Agent Carter: The Iron Ceiling

"Does anyone else feel a chill going up their knickers?"

Looks like I was wrong to worry that the show might be entering a mid-season slump. Agent Carter was back on top form this week, delivering its best episode to date.

We open in an orphanage in Russia. We know it's Russia because the music is so overwhelmingly Russian. You can practically taste the Prokofiev. Welcome to the Red Room, where impressionable young girls are handcuffed to the bed every night, taught about American culture via Disney films (with subliminal messages), and trained to fight and kill. Even to kill each other. I actually jumped when little Dottie snapped her classmate's neck. That was pretty damn dark. Although the words "Red Room" and "Black Widow" were never once uttered, this is unmistakably the same programme that will one day turn Natasha Romanov into a crimson haired killing machine. But that's a story for another movie that sadly won't be called Black Widow.

The scenes in the orphanage were creepy, as were the present day scenes with Dottie. Did anyone else feel a chill going up their knickers when she sat in front of the mirror and started impersonating Peggy? It seems like Dottie's mission is to get hold of (-one) one of the items from Stark's vault, and she's going to use Peggy to do it. Is that item connected to what happened at Finow? We know Stark was there for the aftermath, did he find what was responsible and keep it for himself?

After being let down by Howard and Jarvis last week, Peggy started this episode determined to make her colleagues at the S.S.R. respect her. She made it clear to Dooley she was going on the mission to Russia and wouldn't take no for an answer. Thompson was dead against it. Dooley was more hesitant. He knows Carter's war record, knows she has the skills and knowledge for the mission, but doesn't want to send a woman because he thinks it will look badly on him. When stone cold logic didn't work (Peggy is more qualified than anyone else in the office for such a mission), Peggy played her trump card by delivering the Howling Commandos as tactical support.

I was a little disappointed that none of the Howling Commandos from the films returned, save for Neal McDonough's Timothy Aloysius Cadwallader "Dum Dum" Dugan. The other commandos in this episode were all new characters. Well, new to us, at least. Samuel "Happy Sam" Sawyer, Percival "Pinky" Pinkerton and Jonathan "Junior" Juniper are all characters from the Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos comics.

I loved how the Commandos instantly looked to Peggy for leadership. Despite Thompson having superiority, there was never any doubt in their minds that Peggy was the one running this show. These guys know her, they've fought beside her and they trust her implicitly, Dugan especially. It was great seeing those two together again, drinking bourbon and remembering the old days. McDonough clearly loves playing this role and he and Hayley Atwell really play well off each other. If there is a second season, it needs Dugan in it.

Peggy was in her natural element on this mission. Even Thompson and the other red shirts S.S.R. started to follow her lead without question. It is a cruel irony that just as Thompson and Dooley are finally starting to see just how good Peggy really is, Sousa, who has always supported her, is starting to suspect that she might be a traitor. Will he go to Dooley with his suspicions? Judging by the promo for next week's episode, that's a big fat yes. Hopefully this will reunite Peggy and Jarvis. Their interactions are one of the things I love most about this show and I hated seeing them estranged because of that "wanker" Howard Stark.

Intel and Assets

--If Thompson's backstory was meant to make us like him then I'm afraid it failed. But I did like that Peggy didn't throw it back in his face. That's just not who she is.

--The minute Peggy decoded the message it was obvious that this was a trap. Leviathan, which Dooley confirmed was Russian, wanted them to send a team to Russia. The question is why? Was it to get Ivchenko into the country? There is something shifty about that guy.

--Juniper was the first one killed on the mission. This is reference to the fact Juniper is the Tasha Yar of the Howling Commandos and was killed off after only four issues.

--Dooley's reporter friend was played by Lionel Luther himself, the great John Glover.

--Peggy was at Bletchley, which is where they broke the German Enigma Code.

--Peggy told Dottie to start her tour of New York with Brooklyn, not the tourist traps. Steve Rogers was from Brooklyn.

Peggy: "Password is 'eagle', you apes."
Dum Dum: "Oh hi, Peggy."

Dugan: “Go!”
Peggy: “You go!”
Dugan: “What would Cap say if I left his best girl behind?”
Peggy: “He would say, ‘Do as Peggy says’!”

Dugan: "It’s called a bowler hat. The reason they call it that is because… why do they call it a bowler, Peggy?”

Dugan: "WA-HOO!"
Peggy: "Stop wahoo-ing and help!"

Four out of four Disney films.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


Patrick said...

This show absolutely, positively needs more Dum Dum Dugan. You're right Mark, Neal McDonough clearly has a blast playing Dum Dum, and he's got great chemistry with Hayley Atwell.

sunbunny said...

Really glad to hear that none of the Howling Commandos shown here were in the movie (save the obviously recognizable Neal McDonough). I kept staring at them and being totally confused that I didn't recognize them. I AM VINDICATED!

And of course I got so much joy from the obvious respect the famous Howling Commandoes have for Peggy. In your stupid yet attractive face, Thompson.

Can Dum Dum Dugan get the next Marvel One Shot? PLEASE??

Kathy said...

Man, I so adore Neal McDonough. In anything. He could be the most despicable character on a show or a movie, and I would still adore him. But, Dum Dum Dugan? He was born to play!

We need more of him!


Jess Lynde said...

Will he go to Dooley with his suspicions? Judging by the promo for next week's episode, that's a big fat yes. Too funny. My husband and I had this exact conversation at the end of the episode. Sigh. Sousa and Peggy have such a nice dynamic. My hope was that he would go to her first, but if he suspects her of being a traitor, I can see why he wouldn't. Obviously it is eating him up, since he did indeed look like he hadn't slept in days by the end.

I liked Thompson's backstory, because it touched a bit on how the Pacific front and the European front were very different theaters of war (check out HBO's Band of Brothers and The Pacific for a powerful portrait of the difference). He likely had very good reason to believe he should fire first on camp intruders, and yet he's still haunted by what he did. This humanizes him and moves him away from the one-note chauvinist he's mostly been thus far. I like that he and Peggy are simultaneously starting to see beneath the surface with each other, and understand the experiences that have shaped them. Thompson's backstory doesn't necessarily make me like him, but it makes him more complex and I do like that.

migmit said...

I started liking Thompson at the previous episode. When he cracked that witness that Souza failed to reason with, he showed that he has some skills besides beating handcuffed people. Yes, he is quite cynical — but he was also right at this moment. Also, his speech to Carter was spot on — if, again, cynical. He is a smart man who recognizes that the world is governed by some rules, which implies that those rules can be changed.

And now this story about Japanese soldiers. Yes, it made me feel for him. Yes, he was unjustly awarded — but he knows it, and feels that it's wrong. After all, as a smart man once said, every man ever got a statue made of them was one kinda son of a bitch or another. Thompson knows that it applies to him as well.

Korlis said...

I loved this episode, though it was a shame not to see the other movie Howling Commandos. I was also briefly convinced that Sawyer was going to be Agents of SHIELD's Tripp's grandfather, played again by BJ Britt, but worked out (via IMDB, rather than facial recognition) it was actually Forest from Buffy. The enormous winter hat was throwing me off.

Do you think one of the girls (perhaps the one who got the drop on Dugan) was a very young Natasha Romanoff? It's always sat oddly that in the Marvel films, Black Widow is said to have worked for the KGB, yet if she is as old as she appears/was born in the '80s as per Winter Soldier, she would have had to be very, very young to have worked for the KGB. I guess this version of the Red Room sets up an alternative to slowed down ageing and faked birthdays: she may just have been that young, one of the last products of the Red Room before the fall of the Soviet Union.

I think you might have nailed it about Dot being after whatever device was used at Finow, but I can't work out if Stark invented it or if he took it and hid it. Since in this episode we learned he broke ties with the military after Finow, it seems like maybe he invented it, that it is one of his "bad babies", and didn't like the results. The army wanted to use it again, leading to the punch up and break up, and he hid the device in his vault. What I can't work out, though, is why it was used on Russians who would have been allies at the time.

Josie Kafka said...

Their interactions are one of the things I love most about this show and I hated seeing them estranged because of that "wanker" Howard Stark.

Well said, Mark. It's impressive how quickly this show has made us care about these characters, isn't it? We're only five episodes in, and already we've seen a great friendship develop and hit a bad patch.

In other news: my theory about Souza is seeming increasingly impossible. But someone must be evil! Who could be evil?!

jenallday said...

I'm only just now getting to these, ABC has them up on the web in preparation for the second series. Wonderful reviews as always, it's nice to read along since I'm always so far behind the pop culture times. Josie your tireless hunt for the evil one has been making me laugh.

Jay said...

Great! I'm waiting for new version. It would be really good one for sure.