Wednesday, February 18, 2015

TV RECAP: Agent Carter - Episode 7: "Snafu"

NOTE: I was recapping AGENT CARTER episodes for The Escapist, and it seemed to have a decent following. Since I hate leaving things undone (and because I want to show all you wonderful folks donating to the Patreon that you're going to see a steady run of work) I'll post the remaining two here.


At this point, AGENT CARTER has turned out to be so solid that all it will need to do in it's eighth and final episode is not end on a note of total disaster and it'll immediately assume a position among the very best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's not many TV shows that can fit a riot, an explosive self-sacrifice suicide, an indoor parkour battle, creepy hypnotism and a slapstick almost-jailbreak around the edges of what remains both a cracking good spy story and an extended metaphor for the invisibility of women in post-WWII America.

After a cold-open featuring some of that aforementioned creepy hypnotism (revealing that, as suspected, the evil Russian psychiatrist is indeed Doctor Faustus), "Snafu" dives right into the setpiece teased last time: Carter's interrogation at the hands of Chief Dooley, Agent Thompson and Agent Sousa. This quickly turns into an opportunity for Peggy to finally come clean - not about her double-agent duty for Stark, but about how she really feels about her male colleagues and the way they've all treated her as a projection of their own issues (Dooley is patronizing, Thompson is all macho bluster and Sousa is a resentful spurned-"nice guy.")

She's sidetracked, though, when Jarvis turns up with a plan of his own: Buy time with a fake confession from Howard Stark. Given the ongoing themes of the show, it's not exactly surprising that his grand heroic gesture only makes things more difficult; and Carter has to reveal the entire sequence of events up to this point including that last vial of Captain America's blood. Refreshingly, Thompson and Sousa believe her right away and set off for a confrontation with Dottie (aka Black Widow '46) that doesn't go especially well.

Ultimately, everything comes down to a main character being forced to make the ultimate sacrifice, after having been fitted with a malfunctioning suit of electrified Stark armor (heh) refitted into a suicide-bomb. More troublingly, it turns out Leviathan has no interest in Cap's blood (or doesn't know it exists): They're after another item. Part of me was hoping that it was The Winter Soldier's bionic arm, but it turns out to be a gas weapon that can turn anyone exposed to it (in this case a movie theater audience) into feral killers driven to murder eachother.

Where's this all going? Well, with the reveal of the poison gas (which, it must be said, loses something by virtue of being so similar to an impossible-to-top plot device in KINGSMAN) and the still-unanswered questions in the central mystery (who wiped-out a squad of Russian soldiers without using any weapons during the war, why was Howard Stark on the site of that massacre a day later and why did Stark stop doing business with the Military) I think a basic outline can be surmised: The army used Stark's gas on the Russians, Stark saw what it did and withdrew from weapons-making and Leviathan is actually out for revenge against the U.S.

If that's where they're going, it's pretty dark; but it certainly fits in with the series' secondary theme of Peggy watching the clean-cut good vs evil clash of WWII morph into the amoral morass of the Cold War right before her eyes. It also provides - along with S.S.R HQ being blown to hell after they failed rather decisively to do the one thing they're supposed to do by being a backwards-looking boy's club - a potential reason for why it might be scrapped and replaced with the more forward-looking (at least in theory), globalized idea of S.H.I.E.L.D; which we already know Carter is a co-founder of (a note which I imagine will be the punchline of the series.)

It's also interesting because it ups the ante on how the series plans to utilize what's now been revealed as a red herring: Captain America's blood.

We know the blood can't survive into the present, because if it did someone would've successfully duplicated the Super Soldier Serum well before THE AVENGERS. It's looking like there's no room for my pet-theory of Sousa becoming an MCU version of William Burnside, so I'm guessing instead it'll be something more like having to use the blood's restorative properties to save someone whose been gravely wounded, maybe Sousa or Thompson. (Or, alternate theory, it'll be stolen and used to create/maintain Winter Soldier, since I'm not done hoping that plot-point doesn't crop up in here somewhere.)