If last week’s episode of Agent Carter belonged to the women then ‘Snafu’, with all due respect to the title character, really belongs to the men.
Take Mr Jarvis, the effete English manservant who serves both as Howard Stark’s representative and as Agent Carter’s foil. Full of inspiration and improvisation he turns up at SSR HQ with a (faked) confession from (allegedly) Howard Stark which takes full responsibility (incorrectly) for the weapons theft and so exonerates (hopefully) Peggy Carter from all and any wrongdoing.
Sadly the all-important signature page is never going to arrive because Howard knows nothing about it (“I panicked” Jarvis later admits). But it’s a heartfelt move and a bold attempt to free his friend, even if it is met with a combination of disbelief and ingratitude from her.
As I’ve mentioned before, James D’Arcy is extraordinarily good as Jarvis – and so totally different, in manner and body language and stature, to his most recent role in Broadchurch that it’s often difficult to believe it’s the same actor.
Then there’s Dr Ivchenko, the too-amiable Russian Psychologist played by Ralph Brown. At least I think he’s Russian – it’s one of those generic ‘Eastern Bloc’ accents that seems to hail from nowhere in particular, but somehow covers all points between Vladivostock and Moscow. Apparently liberated from captivity in ‘The Iron Ceiling’ it is now clear that he had arranged events precisely to inveigle himself into the USA, and the SSR in particular.
For the woman’s team Dorothy Underwood has made quite the impression in recent weeks, what with her cool dispatching of Mr Mink in ‘The Blitzkrieg Button’ and SWALK-ing of Peggy last week – but this week it’s the turn of her boss Ivchenko to make his mark, personally stealing the very device he assigned Leet Brannis to obtain way back in the first episode; and also dealing a major body blow to the SSR itself.
Ah yes, the good old boys of the SSR – amongst the panicking butlers and the hypnotising supervillains, let’s not overlook Peggy’s comrades. Having prompted her arrest last week, Sousa (Enver Gjokaj in an unflashy but important role) gets first shot at interrogating Peggy. He does an admirable job, albeit doomed of course because we know she’s not actually the villain. And it can’t do much for his ego to be patronised by his ‘prisoner’.
“This is all very impressive,” she says, “I understand that you never get the chance to run this far with the ball, so you’re making the most of your opportunity – but you are wasting precious time.”
Meanwhile Agent Thompson, a wiser man for his experiences in Russia, never seems wholly convinced of Peggy’s guilt. He’s visibly matured over the series, short as it’s been, into more of a leadership role. When they are hunting Dorothy he tells Sousa to be careful – no longer a patronising reference or a dig at the limp and the ‘aluminum’ crutch, but a respectful warning to a fellow agent.
Ultimately, though, the episode belongs to Chief Dooley, played by Shea Whigham. He very subtly and gradually falls under Ivchenko’s influence, and the audience can sense disaster looming even if we can’t quite see the shape it will take… Until we find Dooley strapped into one of Howard’s ‘work in progress’ inventions, to all intents and purposes an exploding waistcoat.
As Jarvis reports its deadly nature and with the SSR’s science boffins failing to find a solution, Dooley takes charge one last time – and in a sudden, shocking moment he blows out the window, leaps into thin air, and explodes in a huge fireball before he even hits the ground.
It seems almost secondary to mention the episode’s reveal of the effect of the stolen weapon, unleashed by Fennhoff and Dot into a test audience of innocent cinema-goers. It’s a gas that drives people to violent aggression, resulting in the audience fighting itself to death.
With the implication being that this is about to be unleashed full scale onto the streets of America; and with a stunned, leaderless SSR surely about to start looking for revenge, I think it’s safe to say we’re lining up for one hell of a season finale next week.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 23 August 2015 on Fox.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know below…