“The Blitzkrieg Button” sees Agent Carter‘s story really start to pick up steam while laying the groundwork for some big plot points down the line.
Tonally, Agent Carter has thus far been about exactly one thing: Misdirection. You think the story is about X? It’s actually about Y. You think X is dangerous? Actually, Y is worse. You think post-WWII America was a vibrant dreamscape? Well, we’re focused on the people for whom it was anything but. You think Peggy’s misogynist fellow Agents are going to be easily fooled, too? Well, they’re actually frustratingly good at their jobs.
Case in point: One of the four concurrent storylines in this fourth Agent Carter adventure involves Enver Gjokaj’s Agent Sousa (the sad-sack one-legged vet with a “nice-guy” hangup on Peggy) opening up to a homeless fellow vet whom he believes is a witness to the shenanigans on the boat from the previous episode. After hours of failing to pry the information out emotionally, he finds himself upstaged by… designated asshole Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), who gets the info out instantly by offering the bum a sandwich and a beer. If you’ve been paying attention thus far, Thompson coming out ahead of the innately sympathetic Sousa is damn near inevitable given how the series likes to jerk around expectations, but it’s a clever moment regardless.
Thompson spends the episode as the de-facto boss of the SSR because the chief (Shea Whigham) is in Europe questioning a Nazi about that mysterious “battle” the supposed-to-be-dead Leviathan henchmen supposedely hailed from. As it turns out, there was no “battle” – the Germans got there and found a whole army of Russian soldiers already dead, seemingly ripped limb-from-limb. Uh-oh. We’re ultimately informed that whatever happened there may tie back to a wartime visit by Howard Stark, whom the SSR is still hunting as a fugitive…
…except for Peggy Carter, who’s been helping him track down his stolen weapons technology and (as the episode-proper opens) has helped him slip back into the country – not to visit or to clear his name, but because he wants her to liberate one of his seized experiments from her HQ. He says it’s a sort of pre-digital EMP-bomb, but she knows not to trust him: It’s a containment vessel, holding a vial of Captain America’s Super Soldier Serum-infused blood, which Stark believes holds the key to miracle cures and more.
Peggy, angry at being lied to, opts to keep the blood to herself; which she’d probably reconsider if she knew that the creepy criminal who helped Stark get back to America, Mr. Mink, is tracking them both down. Mink has a pretty distinctive look and a cool signature weapon (a rotor-barreled automatic-pistol), but he sticks out just enough to make him a target for further misdirection. I won’t spoil it here, but, well… like I said last time, try to look surprised.
Overall, this was a good one – maybe a glimpse at what the concept might look like if it got a full-season order for some more episodic/procedural stories. A surprising highlight continues to be the casual banter between Peggy and the other women at The Griffith Hotel; we’re so used to seeing women of this era either as doormats or heroic exceptions (i.e. Peggy herself) that it’s refreshing just to see them talk about amusing mundanities like their various methods for sneaking food back to their rooms. But the standout “important” moment was unquestionably the brief exchange wherein Carter realizes that in many ways a chauvinist pig like Thompson actually treats her more honestly than the men who claim to be on her side.
What they’re building toward (or might be building toward, at least) is starting to come more into focus – but we’ll talk about that in a bit…
- Nice reminder at the beginning how fun it is that Peggy’s “class” in action-hero terms is bruiser rather than the archetypal acrobat-heroine (she can do “170 one-armed push-ups,” Stark helpfully points out.)
- “Mr. Mink” appears to be an original creation of the show. The Marvel canon does feature a Mink, but she’s a villainess – a thinly-veiled analog of Catwoman from the rogues gallery of Marvel’s Justice League-spoof team The Squadron Supreme.
- Not original to the show? Ernst Mueller, the imprisoned German Colonel who in the comics was a minor nemesis of the Howling Commandos – whom Peggy will reunite with next week.
- So we now know that there’s a limited supply of Captain America’s blood (and with it, trace elements of Super Soldier Serum) floating around at this point in time. We also know, from the fate of The Abomination in The Incredible Hulk, what abusing it has the potential to do to someone. So… do the math on what might’ve been involved in that squad of Russians getting “ripped apart,” I imagine.
CRAZY THEORY TIME!
As good as this series has been at misdirection thus far, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve had my eye on Agent Sousa since the first episode – in Marvel Comics logic, anyone walking around with a visible physical impairment that might make them feel inadequate/overcompensating almost definitely has a my-gift/my-curse superpower waiting with their name on it.
More in the context of the show, though, they’re working pretty hard to establish that the weight of being bullied by his colleagues and unappreciated by Peggy (in the first episode, she tells him to stop “sticking up” for her as it’s not actually helpful); and it can’t be helping his disposition that a meathead like Thompson actually is a better investigator (at least so far) than he is. This is a guy heading for a break – and the realization that the woman he can’t impress and the mystery-figure he can’t catch are one and the same would be the kind of thing that’d do it. But where could that lead?
I had a preferred-theory almost immediately, but I was waiting for any supporting plot points to pop up. With the “Captain America’s magic blood” angle now introduced, though, I’m feeling about 50/50 confident on this particular extrapolation re: where Sousa’s storyline is going:
There’s a recurring heavy in the Marvel Universe named William Burnside, but more commonly known as “The Grand Director” or “50s Cap.” A mentally-unstable, psychotically-patriotic man obsessed with the legend of Captain America, he used an incomplete copy of the Super Soldier Serum to transform himself into one of the Cold War-era “replacements” for Steve Rogers… only to go insane and eventually need to be put on ice himself to prevent his assaults on those he deemed “un-American.” The first stories about him were mainly used to explain away the embarrassing “Captain America: Commie Smasher” books of the 50s, but he’s been revived as a present-day villain several times because, well, Evil Captain America, why wouldn’t you use the hell out of that?
Consider: The “ghost” of Steve Rogers looms large not only over Agent Carter but also Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If the big secret bag guy plot (or part of it) in-motion here were to involve trying to make a Captain America of their own, that’d be a tailor-made “ultimate challenge” for Peggy Carter, given how much a need to move on from Steve’s death has been part of her arc. I’m not necessarily gambling that Sousa will be suiting up as the MCU “50s Cap” by the end of the series, but I do think he’ll be trying to fix his physical shortcomings with tragic results.
Bottom Line: Another solid entry, story really picking up.
Reccomendation: Continues to position itself as one of the most interesting divergences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you’re not watching, start.[rating=4.0]