Agent Carter Season One, Episode Six
“A Sin to Err”
The Agent Carter showrunners have said before that, though Peggy Carter may not have a superpower in the traditional sense of the world, they like to think of her superpower as the way in which others underestimate her. This has been a theme all season, but things finally came to a thematic head in Episode 6 of the season, “A Sin to Err,” when Peggy’s double-agenting caught up with her. (And just when those schmucks at the S.S.R. were starting to appreciate her! This woman cannot catch a break.) But, we have to admit, it makes for much more interesting television when Peggy is on the run, which is perhaps why the first half of this episode felt relatively slow. Sure, we were thoroughly entertained watching Peggy and Jarvis visit Howard Starks’ latest lady friends in search of the Leviathan spy, but we were waiting for the S.S.R. to hurry up and figure out Peggy is the woman who has been one step ahead of them this entire time.
I am tempted to blame it on the promotion materials ABC released for this episode, which focused on the S.S.R.’s hunt for Peggy. In the structure of the episode, this dramatic turn doesn’t come until halfway through the episode. But I think the treading-of-water like the Peggy/Jarvis gag that came in the first half of the episode may have felt narratively irrelevant regardless of my compulsion to view all promotional materials? This is the second episode in a row that didn’t involve as much character material as I would have liked. That’s not to say there weren’t any moments that felt raw and emotionally compelling in the way I demand from all of the TV shows I watch. They just took a little bit longer to get to. But, boy, did that (somewhat unnecessary) wait pay off!
The perfection that was that automat action scene.
Um, has anyone else been listening to Peggy Lee’s “It’s A Good Day” on repeat ever since ABC released the promo clip from this episode? Using this classic tune as the backdrop for Peggy and Jarvis’ fight against the S.S.R. agents in the automat was a stroke of pure genius. It elevated what was already an entertaining scene into pure TV magic. While we’re on the subject, Agent Carter continues to do produce innovative, fun action sequences. Peggy didn’t have as much to do action-wise in this episode, but the action that did occur was compelling and character-driven. (Anyone fancy a trip to the dentist?)
This scene works on more than just the visual and soundtrack levels; it works on narrative and thematic levels, too. The reason it has so much narrative energy is because this specific moment is The Agent Carter Turn. This is the moment when Peggy proves what she can really do in a way that her S.S.R. co-workers are forced to recognize.
She also proves that her true loyalties lie not with the S.S.R., but with the truth. (The confusion comes with the S.S.R. thinking those two things are the same, and Peggy feeling differently.) On thematic level, it is the moment when Peggy is finally given the opportunity to show what she is really capable of. Sure, she got a chance to do so in Russia, but it was away from the world and people (with the exception of Thompson) that have so judged and underestimated her. I wish the episode had started with this scene because, after the automat, Agent Carter shot into narrative overdrive. And it was awesome. I hope it builds on this momentum right through to the end, which is — sob! — only two episodes away.
Sousa confronts Peggy.
It seems that much of the emotional repercussion that come with lying so extensively to your co-workers will come in next week’s episode (and I can’t wait), but we did get a brief taste of the betrayal Sousa feels from Peggy’s deceit. And, guys, it was so, so sad. I’ll admit that Enver Gjokaj has enough emotional credit built up from his turn as Victor on Dollhouse to ensure that I will love him in at least three more character roles. But, even without his Dollhouse character credit, Sousa is such a sympathetic character. He and Peggy have been allies in an office filled with schmucks. In a sea of jerks, they are each other’s anchors.
If you’ve read any of my previous recaps, then you know that I am pulling for some kind of Anna-Jarvis-is-an-A.I. twist that would allow Peggy and Jarvis to get together without some serious home-wrecking, but Sousa is definitely my runner-up. As evidenced by the photograph in her room at the Griffiths, Peggy ships herself not with Captain America Steve, but with Scrawny Steve. This is how she chooses to remember the man she loves: as brave and heroic, even before he had the muscles to join The Avengers. Sousa is cut from a similar cloth. He is seen as less-than by so many of his co-workers because of the leg he lost in war, but he is worth so much more than those idiots combined — not only in his strong investigative skills and persistence in following up on clues, but in his choice to always stand up for what he thinks is right. This is why he liked Peggy, and this is why he is so heartbroken when he thinks that she is a Leviathan spy.
Angie saves Peggy
Angie was back in this episode in a big way. She not only proved herself as a pretty amazing actress (distracting the S.S.R. agents looking for Peggy by bursting into tears), but proved herself as Peggy’s friend by choosing to help her without question. It was a wonderful moment for these two, and proof that you don’t have to be involved in the spy game to be a compelling character on this show. As far as I can tell, Angie is the only character who hasn’t betrayed Peggy in some way at this point. In fact, she gives her the benefit of the doubt even when she doesn’t have to. Even when Peggy has lied to her. Given actress Lyndsy Fonseca’s background on Nikita, I’m still half-expecting her to reveal herself as some sort of secret ninja — good, bad, or somewhere in-between — but I’ll be OK if Agent Carter doesn’t take her character in that direction. As much as I enjoy seeing Fonseca kicking ass, it’s important to have some “normal” characters on this show. Either way, though, Angie is officially the best. I hope we can spend more time with her in the future.
Jarvis and Peggy team up again.
Perhaps some of my disappointment in this week’s episode came in the lack of resolution in the Peggy/Jarvis dynamic. Peggy makes it clear that, though she is willing to work with Jarvis again to help clear Howard’s name, she does not consider him a friend. While Jarvis is apologetically eager in their scenes together, he doesn’t give Peggy any more information about why he and Howard chose to deceive Peggy or what else he might know about Howard prior involvement with Leviathan. I assume Jarvis will prove his loyalty in the final two episodes (because, at this point, the words “I’m sorry, Ms. Carter” only mean so much), and I look forward to it. In the mean time, these two were thoroughly delightful together while simultaneously frustratingly stagnant when it came to any real emotional breakthroughs.
Then again, there was that Peggy/Jarvis fight scene at the automat. And who doesn’t love the way Peggy kind of enjoys watching Jarvis get slapped and/or kicked by all of Howard’s conquests, even when she half-heartedly tries to stop it?
The dynamic between these two continues to be the best part of this show. I just wish it were pushed a bit more in these last few episodes. It’s all fun and games to see these two as partners-in-crime, but I care more about how Peggy feels when betrayed by the person she thought she could trust most of all. Bring on the emotional repercussions, Agent Carter!
Dottie pulls a Saffron.
Knock-out lipstick isn’t exactly a rare TV trope, but seeing one woman steal another woman’s knock-out lipstick and then using it to knock out its original owner? That twist is used in a more elite group of shows. I’m thinking about Firefly’s “Our Mrs. Reynolds,” which doesn’t fit that description exactly, but involves con lady Saffron using a play right out of the Companion playbook on Companion Inara.
Much like Peggy’s “real” confrontation with her co-workers at the S.S.R., we will have to wait to see a “real” confrontation between Peggy and her true nemesis: Dottie. Peggy only realized that Dottie was the Leviathan agent after she had been drugged with her own lipstick. Ever the agent, she inspected Dottie’s wrists for handcuff marks on her way down. Though Peggy may be at odds with the S.S.R., they truly saved her life in this moment. Dottie was going in for the kill (knife to neck, her preferred method of murder in this episode) when Sousa and Thompson came around the corner, arresting Peggy and saving her life. In Firefly, this knockout lipstick gas was played for slightly comedic effect. In Agent Carter, there was nothing funny about seeing a sociopathic Dottie stand over Peggy’s incapacitated body with a knife and that manic look in her eyes. Very scary stuff.
Dottie continues to be one of my favorite villains on TV. (Along with another villain played by Bridget Regan on Jane the Virgin…) Yay lady criminals!
This storyline also plays nicely into the theme of underestimation. Peggy didn’t suspect Dottie for a second, which makes sense given that Dottie played her part so well. It works well narratively to have Peggy on both sides of the underestimator/underestimated equation, and — now that Peggy knows the truth — I can’t wait to see Dottie and Peggy face off in a fair fight.
The hypnotist scientist.
I didn’t have a great deal of patience for the “Ivchenko Hypnotizes the Entire S.S.R.” storyline. There was a lot of yammering about character motivations I didn’t much care about. As much as I like Dooley, I’m not interesting in exploring the heartbreak he endured when he returned from the war to discover his wife was sleeping with a flat-footed plumber. At least not with such a short episode order. And I cared even less about just-introduced Agent Yauch. (Though I did feel bad when he walked into oncoming traffic.) The point is: this entire storyline could have been eliminated in favor of other action or character development. After his capture in Russia, I think we all assumed Ivchenko was working with Leviathan. Skip the hypnosis ring and save this reveal for the next episode.
Where is Howard?
In other news, Howard has seemingly dropped off the grid. Jarvis is unable to reach him. Can we assume he’s been captured by Leviathan, or is there something else at play here? Will he turn himself in when he hears of Peggy’s troubles? That would be a redeemable moment, and is exactly the kind of heroism-disguised-as-bravado we expect from a Stark.
Did you like “A Sin to Err”? What were your favorite moments? Do you think Peggy can talk her way out? Let us know in the comments?