From the cold open to a young Dottie in ‘Russia, 1937’ to an appearance from Dum-Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough) and his The Howling Commandos, Marvel’s latest Agent Carter is something Jack Kirby himself would be proud of.
Ramping up the action, our strong leading lady Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is entrusted with her first mission — but will our cover girl have her cover blown by the arrogant (and over-the-top sexist) Agent Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) or Agent Souza (Enver Gjokaj)?
In Russia — spoiler warning — they have a Black Widow training program, and the origin of Dottie’s (Bridget Regan) exploits in the last episode. Does it surprise anyone that the Russians used a clip of Walt Disney’s Snow White promising to ‘keep house for you’ to teach the kids English in this all-girl Russian Fight Club? Here we see a younger version of the immersion seen in Showtime’s The Americans flashback sequence!
Plus…Black Widow! In the comics the program is known as Red Room Academy, and this is a welcome backstory to the character (or Black Widow characters) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Later in the episode, Dugan also slips in an Invader’s reference to the UK that only true believers will catch.
Carter shows up the boys in the S.S.R. office, including an FBI agent by using cryptography the to break the transmission code from our mysterious texting typewriter. Perhaps this is a nod to the British Ultra Secret decoding ladies of Bletchley Park in WWII who were key to winning the Big One.
The team drops themselves behind Russian enemy lines, and we’re reminded briefly of the scale of this whole Marvel TV & movie universe. Does Neal McDonough belong on TV beyond last year’s bizarre 1%er Cadillac commercial? Not really. He’s a movie star. When the other agents mix and match with The Howling Commandos, only Peggy truly fits in with the Captain America: The First Avenger co-stars.
Back home, Agent Sousa gets closer to finding out Peggy’s secret sneaking around for Jarvis and Stark after an awkward changing room exchange. Walking in the locker room, he catches a peak of Peggy’s bare shoulders and a tell-tale scar.
Captain Dooley is on the case as well, meeting with an ‘SSR Informant’ played by Smallville’s John Glover (Lionel Luthor) about the Battle of Finow, referenced in the last episode.
gets further clarification from Jarvis and is open to clearing Stark’s
name from all of this. Jarvis was found running routine errands for his
boss, Howard Stark
On her field mission to the Russian Black Widow school, she’s left her apartment unattended. And Dottie has stolen the keys! Our proto-Black Widow is on to Peggy as well—and her stay at the Griffin Hotel is clearly no accident.
The exfiltration of Dr. Ivchenko (Ralph Brown) has some casualties, but is successful. Thompson reveals what happened to him in the Pacific Theatre in the war, humanizing the character. Peggy and Thompson then build on their relationship after being ‘in the trenches’ together.
Overall, the pacing of this show is quite lovely. Having to cram a lot in to 8 episodes, we’ve gone from small moments of ladies interacting at the hotel, to spiffy gadgetry and now action out in the field.
The Cold War looms over and colors the relationship between two opposing spies and there are only three episodes left to give us this year’s season of Agent Carter. And pip-pip to a renewal next year (speculation, please let’s make sure this happens, ABC)!
What is at often times an on-the-nose look at ‘how different we were’ and ‘look at how bad things used to be for women’ in the ‘40s. Marvel TV still does this with an intelligence and different approach than a more realistically based show in the era such as Boardwalk Empire deals with feminism.
A theme most explored, and celebrated in these Back in the S.S.R. reviews are the fact that we have one strong leading lady kicking butt all over the place. And now she has a foil, a friend, an ally or other-to-be-determined in Dottie, our proto-Black Widow.
Strong leading ladies, especially in an action show are missing these days, but Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are doing right by me. Agents May, Skye and Morse have the modern age covered, and Peggy’s the best gal to rule them all. Who else can say they fought along side Cap and his Howling Commandos?