In Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye, an award-winning comic book you all should have read by now, Clint Barton has a catch phrase. Almost every issue starts with it: “Okay. This looks bad.”
Peggy Carter can relate.
At the start of “Snafu,” S.S.R. is pretty much completely compromised and they don’t even realize it. The villainous Dr. Ivchenko has this weird-as-hell hypnotic power over anyone he talks to, and has Chief Dooley completely under his sway. Meanwhile, the one person who might be able to put everything together—Agent Peggy Carter—is in custody, suspected of being a double agent (kind of true) working for Leviathan (not true at all). Then there’s Dottie—who actually is an evil Leviathan agent, wandering around as if she’s just a harmless young woman trying to make it in the big city like the rest of us except with more ruthless murdering.
Yeah, I’d say “Snafu” is a pretty appropriate title, especially after this episode.
It starts with a little bit of background detail about our mysterious Doctor Ivchenko. Last week, I failed to ask the obvious question—is he actually a classic Marvel villain making his TV debut?—and this week’s very first scene totally hits you over the head with that question if you’re an airhead like me and forgot to ask it.
We’re in Russia, in 1943, and Ivchenko is in the Russian Army, reading The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus—which is as close as you can get to setting off an aircraft carrier full of fireworks to write in the sky that DOCTOR FAUSTUS IS THIS MAN’S SUPER VILLAIN NAME. For the uninitiated, Doctor Faustus is a Captain America villain who, like Ivchenko, used hypnotic suggestion to get his way—and convince people who stood in the way of that to commit suicide.
However, his techniques, used on the field that day for the first time, have a noble purpose—he’s able to get a young man completely under his spell, receding deep enough within his own memories that the field medic can amputate his limb without feeling it.
This is a huge problem in the present, because Ivchenko has attached himself to Chief Dooley’s side, even sitting in and observing while Thompson, Sousa, and Dooley take turns interrogating Carter, refusing to believe her when she holds that she’s not working for the enemy.
In fact, Peggy Carter pretty much goes HAM on these guys, ripping them a new one for not giving her a second thought and then acting surprised when she says she’s been able to conduct her own investigation into Leviathan and Stark while they weren’t looking. She also tells them that there’s one person they should be looking for—Dottie Underwood, who’s currently buying a stroller for some creepy reason. We don’t know why yet. It’s one of those save-it-for-the-end things TV shows like to do. We’ve got a couple more of those coming.
NEXT: Jarvis takes on the S.S.R. [pagebreak]
At this point, you might feel like something is missing from this episode, and you’d be right up until the moment that something strolls in to the telephone switchboard office that S.S.R. pretends to be—Edwin Jarvis. Can I get a hell yeah?
Jarvis walks into the S.S.R. office but the ladies on the switchboard won’t drop the act until he goes Full Jarvis and says he has a signed confession from Howard Stark that he’s trying to deliver to Chief Dooley. Dooley, of course, doesn’t entirely trust it—he says Carter and Jarvis can only go after Stark shows up to turn himself in.
“I find you repulsive,” he adds to Jarvis, probably becoming the first person in history to say those words to James D’Arcy.
Peggy is also frustrated with Jarvis, but for very different reasons: She finds out he forged Stark’s confession.
“Have you ever been hanged, Mr. Jarvis?” she asks, before delivering one of the most subtly funny lines in the entire episode. “It’s quite unpleasant.”
Has anyone ever told you that Hayley Atwell is a force of nature? Maybe on this very website? No? Weird. She’s pretty baller. Agent Carter is pretty baller.
Carter and Jarvis then turn their attention to the one guy who doesn’t belong: Ivchenko. They notice him delivering Morse code messages to whomever can see him across the street—quite sloppy for a master spy, but I imagine you get cocky when your big party trick involves convincing people you don’t want around to jump in front of moving trucks. So Peggy decides to go all in, and tell the S.S.R. everything—why she worked for Stark, what she was up to… all so she could tell them what Ivchenko was up to.
They’re skeptical, but she has a trump card—she shows them Captain America’s blood. This fully convinces only Sousa, but that’s enough to get Dooley to send some agents across the street to see what’s there (and once they’re there, Thompson admits to Sousa that he believes Carter too).
NEXT: Then everything falls to pieces[pagebreak]
Sousa and the agents do find Dottie, but she hands their asses to them, killing most of the agents not named Thompson and Sousa while Dooley, unable to resist Ivchenko (who is still just chilling in Dooley’s office) is hypnotized into locking Jarvis and Carter in an interrogation room and kicking all the scientists out of the lab so he can find Stark’s Item No. 17. When it’s found (along with a top-secret vest thing), we’re not allowed to see what’s inside, because it’s another one of those end-of-the-episode things I told you about earlier in this recap (remember that? It’s been like, eight whole paragraphs. How have you been?! Remember to take a break if you’re feeling tired).
Dooley then lets the not-very-good Doctor escape with the Item, exchanging it for the vest. Across the street, Dottie has made it out of the building by dropping down the stairwell in a way that can only be described as “like whoa,” killing some dudes, and jacking a car for their sweet getaway. They mention an Evil Plan, and how they can’t pull it off yet because the Item needs to be tested first.
If this lovely pair don’t seem very concerned about the S.S.R., it’s for a pretty good reason—they’ve left them in quite the pickle. Turns out that vest was a Stark armor prototype, wired for thermal energy, yet unstable and totally ready to blow. And Dooley is now wearing it. Jarvis (who’s been let out of interrogation along with Peggy thanks to Thompson’s return) gives them the bad news: There’s no way to get it off without it blowing sky high.
Dooley, however, has a plan. He takes an agent’s gun, tells everyone to back away, and makes everyone promise to tell his wife that he loves her. And then he tells Carter, specifically, to make Ivchenko pay. He then runs full speed toward the window, firing rounds to break the glass, and dives out as the vest explodes over the Manhattan streets.
It’s a tragic death for Dooley, a character I’ve actually come to like over the past seven episodes, and one for whom “Snafu” goes out of its way to humanize by allowing us to see into the memories that Ivchenko uses to hypnotize him.
Oh, and those two things I told you we’d have to wait till the end of the episode for? Dottie rolls a stroller with Item 17 into a sparsely populated movie theater, then reaches in to open a valve. As a gaseous chemical enters that atmosphere, she covers her mouth, and bars the doors shut after exiting.
The patrons cough for a bit, and then start to beat each other to death.
Fun fact: ‘Snafu’ was written by Chris Dingess, who has a pretty great comic book called Manifest Destiny. It’s about the Lewis and Clark expedition, but with more plant zombies and buffalo minotaurs. I just started catching up on it, and it’s pretty grand.
Yet another fun tidbit: This episode’s finale will feel very familiar to those who saw Kingsman: The Secret Service last weekend.
NEXT WEEK: THE BIG FINISH.