Agent Carter heads towards its end game with its sixth episode, 'A Sin To Err', directed by Stephen Williams and written by Lindsey Allen. The sad news is that it may be a permanent end, as the show hasn't been delivering ratings that would guarantee a second season -- but I'm not ready to rule it out. I'm hoping DVR numbers will save it.

The good news is, with a tight eight episodes, the show is clearly structured as a self-contained story, and assuming a strong ending, this one season will endure as a solid installment in the Marvel canon. I think the Agent Carter model is a much stronger one for future Marvel TV shows on ABC -- the Netflix model on network, in essence -- than the meandering anticlimactic flab of Agents of SHIELD. Which is a show I don't want to have to think about yet. So let's talk about Agent Carter!

  • Strategic Review

    Freshly returned from Russia, our chums... well, our chum at the SSR, plus her various colleagues, now have one deeply untrustworthy Russian psychiatrist at their disposal and the knowledge that the Russians have been brainwashing little girls to be assassins. At no point do they realize that a psychiatrist linked to a school for brainwashing little girls might be untrustworthy or brainwashy. This is why there isn't an SSR any more.

    Peggy (Hayley Atwell) makes the natural leap that one of these former school girls might have robbed Howard Stark, because Howard Stark sleeps with a lot of former school girls. That's maybe not the best way to phrase that. She re-recruits Jarvis (James D'Arcy) at the Automat (hooray!) to track down everyone Stark slept with, so these women can (a) be ruled out of their inquiries if they don't have the requisite handcuff wrist scars that are de rigueur for all Russian school girl assassins and (b) so they can slap Jarvis for dumping them by proxy.

    How does our intrepid duo find these girls? Stark gives all his dates the same piece of jewelry, so the jeweler has a list. Yes, that's enormously contrived, but I suppose it's more interesting than a little black book.

    Peggy and Jarvis find their suspect's last known address, and the marks on the bedpost from where she continued to cuff herself, but the woman herself is long since gone.

    Meanwhile, across town, that same woman has killed a sex pest/dentist so she can use his office as a sniper's perch to kill Dooley (Shea Whigham). For, yes, that woman who robbed Stark is none other than Dottie (Bridget Regan), our Moscow-by-way-of-Iowa pseudo-Widow. But the psuspect psychiatrist Dr Ivchenko (Ralph Brown) calls off the hit so he can get his hypnosis hooks into Dooley, who I keep wanting to call Chief Whigham, by the way, so please admire my restraint.

    While all this is going on, Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) goes back to a surviving witness from a past episode to show them a picture of Peggy and see if she was the mystery blonde at the nightclub. He says she was, because she was.

    So it's curtains for Peggy! At the Automat (hooray) she and Jarvis are cornered by SSR agents. But you know how all the Avengers were trained to fight by Captain America? Well, let this be your reminder that Peggy helped train Captain America. So she gets out of there pretty handily, even taking down Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) in an alley and brazening her way past Sousa so she can go back to her apartment and retrieve Steve's blood.

    Two terrible things then happen at the apartment building. First, Angie (Lyndsy Fonseca) does some really intense acting to distract the SSR boys. Second, Dottie corners Peggy, kisses her with her own knockout lipstick (right on the smackeroo), and gets ready to deliver the killing blow. But the SSR boys return in time to save/arrest Peggy and drag her away, while Dottie resumes her innocent "who me?" act. (The attempted murder was the second terrible thing, not the kissing. The kissing was fine, if that's your thing. But I don't remember Bucky tying to kill Cap this way, so what's up with that?)

    The episode ends with Peggy in the interrogation room, cuffed to a table, presumably calculating which one of Dooley, Sousa and Thompson she will hit upside the head with the table first.

    Also this episode: The tragic ballad of Agent Yauch, a nice young man who only ever wanted to be taken seriously, who gets hypnotized by the Russian psychiatrist into revealing all of the SSR's secrets and then walking into traffic. Goodbye, Yauch. You were too good and pure and insecure for this world. The sad thing is, the show probably won't mourn you half as much as it did that oaf Krzeminski.

  • Scientific Analysis

    While I still like my theory that Ivchenko is a Russian Faustus, I don't think he's going to end up infiltrating the nascent SHIELD organization. I think Ivchenko has to meet his comeuppance before the show ends, because he's now the official face of Leviathan leadership in New York and therefore the end-of-level boss for the show.

    With only two episodes left to go, it'll be interesting to see how the show paces out its conclusion. The trailer for next week (below) contains some spoilerish scenes, and gives the impression that most of the episode will be set at the SSR offices. I really hope that's not the case, because this episode set up a much more interesting confrontation than Peggy vs. the SSR; Peggy vs. Dottie.

    Now that Peggy knows what Dottie is, and Dottie knows that Peggy knows, and we can assume that Steve's blood is the prize that they're fighting over, the cat-and-mouse game between these two formidable women across 1940s New York -- with the SSR out to get both of them -- sets up an awesome last act for the show. But if we get to that next episode, it doesn't leave much for the last episode, which is why I think next episode is going to kill time focusing on Peggy vs. patriarchy.

    That sounds entertaining on paper, but the patriarchy on this show is just so grey and boring! (Which, OK, is really just truth in art.)

  • Reserved Englishness

    Why did poor little Yauch have to die, bless his little cotton socks? Ivchenko is a hypnotist! Couldn't he have just wiped Yauch's memory? Now, sure, we had to establish the depths of Ivchenko's villainy, but still; Yauch was the first man at SSR that I actually sort of liked! He was such a dweeb in a pack of alpha schmucks.

    Why in the name of all that is good and holy does Peggy tell Angie she should follow her dreams of being an actress? Angie is a terrible actor, Peggy. I know the only theater you're used to involves a chorus line and Steve Rogers punching a Hitler impersonator, so maybe your love for Captain America has lowered your standards somewhat, but Angie will never be a Broadway star. (Note: Lyndsy Fonseca is not terrible, except inexplicably when she's trying to show us that Angie is not terrible.)

    Please excuse me, but will we ever see the Automat again now that it's compromised? I can't tell you how fond I am of the Automat. I think maybe I want to live at the Automat. Life inside a vending machine would be so much simpler.

    I hate to ask, but what does 'A Sin To Err' mean? OK, I looked it up, and apparently it's a Russian nihilist cipher made up of the eight most common letters in the English language (with a second 'r' thrown in to... cheat and make a sentence). But what does all that mean?

    Is that glamorous dervish Ginger Rogers a secret Black Widow agent? Jarvis raised the possibility. I don't think we should rush to dismiss it. My Agent Carter season 2 pitch: Peggy takes on Hollywood. Her great weakness? Her inability to tell if someone is acting.