05 “The Iron Ceiling” (Agent Carter season 1) [SPOILERS]


agent carter

It might just be me, but so far Agent Carter hasn’t managed to feel properly Marvel-y yet.

It’s had the interweb of references, jokes, and we even got a Stan Lee cameo last week, which is close enough to proof positive. But so far it has lacked the feel of being a small piece of a far bigger picture.

I like the characters. I like the premise. I really like the freedom that the setting allows the story to develop. If it can nail this last part, then it will have earned its place in the tapestry.

Which isn’t to say it’s necessarily good. That hinges on something else entirely.

After the Fringe typewriter sprang to life at the end of last week, Peggy manages to translate the message, as co-ordinates and instructions for a sale of a “havoc reactor” by Howard Stark to Leviathan. So Thompson, Carter and two SSR bods head to Europe to rendezvous with a European team, to infiltrate the sale. Meanwhile, Peggy’s mysterious neighbour Dotty breaks into Peggy’s flat.

The opening sequence of this week’s episode, I won’t deny, sent a chill down my spine. A Russian boarding school in 1937, where the girls are handcuffed to their beds at night, watch Snow White whilst reciting the dialogue, and kill each other in hand to hand combat. Cheerful, eh? And this serves as both the backstory for Dotty, and the setting for the main story strand.

Peggy and co first. Nearly sidelined for the trip to Russia, she plays her trump card — the 107th, better known as the Howling Commandos, who fought with Captain America during the war. So we get a bit more of a nod to the MCU, and a nice chance for us to see Peggy in charge.

They think they’re infiltrating a weapons sale — and Dooley reveals that Leviathan is a mythical Russian secret agency — which will implicate and deliver them Howard Stark. Instead they find the creepy school, with an engineering genius and his therapist in a cell. Leviathan want him to build a Stark invention which would change the properties of light. Probably not in a good way.

The team find a random little girl still there, who kills one of their number and injures a few more, so maybe there’s more of this stuff still to come. At any rate, they leave in a hail of gunfire and Thompson freezes up. On the plane, he later admits that his war-hero past is a fiction — the Japanese soldiers he shot were trying to surrender, a point he only realised afterwards, and covered it up. He confesses to Peggy, whose understanding reaction wins his respect.

Dooley, meanwhile, has been investigating on US soil, and seems to be less convinced than ever that Howard Stark is the bad guy. Everyone else still thinks so though.

Sousa has also been investigating, focusing on the blonde woman in the photos from the club, in the first episode. After accidentally spying Carter in her underwear in the locker room (Oo’er, missus! -Ed), he notices a burn on her shoulder and matches it to the photos. So he knows that Peggy has been working against them — though he doesn’t seem to know yet whether to confront her.

And Dotty. After she snapped a guy’s neck to steal his automatic pistol last episode, the revelation that she’s some sort of Russian super-soldier doesn’t seem all that surprising. It was quite cool though, tying her into that fantastic opening sequence, and through fairly minimal scenes of her discovering pictures of Stark’s inventions in Peggy’s room. A scene where she does a particularly good impersonation of the eponymous hero is particularly scary, but not nearly as much so as when she cuffs herself to the bed before she goes to sleep…

If this is what Agent Carter is going to be, week in, week out, then it has me. This was exactly what a superhero, espionage, action thriller TV show should be. It skimped on neither character nor action, and the story development was brilliant.

It can’t last, surely. But I hope it does.

Closing thoughts:

  • Why do the Soviet Union need a secret scary agency? Are the KGB not terrifying enough?
  • Peggy Carter calls Howard Stark “an utter wanker”. Which despite the oddity of Brits on US TV always sounding like they’re putting on a British accent, is a distinct pleasure. Now if we can only get her to call Thompson a “cockwomble” next week, we’re sorted.
  • Just a few episodes ago Dooley was calling for Stark’s head, because Krzeminski was killed investigating him. Just saying.
  • Yetis exist. Abominable snowmen don’t. No word, as yet, on mermaids.
  • So Thompson is a war criminal…
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