TV recap: Agent Carter season one, episode four – The Blitzkrieg Button

Previously on Agent Carter, Peggy and Jarvis found Howard’s stolen inventions on board a boat and called it in to the SSR. The guys of the SSR celebrated, but a little too early – on his way back to the office Agent Krzesminski was shot dead at point blank range.

“You certainly know how to pick your partners.”

Somewhere suspicious Jarvis is handing over money to two thugs, who want a little more for something they’ve smuggled into the country for him. Outside one of their colleagues hears a strange noise, and heads towards it. Someone takes him down, and then proceeds to knock out the other two guards. Of course it’s Peggy, resplendent in heels and a smart suit, with not a hair out of place.

Jarvis seems to give in to the demands of the two men, and hands over a briefcase which turns out to be full of some kind of blue-ish smoke. With the guys stunned, Peggy takes the chance to punch them out, and then her and Jarvis head to find their package. 

Only it’s not one of Howard Stark’s inventions, like I thought it would be, but Howard himself, playing pool in what looks like a shipping container. Why is Howard so keen to come back to New York when the authorities are after him? It’s a question Peggy also wants the answer to, but when the gang spot SSR agents outside Howard’s house, finding answers has to wait while the trio head somewhere else.

The mood in this opening set of scenes is interesting. The action is still quick and fun, there’s banter between Peggy and Jarvis and Howard, and Howard is his usual womanising self. But Peggy is more serious than we’ve previously seen her, clearly still affected by the death of Krzeminski. Howard’s jokes and sarcasm don’t sit well with her, and she’s not happy that Howard is back to put people in more danger. But she still wants to do what is right, and because Howard is not a criminal she takes him to hide out in her flat.

Chief and Thompson are working late, trying to solve what they’re calling the Stark case. Chief thinks talking to a guy called Mueller, who led a Nazi regiment during the Battle of Finow in the Second World War. Mueller is due to be executed in just a couple of days. Both Leet Brannis and Sasha Demidov supposedly died in Finow, yet have turned up in New York, and all records about the battle are redacted. Since no one else can help, Chief is willing to talk to a Nazi for information, and heads to Germany.

“Are you familiar with the id and the ego?”

Howard is off to Rio in three days and wants to find out which of his inventions the SSR has so far discovered. It’s still not clear why he’s back himself to do this. Could this have something to do with the that strange phone conversation he and Jarvis had way back at the end of episode one?

At the SSR, Thompson is in charge while Chief is away. Joy. He’s determined to make his mark, and tells everyone that they’re not going home until they make headway in finding who killed Krzeminski. He’s power hungry, and it’s Sousa, rather than Peggy, who sums up the new Thompson by nicknaming him Commandant Thompson.

Sousa wants to see if he can get any fingerprints from the phone used to call in the tip about Howard’s inventions, which makes Peggy nervous, or Marge, as Thompson calls her when he tells her to start taking the lunch orders. Ugh. Surprisingly, Peggy doesn’t argue with Thompson, rolling her eyes and then using her task to head down to the lab and find out which of Howard’s inventions are in the SSR’s possession, taking photos of everything in the lab with Howard’s camera pen.

“Howard Stark is either an ignoramus or a genius.”

At the docks, Sousa bumps in to a couple of homeless guys and decides to ask them if they saw anything. One thing I like about Sousa is that he’s not afraid of ‘real’ police work, knowing that asking questions, observing and gathering information will lead him to the right places. One of the homeless guys, Frank, clearly knows something but doesn’t want to tell. When he tries to punch Sousa, he’s knocked to the floor and arrested. Go Sousa!

The two thugs from earlier on are now with their boss, a creepy looking white haired bloke – Mr Mink – who is not happy that they were conned by Howard and bested by a woman. Mink kills the men, but not before saying that he’ll take care of Howard, Jarvis and Peggy.

Howard and Peggy are developing the pictures she took earlier at the SSR – using Peggy’s bathroom as a darkroom. The dark room and red lighting call to mind a nightclub, or somewhere a little more sleazy that Howard might frequent, but I love the way that the writers of Agent Carter choose not to make this scene sexy. Instead, Howard is slightly sleezy and mostly harmless (as usual), Peggy is frustrated, and the mood is of two siblings who can just about tolerate each other.

“They’re clapping because I make them feel guilty.”

At the SSR, Sousa is questioning Frank, who is also a veteran. Sousa can’t get through to Frank, much to Thompson’s delight, since Thompson wants Sousa to give up. Don’t!

Through the photos Peggy took, Howard realises the SSR has all his inventions, but he wants Peggy to steal one back. It’s a device which can cause a citywide blackout, and he invented it so the Allies could avoid German bombers. Howard is afraid that the device – the Blitzkrieg Button – will be used in New York, and since he can’t work out how to reverse its effects, that’s not good. He’s the only one who can diffuse the device, and wants Peggy to swap a mock up of the device with the real thing. 

“Not everyone came back from the war wanting a hug.”

Peggy and Jarvis head out, presumably to the SSR lab, unknowingly followed by Mink. At the SSR itself Sousa is having another go at questioning Frank when Thompson walks in with a bag of food and proceeds to start eating and drinking. Thompson is awful, but he also knows the way to a man’s secrets – via food. It takes Frank about 10 seconds to crack and reveal he saw a man in a suit and a smart looking woman at the docks just before the police turned up.

In Germany, Chief is face to face with Mueller, and promises him that if he reveals what happened in the Battle of Finow, he’ll help Mueller escape.

This is an episode where there are many men with secrets, and in this short sequence the third man keeping information to himself is Jarvis. I think he’s nervous, but not because Peggy is about to steal the Blitzkrieg button, I think he’s nervous because he’s lying to Peggy about something, possibly Howard’s real motives. Peggy is obviously suspicious, and knows that when Jarvis tugs his ear it’s a tell that he’s lying.

Chief has cyanide tablets hidden in his watch, and is willing to give them to Mueller in exchange for information. I’m glad to see that Chief wasn’t offering to help Mueller really escape – the guy might not treat Peggy right but thankfully he’s not so bad that he’ll let a Nazi war criminal escape in exchange for some information. Mueller wants to die on his terms, so he spills – there was no Battle of Finow. What? “No German fought any Russian at Finow,” says Mueller. “What we found can only be described as a massacre… Bodies piled high and ripped apart. Whoever attacked them was long gone.” No one died by German hands at Finow. What does that mean? Is Mueller saying that the Allies killed their own side at Finow?

Thompson, and I can’t believe I’m about to say this, is being genuine and nice to Sousa, praising him for sniffing out a witness no one else caught. Sousa isn’t as happy with himself, thinking his information is not useful at all, despite Thompson’s comforting words.

“You’re trying to hide something Peggy, and the only one you’re fooling is yourself.”

Peggy sneaks into the lab and swaps the fake Blitzkrieg Button for the real one. Instead of heading straight back to Jarvis though, she presses the Blitzkrieg Button. No lights go out, but it does pop open, revealing a tiny vial of a red substance that looks suspiciously like blood. On her way out Peggy slips into a side room to avoid being seen by colleagues, only to find Thompson is in that room. I think it’s the first time we’ve seen these two truly alone, and while they don’t exactly have a heart to heart, we do see them being honest with each other. Thompson is confused as to what Peggy gets out of her role at the SSR, and Peggy doesn’t hide her dissatisfaction with Thompson. 

And then Thompson starts banging on about the natural order of the universe, and how no man will ever consider Peggy an equal. “It’s sad, but it doesn’t make it any less true,” he says. I really want to hate Thompson for it, but he’s a product of him time and place, and I think he’s not saying it to hurt Peggy but to help her. He fails on both fronts. 

Mink watches as Peggy heads back to her flat, where she confronts Howard, asking him what is in the vial she found in the Blitzkrieg Button. He tries to avoid the question, and then tells her that she knows. She denies it, and I can understand why, because I think I know what it is and that breaks my heart. I think it’s Steve Rogers’ blood. And it is.

So Peggy slaps Howard.

“I know how much Steve meant to you because I know how much he meant to me.”

And goodness, this is painful. Seeing Peggy so visibly hurt is awful, and it’s difficult to blame Howard because he’s upset too. Peggy’s not just upset about Steve, she’s upset that Howard broke her trust, and Howard is unapologetic because he knows what it’s like to have to work your way up, and lying is part of that. 

The government has almost used up its supply of Steve’s blood (presumably trying to recreate the super serum) and Howard thinks if they get hold of his vial, they’ll never give it back. The sample, SR53, holds the key to vaccinations and more, says Howard. “Steve Rogers may not be with us, but he can still save millions of people,” he tells Peggy. Hurt, Peggy isn’t willing to see Howard’s motives as anything other than selfish – he’ll make lots of money from anything he invents using Steve’s blood. And then Peggy storms out, telling Howard to get lost.

This fight hurt.

I’d forgotten about Mink in the angst that was Howard and Peggy, but he hasn’t forgotten about them, and breaks into the building where Peggy lives, encountering Dottie (Peggy’s new suspiciously perfect housemate) in the hallway. When Mink pulls a gun on Dottie, she doesn’t scream, instead asking if the pistol is automatic. And then her face goes sort of blank, and she leaps at Mink, getting her legs around his neck and twisting it before throwing it to the ground.

I’d like to pause here to say I told you so. Dottie is definitely a Russian agent. There is one place we’ve seen a move like that before and it’s from Natasha Romanov. Dottie is definitely on of Black Widow’s “ancestors”.

“I can trust the actions of men who don’t respect me more than those who do.”

The next day, Jarvis approaches Peggy, but Peggy is not willing to forgive him or Howard so quickly. Jarvis, snubbed by Peggy, tells Howard he’s genuinely hurt. I think Jarvis found a friend in Peggy and losing affects him more than he thought it would. Howard is also clearly feeling the loss of Peggy. Don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, huh, Howard?

Peggy hands out the lunch orders at the SSR while Sousa examines the Stark board, pulling off the picture of a blond Peggy in the club and colouring the hair dark to see if that’ll help him.

Chief is back, and makes a comment that makes me think the cyanide he gave Mueller was fake (“he should be two inches taller”), proving that actually Chief is a decent guy. In more good news for the Chief, Thompson has found out that Howard visited Finow the day after the so-called Battle of Finow

At home Peggy puts on some loud music and takes a hammer to her wall, creating a hiding place for the Blitzkrieg Button and Steve’s blood. Next door Dottie admires her new gun while Mink’s body lies under the bed, and in the city Chief, while examining the files in his office, sees the typewriter belonging to Creepy Guy Two start receiving a message. 

Marvel Musings

-“Are you kidding? Carole once put a whole chicken down her sweater.” The women Peggy lives with continue to be a source of amusement and delight, particularly Angie, who I adore.

-Four episodes in and there’s Stan Lee, doing his “acting” thing. I’d almost forgotten he’d be around.

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