There’s been some criticism of late that Agents of SHIELD, Marvel’s other foray into TV, is hampered by the fact that they have to work within the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Agent Carter, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Ensconced firmly in the history of the MCU, it makes full use of all the possible connections between characters, making it fun for newbies and veteran fans alike. For someone like me who revels in making all the connections, it’s nothing but non-stop enjoyment.
This week’s episode opened with a look into Dottie Underwood’s (Bridget Regan) past, and there is so, so much more than meets the eye. Viewers who have been suspicious of her from the get-go: give yourselves a pat on the back. As it turns out, Dottie is a secret assassin trained in Russia. Oh yes, she’s an early Black Widow.
At the SSR, the typewriter from the first episode has come back to life, spewing out information in a coded message pointing to a possible lead in the Howard Stark investigation. Still fuming from the revelations from last week’s episode, Peggy is filled with a renewed sense of purpose and manages to talk her way into her first official mission since the end of the war.
We learn several new things about Peggy, including the fact that she spent time as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park during the war (GASP so she knew Benedict Cumberbatch?? – Head Geek Nic Yong), and that she has seen enough combat in the European theatre to know what it means when you catch the smell of herrings in the middle of the Belarusian summer.
This impresses even Dooley (Shea Whigham) and Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), but they’re still adamant that she keeps her nose out of the mission. That is, until Peggy dangles a carrot in the shape of the Howling Commandos.
Thompson then engineers a prank involving Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) walking in on Peggy changing in the locker room. Clumsy as it is, this means Sousa gets a glimpse of the two bullet wounds on Peggy’s shoulder which match those on the mystery woman’s picture taken from Spider Raymond’s club. Uh oh.
Once on Russian soil, Peggy’s glad to be back with the Howling Commandos and in her rightful place in the thick of a tactical mission. The SSR agents and the Commandos find an abandoned building, which turns out to be the creepy training ground we saw at the beginning of the episode – better known as the Red Room. Dun dun dun!
After narrowly escaping an attack from the last little girl assassin left there, they free two prisoners behind bars who tell them that Leviathan wants them to build a weapon based on blueprints stolen from Howard Stark. It’s looking more and more likely that Stark wasn’t lying when he said he wasn’t a traitor.
As exciting and plotty as this episode was, the show is still at its best with intimate scenes where two characters are confiding in each other. This time, it’s Thompson’s turn, as he reveals to Peggy that he’s not really the war hero that people think he is, a fact that becomes all too obvious when Peggy takes over command of the mission while trading gunfire with the enemy.
Even Dooley proves to be more than just a two-dimensional chauvinist as he finally begins to realise that Howard Stark may not have anything to do with selling weapons to the Russians at all.
It was so, so good to see Dum Dum Dugan back, with Neal McDonough reprising his role from Captain America: The First Avenger. There were also some new faces in the Howling Commandoes we hadn’t seen before, though I don’t think any of them were Antoine Triplett’s grandfather (previously alluded to in Agents of SHIELD).
The best bit though, is that Peggy is finally doing what she does best: being in control of a tactical mission and proving to her SSR colleagues that she’s a force to be reckoned with. It’s a very neat role reversal of the dynamic between her and Thompson.
I can’t help but wonder what’s going on in Dottie Underwood’s head though. It’s still unclear whether she’s acting on her own or under someone else’s orders, and that scene where she breaks into Peggy’s room and tries on her persona was nothing short of chilling.
There’s only three episodes left in this mini-series, but we’re still nowhere nearer to finding out who the head of Leviathan is, or who framed Stark. But I have faith that showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters know what they’re doing.
They’ve done an excellent job so far with the progression of this little chapter from MCU history, while using it to flesh out some little known parts of the universe.
I suspect the show will provide some context before we see some of the (rumoured) flashbacks to the modern day version of The Red Room in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now, that’s exactly how world-building is done. You hear that, DC?
What do you think will happen next on Agent Carter? Tell us!