in 1937. The way she adopted Peggy's accent (CREEEEPY) just like the way she freaking learned English by watching American cartoons. I love the little details.

2. Speaking of details, SOUSA IS A MIGHTY FINE DETECTIVE, PEOPLE. Sure he only realized Peggy was the blonde chick because he saw her in a state of undress (LAWDY) but he seems to be the only person in the office actually trying to do some detective work. Chief likes to threaten people, Thompson likes to beat people, and Sousa likes to, you know, do his job. Seeing how fast this show is moving, it'll be interesting to find out the context from the teaser for next week.

Remember earlier when I said I still think someone is dirty in that office? Could it be SOUSA? Hang with me for a second: He's the most put together, actually respects Peggy (or almost does, given the era), and is good at figuring stuff out. Maybe he was more like that drunk vet when he first came back, and got corrupted somehow? This is kind of an out there idea, but who knows. Chief is about 47 degrees into a complete 180, so maybe Sousa will be the rouge thrown on us.

That, or he's the guy Peggy ends up marrying. It's still ambiguous on whether Captain actually saved him in the War.

3. Speaking of 180s, Shit Thompson get it together. As soon as he told the story of his Navy Cross I KNEW he was full of shit, and that either he didn't kill anyone or those Japanese soldiers wiped out his camp or SOMETHING. He freaking buried their white flag. DUDE. Thompson has worse PTSD than Sousa and that homeless dude combined. He owes Peggy a LOT more than a Bourbon.

4. THE HOWLING COMMANDOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5. Okay, I'm better now. Let's continue. How freaking awesome were the Howling Commandos? VERY, THAT'S HOW. It was nice to see Peggy finally get respected, because they know what she is capable of. It was awesome to see the Howling Commandos defer to her judgment every time Thompson tried to make a decision. GOOD ON THEM. And let's be real. Peggy kicked ass this week.

Speaking of Peggy kicking ass this week, she really took control of just about every situation she was in, from making Chief send her to Russia by getting the Howling Commandos on board (with a PHONE CALL), to leading the expedition in Russia, to getting everyone out alive.

6. This episode was funny, and I mean FUNNY. All the banter within the Howling Commandos and with Peggy and the SSR Agents fangirling over them, was on POINT. The way they got the password wrong was HILARIOUS. The world would be a better place with a Howling Commandos mini-series when Shield and Agent Carter are off during the summer. It could take place after WW2 ended but before Shield was formed, with the rare Carter appearance. Shenanigans abound. MAKE IT HAPPEN, MARVEL.

7. Randy Quaid, what the fuck are you doing?

8. How important is this specific SSR office? The Chief indicated that the VICE PRESIDENT was calling his house about Stark's case. I'd think there would be more agencies involved, and I know this specific office is in New York, but still. Wouldn't there be higher ranking SSR officials for the VP to pester? Does the Stark cover up go all the way to the top? (We saw in Iron Man 3 they aren't afraid to go there…) Hmm…

9. I am now convinced that Vanko is working with Leviathan and is the one behind the stolen Stark toys. Those prisoners had Stark blue prints, and Thompson (the ever-not good detective) immediately thought Stark was personally involved. Even the PRISONERS knew that if he were involved, they wouldn't be needed. OPEN YOUR EYES, THOMPSON. Vanko is the leak, and I now realize that this show is depicting the story of how Vanko got deported. Maybe he helped make the designs of the Arc Reactor (Some of the designs stolen were referred to as a Havoc Reactor…) and was deported before Stark actually got around to finishing the design for Tony to build.

10. What picture did Dottie take? She looked through them all, but took one. The only weapon they didn't show was the one of the Orb that had Cap's blood in it. Leviathan isn't after ALL of Stark's toys – they heard he had a personal vial of Cap's blood and want it for the Red Room program. Those kids are scary enough, imagine them with some extra umph (I'm looking at you, Natasha…) Dottie kept the picture because now she knows that not only is Peggy a spy (slick move with the string, Peggy) but that she at least knows where the vial is. It's about to go down.

11. I wonder if Happy Sam is Triplett's grandfather? Maybe it's Dugan, he and Triplett have the same personality…

12. About that massacre of Russian soldiers. Was it the Kree, or something else, like Inhumans? Maybe the Russians were doing the same thing as Whitehall, and instead of finding some lady who lived a long time, they found someone who could, say, I don't know, KILL 247 RUSSIAN SOLDIERS. And not just kill, but tear them apart.

13. Also: That one scientist, Nikolai. The Psych Doctor that survived said he sees the world in different dimensions, and instead of seeing grass sees physics and chemistry and what not. Maybe Nikolai was Inhuman, and that was his trait? They had said that Agent Carter would have bigger connections with Agents of SHIELD – maybe this is it? Some early hints at Inhumans?

14. Speaking of that Doctor that Peggy got drunk and brought back, I think he's the start of the SSR/SHIELD bringing in Hydra scientists like Zola. He shot Nikolai in the back when Peggy was about to talk him down, and who knows, maybe Leviathan got to him already. We shall see.

Man I am going to miss this show next month.