On the D/L – Agent Carter
Season 1 Episode 4 – “The Blitzkrieg Button”
After a week off the air, Agent Carter returns to further explore the mystery of Howard Stark’s apparent framing.
Dominic Cooper returns as Howard Stark in this episode and it changes up the existing dynamics somewhat. I like the way Howard and Peggy interact with his constant flirtatious nature and her lack of patience for it. It’s interesting how Peggy sees his return as an obstacle rather than a benefit given that she felt the investigation was well in hand without his presence.
Howard’s return unfortunately meant a reduced amount of screen time between Peggy and Jarvis and that’s definitely a shame. The strongest aspects of the other episodes have been their unconventional yet really functional professional relationship. Howard’s presence really manages to distract from that and changes the focus a little bit.
The one significant scene that Peggy and Jarvis shared felt a little clunky. His obvious ear tug to signify that he was lying was really clumsy and seemed to be identified as a character trait that we’ve never seen before. It doesn’t match up with how strong willed Jarvis was while being interrogated in the previous episode. It’s possible that he really wanted to let Peggy know that he was lying but even at that it was far too obvious.
Every episode gives us a little more insight into the other SSR agents in really interesting ways. I liked the scene where Dooley questioned a Nazi War Criminal and manipulated him into surrendering information by promising him a merciful death by cyanide that he’d never actually get instead of the execution he was about to face.
Sousa’s scene where he tried to appeal to the homeless War veteran’s better nature was a really interesting one. His disability makes him feel really disadvantaged and I liked his story about feeling empty when he heard people applaud his return, seeing it as an insult as to his mind they only celebrated his return because his disability made them feel guilty. I was also really impressed that this emotional appeal didn’t work. These sorts of things tend to work in shows like this but I’m glad that the show took the more difficult path and went a different way.
Thompson’s tactic of appealing to the homeless man’s stomach was a great touch. It was a nice comedic moment when the promise of a hot meal and some scotch made him give up the information he knows. Thompson’s tactics aren’t at all subtle but they definitely have a history of being effective when it comes to getting information.
His scene with Peggy where he questions her drive to carry on despite the fact that no man will ever consider her an equal. Thompson is absolutely among those men but it added an interesting layer to his character when he was able to acknowledge that and still notice that she was powering through this impossible situation.
He received little in the way of character development but his scenes seemed to reinforce what we already know about him. I get the impression that he’s quite a simple guy who doesn’t have time to be dishonest or manipulate others. What you see is what you get and this simplicity really works for him.
Howard’s reason for returning being the retrieval of the sample of Captain America’s blood that the SSR have unknowingly got a hold of felt like a fitting reason for him to risk exposing himself. As Howard said the blood is very dangerous in the wrong hands so it would make sense that he would risk everything to make sure those aren’t the hands that have it. I also liked that he couldn’t even trust Peggy and tell her what he was really sending her to retrieve. The exchange they have when she finds out the truth is great with Peggy’s disgust being all too obvious. Both of them raise good points and neither of them are right in an absolute sense.
The presence of the blood provides a fitting anchor for these two characters who are both connected by their history of working alongside Captain America. Both characters have every reason to remember him fondly and the retrieval of the blood could be seen as a sentimental gesture on Howard’s part as he doesn’t want to see his friend’s memory dishonoured by a government who would seek to do wrong by it. There is mention of the government having used up their supply so I wonder if they’re starting to set up the William Burnside Captain America from the 1950s. I would absolutely love it if that were to be the case.
This episode had a really effective villain in Mr. Mink (Gregory Sporleder) who came across as creepy and menacing. I liked how cold he was as he murdered his underlings who seemed to have failed him and decided to take care of the problem himself. He did suffer from a lack of screen time and a fairly one dimensional character but he was memorable enough I felt.
His quick dispatch by Dottie was framed as a big surprise but it wasn’t difficult to see it coming a mile off. Dottie’s introduction in the last episode seemed very tacked on and suspicious so I’m really not surprise to see her skillfully take him down. There are some theories that she could turn out to be Yelena Belova (Another Black Widow). I could personally see that working, she has the right look and obviously has the right skills so it’s certainly possible. I like how she comes across as ditzy but is clearly hiding a killer instinct underneath.
Many of the gags didn’t work for me in this episode. Howard Start emerging from a room covered in lipstick marks was just over the top and cheesy. I get that he’s a womaniser but scenes like that come across as really clumsy and childish. I also wasn’t a fan of Peggy trying to sneak Howard into her building. Her landlady acted like a complete idiot in that scene and should have seen through Peggy’s obvious deception.
Despite all the good things happening in this episode it felt like it was spinning its wheels in terms of plot progression. There was some sure but I never really felt like any of it was overly significant. It is good to slow down a bit and get some perspective on the characters and the time period but it feels like the series has lost a little bit of momentum compared to the previous episodes.
Another entertaining installment of this short series. Peggy is somewhat sidelined to give more screen time to the other characters and allow them to have a chance to develop a bit. I really liked seeing the manipulative side to Dooley as well as an interesting attempt at manipulation through vulnerability from Sousa. The characters in this show feel distinct and well established already as well as being really likeable.
Thompson had plenty of screen time but most of it was devoted to reinforcing what we already knew about him. It seems that he’s a pretty upfront guy and that there’s not actually much to him in a good way. I like that he doesn’t try to be complex.
Howard Stark’s return was a little mixed for me. Having his reappearance center around a need to retrieve his sample of Captain America’s blood felt right but his presence upset the strong dynamic between Jarvis and Peggy. Their only meaningful interaction involved a painfully obvious sign that he was lying.
Peggy and Howard had some really good moments such as her confronting him about lying to her concerning the “weapon” she had been asked to retrieve for him as well as her genuine impatience for his flirtatious nature.
Mr. Mink had a really short yet memorable appearance as the villain of the episode. At times he seemed a little cartoonish but he fit the needs of the episode well and managed to be fairly memorable. Seeing him dispatched by Dottie was an important reveal about her character as well.
Some of the humour didn’t work for me here such as Howard being covered in lipstick after being distracted by a pretty face or the general sneaking around to avoid Peggy’s landlady. These were all really awkward and clashed with the more effective humour that this show is capable of.
In general the episode had very little in the way of plot progression. It was present but some of the momentum has been lost. I understand the need to slow down and focus on the characters a bit more but this felt like it slowed down a little too much.