Director: Peter Leto
Writer: Jose Molina
Cast: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj, Shea Whigham, Kyle Bornheimer, Lyndsy Fonseca
Synopsis: Peggy is able to decode the mysterious message received by the Leviathan typewriter, and almost being placed right back behind her desk calls in a favour from ‘Dum Dum’ Dugan of The Howling Commandos. Thompson sees Peggy’s real potential enough to trust in her a dark secret of his own. Dooley realises that not everything is as it seems and that Peggy’s fondness towards Stark’s innocence might actually prove true, and Sousa is closing in on Peggy in his (wo)manhunt.
Verdict: Holy crackerjack, this is a fantastic episode. We get answers to questions that we’ve been asking all season, and we’ve even got answers for questions we haven’t asked. The dramatic tension, romantic subplot and to be totally honest, the ACTUAL plot have all developed incredibly well, but nothing is ever perfect. If this week gives us what we want, next week, it’s going to take it away, I’m sure of it. As a side note, one of the best bits was easily Carter calling Stark a wanker.
Heavy spoilers ahead, beware!
Firstly, let’s begin by addressing the fact that this episode is perhaps the best of the series thus far, and with that in mind has forced me to re-evaluate the scale on which the episodes are judged. It opens with an answer to a question we didn’t even know would be answered in Agent Carter, but fans of the comics might recognise the Soviet training ground called the Red Room. This is where little girls are chained to their beds by night, brainwashed by day, to become assassins, or more specifically… Black Widows. Yes, yes you heard me right, Black Widows (see below). This is where our favourite Russian ballerina was trained as a child. This is the backdoor origin story to Black Widow right here, guys. We also find out that this is where Dottie originates and finally, things are starting to come together. With her background in mind, we can safely assume that Dottie is the hooded killer of Krzeminski.
Moving on, we FINALLY get to see Peggy take the reins and frankly, it’s everything we expected and more. Molina has done something great with the building blocks this episode, and it becomes increasingly prominent throughout. Peggy establishes herself as the smartest person in the room by cracking the Leviathan code, which – though initially seems convenient as a character development tool – is wholly justified by the impressive resumé she lists off. This is it, the seed starting to sprout in a garden full of weeds. Peggy is – and deservedly, but respectfully so – outshining the other agents and despite being reminded by Jarvis at the beginning of the episode that her colleagues won’t respect her (just in case anyone missed Thompson saying it last week), she does earn their respect… eventually, but not before Dooley lets it slip that Thompson has a bit of a thing for Carter and goes chasing after some Stark leads. Woops.
It’s time to reintroduce (and you should be excited about this) The Howling Commandos, old friends of Peggy’s who helped her during the war. Obviously we see this tough-loving regiment fight in CAPTAIN AMERICA, so you’ll recognise a few of them. With the 107th on-board, our S.S.R. agents delve into the Soviet training base we mentioned earlier. It’s here they locate a lone girl, who proves that she is far deadlier than she leads you to believe.
Comic-fans might place some significance on the conversations the 107th have around the campfire, with Jonathan “Junior” Juniper informing everyone that he met a yeti in Tibet. Of course, the rest of the 107th laugh it off, but in actual fact, it was likely that Junior met the inhuman – aptly named Yeti, due to his abominable appearance – who was born in the Himalayas. So we’ve already had references to two different active members of varying groups in the MCU, now that we know the Inhumans are lurking from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Meanwhile, back in New York, Dottie (revealed to be a product of the same training site as earlier) breaks into Peggy’s apartment and finds the photos she took of the inventory of Stark’s weapons, and decides to a) take one of said photos and b) pretend, if only for a moment, to pretend to be our favourite female Brit. What are you up to Dottie, who are you reporting to? The Russians?
Back in Russia, Carter and her team encounter a couple of scientists (the troubled scientist named Nikola and his apparent psychiatrist Dr. Ivchenko) who give us – and them – a brief schooling in the basic properties of light. After freeing them and a brief, deadly standoff thanks to ol’ Nikola over here, Ivchenko agrees to help the S.S.R in any way they can after shooting Nikola dead. On the journey home, we and Carter learn Thompson’s war hero story, in which he supposedly saved his Naval unit from Japanese assassins on Tsuken Island in 1945. The secret he has been keeping however, is that he shot surrendering Japanese troops and it’s tearing him apart inside. Peggy understands and as a result accepts him, regardless and by the end of the episode, Thompson invites her to drinks with the guys and it seems their relationship is starting to form something that isn’t just sexism and wit, a pleasure to see.
Dooley decides to jump in on the sharing bandwagon and decides to let Carter know that she did a great job (which she did, it was pretty great, didn’t you see it?). What is most refreshing is that Dooley seems to have eased off his personal vendetta against Stark and, with an open mind, sought out his own leads. In doing so, he encounters an old reporter friend (played rather fantastically by John Glover) about how Stark isn’t as guilty as he seems and someone wants him to be a patsy.
By the end of the episode, with all this great action, suspense and plot progression, something’s gotta give. Then it became obvious. ‘The Iron Ceiling’ is Agent Carter reaching the peak of rising action, in terms of storytelling at least, and the next episode… That’s the fall right there. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m sure I’m not. Most likely it’ll come in the form of Sousa presenting some evidence that incriminates Carter. You better watch out Peggy, he’s right on your tail.
(5/5) The next episode will air on February 10th for the US 9/8c, as always, UK watches may want to consider streaming online. The official site for Agent Carter can be found here.