[Review] - Agent Carter, Season 1 Episodes 5 And 6, "The Iron Ceiling" And "A Sin to Err"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Studios.
When last I put finger-to-keyboard about the dynamic Agent Carter, I said that the series had reached it's fulcrum moment, and that the build up would now give away to new, more complex plots that used the character rather than established her. And these two episodes saw fit to prove my thesis. We know better who Peggy Carter is now, the world she inhabits, and the people she encounters there. The back end of this season had the responsibility to turn those dynamics around, and do something interesting.

So, with the "fetch the toys" plot done and dusted, the series can turn to a more global threat and really begin to move Carter forward, both emotionally and professionally. Having an entire year of her constantly being put upon as "the women" would have gotten old and insulting pretty quickly. In these two episodes, we saw two shift's in how others perceive her, and more importantly, she was able to demonstrate her worth in the clear open, in full view of the SSR.

And Dum Dum Dugan didn't hurt a bit neither.

Hit the jump for the brief review, which contains spoilers that used to be fun.

The Iron Ceiling will likely be the best episode of this season, unless the finale is truly spectacular. And not just because it featured the return of the Howling Commandos. But because it gave Peggy the opportunity not just to be a spy, but to be a super hero. She's demonstrated her master of disguise abilities, and her predilection for giving goons concussions, but venturing into a Communist wild, her side kicks at her back, this was her chance to have her Big Damned Hero moment. and in full view of her SSR coworkers. And frankly, it was exactly what the series needed at this point. Over the first four episodes, the smoke screen that Peggy was throwing up made the SSR look only slightly incompetent. If it had gone on much longer, it would have strained credibility. Peggy needed the chance to show her worth, to be able to take credit for success, and receive deserved praise.

A Sin To Err, likewise, was a necessary redirection for the narrative. Peggy did commit treason, and left a trail of evidence that, while not obvious, lead directly to her. If they didn't catch her, we would have no reason to take them seriously. It also showed the structure the writer's are working from, the lining up of the dominoes, as Peggy's cover being blown occurs just as a Russian assassin factory for girls is uncovered. Not only does Peggy get nailed for being a conspirator with Stark, it looks for all the world that she's a Black Widow, not helped by the fact that she laid out some of the SSR's top men in her escape. Instead of the plot painting the writers into a corner, it was clear with the precise placement of reveals over these episodes that much forethought has been put into execution of the series. the result is a better series than most that attempt to pull off long arcs.

The Black Widow factory was as hard as this series has body checked the larger MCU as of yet, and did a great deal to inform Natasha's future backstory. Considering some of the footage in the Ultron trailers, I expect we'll be catching glimpses of the more modernized process in the course of that film. The Leviathan organization, a Soviet not-quite-Hydra, is an effective if currently mysterious condition, threat. Their immediate intent is to get their hands on one of Stark's super weapons. Which does call to mind, if they want one of the weapons, does this imply they weren't behind the initial theft? Peggy's lead was that one of Stark's girls, presumably Dottie in another guise, was the inside man on getting into the safe. Why then did Leviathan need to go through this rigamarole to get their hands on the weapon, if they weren't already in possession of it? I presume that it was one of the items that Peggy reclaimed in the early episodes (not knowing what they are after hurts our ability to know for sure), but it still seems like an over complicated dance that the writers have orchestrated in order to make certain that plot A leads to Plot B and so on.

The effectiveness by which the writers have created a paranoia culture on the show, and the fact that every character aside from Peggy and Howard are complete unknowns, gives us the viewer every opportunity to be surprised. We don't know who will suddenly get killed, or who will turn out to be a double agent. I'm still not 100% convinced that Angie is all that she seems. And that might be knowing but the product of thinking that her support of Peggy is too good to be true. That the show, intentionally or not, has fostered the kind of edge-of-the-seat expectations, when it comes to character's intentions.

I was a little disappointed in Jarvis' lack of attention in the latter episode, after Peggy's deceit had been discovered. Jack clearly saw him with Peggy in the alley. And while I understand that 1) they wanted to keep the action aimed on Peggy, and 2) this is a serialized program, and the next episode will pick up right where this one left off. But Jarvis is the weak link in this chain. Setting aside that his connection to Stark is all the more obvious, and that his location would be pretty damned easy to determine, but he also has a far greater weakness than anyone else: a wife. A wife, at home. A wife, at home, whose legal status in the US could be challenged. She is the leverage that the SSR could use to get Jarvis to flip on Peggy. I certainly hope that the writers recognize that, as the SSR investigation continues.

One last thing, that has been nagging on me these past few episodes. It is obvious that one of the motivators of the series is how at the time, women were second class citizens. But with that dynamic well established in the first couple episodes, I assumed that the writers would take it as writ, and move it more into the "implied" category of subjects. However, the frequency at which characters make very overt comments regarding women is increasing. And it isn't the most natural thing the show has going for it. Every so often, the show will slip in a short rant or diatribe about a woman's place, or how women are equal. I'm all for that, but it is starting to transcend a valid and respectable position from which to pitch a series, and starting to sound anvilicious. I'm a big fan of the feminist theme of the show, but the writers need to recognize when they've stop being engaging and started being pushy. These brief moments are distracting, especially when the writers are proving that they know how to make it work through lines like Dooley's "don't take it easy on her just cause she's a woman" or the SSR's inclination not to believe that women would make effective assassins. These are examples of illustrating a perspective through engagement. Monologues about equality are preaching. And that's not fun.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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