‘Agent Carter’ Season 1 Recap, Episode 4: ‘The Blitzkrieg Button’
We're halfway through the eight episode run of Agent Carter, and it's now very clear that this show isn't aiming to be a procedural, and that's both a strength and a weakness. Agent Carter has a clear idea what it's about and where it's going, with this week's episode focused on moving all the characters forward (and helping us to better get to know a few of them), but the lack of a 'monster of the week' structure leaves the show -- and this episode -- feeling unfocused.
'The Blizkrieg Button' is directed by Stephen Cragg and written by Brant Englestein, and has easily the best title of the show's run; but sadly the Blizkrieg Button proves to be a bit of a decoy duck, both in the title and in the episode itself.
The lead story this week -- and we know it's the lead story because it's the one with Peggy (Hayley Atwell) in it -- feautures the return of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), our dashing story-propelling macguffin-maker. Peggy and Jarvis (James D'Arcy) have to retrieve Stark from the goons that smuggled him back into the country; then Peggy has to sneak him into her all-ladies apartment building, which goes pretty much exactly as you'd imagine.
Stark is back to determine if one of his inventions, the titular Blitzkrieg Button, is among the items retrieved by the SSR (well, by Peggy) last episode. He equips Peggy with the least imaginative gadget in the history of modern spy fiction, a camera pen, to take inventory.
When Stark confirms that the SSR does indeed have the button, he sends Peggy back to retrieve it, assuring her that it's an EMP device that could bring New York to a halt. But Jarvis's bad bluffing convinces Peggy that it's something else, and sure enough she opens it up and finds a vial of blood, and it doesn't take a relocated Nazi rocket scientist to determine that this is Steve Rogers' super-soldier-serum-infused blood. So Peggy gives Stark a well-deserved punch to the jaw for lying to her and for trying to profit from Captain America's blood, and sends Iron Dad on his merry way.
Meanwhile, we have an unfortunate trifecta of SSR stories to sit through. Chief Dooley (Shea Wigham) goes to Germany to interview an imprisoned Nazi who was present at the same battle where the mute mystery men of episodes one and two supposedly died during the war. Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) steps up as deputy chief in his absence and gets to swagger around for an episode. And Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) pursues his own leads in the Stark case.
Dooley learns that the battle was not a battle, but a massacre at the hands of a mysterious force. We had broadly the same mystery/reveal/deeper-mystery play out in Agents of SHIELD, where it turned out Kyle MacLachlan was behind it all. Maybe it's Kyle MacLachlan again? Maybe it's someone like Kyle MacLachlan. Maybe it's Rutger Hauer?
Souza starts to piece together that the same woman has been present at every step of their investigation, and tries to use his war wounds to bond with a hobo for information, but it turns out hobos prefer burgers to sob stories. And Thompson learns that he's really good at swaggering, and gets to mansplain sexism to Peggy. Thanks, Jack. That really helps.
More interesting than any of these SSR stories is the story of Mr Mink, the blond craggy deadpan gangster who smuggled Stark into the city and doesn't appreciate being screwed out of a big payday. He has a fancy rapid-fire pistol that he uses to kill his own goons (because, villain). Then he goes after Peggy to try to find Howard. And just when you think you know where this story is going, Mr Mink runs into Peggy's neighbor, the mysterious Dottie (Bridget Regan)...
And Dottie runs up the wall and breaks Mr Mink's neck. Because she wants his fancy gun.
Sure, we all suspected there was something odd about Dottie, but wow, it turns out she's really weird and kind of scary.
In the closing scenes, Jarvis scolds Howard for his behavior -- and the camera lingers on Stan Lee for what feels like ten minutes to make sure we've acknowledged and accepted that, yes, this is the Stan Lee cameo, everyone. Did you see Stan Lee? This is his cameo. We have achieved Stan Lee cameo. Look at Stan Lee. Memorize him. Got it? Stan Lee cameo over. Moving on. One last chance. No more Stan Lee cameo.
Elsewhere, Peggy makes a hole in the wall for Steve's blood (and writing that down, it sounds creepier than it looked); Dottie admires her new gun; and the mystery typewriter that the SSR borrowed from Fringe starts typing.
Let's talk about Dottie, and how she went crazy for that gun and straight up killed a guy. There are a lot of people Dottie could be working for. The longshot is that she's another SSR agent spying on Peggy; unlikely because we already know those dudes are too sexist to hire a female agent and too dumb to spy on Peggy. She could be working for Stark, but that seems unlikely too. She's way too mad and murder-happy to be intended as a good guy.
So that really only leaves Leviathan among the established players, and they're barely established. If they know where Peggy is, why are they content to just spy on her? Or could Dottie represent some other unknown quantity? Or did Peggy just get landed with a really weird neighbour?
The name "blitzkrieg button" is the sort of promise a show shouldn't make if it's not going to follow through. I get that they couldn't call the episode "Shhh, It's Steve Rogers' Blood In A Kinder Egg", but come on, I was so excited for an actual blitzkrieg button -- whatever it was, it had to be cool, right? -- that the total absence of any button-based blitzkriegery left me feeling very flat about this episode. It's like reading 'Chocoloco Hurricane Explosion' on a menu and finding out it's carob cake.
(And speaking of cake; it didn't help that I was once again invited to give a passing toot what Dooley is up to in Germany when I could have been watching Angie sassing customers at the Automat.)
The Peggy/Howard story would have been a lot stronger if it had a bit more snap and scale, but the story had its moments. I quite enjoyed the farce of smuggling Howard into the ladies-only apartments, and the de facto break up scene between the characters was great, especially Peggy's realization that corporate espionage was not the ideal that Steve would have held her to (oh yeah, good point), and this bistering put-down; "You don't get to use my reaction to your lies as a reason for your lies." There, Peggy speaks for every angry marginalised person who's ever been sealioned or tone-policed in a disagreement.
Could we have done without a Stan Lee cameo? I know, I know, there are rules. Stan Lee cameos are the law. And yes, there will come a day when Stan Lee cannot film cameos, and we'll miss him. But in the annals of his many cameos, this felt especially poorly executed. (I still haven't worked out why he has a cameo in Princess Diaries 2, by the way. Which of those characters does he claim he created? Julie Andrews?)
What exactly is Angie for? We haven't had any good Automat time in a while. I mean, it's episode four, so "a while" is relative, but I feel like the show gave us too few female characters and then forgot it had them. After next week's episode -- which I am excited for because it features Dum-Dum Dugan -- I would like a three episode arc where Peggy and Angie track down Dottie after she slaughters all the men in the SSR. (Yes, including Daniel Souza. I just don't care about your big-eyed little boy pouting, Daniel Souza.) Jarvis can stay. Jarvis is still good.
Is Dominic Cooper getting more charming? Cooper has always made a good Stark, but he seems to have simultaneously grown more dashing and more complex. It's a good look. I'm still not clear on how he grows up to be Roger Sterling, though.
What the devil was Mr Mink? Part of me hopes we never find out why this wannabe villain was so strange. And the other part of me hopes he turns out have some connection to the Pink Mink from Milligan and Cooke's Wolverine/Doop.
Could Dottie be Doop? Dottie probably isn't Doop.