After the weakest episode of the show’s short life, “The Blitzkrieg Button” brings reinforcements in the form of one Howard Stark, to slut it up. Considering the show’s season long premise revolves around the fact that he’s accused as a traitor, with Peggy Carter working to establish his innocence while recovering his stolen inventions, it makes a helluva lot more sense to have him around.
Despite Dominic Cooper’s game and bubbly presence, I still have misgivings about the show going forward. But I’ll address that after I recap the events of last night’s episode…
Edwin Jarvis is making a deal with a couple goons, paying in $1,000 bills. It’s legal tender, after all. The thugs want more money, because that’s what thugs do. Meanwhile, someone is making quick work of the other hoodlums doing a piss poor job of guarding the transaction: that someone is Peggy, kicking ass. Jarvis offers $50,000 more, instead of the $100,000 they ask for. They greedily open the briefcase, which immediately spews gas, dazing them, with Peggy arriving to put the finishing touch/punch on the proceedings. They were paying the henchman for a package, and that package is the aforementioned Howard Stark, back in the country to complicate Peggy’s life even further.
En route to one of his many apartments, Peggy spots SSR agents everywhere, so she’s forced to bring Howard in as a roommate to The Griffith, the women’s apartment she lived in. Howard Stark + all women’s apartment = TV gold. It is for a few scenes, but the women’s apartment is as grating on the viewer as it is on Peggy after awhile.
While Peggy wards off Miriam (Meagen Fay), Howard introduces himself to one of Peggy’s blonde neighbors, emerging with ALL the lipstick on his face. Oh, 1940’s.
Back at the
USSR, Chief Dooley’s going to Germany to interview Ernst Mueller, a Nazi due for the electric chair. Dooley’s convinced he could shed some light on the voiceless Russian Leviathan agents. In the meantime, Jack’s left in charge, and he immediately tells everyone they aren’t to leave until they get to the bottom of this mess. I feel like that’s four more episodes, which is a lot of overtime. Peggy gets stuck with lunch orders, and using a camera pen courtesy of Howard Stark, snaps photos of the inventions that the SSR has uncovered. It’s super easy, because the scientists the SSR employs are morons. This is slightly disturbing, and feels unrealistic; this is a super secret U.S. government agency following WWII. You’d think the very best and brightest would be working here. I guess the point is the SSR is shit without Peggy and Howard in leadership roles, even if that’s entirely too easy.
Agent Sousa returns to the docks to lift fingerprints off of the payphone that delivered the anonymous tip, and instead of doing that, which might have gotten him Jarvis’ fingerprints, Sousa discovers a hobo who might’ve been a witness for what went down. After a scuffle, he’s brought into the station. Sousa’s convinced he knows something, and Jack ridicules him for wasting time on a drunk. Sousa tries to appeal to the hobo emotionally, who wants nothing to do with “johnny law.” We get some great and sad characterization of the crippled agent this week, but he proves useless in getting the drunk to talk.
Jack saunters in with a burger and scotch and gets the truth nearly immediately: he saw a dark haired woman and a fancy man get on and off the boat before cops showed up. Sousa and company were searching for a blonde woman, so this flummoxes them for way too long, because they’ve never heard of wigs. There’s a hilariously stupid realization moment near the end of the episode when Sousa grabs the picture of the blonde (Peggy, turned away), and colors her hair in with a pencil.
Peggy and Howard develop photos from the lab (before that, Howard smooches another neighbor), and learn that all of his inventions have been recovered. Good news right? No! They need to steal one back, the Blitzkrieg Button (name of the episode alert!). This device instantly causes a city wide blackout, like a glorified light switch. Stark couldn’t figure out how to turn the lights back on…so it’d be pretty devastating if used.
Luckily and conveniently, he has a mock up of the device for Peggy to swap, the morons in the lab being none the wiser. This is exactly what happens, and it’s spectacularly easy for Peggy to make the switch. But that’s not the point; she realizes something isn’t right, that Stark and Jarvis are lying to her. She knows this because Jarvis has the world’s most obvious tell when he lies, tugging his ear 50 years before that’s the universal symbol for “help” in untenable social situations. It’s pretty stupid, but Peggy trusts her gut, and opens the device. Instead of sending New York into the stone age with a city wide blackout, it opens, revealing a vial of blood. Good thing her gut was right!
In Germany, Dooley promises to help Mueller escape if he tells the truth about the German battle we’re supposed to care about. Dooley’s escape route is a cyanide pill, a quick and painless death as opposed to the electric chair. Mueller takes the deal, revealing there was no battle. It was a massacre, that when the Nazis arrived, bodies were piled everywhere. As Dooley departs, we learn the cyanide pill he gave Mueller was really a breath mint, completing the first sequence where Dooley doesn’t seem like a blowhard figurehead, simply there to huff and puff and shout orders. While Sousa is coloring in photos, this is the first episode that colors in Dooley, Sousa and Jack’s characters at all, a welcome development for a show that needs character development outside of Peggy. It’s not that impressive fending off stick figures.
Elsewhere, the goons from earlier are apologizing for bungling the deal in the opening. How many deals have to go sour before villains MAKE THE DEAL THEMSELVES? Mr. Mink, their boss, a crazy fake blonde man, learns from his mistake, murdering his underlings with a fun circular automatic gun. He tracks Peggy to the Griffith, posing as a flowery delivery person to learn her address. He sneaks in, about to break into Peggy’s room…when the first great moment of the episode occurs: Dottie, the new “ballerina” neighbor, spots him, scales the wall and snaps his head, stealing his snazzy gun. She’s clearly evil. Many have posited that Dottie is perhaps Yelena Belova, a different version of Black Widow. This would obviously be pretty awesome, and jibe with the Russian Big Bad angle (rumors that Marvel will tease the Red Room in an upcoming episode seems to corroborate this). There’s a strong possibility we get some Winter Soldier Easter Eggs as well, as Agent Carter works to fill in the blanks from the 1940’s until Captain America 2. If Agent Carter blossoms into a Cold War spy epic, I think we’d all be pretty jazzed.
So, Peggy’s mad and goes to Stark, who has some ‘splaining to do about the vial. The blood belongs to exactly who you’d guess: Steve Rogers. Apparently as a part of Project Rebirth, in an effort to repeat the successes that led to Captain America, the government got 11 vials of his blood, and Howard got 1. Howard believes it’s the key to innumerable vaccines and could cure the common cold. Steve could save millions, even though he’s dead/on ice. Peggy doesn’t buy it; she thinks he’s just in it for the money. Howard’s hurt by the accusation, and apologizes for lying, that’s just who he had to be to get to where he is (rich/famous), and Peggy punches him in the face for it, kicking him out of the apartment.
Peggy’s also pissed at Jarvis, who obviously knew everything that was going on. He’s used to lying on behalf of Stark, but this feels different. Probably because the show is called Agent Carter. You don’t upset the lead! Jarvis leaves Howard to get his shoes shined, miffed. Beside the rich playboy is the man who created him, Stan Lee!, who asks Howard for the sports page. It’s one of my favorite Stan Lee cameos yet, mostly because I did not see it coming a mile away.
At the Griffith, Peggy hides the vial of blood in her wall, hammering a hole with her radio turned up really high… because that would mask the thumping and shaking that her neighbor would feel? Probably not, but whatever.
The episode ends with the magic typewriter typing a message… hopefully promising some action on the Leviathan front, because right now it’s a faceless and boring Big Bad, and aside from the formulaic and predictable storytelling (each episode includes over the top but timely sexism, kinda boring action, cheesy 1940 jokes, combined with 1-2 legitimately cool reveals), arguably the biggest problem of the show. It’s just not an interesting mystery. It could be, but we’ve been given so little that it’s hard to even speculate. Plus, considering that the show runners have expressly stated that the show will never reach a point when Peggy is running the place, where are we even going? There’s only so many lunch orders I can see Peggy get.