Howard Stark returns, and he's got a big secret.

By Joshua Rivera
January 28, 2015 at 05:16 AM EST
Matt Kennedy/ABC
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Now that we’re at Agent Carter‘s halfway point, it’s hard not to wonder: What’s the endgame? While plenty of interesting things happened in this episode, it doesn’t seem to be building toward any particularly clear big picture, or at least not in the way you’d think a show with only four episodes left would. There’s a very real lack of momentum and urgency that seems an awful like a leak in Agent Carter‘s gas tank, sapping away the energy from what would otherwise be a pretty fantastic television show.

Luckily for Agent Carter, this week’s return of Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark does a little bit to make up for said lack of momentum, turning what could have been rather annoying into a mere mild concern.

Howard, you see, is back in town because he needs Peggy to covertly take stock of all his stolen tech that she found in the last episode, with the help of his high-tech camera pen. But that’s not the real reason, as Peggy finds out when she goes over the film with Stark—see, now that he knows S.S.R. has all of his tech, he needs her to steal something back.

He calls it The Blitzkrieg Button, and he says it’ll wipe out the city’s power grid if it’s used, with no way to bring it back online. Stark asks Carter to replace it with a dummy version, and to bring the real one back to him. Of course, Stark is lying about the Button—Peggy, because she’s suspicious of a man who takes every possible opportunity to cavort around with her hallmates when she’s not with him, and because Jarvis is a terrible liar, decides to do something crazy when she lifts the Button from S.S.R. HQ. She presses it.

Turns out it’s not a button at all, but a device for holding a vial of blood. Steve Rogers’ blood. You know, Captain America?

This, naturally, infuriates Peggy—she believes that Stark, with his self-absorbed profiteering, can’t possibly be up to any good with Steve Rogers’ blood. Stark tries to convince her that he just wants to do right by their presumed-dead superhero friend, but she’s not having it—ultimately deciding to keep the vial herself.

While all this is going on, a few smaller subplots unfold, each with the potential to make life a bit more complicated for Agent Carter in the near future. First, Agent Dooley leaves for Germany to interrogate one Ernst Mueller, a German colonel about to hang for his war crimes. Dooley’s interested in him because he was at Fennel, the battle that left hundreds of soldiers dead—including the two Leviathan agents who were inexplicably running around causing trouble in the first two episodes. Mueller tells Dooley that there was no battle—something massacred everyone and disappeared without a trace.

NEXT: Murder at Griffith’s!

Meanwhile, Agent Sousa continues to get disrespected by Thompson while he chases down a lead of his own—a homeless drunk whom he believes witnessed what happened at the docks when Jarvis and Carter called in the stolen Stark tech.

I actually really like Sousa’s story here—while not a lot happens, it finally gives Enver Gjokaj room to actually act a bit, which is quite nice. Agent Sousa, like Peggy Carter, will never get his due from his S.S.R. colleagues—Agent Thompson spends most of the episode haranguing him for what he believes is a waste of time—but he’s one of the best men they have, and when Thompson crashes his interrogation to taunt the homeless man with a burger and booze, Sousa learns that a brown-haired woman was at the dock that night. After Thompson acknowledges Sousa’s instincts—Sousa makes the leap that might have him figuring out Peggy’s secret very soon—what if that blonde they snapped a photo of at Spider’s party and the brunette the homeless man referred to were the same person?

Finally, the crooks who helped Jarvis smuggle Stark back into New York want to shake him down for more money—which doesn’t work because Peggy is there to keep them in line (read: beat them up). This, however, sends their boss after them, Mr. Mink—a well dressed assassin with a high-tech, fully automatic revolver. He stalks Peggy throughout the episode, but is suddenly—shockingly—taken out by the Griffith’s newest resident, Dottie Underwood.

I totally called this, by the way.

And in one final, ominous scene, Agent Dooley, returned from Germany, stands alone in the S.S.R. office late at night as the mysterious Fringe-like typewriter suddenly springs to life.

NOTES

– This is the episode with the giant Stan Lee cameo. It was a pretty good one.

– Handicapped or not, Sousa can TAKE A GUY DOWN.

– Who do we think Dottie is? Is she a Leviathan agent? Hydra? Something else? Will she be the Faith to Peggy’s Buffy?

– That scene with Thompson and Carter in the interrogation room where he asks her why she puts up with doing all the demeaning busy work for them didn’t really work for me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because it just pales in comparison to the scene where Peggy finally tells Howard off for hiding everything from her after she’s been running on covert errands for him. I do enjoy the central struggle at the heart of both scenes though, and the way Atwell portrays the immense fortitude and determination necessary to do anything meaningful in a system set up to keep her from participating in any real way.

– Do you think we’re building toward a Sousa/Carter team-up? I think we are.

NEXT WEEK: THE HOWLING COMMANDOS ARE BACK, Y’ALL.

Marvel’s second TV series on ABC tracks the exploits of Agent Peggy Carter, played by Hayley Atwell, last seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
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