I’ll jump straight to the chase and say the penultimate episode of Agent Carter was the show’s best one yet.
Marvel has only two live action TV series right now, and it’s impossible not to compare Agent Carter and Agents of SHIELD. Over the last seven episodes, Agent Carter has set itself as the much better show. It has better writing, better acting, better visuals, and it has created a style that is unique and sets it apart where SHIELD tends to be more generic.
None of the writing and charm would work without the heart and soul of the show, and that’s Hayley Atwell. Week after week, she blows me away with her comic timing, her physical presence, and her emotional conviction. She fills the show with warmth, beauty, and grace, and she raises the show to something really special. The casting team also hit a home run with James D’Arcy, and as Peggy and Jarvis’ relationship has deepened each week, it becomes more and more endearing. The chemistry together and their ability to say witty banter in a fast paced manner takes me back to actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Which is fitting for a show set in a post WWII world.
This being the second-to-last episode, the writers wrap up a lot of the rampant sexism from the show, and really let Hayley dig her teeth into some great lines of dialogue. How great was it to see Peggy take her colleagues on head on and unleash why their lack of faith in her, required to handle the Stark case behind their backs.
- “To you, I’m a stray kitten left on your doorstep to be protected. The secretary turned damsel in distress. The girl on the pedestal, transformed into some daft whore.”
- “And I suppose the confession portrays me as what? A patsy? A doe-eyed idiot succumbed to the charms of America’s mustachioed Casanova?”
- “I conducted my own investigation because no one listens to me. I got away with it because no one looks at me. Because unless I have your reports, your coffee, or your lunch, I am invisible.”
The writers are very clever in this episode, because we see the inverse misogyny with Dottie. Following Peggy’s lead, several of the men from the SSR encounter the Black Widow agent, and even though they were explicitly instructed to shoot to kill, each one hesitates to pull the trigger, or harm her in any way. It’s just a different form of the same sexism that Peggy faces in the office, and it all comes from a lack of respect. The men underestimate Dottie and their instinct is to believe that she’s incapable of harming them, or being a criminal. The writers show equality on Agent Carter: women are more than capable of being either a hero or a villain, and it takes just as much skill and intellect to pull either of those roles off.
In the finale, (hopefully the season and not series) Peggy will be solving and defeating Leviathan’s plot, so that is why so much of “Snafu” was spent allowing Carter to express her feelings to her male colleagues. She has been straining all season to break the limitations that have been placed upon her because of her gender, and it’s happening just in time because the S.S.R. is going to have a huge power vacuum after losing their chief.
From the flashback three years earlier, we can assume that Dr. Ivchenko is the MCU version of the Captain America villain Dr. Faustus, a psychiatrist who mentally manipulates his victims, and convinces them to commit suicide after the have done his bidding. This week Ivchenko compels Chief Dooley to gain access to Stark’s Item 17, a chemical weapon that causes people to become sick, violent, and then die, and once Leviathan has what it needs, he puts the wheels in motion for Dooley’s tragic death. Dooley is imagining himself at home with his two children, and trying to make amends with his estranged wife, but in reality, he is trapped in a vest created by Stark to be a new type of armor. There is specific reason that it never got past the initial testing phase, as it has an unstable power source. The armor, once activated, cannot be turned off, and there is no way to free Dooley from his fate. He comes back to reality to realize that he will not be able to survive the coming explosion, and jumps out of a window to sacrifice himself and save the rest of his agents in the building. Just before his death, he gives Peggy the responsibility and power to track down those that did this, and bring them to justice.
A character death, when done correctly, can propel a show into new forward momentum, and Dooley’s passing dramatically ups the stakes heading into the finale. The S.S.R. is without its leader, its confused and scrambling, and Leviathan is ready to unleash its deadly plan. Peggy has spent the whole season working for her colleague’s respect and trust, and now she’s got it, and she is going to need all their help to pull this off. Luckily, Agent Peggy Cater is about to do what a hero does best, and that is save the day. Anyone else excited to see Peggy throw down with Dottie next week? That fight choreography is going to be so much fun to watch.
- “I suppose I just wanted a second chance to keep him safe.”
- “Howard Stark has never scrambled my mind, or any other part of me.”
- “Does this stuff implode? Explode? Spice up an Old Fashioned?”
- “What if there are people behind this mirror we’re breaking?” Peggy: “Then they may get hurt. There will be a spray of guns.” Jarvis: “What if those hypothetical people behind the mirror have guns?” Peggy: “Then we’ll get hurt. There will be a spray of bullets.”
- “We’re still attached to a table.”
And a quick side note, how fun was it when Jarvis asked the phone operators to allow him into the SSR?