UK TV Review: Agent Carter Season 1, Episode 4 (The Blitzkrieg Button)
Mark Harrison | On 02, Aug 2015
Already seen Episode 4? Read on for spoilers.
“I can trust the actions of men who don’t respect me more than those who do. At least when they ask for something, they mean it.”
Since the coda of Episode 1, we’ve had reason to suspect that Howard Stark isn’t exactly telling the erstwhile Agent Carter everything that she needs to know in her battle to clear his name. The businessman-turned-fugitive shakes things up again from the very beginning of Episode 4, The Blitzkrieg Button, by getting himself smuggled into New York by some unsavoury types, completely unannounced.
With the SSR redoubling their efforts to track Howard down, Peggy isn’t best pleased to see him. Her room at the women-only Griffith Hotel is just about the only place he can hide. “How’s Miriam?” he asks, upon pulling up to the building. Once safely ensconced on the third floor, he proceeds to put the lay in laying low, with most of the landlady’s virtuous charges.
But Howard’s flying visit isn’t random. He needs Peggy to help him catalogue the inventions that her colleagues have recovered and a quick mooch around the SSR laboratory confirms his worst fears – an experimental blackout device is among the haul and if Peggy can’t recover it, the greatest city on Earth could literally be sent back to the Dark Ages.
Dominic Cooper makes another welcome guest appearance in this one and in The Blitzkrieg Button’s relentless drive towards the midpoint of the first season, he fuels most of the major revelations about the ongoing serial arc. Cooper’s charismatic turn as Tony Stark’s pop goes from strength to strength – his big screen début in Captain America: The First Avenger took after Robert Downey Jr’s performance as his screen son nicely, but in reprising the role on TV, he’s quickly made it his own.
Howard also kicks off one of the more enjoyable parts of Episode 4 by furnishing Peggy with a new gadget. Although distinctly unimpressed by the camera pen, she heads for the evidence lab, only to find that it’s been turned into a Bond-ian Q Branch scene by their attempts to make sense of the inventor’s so-called bad babies, with repeated workplace accidents in progress.
Elsewhere in the episode, the head of a smuggling ring, Otto Mink (Gregory Sporleder), carries a cool automatic pistol that’s used to ruthless effect, when he discovers that he has been underpaid for Howard’s safe passage back to the States. And on the home front, we discover that the girls at the Griffith have found some nifty ways of smuggling food out of the communal dining area – in an episode filled with other gizmos, the invention of the chicken pocket may be the most ingenious.
And, of course, there’s the titular Blitzkrieg Button, which is a great McGuffin in and of itself. Howard makes the stakes clear and Peggy’s up for the challenge of recovering the device, but a mid-episode twist marks a crucial shift in the balance between the two war buddies, as Cooper and Atwell have it out in a stand-out exchange of dialogue. Jarvis isn’t as prominent this week, but he has clear misgivings about Stark’s plan early on, which have a lot more context by the end of the episode.
In another pleasing development, the SSR staff finally get to do more than traipse after Peggy’s unseen investigation. The show keeps finding punchy ways of pitching interrogation scenes and we get a few on the trot in this one, with Chief Dooley’s encounter with a Nazi colonel (Jack Conley) in a Nuremberg prison standing out as a particular highlight.
Back in the States, that leaves Agent Thompson to briefly assume the good cop routine, in an unexpected manner, when Sousa has trouble getting information from a vagrant war vet who witnessed last week’s ship raid. Chad Michael Murray and Enver Gjokaj are both in fine fettle this week, with the former only deepening his jerky demeanour while the latter is as likeable as ever.
The show does have a tendency with the SSR guys to merely tease out a weekly breakthrough in the mounting pile of evidence against Howard, but by showing them working under their own steam, at least they’re a little more fleshed out now than they were two weeks ago.
The Blitzkrieg Button doubles down on drama and ramps up the espionage to 11, piling gadgets, interrogation and subterfuge into the story. Nothing is what it seems this week and that recurring motif pays off with one surprise twist after another. This season has been incredibly propulsive so far and, as we cross the halfway point, it shows no signs of slowing down.
Agent Carter Season 1 and 2 is available on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of a £7.99 Sky Entertainment Month Pass subscription – with a 7-day free trial. It is also available on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Spoilers and further consideration
– Steve Rogers’ blood is the real prize of Howard’s cache and he earns himself a wallop from Peggy once she opens the recovered Blitzkrieg Button and discovers a vial of Captain America inside it. Although he swears that he hopes to find practical non-military uses for it, so that Project Rebirth can benefit mankind, we now have a much clearer picture of why Leviathan came after his inventions. We’ll have to find out what they have to say on the “magic typewriter” next week.
– The line of the week comes in the Nuremberg scene as Colonel Mueller is measured for a noose. “Please excuse the gallows humour,” he tells Dooley in a pun worthy of the highest Bond villainy. The scene that follows is accordingly darker: Dooley promises to help Mueller dodge the noose by supplying him with cyanide, if he’ll give up the information he needs. The desperate colonel agrees, but the cyanide is just a breath mint. Seriously, nothing is as it seems this week.
– This week’s other death: we briefly met Peggy’s new next-door neighbour Dottie (Bridget Regan) last week and she finds herself on the business end of Mink’s automatic pistol late in Episode 4. But before he can fire, Dottie surprisingly busts out some Black Widow-style moves and breaks the smuggler’s neck. She really liked the gun, see. We wonder how she feels about the super-soldier blood that’s now hidden in the wall between her and Peggy…
– Marvel isn’t Marvel without Stan Lee showing one of his many faces and we get his mandatory cameo at the very end, asking for the sports section of the clobbered Howard’s newspaper, as they get their shoes shined. Excelsior!
Photo: © 2014 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.