You know those pictures of TV writing rooms where there are index cards on a huge corkboard, each card representing an important moment (or scene) in the overall season? Last night’s episode of Agent Carter, “The Blitzkrieg Button” felt like all the cards that were left over after the series had been planned out. You got your Peggy Remembers Howard is a Jerk card, you got your SSR Reacts to Krzeminski’s Death card, you got your Dottie Blows Her Cover card.
Piled together, this doesn’t quite make a story, so Agent Carter also throws the Stan Lee Cameo card at us and one of the writers sneaks in a Captain America is Jesus Maybe card in hopes that we won’t notice. Something’s gotta fill that episode 4 slot!
Because of the somewhat open-ended nature of the episode, there’s not a lot to talk about thematically, so let’s get to the play-by-play. We open on a nondescript shipping warehouse set where Jarvis is trying to buy something mysterious while Peggy amuses herself pretending to be Batman.
There’s some back and forth regarding extrortion [sic] before Jarvis stops loving the sound of his own voice (how?!), gasses them with his briefcase, and opens up the boxcar where Howard Stark has been hiding out with his favorite lamps.
It turns out Stark paid off an importer by the name of Mr. Mink to get himself back into the country. (We’ll see Mr. Mink again for no reason so write that name down in your copy book now.) Howard’s next hiding places are as follows: the back seat of the car, Peggy’s apartment at The Griffith, everyone else’s apartment at The Griffith, that utter cad.
The resulting monologue from the matron about Freud and “defend[ing] young women from compulsions” is pretty epic, though. (I also love how it’s impossible to sneak around at The Griffith since all the floors are stone or hard wood and everyone is in heels.)
Meanwhile, at the SSR, Agent Chief Dooley is off to Nuremberg to interview a Nazi by the name of Mueller who has a connection to a place called Thurnau (really not sure if I’m getting that right) which is apparently where every dead person in Leviathan is from and, really, do we need to see this? I guess we do, because there’s a piece of plot info in Nuremberg, but this turns into the first of many index cards inserted at random into this episode.
“The Blitzkrieg Button” tries to make the best of it by beefing up the remaining SSR characters. Agent Chief’s absence puts Agent Blond Tallness (Thompson) in charge, and he begins his new regime by making a pretty cool speech about the recently deceased agent Ray Walter Krzeminski, asking his fellow knuckleheads what the most important part of Krzeminski’s name was and prompting Tony Stark to travel back in time from 2012 to answer “His name is Agent.” so Thompson doesn’t have to spell it out. (He has to spell it out.)
It’s interesting to see how Agent Tallness’ attitude changes when tasked with leadership. He’s still gruff and always ready with a withering backhanded putdown, but now he does it in the service of the investigation so now we get to hate him for being an ass but love him for getting results. It’s also interesting to see how the absence of the Chief and Krzeminski lights a fire under Enver Gjokaj’s Agent Sousa. There’s space for him to follow up on hunches now, the same kind of space that Peggy takes advantage of in regards to the SSR’s attitude towards her. Both Peggy and Sousa’s efforts in this episode, and in this series, move the investigation forward and that outlines the ultimate flaw of the SSR and the worldview that it promotes: rigidity. Thompson, in one weird clunker of a scene, won’t consider Peggy a legitimate agent solely because of her gender and he also won’t consider Sousa’s hunches worthwhile due to his injury. It’s telling that the only time the SSR gets any work done is when they put aside their rigid viewpoints. Even Thompson is prompted to do so, putting aside his usual interogation methods (fists) for something a little more sideways (burgers ’n scotch) in order to substantiate Sousa’s hunch.
In Nuremberg, the Chief also casts aside the SSR’s rigidity in order to get the information he wants. He’ll let Mr. Super Nazi think he can escape when really the Chief is just going to give him the option of cyanide versus the noose. He’ll also poison the folks who helped him get into Nuremberg in the first place. Or I totally misread the scene and Dooley tricked the Nazi with breathmints and didn’t kill anyone, which is way cool. Regardless, all he finds out is that Something Weird tore Thurnau apart before The War got there and Howard Stark is involved.
Anyway, here’s another index card in the form of SSR’s silly science division and I swear for a moment I thought Peggy had walked into an episode of Better Off Ted. How long has Agent Carter been keeping these guys back? Because I love them. I love how they’re working with Stark tech from the future and they can’t stop it from melting their glasses. I love how even Peggy is dismissive of them. I just want to take care of them, you know? Tell them they’re good boys and that they’ll figure out some tech any day now and make sure the water cooler in their Lab of No Hope is always working. Aw, poor dumb scientists. L’il cuties.
There’s a lot of time to kill in this episode, so we get to see a lot of small but cool 50s spy tech, like Howard Stark’s camera pen (THAT TINY FILM THO), the Chief’s cyanide watch, and one amazing automatic revolver. But the thing that got me the most excited was the simplest tech of all: Gloria’s gravy purse.
It got Dottie excited, too, causing her to immediately put in an order to Gloria’s service for a purse that can hide pickles. Although probably what Dottie is actually looking for is a gun pocket. You see, Mr. Mink lingers on through “The Blitzkrieg Button,” unaware that the story is done with him. He wants the money that Jarvis gassed his way out of so he tracks down Peggy and is right at her front door with his automatic revolver in The Griffith when he happens upon Dottie.
With a supremely chilling “I want. THAT.” she Natasha Romanovs the crap out of Mink. Dottie’s cover lasted roughly one lunch long. I wonder if her daughter is going to marry some guy named Romanov and have a stone-faced redheaded child who insists that grandma teach her some special kicks.
None of this has anything to do with the other story in the episode, which is all about Peggy finding out that Howard Stark lied to her about the weapon he needed her to retrieve. Stark made it sound like the “Blitzkrieg Button” was an EMP capable of taking down the power grid of an entire city, but actually it’s just a container for the last bit of Captain America’s blood that they have left.
Which Peggy would not have known if she hadn’t activated the Blitzkrieg Button on a hunch that Stark was totally full of it. And while she doesn’t know that it’s Steve’s blood until she confronts Howard, come on, she knows. Who else’s blood is important enough to keep around? Who else’s blood holds the key to curing diseases and making humanity stronger and better and is a product of Project Rebirth and OMG Steve Rogers is Jesus, isn’t he? We had the second coming here the whole time and we let him get trapped in an iceberg after fighting Hugo Weaving.
That’s Howard’s reason for not telling Peggy the truth and Peggy is understandably not comforted by that admission. Because why would Howard need to keep that kind of thing from her in the first place? But then again, why would Howard need to tell Peggy about it at all? Doesn’t she want to keep the last bit of Steve out of the wrong hands just as much as he does? The best way to do that is to never acknowledge its existence in the first place.
It’s not an easy discussion for the two of them and neither comes out the clear victor. Both are left shaken and unclear of the way forward.
Then the episode keeps going! Peggy hides Steve’s blood in the wall of her apartment while blasting BIG BAND MUSIC REALLY LOUDLY and Dottie loads up her awesome new gun and the Leviathan typewriter the SSR captured finally starts clacking away and…that’s it. You think these things are going to come together but the episode ends there, seemingly just after it was getting started.
- “I thought I’d built up a callus apologizing for you, but this stinks.” Oh Jarvis, this is why young Tony is going to love you so much.
- I like to imagine that Howard Stark yelled “Why don’t you go invent my son?!?” at Stan Lee.
- If this mini-series ended with Peggy having to stop an evil clone of Steve Rogers that would make me so happy. It would make no sense, but it would make me so happy.