A Recap, by definition, WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS! Proceed at your own risk!
Agent Carter delved deeper into the Marvel Cinematic Universe tonight and provided another hour of adventure and fun for the whole family. Marvel is on a roll with Agent Carter and Hayley Atwell delivered a performance that makes her a worthy addition to the M.C.U. Tonight’s episode was fast paced, filled with surprises, and enough nods to the rich comic book history that any self-respecting Marvel fan would not want to miss.
“The Iron Ceiling” opens in Russia 1937. We see a group of young girls at an academy of sorts. They share bread with one another, watch “Snow White” and recite dialogue. The place seems like just about any other boarding school that may have existed, but then the routine of their day has a suddenly violent transformation. We now see the two young girls about to engage in a training exercise of sorts. They begin to fight and the one girl over powers the other and gets her in a headlock. She looks to the headmaster for permission and then proceeds to snap the girl’s neck! This is when we see the mysterious new neighbor of Peggy played by Bridget Regan wake up. She gets out of bed and starts doing sit ups. It’s very clear that Regan’s character of Dottie is not to be trifled with. Could our hero, Peggy, be in danger? Should we be worried?
After much speculation as to who Lyndsey Fonseca’s Angie would be, it would seem as if she is exactly who she was introduced as – a waitress, friend, and neighbor to Peggy. After Fonseca’s action and stunt filled time on CW’s “Nikita” it was expected that she could possibly be HYDRA or an agent in the time before S.H.I.E.L.D. So far, this is not the case. Bridget Regan, having spent a devious year on USA’s “White Collar”, is once again a turncoat! And, boy, is she believable! The character of Dottie exudes a sense of confidence and menace. She seems sweet and innocent enough to be the girl next door, yet terrifying in a more realistic Marvel villain kind of way. Early on, we see Dottie and Peggy having breakfast together at the diner Angie works at. As Dottie fakes a sort of new girl in town naïvety, Peggy does not pay much attention to her. Dottie then manages to create a distraction by knocking over Peggy’s belongings to then swipe her apartment key. Peggy does not realize this and goes on to recommend Brooklyn as a place for Dottie to visit. Her reason is that “the spirit of the country is found in its people” to which Dottie sharply comments that for a minute she sounded just like Captain America.
Later on, Dottie sneaks into Peggy’s apartment and snoops around. She finds the hidden photographs of Howard Stark’s inventions that Peggy took back at the SSR’s lab. Before she leaves, she sits down in front of Peggy’s mirror, looks at an old photograph of Steve Rogers prior to Operation: Rebirth and says “Hello, I’m Peggy Carter.” in the same voice as Peggy herself. Dottie is an interesting addition to the cast as we do not fully understand her motives yet. Benefiting from Marvel’s own strategic planning, Dottie is almost as big a mystery as who stole Howard Stark’s tech and may prove to be an important fixture in understanding one of the key members of The Avengers. We know that Black Widow trained in a place called The Red Room Academy, however other than the name, we do not know much else. Agent Carter producer Tara Butters revealed “As we started to create her we realized there was this interesting connection we could be making… Basically Dottie is the product of a Russian spy program which could end up being the Black Widow program.” What is also understood is that whatever her motives, she is definitely a foil for Peggy Carter.
Leading to one of the most welcome of guest appearances (Dum Dum Dugan and the Howling Commandos), Peggy goes on a mission that leads her to Belarus after she cracks an encoded message that came through the typewriter the SSR obtained from Leet Branis. The message details a supposed meet between Leviathan and Stark to arrange the purchase of the “havoc reactor.” Peggy manages to convince Thompson and Dooley that they need her as she can deliver the 107th Regiment a.k.a. The Howling Commandos. They eventually all meet up and the SSR are in awe of the Howling Commandos as they fought alongside Captain America. Agent Thompson of the SSR, The Howling Commandos, and Agent Carter infiltrate the boarding school from Dottie’s dream and find a film loop with the subliminal message of “Instill Fear.” The agents come across a young girl hiding in one of the room’s and she seems innocent enough. Dum Dum Dugan approaches her and she points to his bowler cap in curiosity. He tells her what it is and when he turns around to ask Peggy why they call it a bowler cap, she stabs him in the chest. While Dugan is protected by his vest, the girl does manage to kill off an SSR agent and one of the Howling Commandos named Junior Juniper. (a rather obscure reference to one of the first characters ever killed in Marvel comics.)
The Howling Commandos, along with Agent Carter and Agent Thompson chase after the girl and come across two prisoners. Before they free the two men, they learn that Leviathan has held them captive and has provided them with Stark blueprints for them to build a weapon from. After Peggy busts them out of their cell, the Soviet soldiers start firing upon them and a gunfight almost straight out of Captain America: The First Avenger ensues. They eventually make it out to safety, thanks to Dum Dum Dugan, but not before Agent Thompson freezes in the heat of battle. While they are on their way back home, Agent Thompson reveals that he isn’t the war hero that everyone believes him to be. He recounts a story that while he was in Osaka he killed a group of Japanese soldiers. Believing that he saved the commanding officer and his team, Agent Thompson was awarded the Navy Cross. The truth to the story is that Agent Thompson shot the soldiers while half asleep not realizing that they entered the camp with a white flag. He buried it long before anyone realized what he had done. It was an interesting development to find Agent Thompson almost begrudgingly respect Agent Carter after dismissing her since the pilot episode. At the very end of “The Iron Ceiling”, Agent Thompson invites the men at work out for a drink. Before he leaves the office, he also invites Peggy which is a major step for both of them and the sexist politics of the time. It was believable to witness Thompson’s change of heart as he saw her skills on the battlefield firsthand, along with her relationship with The Howling Commandos. We know there is a possibility that one of the men in her office will turn out to be her husband so it’s very likely that Chad Michael Murray’s Agent Thompson may just be that guy. It also provides a pleasant twist as we expected Agent Sousa to possibly become her husband as he has been depicted as nothing more than a gentleman and Agent who longs for better days no longer rife with the politics of the late 40’s. Throughout the past two weeks, Agent Sousa has been conducting his own private investigation into the mystery blonde that was photographed at Spider Raymond’s club from the pilot. Tonight, he finally pieced everything together and is on to Peggy, not knowing that she is really an alley attempting to clear Howard Stark’s name. From the look’s of next week’s episode, it would appear as if they have a major falling out once the shoe drops. So much for Agent Carter fans being on Team Sousa! However, I did enjoy the character development with Carter and Thompson as it provides a light at the end of the tunnel for Agent Carter’s work life.
Has anyone else been paying attention to the intricacies of the stolen Stark tech and black market sales plot that has driven this season of Agent Carter? If I’m allowed to speculate, I’m going to finger Anton Vanko as the one behind the sales. We know from Iron Man 2, along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-ins that Vanko leaked blueprints on the market and was illegally selling Stark inventions. Nick Fury tells Tony that when Howard found out he had him deported and that Vanko spent the next several years “in a vodka fueled rage.” We’ve already been introduced to Vanko in the pilot episode and it would be a great way to further tie Agent Carter into the M.C.U. by having her involved with this character. While Iron Man 2 was not as hailed as its first film, it’s still quite integral to the M.C.U. and Phase One. By going back to events alluded to within that film would give it an extra layer that would not only enlarge the scope of the films, but also continually focus on Peggy being an essential member to the M.C.U. Maybe I’m just a Anton and Ivan Vanko fan (I did enjoy Mickey Rourke as Whiplash!), but I do believe fans could expect to see this develop before the close of this series.
Once again, Agent Carter provided a terrific night of entertainment that, overall, is suitable for the family. Marvel was smart to focus on Agent Carter as she is a strong character and could be utilized in a way to magnify the cinematic universe they created way back in 2008. It’s a good time for fans of Hayley Atwell and her character as we haven’t seen the last of her for this week. Stay posted for my review of Ant-Man prelude #1 as Agent Carter makes an important appearance in that!
Agent Carter gets five out of five stars!