Recap: ‘Agent Carter’ S1E4 “The Blitzkrieg Button”
Agent Carter has returned from a week break, but definitely not to the same fanfare as the first few episodes of the season. Regardless of the plot points revealed in the second half of “The Blitzkrieg Button” and some continued great performances, the latest episode of Agent Carter was a bit convoluted, clunky, and lacked the strength we have come to expect the show thus far. It took a while for the story to kick off let alone for the plot of the episode to move the season’s main story forward, and as a result this episode felt like filler, and even a special guest appearance couldn’t lift “The Blitzkrieg Button” from that feeling.
Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is thrown even deeper into her undercover mission when a black market dealer manages to smuggle Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) back into the country. Though his true intentions are a mystery, Stark tells his friend that he needs to know which of his devices the SSR has confiscated. Carter’s troubles grow exponentially when the SSR, due to the loss of Agent Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer), have staked out all of Stark’s properties, forcing Carter to sneak the efficient ladies man into her hotel.
At the SSR, Chief Dooley (Shea Whigham) and Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) continue to look for a link between their two dead Russians, the mysterious typewriter to nowhere, and Howard Stark. Their leads take Dooley to Nuremberg for an interview with an imprisoned Nazi about the battle where the two men are meant to have died. His trip turns out to be fruitful with moving the unusual investigation along, as the man reveals that the battle never took place and that the German troops discovered a massacre where there should have been a Russian army.
While Dooley is out of the country, Thompson is put in charge and immediately puts the entire office to work on finding Howard Stark. Though he has an assignment from his temporary chief, Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) decides to investigate the dock where Stark’s stockpile was found. He interviews a reluctant homeless vet, who finally reveals that he saw an indistinguishable man and woman on the boat before the SSR arrived, leaving Sousa at a dead end for now.
As the office buzzes with assignments, Peggy Carter is given the task of picking up lunch orders. However innocuous her task may be, it allows her into the science lab where she secretly documents all of Stark’s acquired devices. She takes the photos back to Stark, who is making the rounds of the woman’s hotel in her absence, and he reveals to her that she must steal one invention back for him: the Blitzkrieg Button. More easily than normal, Carter is able to slip the device out of the SSR, but unfortunately for Stark, Jarvis (James D’Arcy) and his unusual behavior has clued the intuitive agent into the fact that Stark is after more than a glorified light switch. Carter manages to open the device revealing a vial of blood, and when she confronts him Stark comes clean, telling her that it belongs to Steve Rogers. Heartbroken and betrayed, Carter pushes herself away from Stark and the mission he sent her on, feeling as though she has lost her way. The episode ends as Dooley returns to the SSR, and in the quiet of the night as he looks over some documents, the typewriter that he and his team cannot make heads or tails of begins to type.
As the episode that brings the series back from a small break, “The Blitzkrieg Button” feels quite clipped and jumpy, making the episode not as much fun to watch as previous weeks, a far cry from the Agent Carter that we know. However, even with the weak and filler feel of the episode, it did do several things story wise that helped to elevate it from being simply a bad episode. We got to see a few of Agent Carter’s colleagues more out on their own, and it did them all massive character service. Chief Dooley’s separate mission made him seem like a more competent agent, and while Sousa and Thompson continue to be at odds over techniques, Thompson is slowly developing more of a personality beyond cocky, though that is still his main character trait while Sousa is beginning to show his badass side a bit more as he efficiently takes his suspect down.
Outside the SSR, Carter’s hotel of women is becoming a bit more interesting as it develops into more than just another symbol of the gender segregation Carter faces. However, its added intrigue is completely due to outside influences as one of her neighbors proves to have more to her than meets the eye. Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan) has become an anomaly within the pristine, value holding world when she shows off hidden ninja skills to dispatch a threat to Carter. Though Regan’s performance as she switched from bubbly woman into cold-blooded killer resembled a robot, this turn is interesting, and hopefully she will become more so as her intentions are fleshed out as the series continues its short run.
Besides these elements of the story and characters, “The Blitzkrieg Button” didn’t do enough to make these details worth it. Though the SSR agents has a good week, even Dominic Cooper’s fantastic guest appearance in a role that he has mastered and Stan Lee’s obligatory cameo couldn’t save the episode from weak developments, plot device driven character traits, and a weakly constructed script, all of which are unfortunate. Jarvis’ “tell” is the worst character trait plot device in this episode as it is such a stray from the tough soldier that we saw underneath the butler exterior in the previous episode as he refused to break under SSR interrogation. James D’Arcy’s performance suffered this week because of the poor construction of his character within the story, the direct result of weak storytelling, the other outcome of which is definitely the rough feel of the entire episode.
Though the majority of the other performances were nothing spectacular, Hayley Atwell continues to hold strong as the spunky Peggy Carter, her confrontation with Stark at the end of the episode being her strongest of the week. Atwell is doing a fantastic job of moving her character from the point where she began this season – as a gung-ho female agent looking to prove herself in a male dominated world – to where she is finding herself – a woman whose role continues to be governed by the men in her life, whether they’re her friends or not. This is a frustrating position for Agent Carter, and Atwell is developing her character brilliantly.
Even if D’Arcy wasn’t as strong this week as he has been, Dominic Cooper put in an impressive performance while Enver Gjokaj continues to impress, but it is Chad Michael Murray who has one of the best scenes this week. Opposite Atwell, Murray brilliantly delivers a stomping message to his female colleague that under no terms will a man ever consider her an equal, clearly laying himself out as one of those men. It is a sad realization that Carter has been fighting, and though we know who she is and what she does in the name of democracy, his words still sting, and Murray delivers his lines to the perfect effect.
It is unfortunate yet almost inevitable with a series of this type that at least one weak episode will make its way out of the wood work, but the hope was that Agent Carter’s eight episode run would be short enough to hold these episodes to a higher standard. Instead, “The Blitzkrieg Button” delivered its revelations and plot points without precision, resulting in a clunky episode that needed massive rethinking. The episode picked up a little steam toward the end, but not by much as it is clearly meant as setup for what is to come next week. Hopefully that means that next weeks’ episode will put the revealed plot devices from this week to good use and will be a return to the Agent Carter we know.(2.5 / 5)
(Photos copyright: ABC Studios, Marvel Studios)