Agent Carter: 1.05 The Iron Ceiling
One of things I am really enjoying about Agent Carter, it is the show's ability to keep things fresh even on the limited episode run. Last week, the returning Howard Stark brought a bit of extra fun to the proceedings and this week Agents Carter and Thompson took a trip to Russia, reuniting with the brilliant Howling Commandos and advancing the many on-going plots.
The episode began with a flashback to Russia in 1937 where a group of psychotic girls are watching Snow White to practice their English before training in hand to hand combat. It was a rather chilling sequence, particularly the moment a younger Dottie killed her friend without a moment's thought. After her surprise reveal as a killer last week and this monstrous flashback, Dottie is quickly becoming a fantastic villain and that only progressed this week, stealing Pegg's keys and rooting through her room. I'm not sure what was more creepy - the moment she tried on Peggy's lipstick or seeing her handcuff herself to her bed before going to sleep.
As for Peggy, this was the episode where she really got to step up and prove herself to her SSR colleagues. First decoding the mysterious type writer's message and then demanding that she be allowed to go on the mission to Russia to track its source, a place she spent much of the war in with the infamous '107th Regiment'. I liked that Chief Dooley saw sense and agreed. It is moments like this that show her colleagues aren't hopeless at their job and can see sense when it is in front of them, not that Thompson agreed.
Chad Michael Murray's Thompson developed into a more interesting character this week after being the most obnoxious, sexist member of the SSR bunch. Upon first meeting the Howling Commandos, he comes across as his usual brash, cocksure self, sharing war stories of how he became a decorated hero and visibly uncomfortable with Peggy's camaraderie with the infamous unit. But it is this mission that changes his view of her; her actions leads to a newfound respect for his SSR colleague and leads him to open up to her as admit that he wasn't the hero everyone assumed him to be.
"They were carrying a white flag. The soldiers that came into my camp in Okinawa. The ones I killed. They were coming to surrender. I just didn't realize it until it was too late. I buried the flag before anyone else saw it. Everybody thinks that I'm this guy that I never was. And every day, it gets harder and harder to live with."
Powerful stuff indeed that reminds how close to the Second World War this series is.
Of course the real fun of the episode is seeing the Howling Commandos in action again after their superb role in Captain America: The First Avenger. We last saw them in the season two opener of Agents Of SHIELD - which also reintroduced the world to Agent Carter - helping the lead heroine to defeat HYDRA. Post-War they still remain the heroes of old, chosing not return to their old lives in the US. Neal McDonough steals the show as Dum Dum Dugan from start to finish and I hope that the show might find a way to use him again next season.
Most notably, this episode delivers on plenty of action. The assault on the complex with the psychotic Russian girls is intense and it feels like a true continuation of their adventures in the first Captain America film. It also shows Carter in her element, saving a terrified Thompson and helping the Commandos to hold off the enemy. Dugan also gets a brilliant moment, crashing through the wall to facilitate their escape. But it also drives things forward with the rescue of Doctor Ivchenko, a man that may hold the clues to what Leviathan are up to and hopefully alert Peggy to the threat that is Dottie Underwood.
Poor Jarvis gets a little left out of the loop this week; Carter is still angry with him over the secrets Howard Stark kept, but Dum Dum Duggan is a worthy one-episode replacement. The show continues to build momentum, it feels as if we have had more than five episodes' worth of development without anything feeling rushed. Agent Carter is now in the home stretch, with three episodes remaining. At least we have the knowledge that another ten episodes is on its way next year, something audiences in the US didn't know when the show was first broadcast. It's a good thing too. Is it the best thing on television? Not quite, but it certainly is one of the most fun!