UK TV Review: Agent Carter Season 1, Episode 5 (The Iron Ceiling)
Mark Harrison | On 09, Aug 2015
Already seen Episode 5? Read on for spoilery analysis.
Kicking off the second half of the season, The Iron Ceiling finally sees Peggy get an official mission from the SSR that doesn’t involve filing. The timing is fortuitous – although Jarvis is trying to apologise and talk her round, she’s adamant that she won’t keep sneaking about for Howard Stark after last week’s events.
A message on the remote typewriter soon takes her mind off the matter: there’s a weapons exchange taking place in Belarus in the next two days and both Stark and Leviathan are named. As the only codebreaker in the office worth asking, Peggy argues with Chief Dooley that she needs to be on Agent Thompson’s team, as they follow up the message’s lead in Belarus.
The clincher is her experience and affiliation with the 107th Infantry Regiment, better known as the Howling Commandos, who can get the team into the country so that they can carry out their investigation. Begrudgingly, Thompson brings Peggy along so that they can rendezvous with Captain America’s old unit, but that leaves her room at the Griffith open to interference from Dottie (Bridget Regan), the sleeper agent next door.
The episode provides yet another demonstration of how spectacular this show can be on a limited budget, departing from the meticulous period glamour of post-war New York to revisit the terrain in which Captain America: The First Avenger largely took place. It looks as cinematic as ever and also calls back to other areas of the Marvel universe.
We wouldn’t put it past Marvel to spin-off a Howling Commandos TV series with Neal McDonough in the lead as Dum Dum Dugan: he previously reprised his role in a similar capacity for a flashback in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2. He’s the only returning character from the Commandos line-up in The First Avenger, but he’s arguably the only one we need – you could build a show around his Dugan and he provides a welcome connection to Peggy’s time alongside Cap.
Moreover, the team’s destination in Belarus is the Red Room Academy, which was glimpsed in the recent Avengers: Age Of Ultron in Black Widow’s nightmares and gets another look-in here. There’s a reason why it might be called a finishing school and there’s one particularly unexpected adversary that Peggy and co encounter there. The show itself is about a woman who is perpetually underestimated, so it’s wise to keep one eye on any seemingly harmless little girls who might be hanging around.
There’s precious little on the home front this week and the scenes we do get are also focused on what’s going on overseas. The episode opens in startling style at the Academy in 1937, where the trainees are shackled to their beds and then shown Snow White & The Seven Dwarves (Marvel is really making the most of their access to the Disney vault) so that they can learn how to speak English. And then they’re taught how to kill.
Cutting from this dream sequence to Dottie as she carries out some good old-fashioned espionage on Peggy, under the guise of a girl who doesn’t know the way to Brooklyn, the show tells us a little more about her after last week’s surprise neck-breaking. Regan’s performance is sharp and full of suppressed malice, assisted unnecessarily by a very ominous musical cue from composer Christopher Lennertz.
But she’s overshadowed by the main plot this week. Instead, we get to see a lot more of Chad Michael Murray’s Thompson. Unsurprisingly, he’s more vulnerable in the field than he is when he’s snarking about Peggy being useless in the office, but there’s some much needed development of his character and back-story here, as he’s thrust into action.
While it’s nice to get out of the office and go abroad every once in a while, The Iron Ceiling is an action-packed throwback that feels like a sideshow to the ongoing serial rather than a continuation of the season-spanning espionage plot. It marks a watershed moment for Peggy as a character, but it feels mostly like a handsomely realised detour from the main arc. Save it for Marvel’s Howling Commandos (coming soon, probably.)
Agent Carter Season 1 and 2 is available on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, 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
– Deaths of the week: Junior Juniper (James Austin Kerr) catches a bullet from young Eva (Chiara Aurelia), after she stabs Dugan and takes his gun. A whole mess of Leviathan operatives get theirs in the firefight that follows, along with SSR Agent Li (Eddie Shin) and double-crossing scientist Nikola (Alex Veadov) – the body count might be the highest of the series so far.
– What did we find out about Jack Thompson? He was awarded a Navy Cross during his service in Okinawa and as the 107th share war stories around the fire, he reluctantly tells of how he saved his unit from six enemy soldiers while on night watch. However, after freezing in a fire-fight, he admits to Peggy that he actually killed men who were trying to surrender. His bravado doesn’t do him any favours, but at least he comes across as a more sympathetic character than before.
– Back home, Dottie’s search of Peggy’s apartment yields no Cap blood, but she does discover her photos of Stark’s tech hidden in a music box and also pilfers the Sweet Dreams lipstick that Peggy used to knock out the nightclub owner in Episode 1. Along with the automatic pistol from last week, she’s collecting some nifty gadgets, but we wonder if shackling herself to her bed is really the best move for a sleeper agent.
– The boy’s club that is the SSR office is coming around to the idea of Peggy as a skilled field agent, especially with her successful rescue of Dr. Ivchenko (Ralph Brown),who appears all too happy to collaborate with them. However, her one ally, Agent Sousa, finally sees her plain when he notices a scar from an old gunshot wound on her shoulder. The woman in the nightclub had the same scar and Sousa’s dogged investigation into what went on back in Episode 1 might actually be getting somewhere.
Photo: © 2014 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.