Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review: Agent Carter "The Blitzkrieg Button"

Hey, let’s see how that selfie they took in this episode turned out!

Like most selfies, really.
The return of Howard Stark makes the show take a sudden left turn from what originally seemed a series about finding and containing a new invention every week. But with all the inventions in SSR custody, the show can focus more on Leviathan and why they stole the inventions in the first place.

Unfortunately, this is an eight episode miniseries, and this was the fourth episode. So the shift in focus is a little jarring, though that’s mitigated a bit by this episode featuring one last invention to take care of. Even though it’s technically not an invention.

The reveal that Howard Stark wanted to reacquire Steve Rogers’s blood is the reveal that was set up all the way back in the first episode with Jarvis’s mysterious phone conversation with Stark. But quite frankly… it’s underwhelming. The twist, basically, is that Howard Stark has something that of course he has. Howard Stark is the most qualified person to keep a vial of Cap’s blood, since he’s the most senior scientist from Project Rebirth who’s still alive.

No wonder they moved this twist to the middle of the season; if it were still at the end, as originally planned, it would probably be an even bigger letdown. And I’m sad to say that the shift in focus from invention-of-the-week to Leviathan kind of makes the whole deal with the nitramene feel like the show was treading water. And with a season that’s only eight episodes long, that’s not a good thing.
But that’s not to say this is a bad episode; it’s actually pretty good. Everybody has some nice character moments, and the tension is kept high regarding both the Leviathan plot as well as Peggy keeping Howard in her apartment like a secret puppy.

The episode might have had only token amounts of action, but it’s positively dripping with drama.

Howard’s speech about a glass ceiling cuts deep, since Peggy’s attempts to prove herself are based on lying to her coworkers while conducting her own investigation, much like Stark’s doing.

Everyone is at their lowest point here. Howard turns to dirty dealing, Sousa get more and more frustrated with the case, Thompson’s a bigger jerk than ever…. Things are taking their toll on the characters, and Peggy is the first one to crack. Not because she’s weak, but because she’s jugging three lives all at once. Eventually, one of them had to give, and it was her life working for Stark.

Agent Peggy Carter
Peggy Carter breaks.

Howard Stark betrayed her trust, meaning that he could be lying about anything. And Jarvis knew.

And to top it all off, Thompson gets put in charge, making her work at the SSR even more of a living Hell.
But true to British form, she keeps a stiff upper lip and carries on. And without the distraction of clearing Howards Stark’s name, she’s free to continue to investigate the as-of-yet vague and mysterious Leviathan.

Edwin Jarvis
I find it interesting that Jarvis has such an obvious tell that suddenly manifests this episode, considering how well he held up in an interrogation last episode.

Maybe his ear was just itchy this week?
Howard Stark
Howard Stark had no reason to lie. And yet, he did. Why? Was Peggy absolutely right when she accused him of intending to profit from Steve’s blood? When you consider that Howard would later send Anton Vanko back to Russia for trying to profit off of the arc reactor, it makes you wonder if her words reached him deep down….

Either way, the look into his backstory justifies why he lied to Peggy… even if it really doesn’t explain why he did so beyond saying that it’s just what he does.

Chief Dooley
Dooley’s search for the truth begins in Germany, in what largely amounts to a reason to put Thompson in charge to cause some friction between characters. But even though Dooley’s quest for answers takes a while and amounts to little, the show’s level of writing still makes it interesting and tense to watch.

Agent Sousa
Sousa finally gets a few moments to be fleshed out as a human being. He gets impatient, he gets frustrated, he gets sassy with the new bossman. The work is taking a toll on him, and there’s no telling what he’d do if he ever caught a break in the case….

God help Peggy if he starts looking for a non-blonde.
Agent Thompson
Thompson’s more of a jerk than ever, but the man gets results. And even his words to Peggy have a grain of truth. Sure, feminism’s come a long way here in the 21st century… but for Peggy, Thompson’s right. Men, by and large, won’t see her as an equal during this time period. And it might not be the natural order, or whatever… but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Still, he could have offered Peggy a burger, too.
That’s not to say that Thompson’s irredeemable, though. He might have berated Sousa for most of the episode, but he’s willing to admit that Sousa’s hunch paid off with a witness. Perhaps there’s more to Thompson than meets the eye….

Col. Ernst Mueller (Jack Conley)
Mueller is yet another random comic cameo. This time, the character was a minor henchman for Baron Von Strucker back in the 60s.

He was slightly prettier in the comics.
Mr. Mink (Gregory Sporleder)
Mink seems poised and ready to be the next ongoing villain of the show, with his laid back approach to villainy and his unique gun. And yet, all he accomplished was arming Dottie, the real ongoing villain here. It’s a nice little fake-out, though his lack of connection to the ongoing plot makes it a little obvious that he wouldn’t become a major threat.

Dottie Underwood
Dottie killing Mueller is almost symbolic of how everything we thought the show was is getting turned on its head. More about her next time, since we’ll finally be getting an origin for her.

If you thought Dottie’s attack on Mr. Mink looked similar to something Natasha Romanoff pulled in Iron Man 2… well, I’ll get to that next time.

Peggy Punch Count: 2
Fun Fact: Haley Atwell kept accidentally punching people for real while filming the show.

Final Thoughts
Although Agent Carter is having a bit of trouble shifting gears at the halfway point of the season, this is a pretty good episode that manages to work past its pacing issues with excellent performances, witty dialogue, and genuinely suspenseful mysteries. And the new direction certainly has promise as all aspects of the plot begin to thicken.

Next time, the band gets back together. More or less.

See you then!

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