Agent Carter, Season 1, Episode 4, “The Blitzkrieg Button”
Written by Brant Englestein
Directed by Stephen Cragg
Airs at 9pm (ET) on Tuesdays on ABC
After a week off due to the State of the Union Address, Agent Carter is back with an episode that unfortunately finds more in common with the most recent episode than the two-parter that kicked things off. The late-in-the-episode confrontation between Peggy and Howard offers some punch to the proceedings, mostly due to Dominic Cooper’s presence, but far too much of the run time is once again concerned with repetitive office politics and reiterations of Peggy’s current status as a woman in this world than anything related to the overarching mythology or missions. However, a few interesting developments point towards an exciting turn for Peggy, Jarvis, and company in the weeks to come.
Jarvis’ smuggling of Howard back into New York City makes for a cute introduction to the episode, but how many times can Peggy expectedly intervene and save him before it gets old? Eventually Jarvis will have to stand up for himself and there will assuredly be emotional catharsis when that time comes, but for now Peggy swanning in with her gun drawn and heels tapping will reach its limit no matter how well Peggy Atwell sells it. This is already the third or fourth time it has happened in this young season and this fails to let Jarvis stand on his own in favor of continuing to build Peggy up as a near-perfect agent. Stephen Cragg at least gets to flex his skills as a director in the opening sequence with a brief appearance of lens flare and the use of Peggy’s shadow against the wall Bat signal-style as she arrives.
Howard arriving back in the city brings some expected developments, such as Peggy running an errand for him while he stays out of sight or the requisite boarding house scene where the duo avoids the suspicions of her landlord. His return also lets Atwell and Cooper flex some emotional muscles in their big fight after she realizes the extent to which he has used her skills an agent for his own ends. Howard Stark is not a charitable man and does not pretend to be, but the fight comes across less as Peggy being surprised by Howard’s actions and more as her disappointment in being let down by one more male co-worker/partner when she so badly wants to trust his motivations. Stark’s assumption that Peggy would refrain from opening the object he sends her to retrieve is naive, especially when the contents are so sure to provoke intense feelings from her. A vial of Steve Rogers’ blood not only still existing but being used to make Stark insane amounts of money in the name of societal good is obviously a touchy subject for Peggy. She is not only not over the good Captain but finally comparing her current partner in crime with her former do-gooder and discovering exactly how much Stark fails to measure up.
Hiding the vial in the boarding house wall is sure to result in an important showdown at a later date, but for now it serves as a symbolic gesture of Peggy shutting her feelings about the loss of Steve away in a hidden cubby not to be thought about or discussed again. This is the first episode without a healthy dose of Angie constantly popping in to bond, but it does reveal the relatively unsurprising fact that new resident Dottie is in fact an undercover agent. Of which organization it is unclear, but her impressive takedown of the man breaking into the boarding house to harm Peggy lends credence to the assumption that she is fighting for the good guys. Bridget Regan’s unsettling look as she relishes her newly acquired gun is something else and hopefully she and Atwell get the opportunity to show off some awesome-lady rapport sooner rather than later.
Most of the action surrounding the other SSR agents doesn’t contribute much to this episode, other than allowing Enver Gjokaj and Chad Michael Murray to hit their contractually obligated line quotas. Agent Sousa has a heart of gold and hopes to find the best in people while Agent Thompson is an unmitigated jerk, of which the audience is already aware. The agents failing to travel as a team, leaving Sousa to go alone to the docks for the investigation, feels false only a few days after Ray was shot on duty. Until Peggy being in the office matters for reasons beyond her continuing marginalization and potential romance with Sousa, there really isn’t a point her to being there. The show could have easily given her leave from the office while Dooley is in Germany under the pretense of Thompson not wanting her around, yet she is forced to put in an appearance for the apparently necessary “lunch orders” back and forth and so he can put her down once again. Their interaction in the interrogation room had potential to faintly thaw the ice between the two; instead it is another tiresome display of sexism when that dynamic has already been underlined beyond necessity. Dooley’s excursion to Germany to speak with Mueller in Nuremberg Prison is worth the time dedicated to it if only for the opportunity to see him outside of the boring SSR offices, and Shea Whigham’s performance does not disappoint. The show only needs a few more scenes with this level of tension or excitement to be consistently good, but it isn’t there yet.