Recap: Marvel’s Agent Carter, “The Blitzkrieg Button” (1×04)

The best way to deal with “The Blitzkrieg Button,” the slowest moving episode of Agent Carter so far, is to take stock of all the mysterious factions and agents wreaking havoc on Peggy Carter’s life, either through their demands on her or through the threat they hold:

The SSR: The good guys (who aren’t so great because of the way they treat our Peggy) rally around the memory of Agent Krzeminski and intensify their pursuit of Howard Stark. The Chief goes to Germany to interrogate the most stereotypical of all Nazi war criminal murderers, Herr Mueller, about the Battle of Finow. The two deceased Russian agents both supposedly died in the battle, but said battle apparently never existed. The Germans arrived to find the Russians massacred, body parts strewn everywhere – and you can trust the Nazi war criminal, because he’s keen to claim credit for his crimes. (Some of the writers clearly haven’t read their Hannah Arendt.)

Meanwhile, Agent Thompson is left in charge back in New York, where he manages to laboriously beat the audience over the head with the obvious by telling “Marge” that the men will never respect her. Because the previous three hours of the show hadn’t already established that fact with much greater nuance. However, he also manages to figure out that Howard Stark was in Finow and get a witness statement out of a recalcitrant homeless vet. So he’s a dick, but a competent one.

Agent Sousa: Agent Sousa is smart, honorable, resourceful, and kind, which is to say he has no business working for the SSR. He ignores the taunts of the other agents and doggedly questions Frank, the homeless man from the pier who witnessed Peggy and Jarvis’ exploits on The Heartbreak. Sousa’s empathy can’t break through Frank’s prickly exterior, but Thompson gives him credit for locating him, at least. In the closing minutes of the episode, he puts together – by coloring in a photograph – that the blond woman from the club could very well be the brunette from the pier. Watch out, here he comes, Peggy.

Leviathan: Mostly shunted to the background this episode in consideration of Howard Stark’s return and the pursuit of the truth about Finow, the Psychic (yes, I know, radio-wave, but I like my assessment better) Typewriter switches on at the end, primed to deliver a message to the Chief. Leviathan wants Stark as bad as the SSR does – do they become uneasy allies, or are they in a race with Stark as the prize?

Howard Stark & Jarvis: Upon hearing that the SSR recovered his inventions, Stark returns to New York to take inventory of what they have and what’s still on the black market. At least that’s what he tells Peggy, who becomes his unwilling roommate at The Griffith when the SSR smokes out even his most secret lairs. (Helen and Lorraine, however, seem most pleased with “cousin” Howard.) In reality, Stark is looking for one particular invention: the Blitzkrieg Button, a (poorly named) blackout device that was meant to help keep London safe from German bombs during the war. Peggy needs to swap out the real Button with a fake to keep the SSR from inadvertently shutting down New York City.

Tipped off by Jarvis’ terrible lying skills (no wonder her got caught forging that letter), Peggy figures out the truth actually lies underneath another blanket of lies. Stark doesn’t want to save New York, but to retrieve the last remaining vial of Steve Rogers’ blood. Unsurprisingly, Peggy is devastated by the lies and galvanized in her belief in what is right and what is wrong by the reminder of her lost love. Stark apologizes for his deceit, claiming that’s the only way he could break free of his working class roots and that he needs Steve’s blood to do good, but Peggy’s having none of it. She wants to be like Steve – a hero who protects people – rather than a slimy, mercenary, lying opportunist like Stark. Even Jarvis is uncomfortable with the extent of the lies the pair are telling Peggy, and in the end, Howard loses: Peggy keeps the vial of blood, and hides it in her room in a hole she smashes in the wall to the sounds of Gene Krupa.

Mr. Mink: The hyper-Aryan smuggler tasked by Stark to smuggle him back into the country gets pissed off when Jarvis refuses to be extorted for an additional $100,000 upon delivery. Mink kills his henchmen for their failure, then seeks out Peggy to punish her next. (Note: why not Stark and Jarvis? Peggy was just the muscle.) Mink manages to trick Peggy’s apartment number out of The Griffith’s matron, but as he prepares to enter her room, his vengeance is brought to an end by the gal in 3F. Which brings us to…

Dottie: Pickle-loving Dottie kills Mr. Mink with a neck-snapping, parkour-style kick, ostensibly because she covets his gun, but really to validate all of us who didn’t believe for a second her aw-shucks small-town shtick. Bridget Regan gets crazy eyes after she stashes the dead body under the bed and ogles her new, lethal toy, and we’re left to wonder where she fits in. Is she meant to protect Peggy? Follow her? Who is she working for, exactly?

Agent Peggy Carter: Peggy is left adrift at the end of the episode. She’s in too deep to back the SSR’s investigation, but Stark’s deception has left her wounded and disillusioned (and probably with some pretty sore knuckles, if Stark’s shiner is any indication). She’s still subjected to passive, pervasive sexism, such as Thompson telling the agents to “make kissy noises at their wives,” as well as Agent Thompson’s overt dismissiveness of her abilities and value. Steve Rogers isn’t coming back. Where does Peggy’s conscience take her from here?

Odds & Ends:

– The ladies stealing food from dinner at The Griffith reminded me a little too much of sneaking food out of university cafeteria freshman year.

– I would wear Peggy’s purple dress every day of my life if I had it.

– One thing Agent Carter does consistently well is represent the odd postwar juxtaposition of propriety and independence for women, as seen at The Griffith, and the variety of veterans’ reintegration experiences, as represented by Sousa and the homeless vet. As Agent Thompson said, “Not everybody came back from the war wanting a hug.”

– This episode needed approximately 300% more Jarvis.

– The SSR tech to Peggy: “Howard Stark is either an ignoramus or a genius.” Peggy, as she clicks away with the camera pen: “Most likely both.”

– Stan Lee pops up in his requisite Marvel cameo as a shoe shine patron borrowing Stark’s sports section.