Agent Carter goes from star of the SSR to Public Enemy No. 1 - but what comic and literary connections were there this week?
This seemed like a decent episode, even if it lacked new revelations or many Marvel references. Considering this seemed to mark the biggest turning point in the series so far (with Peggy going from unnoticed to respected to reviled all since last episode), it probably could've used more oomph.
Spoiler-light recap: Riding high on last-episode's success, Peggy is finally allowed to officially investigate on her own - but if all her previous double-agent work comes to light, will it be her last investigation?
The episode opens with a supposed flashback to Dr. Ivchenko's indoctrination into Leviathan by a Russian military leader called Fyodor. The whole flashback seems rather specious, but despite the theory presented by some that any flashback scene fully acted out must be the actual truth, there is more to Dr. Ivchenko than he's letting on (more on him in a bit). Given his position in a secretive part of the Soviet government managing potential Super Soldiers (like Black Widow), Fyodor may be based on Colonel-General Fyodor Shelkov, who managed the Supreme Soviets for a while.
If Fyodor isn't Col. Gen. Shelkov, there is a robot based on The Brothers Karamazov writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky that is living in a small Midwestern town alongside robotic dupilicates of dozens of other great writers because - well because comics. Sometimes you don't really need a reason to know that a robotic Mark Twain and robotic William Shakespeare get to hang out in modern America completely unnoticed by society.
If Fyodor is named after Dostoyevsky, this is the first of several literary references in this episode.
Ivchenko rightly points out that women are often overlooked, so would make for excellent spies (especially in the overly sexist 1940s, it seems), and after some prodding from Peggy, Chief Dooley seems to agree, even acknowledging that Howard Stark may not be the prime suspect anymore. Peggy notes that the assassin, probably a woman of Russian origin thanks to evidence suggesting Agent Krzeminski was shot with a Korovin TK, and the circumstantial evidence of the little-girl-murder-school the Howling Commandos discovered in the Soviet Union.
With Dooley's blessing, Peggy follows her lead by having a not-so-secret meeting with Jarvis. It's funny that for being one of the top spies of her era, Peggy's not so great at subtly, given that she meets the same guy, in the same two booths, and talks in the same way (while glancing at him periodically). Even Angie can tell what's up. Speaking of Angie, the budding young actress is reciting lines from A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, a play which appropriately enough is known for spotlighting the independence of women in a male-dominated society. She's cheered in her efforts by a customer called Esther. Angie also had to get a new set of keys for Peggy, after Dottie stole the last set from under her nose last episode.
Peggy and Jarvis agree that a female assassin is likely as Howard Stark's weaknesses are "women and raspberry truffles." The problem is so pervasive that Howard has a "Stark Special" bracelet ready for any young ladies that come a-calling. Checking the list of recent "Stark Special" recipients, there is actress Ginger Rogers (who put fear in Jarvis), and several not-so-famous ladies, like Kim Walker, Esther Robinson, Thelma Crawford, Hanna Brown, and numerous others. While the names don't stand out as significant to Marvel, Kim Walker calls to mind one of Marvel's most popular comics in 1946, Patsy Walker. Of course, the MCU version of Patsy will be showing up soon in AKA Jessica Jones on Netflix. Also interesting is that one woman has the last name Ross, but her first is covered by Peggy's thumb. A nod to Peggy's 1940s inspiration, Betty Ross maybe? During their search - which ends with many slaps and other attacks on Jarvis by Howard's jilted lovers - Peggy near-quotes Shakespeare's Henry V with her "into the breach" comment.
The last on their list is Ida Emke, a dancer who mysteriously disappeared after her dalliance with Howard. Seeing evidence of handcuffs and cloak and dagger activity, Peggy rightly guesses she's the assassin (but does not connect her to Dottie). Jarvis, meanwhile, has a run-in with a disturbing boy with a lollipop. Intentional or not, this calls to mind Herbie Popnecker, aka The Fat Fury. If you've never heard of Herbie, do yourself a favor and seek out some of his comics - they were ahead of their time with irreverent satire, deconstructing the comic book medium at a time when Superman was still juggling planets non-ironically.
Dottie, meanwhile, visits Dr. Seth Honicky's dentistry office across from the SSR's front. Dr. Seth tries to take advantage of her, but she quickly puts him out of everyone's misery in a scene somewhat reminiscent of the original Marathon Man. She quickly sets up her sniper rifle and aims for Dooley's office, only to find Dr. Ivchenko expecting her. On the topic of creepy dentists though, did you know Dr. Doom has an American cousin who operates an evil dental clinic in Connecticut? Now you do!
Ivchenko, meanwhile, is doing his darnedest to manipulate every man in the SSR while flat out telling them this is what he does! He tells them he works for Leviathan, he tells them Leviathan demands murderous loyalty, he tells them he can analyze and manipulate anyone - and they continue to listen to him! It helps that he has some sort or ring that emits a strange sound, facilitating his brainwashing techniques. We learn that Dooley's wife Loretta cheated on him while he fought overseas, and that Ivchenko has ordered Dottie to kill Peggy while he continues searching for the "item" (whatever that is). There's no shortage of Marvel hypnotists who can brainwash people like Ivchenko does (he may even be the source of the "Faustus Method" from Agents of SHIELD), but the emphasis on the ring seems like a callback to comics-staple the Ringmaster, who has used a hat, contact lenses and in 2005's Marvel Team-Up, a ring, to manipulate others.
It's also possible the ring could be an allusion to the Mandarin, or even the Ten Rings from the Iron Man films. Sure, Iron Man 3 did a great job of tearing down the Mandarin mythos, but the "All Hail the King" One-Shot planted doubt in that story, suggesting there really could be a ringed villain behind it all. If so, why couldn't this be one of the Ten Rings?
When his attempt to brainwash Dooley is interrupted, Ivchenko turns his attention to the submissive Yauch, who has been wandering in and out of the background for a while now. Despite Yauch's initial misgivings about Ivchenko, the agent soon falls under the evil doctor's sway. Yauch gives Ivchenko all the info he can before following orders to go to his favorite bar (the aptly named Filth's Pub), drink the best bourbon they have, and kill himself. Agent Yauch, we hardly knew ye.
Agent Sousa, meanwhile, visited Sheldon McFee (from the premier) in prison. He offers the attempted terrorist conspirator a more lenient sentence (is this something Sousa can deliver?) in exchange for identifying Peggy, which McFee does. Taking his evidence to Dooley, the whole SSR turns out to capture Peggy. When she notices agents Messner and Reese following Procedure 791 to arrest her, she and Jarvis fight their way out of the L & L Automat. They intend to rendezvous at the Dublin House, but first she has to beat up Agent Thompson, emasculate Agent Sousa, and sneak into the Griffith to collect Cap's blood.
Peggy is momentarily saved thanks to the acting ingenuity of her friend Angie, who cries crocodile tears and gets Thompson to open up about his Gam-Gam before using some Doll's House lines to get the SSR men to leave (not a second too soon for Griffith boss Miriam Fry). Peggy almost gets away with it, but the blood-thirsty Dottie stops her, kissing her on the lips with 102 Sweet Dreams, Peggy's knock-out lipstick. Before Dottie can do the deed, however, the SSR boys spot them and arrest Peggy, never realizing Dottie's true intentions.
Now the SSR have Peggy under lock and key, they have Cap's blood, and they have a Leviathian spy in their midst - can't wait for next week!
This week added special thanks to Fritz Heinze, Otto Nemenz, and Joe Ball. I have no idea who they are. Anyone have a clue?
If you haven't already checked it out, chime in on who you think Peggy will end up with (if he even is someone from this series).