Finally! A good episode of ‘Agent Carter’! Like, really good. What the heck took so long? This is what every episode should have been like from the beginning.
I think I understand why the powers-that-be at Marvel decided to set this series after the end of World War II. On a purely practical level, had it been set during the war, the show would have a hard time explaining where Captain America is and why Peggy never sees him. Even beyond that, however, the idea of seeing the development of the precursor to S.H.I.E.L.D. had potential. Unfortunately, the show has struggled to figure out what it wants to do or be, and Peggy’s interactions with Cap and his team are sorely missed. Episode ‘The Iron Ceiling’ rectifies a little bit of that by reuniting Peggy with the Howling Commandos, including current commander Dum-Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough).
The episode starts with a flashback to 1937, in a Russian boarding school where young girls are trained to become deep-cover spies in America by learning how to speak English, how to fight and how to murder. This is where Peggy’s annoyingly wholesome and overly-friendly neighbor Dottie comes from. Hence the crazy kill move she put on the gangster in the last episode. In the “present day” of 1946, Dottie works hard to make friends with Peggy, and surreptitiously steals the keys to her room, which she’ll snoop through until she finds a hidden stash of photos of Howard Stark’s inventions.
At work, the SSR struggles to decipher a coded message from the captured typewriter. It takes Peggy about ten seconds to crack the code, yet her boss and coworkers still treat her like an idiot woman. The message mentions something about a prototype “Havoc reactor,” a link to Howard Stark, and coordinates to a location in Russia. Peggy desperately wants in on this mission. Despite her familiarity with the area and her ability to speak fluent Russian, Chief Dooley initially refuses to let her go, until she makes a phone call and secures the assistance of the famed 107th Regiment, a.k.a. the Howling Commandos.
So, Peggy flies over to Russia for a warm reunion with Dugan and the Commandos. At the coordinates in the message, they find a building that we’ll recognize as the boarding school from earlier. A crying little girl turns out to be a death-dealing assassin. Two prisoners are locked up in the basement – a scientist who has some serious social anxiety issues and his psychiatrist. They say they were captured and forced to build a “photonic amplifier” weapon, which I’m guessing is some sort of death ray. Sexist jerk Agent Thompson freezes up during a shootout with Russian guards and Peggy has to save his ass. The scientist tries to surrender by holding an American soldier hostage, and his own shrink kills him. Everybody else escapes with the shrink, who has some limited amount of intel to share (but not as much as the crazy scientist would have).
On the way home, Thompson apologizes for being such an asshole and admits that his story about being a big war hero is a sham.
Back in the States, Chief Dooley digs into the story of Howard Stark’s connection to a massacre in Russia during the war. Agent Sousa finally starts to suspect that Peggy may be the mysterious woman in photos he’s been studying when he recognizes a scar on her shoulder.
This episode has everything the series has promised since the beginning but mostly failed to deliver in the previous episodes: lots of action and suspense, an intriguing story and snappy banter between the characters. More importantly, it’s fun, which this show desperately needed right now.
Can the remaining episodes build on this momentum? Sadly, I have a feeling that we’ll quickly return to the tedium the prior four episodes offered. I hope to be proven wrong on that.