Agent Carter: 104 “The Blitzkrieg Button” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After a week away, Peggy Carter returns to our screens with a slow-moving instalment which does little to advance the central plot of the show, but sows some intriguing seeds for the future. Whether or not the episode satisfies the audience is all a matter of taste, but much like the homeless war veteran talking to Agent Sousa, I was left hungry for something that wasn’t yet being offered.
The episode starts with everybody’s second-favourite playboy billionaire Howard Stark returning to the US in typical fashion, smuggled in a crate bigger than Peggy’s apartment complete with easy chair and pool table by a bunch of hardened yet remarkably stupid criminals working for a man named ‘Mr Mink’. He reveals to Peggy that he has returned to ensure that the SSR retrieved all of his stolen inventions and that there are no more on the black market; although he is distracted by all the pretty girls in the Griffith Hotel he eventually enlists Peggy to take photos of the inventions currently in possession of the SSR with a James Bond-esque camera pen.
Naturally, she agrees and manages to sneak a few photos while the SSR scientists are struggling with, and being repeatedly set on fire by Stark’s inventions, and gets the microfilm back to Stark. Somehow managing to develop the film in the time between Peggy leaving her room and returning with a plate of food for him, he tells her that all of his inventions are deactivated, with the exception of one called the ‘Blitzkrieg Button’. It’s basically an EMP which could cause an irreversible citywide blackout in New York, and Stark almost guilts Peggy into stealing it from the SSR by moping about how he’s considered a traitor, and he wouldn’t want to be the one to plunge the greatest city on Earth into the Dark Ages.
However, our ever-trusty Peggy is suspicious, and questions Jarvis about the Button in an attempt to make sure it won’t hurt anybody, and through an obvious ‘tell’ of rubbing his ear whenever he is lying she figures out that something is not quite as it seems. So after successfully stealing the Button from the SSR lab and replacing it with a decoy, she takes a chance and flicks the switch: however, instead of blacking out an entire city, it opens up and reveals a small phial of red fluid. When she questions Howard about this, he tells her that she knows what it is, but for the benefit of the audience he tells her anyway: it is a sample of Steve Rogers’ blood which he is keeping hidden from the US Government to make sure they can’t waste it like all the samples they apparently had. He tells Peggy that he believes it contains the potential to advance medical science, perhaps even to the point of curing the common cold, but she angrily puts him in his place: her points are far more eloquent than mine, but she basically calls him a selfish, narcissistic bastard and orders him to leave.
And that’s pretty much Peggy’s entire plotline this week: naturally her separation from Stark will affect the second half of the season, but we’re left somewhat in the dark about exactly how it will affect proceedings and what her ‘mission’ will be from now on. The rest of the episode provides some clues, but we, like Peggy, are left in an awkward grey area at the close of the episode.
Meanwhile, the SSR are still shaken by Krzemenski’s death in the previous episode, and Chief Dooley is following up on some leads relating to Leet Brannis and the other Leviathan agent. Apparently they were both reported dead in the aftermath of a battle during the war, a battle on which all important information has been redacted, with the exception of the identity of a Nazi soldier who was there and is now facing a death sentence for war crimes. So Dooley heads to Nuremberg to question him, and only by offering him a cyanide capsule to make his death quicker than hanging is he able to get any information: apparently there was no battle, and something massacred hundreds of German and Russian soldiers by the time the Nazis got there. It’s only the slightest tease of an overall plot, but it has to be enough for now as we are given no more information at this stage.
While Dooley is gone, the SSR is put under the stern command of Agent Thompson, and Sousa goes out to try and find fingerprints left on the phone Jarvis used to call in the anonymous tip about Stark’s inventions. He doesn’t find anything useful there, but he does find a couple of homeless guys who may have seen something, and when one of them refuses to speak to an agent and then tries to attack him, he arrests him and takes him back to the SSR. In an attempt to get him to open up, Sousa recognises that the man was a war veteran, and tells him that he realises people pity him more than they respect him because of his leg injury. However, the man doesn’t open up until Thompson enters and essentially bribes the man with scotch and a burger (to be fair, they’re both pretty good incentive to do anything, even for me): he tells them that a well-dressed man and a dark-haired woman got on the boat, which gives them precisely no more leads than they already had. However, Sousa gets a thought in his head at the end of the episode and colours in the hair of the blonde lady from the photograph taken in the first episode, realising that they might just be the same woman.
Finally, the most interesting development comes from the dampest squib of a plotline: Mr Mink, the criminal responsible for smuggling Stark back into the country, decides he wants to hunt down and kill Peggy and Jarvis for disrespecting him and his men, and after killing both of his henchmen with a snazzy automatic pistol, he sets about following Peggy. After seeing her enter the Griffith, he breaks in and is about to bust into Peggy’s room when he is interrupted by Dottie, Peggy’s new neighbour. When he threatens her, she tells him that she wants his automatic pistol, and then kills him in an acrobatic display Black Widow would be proud of (and she possibly learned it at the same place), revealing herself to us as something a little bit more than the ditzy ballerina she previously appeared to be.
While the characters and performances are engaging enough to maintain interest, the fact that nothing significant happens plot-wise is more than a little frustrating. The creators of Agent Carter have just four episodes left to make a satisfying miniseries, and they can’t really afford to lose an episode in this fashion. Here’s hoping they pull an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and pull everything together to make something spectacular.