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Before SHIELD: “Marvel’s Agent Carter”- Episode 5 “The Iron Ceiling”

Inspired by the films “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “Marvel’s Agent Carter” is a series created for ABC based on beloved Agent Peggy Carter. Our writer, DeShawn Blankenship recaps the mini-series each week, updating you with the very latest in his series, Before SHIELD.

Picture Credit: ABC/Marvel Studios

Picture Credit: ABC/Marvel Studios

Welcome back, Agents! Tonight’s episode, “The Iron Ceiling” is high on action and reveals the dark secret that one member of the SSR hides from his peers.We’re in the homestretch of the season and Peggy’s train picks up speed with each episode. Can she keep herself and her allies alive until the end with her enemies closing in? Let’s dig in and find out!

We begin in an orphanage where a group of young girls sleeps handcuffed to their beds. A woman arrives and frees them, and one of the girls shares her food with another. Next, the girls watch Snow White and recite the lines until they’re guided out to a courtyard for a one–on–one death match until Dottie wakes up from her dream of her past. She goes to meet Peggy at the diner for breakfast.

Dottie wants to see more of New York but Peggy isn’t really listening. She’s so distracted by Jarvis contacting her that she doesn’t notice when Dottie swipes the key to her apartment. We already know that Dottie is a stone–cold killer. I know it’s Peggy’s show, but I’m actually worried about her running up against the Proto Widow. Leaving the diner, Peggy encounters Jarvis, who tries to apologize for Howard. She’s still angry, though, and she lets Jarvis have it. She calls him Howard’s servant. Jarvis counters that she’s a glorified coffee girl and that the SSR men will never respect her. Peggy vows to make them respect her.

Arriving at work, Peggy finds the office buzzing over the Evil Typewriter coming to life in last week’s episode. She decodes the Russian message that stumped the professional codebreaker and reveals that it’s a set of coordinates leading to a weapons’ sale in two days…sold by Howard Stark. Chief Dooley tells Thompson to assemble a team and head to Belarus immediately. Peggy demands to go as she’s can decipher the code and speak Russian. Jack protests until Peggy offers to bring in the 107th Regiment, aka “The Howling Commandos”,  as back–up. One phone call later, she’s on the team. Dooley calls out Thompson for hazing Peggy so much when it’s clear he has a crush on her. Good on him for calling out Thompson. Souza was starting to look like the only decent guy in the SSR. I really hope he’s not a bad guy.

In the men’s locker room, Peggy changes while verbally sparring with Jack, Lee and Ramirez, the other members of the team. Jack tricks Souza into walking over while Peggy is indecent and Souza notes the two puncture wounds on Peggy’s shoulder. Curious, he leaves the team to prepare in peace.

The SSR team makes a night jump in to Belarus where they meet with the Howling Commandos. Thompson and his men are shocked to see “Dum Dum” Dugan treat Peggy as an equal and a friend. “Happy Sam” Sawyer hates the team name that “Junior” Juniper coined, but the groups merge and head toward the coordinates to find Stark and stop the sale. Alone, Peggy and Dugan discuss the situation over bourbon. They both agree it’s a trap and that Howard is innocent, even if he’s a self–serving jerk. They also reflect on Captain America’s loss. This show does an excellent job of tying the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the show and illustrating the impact Steve Rogers had on the lives of those who knew him.

Back in New York, Souza obtains Peggy’s file and compares the puncture wounds on her shoulder to the picture of the blonde woman. They match and Souza realizes that Peggy is their mystery woman. He tries to process the revelation.

The Commandos share stories around the campfire. Smiling Jack says nothing until Peggy mentions his Navy Cross, so he reluctantly tells the story that made him a hero. He killed six Japanese soldiers who came into the camp in the middle of the night before they could kill his men. The rest of the group gives him a bit of respect but Jack’s expression is still solemn and he changes the subject. The following day, the group infiltrates the facility located at the coordinates for the message. Inside, they find the beds where the girls were handcuffed and the classroom where they watched the film. Peggy notes that the film contains subliminal messages but the group doesn’t have time to dwell on it. They hear a girl crying nearby and go to investigate.

In New York, Dooley talks to a reporter played by John Glover who loves a good drink and knows a bit about the Battle of Finnau. The reporter informs Dooley that Stark ended up in a fight with General McGinnis over something that happened at the camp during the clean–up. Stark took a beating and walked away from a lucrative contract with the military. General McGinnis resigned shortly after. The reporter points out the convenience of Stark’s refusal to work with the government and his current status as a traitor. Dooley confronts Jarvis with the information. Jarvis, like Peggy, isn’t willing to forgive and forget. He doesn’t know anything about General McGinnis and Dooley tells him to get a message to Stark: he’s willing to listen to Howard’s side of the story when he’s ready to tell it.

Elsewhere in the Big Apple, Dottie uses Peggy’s key to break into her room. After a professional search, she finds Peggy’s photos of Howard’s devices. She also eyes the picture of Captain America before stealing Peggy’s “Sweet Dreams” lipstick, while mimicking Peggy’s voice. That’s a low blow, Dottie. You don’t just take a woman’s lipstick.

Back in Belarus, Peggy and the others find a young girl crying in another room. Dugan tries to comfort her , but she uses a distraction to stab him in the chest with a hidden knife; his armor deflects the blade. She steals his gun and kills Juniper before escaping. The team pursues her only to find a pair of prisoners who’ve been conscripted by Leviathan to build one of Howard Stark’s designs, a protonic amplifier. They inform the Commandos that Stark was never there, confirming that the mission was a trap from the start. Nikolai, the engineer, is unhappy about being taken from his family and betrays the team at the first opportunity. Doctor Chenko kills him while the Commandos fight off the Leviathan soldiers. Smiling Jack freezes up and only Peggy’s verbal slap gets him back on his feet before everyone is killed. The group escapes with Doctor Chenko confirming that Peggy wasn’t bad “for a girl”.

“I hate you all.” she retorts, a smile on her face.

The Commandos and the SSR say their good–byes while Dugan tries to convince Peggy to stay on as “Miss Union Jack”. We see what you did there, Marvel. Well played. Peggy declines and Chenko agrees to return to America and help the SSR stop Leviathan. Inside the plane, Peggy comforts Smiling Jack, who tells her the rest of hi story. The Japanse soldiers he killed were surrendering when he shot them. He was half–awake, panicked, and killed all of them before his people woke up. He buried the white flags and accepted the Navy Cross, letting everyone believe he’s a hero. Thompson can’t live with it, but rather than rip into him for all the hell he’s given her, Peggy extends a bit of understand and comfort to her teammate.

Dottie goes to bed in her room and handcuffs herself to the bedframe. Kudos to Bridget Regan for bringing the creep factor into this game of spy versus spy.

Peggy and Jack report to Dooley, each crediting the other for the mission’s success. Dooley also gives Peggy kudos, finally recognizing her value to the agency. Jack invites Souza out for a drink, but he declines as he’s still processing his discovery about Peggy. Peggy also tries to invite Souza, but he declines. Now he’s the one who’s distant while Jack is the one opening up to her. Jack then invites Peggy to join him for a drink, which she accepts.

Tonight’s episode gave Peggy her moments, but the supporting cast were the real stars this evening. Souza didn’t have many scenes tonight, but I think he had the most pivotal scenes. If next week’s trailer is any indication, he’s going to go after Peggy for her involvement in Kryzemanski’s death.

Jack’s lie about his heroism gives the character a dimension he lacked since his introduction. We understand a bit of his aggression now. He and Peggy have entered a new stage in their relationship. Will he stand by her when everyone else at the SSR wants her head?

The Howling Commandos were the real stars of the episode. Leonard Roberts made “Happy Sam” Sawyer come alive with his witty remarks. Neal McDonough’s “Dum Dum” Dugan is always a good time and his friendship with Peggy was a high point in the episode. He’s one of the few men on canvas who treats her like an equal and doesn’t lie to her or discount her for being a woman. In fact, he seems to defer to her the way he did to Captain America, a testament to Peggy’s ability and leadership. “Junior” Juniper died as he does in the comics, but his short time on screen made me sad to see him go.

Join me next week for the all–new episode “A Sin to Err” and find out how Peggy Carter saved the world…Before SHIELD.

What did you think of Jack’s revelation? Do you think Souza will really turn on Peggy? Does Dottie creep you out? Comment below with your thoughts!

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