‘Agent Carter’ Review: “Snafu”
As far as penultimate episodes go, Agent Carter does a fairly fine job of setting up the more climactic action of next week's finale, while also managing to land a couple of blows. Peggy has to sit most of the action out this week as Ivchenko's plans begin to take shape, and although he's not the greatest villain, the unnerving qualities of the Russian doctor's ploy are undeniable.
I've a feeling that next week's finale will largely focus on big reveals and action set pieces, which is why there seemed to be some resolution to the show's mediations on sexism in "Snafu" (not that sexism is, like, solved now). As Peggy gracefully expresses in the interrogation room, she is only what her male colleagues have made of her in their minds, some poor female archetype; either the damsel in distress or the manipulative vixen. Later, when she reveals Howard's forged confession and what she's been up to this entire time, the men react with disbelief: how could this woman agent manage to do all of this without them knowing? It's impossible, surely, because she has a feeble woman brain or something.
Peggy fires back, punctuating her earlier sentiment: she didn't tell them before because they never listen, and she got away with it because they never pay her any mind unless she's carrying coffee, folders or food. While this is a more direct form of misogyny, we see the clever inverse with Dottie. After following Peggy's lead, several of the SSR's men encounter the Black Widow agent, and each one hesitates to pull the trigger or harm her in anyway. This is merely a more dressed-up form of the same sexism directed toward Peggy in the office, and what it boils down to is a lack of respect. These men underestimate Dottie and their awful instinct is to believe that she's incapable of actually hurting them or being some criminal mastermind. Here's real equality at work on Agent Carter: women are more than capable of being either a hero or a villain, and it takes just as much skill and intellect to pull either of those off.
Mostly, "Snafu" is a lot of build-up to the finale, as most penultimate episodes are, and it feels like it's ticking off some boxes or doing a little last minute maneuvering and tidying-up before the ball really gets rolling. Right now, the show's biggest weakness is Ivchenko, who comes off as a slightly retro, cartoonish villain — a little too close to caricature for my liking. The intrigue of his mysterious hypnotizing power is dampened only by the redundant drone of "Focus...focus...focus..." (Maybe he's seen the future and is pretty pumped about that new Will Smith and Margot Robbie joint. I dunno.)
Even with the slightly off-kilter characterization of Ivchenko, the unnerving power of his misdeeds is undeniable. From last week's suicide suggestion (and follow-through, sadly) to strapping Dooley into an explosive Stark prototype, Ivchenko's plans are nothing less than horrific, making him feel like a real terrorist threat. Ultimately, someone else had to die for the sake of momentum and creating a sense of urgency as we head into the finale. That someone was Chief Dooley, who launches himself out of the SSR's upper-floor window, saving everyone from what is, essentially, his imposed-suicide vest.
But he doesn't leave without not only accepting Agent Carter, but respecting her, bidding her farewell with an "Atta girl" and making Peggy — note that it's specifically Peggy — promise to get the bastards that did this to not just him, but the whole SSR. Looks like next week we'll get a real showdown between Peggy and Dottie (or whatever her name really is), and Howard Stark will finally return. (Jarvis voice) Although, I must say, I am terribly enjoying Peggy and Jarvis' little adventures. (Puts down cup of tea.)
- Sousa comes across the dentist's office where Dottie had set up shop, and there's this eerie predatory vibe to it, with the flies buzzing around the dead man's bloody (but covered; this is ABC) head. It's as if he's stumbled across a dangerous predator's nest, and I really enjoy the symbolism there.
- Is it just me, or did Dooley look like a Pop-Tart stuffed in a classic toaster oven? Pop-Tart cosplay.
- Peggy tries to grasp for the right words to explain why she kept Steve's blood in a very effective but subtle moment. The way she almost cries but doesn't is more heartbreaking than if she were to actually break. Respect, Peggy.
- While I enjoy the Iron Man connection with Ivchenko, I'm still just not sold on him in this series. As a function, he's great. As a character, I wonder when he's going to twirl his cartoon mustache.