Review: Agent Carter triumphs in Russia with SSR love

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The events of “The Blitzkrieg Button” fresh on her mind, Agent Carter distances herself from Howard Stark and reinvests herself with SSR just in time to prove her worth and lead a rollicking mission to Russia.

When Agent Carter show runners Butters and Fazekas revealed last week that newcomer Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan) was a product of the Black Widow program, we suspected the next episode might delve into some of that back story. “The Iron Ceiling” wasted no time in doing so: opening on a flashback to Russia in 1937 that finds pre-teen Dottie among a group of young girls handcuffed to their beds in an unnamed location. We watch the future Soviet spy as she goes about her day: sharing bread with another recruit, being brainwashed by a film reel of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, then snapping the neck of her bread-buddy on command during a fighting exercise.

When Dottie’s eyes snap open in 1946, it’s impossible to tell if this memory haunts or emboldens her. This makes her budding friendship with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) an intriguing mystery, will she always be working against Carter or might there be a collaboration in their future? For now, Dottie plays dumb with the best of them at her lunch date with Peggy — easily swiping Carter’s room key unnoticed. Was it Peggy’s brooding over her recent betrayal, or Dottie’s comment that Carter sounds “just like Captain America” that distracted her? Either way, it’s probably good she refused Dottie’s offer of half her bread roll. Carter also refuses to hear Jarvis (James D’Arcy) out when he tracks her down, attempting to plead Stark’s case. He contends that Stark may be devious, but he at least appreciates her value — unlike the SSR. It’s the wrong tack to take with Carter, who refuses to stake her future on a man without honor. She leaves determined to make her own luck.

Back at SSR she does just that, handily deciphering the message the Leviathan typewriter spat out at the close of last week’s episode: coordinates for a rendezvous in Belarus. The meeting concerns the purchase of something called the havok reactor for 100k: payable to Howard Stark, now officially enemy number one for all the SSR Agents, Carter included. Emboldened, Carter doesn’t ask Chief Dooley (Shea Wigham) to go to Russia, she tells him she’s clearly the most qualified. This being 1946, however, her extensive European CV won’t suffice so she uses her war-time affiliation with the Howling Commandos to seal the deal.

The Commandos meet up with the SSR agents just outside Russia’s border. Among them are Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough) and Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi) reprising their roles from Captain America: The First Avenger. Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) is suitably impressed, but Dugan saves his awe for Carter. Finally able to speak to an officer who values her opinion, Carter divulges to Dugan that she think they’re walking into a trap, but is unsure of the endgame. Arriving at the coordinates puts our heroes back to where the episode began: the creepy Soviet-spy school for girls that is Dottie’s alma mater. The place seems deserted, but they stumble upon one remaining little girl who Dugan mistakes as harmless just before she stabs him. Luckily it’s only a flesh wound. Stealing Dugan’s gun, the girl kills SSR Agent Li (Eddie Shin) and escapes.

The group proceeds warily through the building, and find two prisoners in a cell. One is chatty, the other quiet: seemingly insane. The talker claims to be a psychiatrist tasked with treating the cellmate, Nikola, who is a genius with light waves. Leviathan wants him to help build a weapon from stolen Stark blueprints. The team frees the two as enemy soldiers close in. The team attempts to retreat until Nikola takes a hostage and tries to negotiate with the enemy. The doctor kills him and a magnificent shoot-out ensues where Carter comes alive in the heat of battle. She leads the team to escape and provides covering fire which is convenient, as Agent Thompson freezes completely: an unexpected twist.

Before returning home, Carter decides to bring the doctor with them back to SSR, which seems an odd choice. She suspected the encoded message was a trap and was proved correct, so it stands to reason Leviathan might have planted the prisoners there expecting them to be found. The doctor’s eager affect was a bit suspicious and he seemed almost too ready to shoot Nikola. Back at SSR, Carter has clearly won the respect of her fellow Agents and joins them for a long overdue post-work drink.

Meanwhile: Dottie snoops around Carter’s room, Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) finally connects Carter to the woman from the photo taken in the season premiere but keeps quiet, and Chief Dooley does some old fashioned police work and turns up a connection between Stark, a Russian massacre and a recently dead General.

Favorite moments:

  • Carter’s speech to Jarvis in the rain recalled Steve Rogers chastising Natasha Romanoff for her secret agenda in the opening scenes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. 
  • Carter blew off Jarvis, stood up to Dooley and saved Thompson’s bacon but invading the boys’ locker room in 1940’s America may have been her most impressive feat this week.
  • Dottie finds Carter’s picture of Steve and it’s pre-super solider Steve! What a gal, that Peggy. Dottie also may have stolen her knockout lipstick. Can’t wait to see how she uses it.
  • “Yeah, I miss him too.” Dugan, you’re all heart.
  • Big woah on the reveal of how Thompson got his Navy Cross & why he froze. Jaw literally dropped!
  • 50 shades of Dottie? Handcuff security blanket?

 

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