Considering Episode 4 of Agent Carter takes its title from a military maneuver notable for its ferocity and overwhelming power, it’s surprising that the episode itself is the most laid back episode of the series thus far.
We begin with everyone continuing their search for Howard Stark. Peggy finds him hiding out in a storage container, but not before she stumbles across Jarvis trying to pay off the goons who snuck him into the country. There is some ominous mention of a Mr. Mink—one of those comic book villain names that’s supposed to derive its power from the contrast between the timidity of the word and the innate scariness of the dude who would casually take it on as a moniker. More on Mr. Mink in a minute.
Peggy kicks the crap out of the goons and saves Jarvis. Alas, the action here is underwhelming. Peggy takes out the last guy with little more than one hard tap of her shoe. We get that she’s a badass and can beat up any goon on earth, but the effect here almost seems like bored slapstick. Also, this is pretty much the only action we’ll get this episode, and it’s over pretty quickly. Now, I don’t mind that the show decided to give Hayley Atwell’s right hook a little rest, but it doesn’t replace it with much. After the opening, we get five minutes or so of some mild screwball humor as Peggy sneaks Howard into her women’s only hotel, The Griffith.
An aside about The Griffith. For a show that is going out of its way to present a feminist hero struggling against her boorish bosses in postwar America, the scenes at the hotel strike an odd note. Howard Stark is a playboy. We know this because the show has mentioned it perhaps a dozen times over the course of four episodes. At the hotel, he keeps sneaking off into the rooms of Peggy’s neighbors to have quickies with the girls who apparently can’t get enough casual sex with this strange man. Odd to see the female cast here used as props to show what a stud this guy is.
Anyway, once Howard’s done spreading the clap to the gals on Peggy’s floor, he tells her that she’s going to need to sneak into SSR’s headquarters where she works and steal back one of his inventions, The Blitzkrieg Button. He gives her a story about what the button is, though the truth turns out to be something that harkens back to Captain America: The First Avenger. In an interesting development, these revelations sabotage her relationships with Stark and Jarvis. By the end, she’s essentially alone. (James D’Arcy’s presence, however, is missed for the rest of the show.)
It’s worth noting here that the Agent Carter series was created by the team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Markus and McFeely are big time players in the larger Marvel movie universe. They worked on the first two Captain America films, and they’re also writing the third, the forthcoming Captain America: Civil War.
Markus and McFeely previously wrote the Chronicles of Narnia adaptations, so they’re familiar with thinking about movies as an interconnected landscape of stories. Recently Markus told an interviewer that he and McFeely had no desire for Agent Carter to become episodic. “I would love to keep it small,” he said. “One thing we definitely didn’t want is for her to finish a mission this week and wipe her brow and the next week another goon comes up. Everything gets slightly generic when you’re hitting a new story every week.” Even if Agent Carter doesn’t get picked up for subsequent seasons, Markus explained, the show could be seen as “a tight little story…an eight-hour Marvel movie instead of a failed TV show.”
Episode 4, then, can be seen as something of a block of exposition for that larger story. It’s really in the business of setting up things to come (such as some intrigue that will take Peggy to Russia in the next episode), but it pads things out a bit to make this a full episode. Mr. Mink turns out to be a garden variety platinum-blonde psycho. We think he’s going to be Peggy’s sparing partner for the episode, but in a nice twist, he runs into the wrong girl on Peggy’s floor, sweetfaced Dottie (Bridget Regan) who turns out to be more than enough for Mr. Mink. I have a feeling this is setting up something good to come.
Halfway through Agent Carter’s eight episode run, the show has a lot of things in motion. The best part of the show is the way Peggy seems hemmed in on all sides. Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) is getting closer to discovering that she’s the mystery woman they’re looking for. Her bosses, including vile Agent Thompson (nicely played by Chad Michael Murray as a creep-who-can’t-get-his-clock-cleaned-soon-enough) are downright aggressive in their hostility. With Stark and Jarvis out of commission (or, at least, out of her favor), she’s left by herself to contend with Leviathan. Whatever the hell Leviathan turns out to be.
Previews for the next episode show her reteamed with the Howling Commandos from her First Avenger days. Looks promising.
Jake Hinkson is the author of several novels, including the newly-released The Big Ugly.
Read all of Jake Hinkson's posts for Criminal Element.