One of the things that was really refreshing about Agent Carter's first few episodes was the fact that her male colleagues at the S.S.R. were sexist and myopic... but they were actually pretty competent in other ways. But no more. The men of the S.S.R. made some fatal errors in the past few episodes, and it cost them.
In last night's aptly-named "Snafu," the S.S.R. has found out about Peggy Carter's clandestine investigations, and they've hauled her into custody. But while they're trying to crack Peggy, the real villains, Ivchenko and Dottie Underwood, are communicating in secret and hatching plans to get hold of one of Howard Stark's deadliest inventions.
In retrospect, the introduction of Dr. Ivchenko's magical hypno powers was a huge turning point for Agent Carter, since he seems to be able to get inside almost anybody's head and make them do whatever he wants. It's cute and makes him a formidable villain, but it also makes the S.S.R. seem a bit sloppy that they let him hypnotize both Yauch and Dooley — nobody even notices after Yauch, who's left guarding Ivchenko, goes off to a bar and then gets himself run over.
The upside of all this is that Sousa, at least, comes off looking pretty savvy — he's assembled a pretty impressive stockpile of evidence of Carter's guilt, including the guy who saw her at the docks, the photograph from the nightclub, and the guy whom Peggy cuffed to a chair.
Still, in the end, Peggy has Dooley, Sousa and Jack dead to rights, explaining to each of them how they haven't really seen her at all. Dooley's only seen her as a kitten left on his doorstep, Jack's seen her as a secretary, and Sousa put her on a pedestal. And then she rightly points out their "shoddy police work," both in going after Howard Stark based on flimsy evidence, and in arresting her instead of Dottie the Russian mole:
Just as Peggy is starting to explain to the S.S.R. men what idiots they are, Jarvis shows up with a confession ostensibly written by Howard Stark — but actually written by Jarvis himself, who "panicked." Jarvis tries to convince the S.S.R. folks that Stark will deliver his signature on the last page of the confession (and himself) once Jarvis and Peggy are free — but he hasn't thought things through. Once Stark fails to appear, Jarvis and Peggy will only be in worse straits.
And that's when Peggy sees Ivchenko setting his plan in motion.
But the worst is yet to come, because Ivchenko is still active while Peggy is cooling her heels. He uses morse code to send a signal to Dottie, who's chilling in the dentist's office next to the fly-infested corpse of the dentist, telling her to be ready for an extraction in 90 minutes.
In retrospect, the message the S.S.R. received on that magic typewriter telegraph was obviously intended to lure them to that Leviathan facility, where they found Ivchenko as a "prisoner." That allowed Ivchenko to gain their confidence so they'd bring him back to their HQ, and he could manipulate them into handing over the lost Stark invention.
So Peggy has no choice but to do what she probably should have done way sooner — open up to Dooley, Jack and Sousa, telling them the whole story. What's nice is that as soon as she explains, Daniel Sousa and Jack Thompson both start to believe her. Especially after she produces the stolen vial of Captain America's blood:
How did she go behind their backs and do her own investigation, Dooley asks. And why didn't she confide in anyone?, Sousa adds. She finally makes them understand how much they've overlooked and underestimated her, while she was running rings around them in secret. You can see the first glimmerings of respect finally starting to appear.
Peggy finally wins back enough trust that Jack and Sousa go with some men to search the building where Dottie was hiding and communicating with Ivchenko in secret. And Sousa ignores Jack's advice to shoot first and ask questions afterwards, leading to an acrobatic escape on Dottie's part:
And meanwhile, Dooley is foolish enough to leave himself alone with Ivchenko, who immediately starts putting Dooley in a trance again, using Dooley's regrets over ignoring his wife and kids.
A handy flashback at the start of the episode underscores how powerful Ivchenko's hypno powers are — back in 1943, he was able to hypnotize a man into living inside his last day with his mother before going to war, playing chess with her. And this memory was so vivid, the man didn't even notice his leg was being sawn off.
So even though Dooley tries to resist Ivchenko's control a couple times, he still does the man's bidding — locking up Peggy and Jarvis, fetching a nasty Stark invention from the lab, and putting on a prototype armor vest, made of some Stark-invented alloy. The vest is supposed to keep you warm in the middle of a frozen wasteland, but it's unstable — so Dooley has no choice but to toss himself out the window before he explodes.
The sad thing is, Dooley believes he's gone home early to see his wife and kids, and it almost looks real enough for a moment despite the telltale soft focus. Dooley's last words are to Carter, making her promise to get the sonofabitch.
And then in the episode's kicker, we see the stolen Stark invention in operation, thanks to a baby carriage that Dottie bought earlier in the episode. The invention is left inside a movie theater, with a bunch of people locked inside — and it basically does the same thing as a villainous device in a certain movie that's too recent to mention, for fear of spoilers. Basically, it makes everybody in the theater turn on each other and attack each other — before they die either of their wounds or of some kind of contamination.
I have to admit, Leviathan seemed a bit more formidable when it was a shadowy organization made up of all men whose voiceboxes had been removed. Now it seems as though the villains, at least for this season, are down to Dottie and Ivchenko, and the rest of Leviathan is going to remain in the shadows. Let's hope, though, that we get some more insights into the big mysteries. Like, what exactly happened at the "Battle" of Finow? Why did Leet Brannis and the other guy have their voiceboxes taken out? What was Leviathan planning to do with those implosive devices in the first two episodes, and what's their connection to Roxxon?
But even if some of those questions are left open for season two — and let's hope we get one — I'm still excited to see how this ends next week. Especially now that all of Carter's secrets are out, and her coworkers have finally realized — a little too late — that she's by far the competent person they've got.