Agent Carter Episode Review: The Iron Ceiling, Season 1 Episode 5

You know, I’m not quite sure what they meant by “The Iron Ceiling.” After my discussion last week about Ceilings, I was of course thinking of that… but that’s not really it. There’s also the “Iron Curtain” between the East and the West in the Cold War, and that might be closer to it. This week had us heading to Russia, and drawing a connection between the enigmatic villain group, Leviathan, and the Russians.

Found on http://www.themarysue.com/agent-carter-recap-s1-ep5/ with their episode review!

A young Dottie, her secrets revealed.
Found on The Mary Sue with their episode review!

Indeed, we get to see Dottie’s training here, see her Russian Black-Widow-esque assassin training, learning charm, English, and kick-assery. Not much else with her this episode, except that she snuck in to Peggy’s room – out-spying her – and finds her files of information on the case. However, Peggy Carter is a woman of many secrets! The one we’re most concerned about from last week, the vial of Captain America’s blood, went unfound. Dottie found a secret cubby, and must have assumed she’d found all of the goods. She would be mistaken.

The bulk of the episode had Peggy re-connecting with her life in the SSR, a trip to Eastern Europe, and the legendary Howling Commandos! So on to that!

Peggy Carter: On the Case!

Peggy has kind of been a non-entity around the SSR since the show started. We’ve had scenes of her being shut out of the investigation, or from any real work, by the men. Indeed, we have seen an actual episode where her actual duty was the lunch order. She has also played into this, finding ways to get more time off and out of the office to work on the case where she is actually expected to achieve: working for Howard Stark.

But last episode, that relationship got strained. Thus following from that, Peggy throws herself back into her work. And no better time for that than when a mission is headed to Russia, where she apparently speaks the language – and has been there before, more than the others. She was quite busy during the war!

Agents Carter and Thompson, on the case! Found on http://screencrush.com/agent-carter-the-iron-ceiling-photo-gallery-howling-commandos/

Agents Carter and Thompson, on the case!
Found on ScreenCrush

The captain doesn’t want to send her. As he argues it, if he sends her and she dies, then he’s the idiot who sent a woman out in the field to get killed. If he sends her and someone else dies, then he’s the idiot who sent a woman to defend a man (or some such nonsense). Sure, there’s the chance that the mission is easy and goes off without a hitch, but they’re not expecting that – and rightfully so, as it turns out.

Because infiltrating the East was not an easy prospect, sneaking in, trying to elude the bad guys, and they’re not even expecting young assassin girls to kick their asses. They don’t even have a good way into Russia – it’s not like they have the 107th, the Howling Commandos… oh wait…

Peggy stepping out, making a call, and coming back with a confirmed meeting time and place for the Howling Commandos was awesome. It fills the internal need for her to show her value; fills a show-level need to include the Howling Commandos; and fills an audience desire to see them on-screen once more! When the captain asks for them, it’s like everyone is asking for them. And Peggy delivers.

The Howling Commandos

These are the team that worked with Captain America in the war. They’re from the comics, they’re from Captain America: The First Avenger, they even were teased in the Agent Carter Marvel One-Shot. We knew they were coming, but not when or how. And it’s exciting! We know, for instance, that one of the guys in Agents of SHIELD is a descendent. We know only Bucky died while serving with them (and he didn’t, so they’re just that much more undefeated) and were pretty great. Captain America is great, but he’s a shield, a defender, a leader. He needs a team.

The Howling Commandos from Captain America: The First Avenger. Sorry, Bucky... Found on http://marvel-movies.wikia.com/wiki/Howling_Commandos

The Howling Commandos from Captain America: The First Avenger. Sorry, Bucky…
Found on Wikia

So these are the good guys, the best guys, and so they get to be a strong counterpoint to the SSR guys around Peggy who have treated her like a secretary. With them, they know her, trust her, and respect her. She’s pretty much one of them, but more in a leadership capacity. When someone points out that the Howling Commandos served with Captain America, they point out that Peggy Carter served with him longer.

This episode gave us a lot about Agent Thompson, whose name I finally caught, and who had been left in charge last week. This week he’s leading the mission in Europe, and he also did not want Peggy to come along. Then there’s an awkward scene where there’s only one locker room – expressly a men’s locker room – and Peggy ends up going in to change into her action gear anyway. So Thompson sends Sousa over, for a very awkward moment. Thanks, jerk. But wait, plot point! Sousa sees Peggy’s distinguishing mark, a gunshot wound, and realizes she is indeed the woman he has been chasing who has been working with Stark. We’ll have to see where that goes later!

Sorry, tangent! Okay, so Thompson is there, and he respects the Howling Commandos. But not Peggy. Except he gets to watch the Commandos respecting Peggy, looking up to her. They end up around the campfire one night, telling stories. Thompson is left out of this camaraderie, until Peggy turns to him and asks him for a story. For a specific story, about how he got his Navy Cross. Showing she knows this about him, showing she respects it. And he tells the story, and he is accepted. She shows him respect, even when he doesn’t show her respect – and this seems to finally balance some scales. Later, Peggy also shows him deference when he offers his plan – and he stops and asks what she would do, which she then offers, and he decides to go with that.

Eventually, later in the episode, Thompson spills to her that his medal is a lie, that the people he saw and killed were not soldiers sneaking in, but people coming to surrender. A story he hasn’t told anyone. Opening up to Peggy shows he’s come a long way in his estimation of her. And as Holly put it, we’ve found out that Thompson has a soul.

Found on http://marvel.com/images/gallery/gallery/333/agent_carter_confidential_exclusive_images_from_the_iron_ceiling#0-992011

Found on Marvel.com

Oh, and in-between? In the words of The Boondock Saints, “There was a firefight!!!” Lots of action, a little Black-Widow trained Russian girl kicks their butts, everyone has to save everyone, and some characters die – including a surprising number of Howling Commandos. That made it feel like this would be their one appearance on the show, because you just can’t keep killing them off at that rate…

Questions

Did it feel “comic book?”

Certainly, this is possible. The Howling Commandos have a history in the comics, though they are not actually from the World War II era – they just show up in stories about the WWII era. And like many moments, the training of the Russian girls felt more spy movie to me than comic book – it felt like something you might see in a grittier Bond movie, like a Daniel Craig one.

Found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sgt._Fury_and_his_Howling_Commandos along with the history!

Found on Wikipedia along with the history!

Did it feel like you needed to have watched the other movies and shows?

This maybe more than feeling the comic book connection. Seeing The First Avenger, in particular, seems fitting. Holly and I re-watched that this last weekend after this episode of Agent Carter, and while we get to see them a lot and they’re awesome, we don’t see them that much… honestly, there’s a lot more of Agent Carter. The Howling Commandos, more than anything, get an action montage. A pretty good one, but it’s not like they have half the movie for screen time.

They come on to the show as this storied, legendary soldier force. Which really is most of what you get about them in the movie. So while if you only watched the show you might feel like you’re missing something, it’s not much. This is, in fact, the reason why it’s so exciting to have them on the show: we haven’t seen enough of them yet!

Did it matter that it was a female lead?

Yes it did. First, back with the SSR, where she finally returns to her starting point: arguing with them about the fact that she is a valuable agent. She lost this thread for a while because rather than arguing, she was off secretly proving it. And then, with Thompson as the audience for it, it mattered that she was a woman being respected by the Howling Commandos. They were totally ready to take her lead, all the way. Indeed, this led to some great quotes I jotted down, so I can end with those:

“You sounded like Captain America there.”

“That’s no bad thing.”

 

“You used to be fun.”

(Pause)

“I miss him too.”

 

“[If Captain America were here] he would say do as Peggy says.”

 

“Not bad for a girl.”

(A glare, and a smirk)

“I hate you all.”

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13 thoughts on “Agent Carter Episode Review: The Iron Ceiling, Season 1 Episode 5

  1. I can’t wait until I can see the Howling Commandos in action again! I think I would miss Bucky, but since he’s alive it would only be a passing thought! This episode sounds fantastic – I enjoyed the familiarity you hinted at between Peggy and the gang and who wouldn’t like some black-widow-esque action! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a fun episode, and of them all has seemed like the most fan-service of them all. Well, at least, the one with the most external history it’s bringing in. The exchanges were great, we got to see Peggy back pretty much like she was in The First Avenger (meaning, in charge and respected and doing great).

      Speaking of the black-widow-esque action… there’s a scene in the Age of Ultron trailers with a young ballerina. Could this be backstory on Miss Romanoff herself? It now seems like a scene we could have seen at the Russian training school in this episode!

      How will Leviathan work in with the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe!?!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ooh, I hope so. It’s about time they shared more about her past. No matter what they show of her training, though, she’s one of a kind! I’m not sure about Leviathan. There’s scope I guess, and it sounds as though Agent Carter has laid the foundations. The beauty of having a show is that we are introduced to story arcs they don’t have to waste time on in the movies – the seed has been planted!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, the seed has or at least can have been planted… the question is whether they let it grow. The first season of Agents of SHIELD did not influence the movies – it was a one way street, of the movies influencing the show. I could see this more as a way to have Leviathan come up in SHIELD, but not necessarily in the movies.

          Then again, we’re hoping they’re setting up the Inhumans movie in SHIELD, so I am really hoping they open up these different mediums to each other! Set us up for an even more meaningful backstory moment for Black Widow, for instance. Time will tell on that!

          Liked by 1 person

          • With the number of movies they have planned, it might be a while for the Inhumans (I wonder if they’ll go the Fantastic Four route). But I think they’ll definitely utilise the different mediums. Time will tell indeed 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • Given that Inhumans is now the LAST movie in their plans, coming out later in 2019, it is intersting that they seem to be leading towards introducing them NOW in Agents of SHIELD…

              However, Kree experimentation on humans can also help lead you into Captain Marvel, and really into more space based adventures like the Infinity War. Plus it could tie in to the next Guardians of the Galaxy! They have reasons to do it, but it still makes me wonder what the larger tapestry looks like!

              Liked by 1 person

            • Indeed 🙂 I’m expecting a lot from the next Guardians of the Galaxy! I absolutely loved the first movie so it will certainly be fun to see how everything fits together. They will have to push a few boundaries – it’s a serious undertaking, but if anyone can pull it off – Marvel can 🙂 I didn’t realise they had the Inhumans scheduled in already – that just made my day!

              Liked by 1 person

  2. That final shot of Dottie handcuffing herself to her bed, just like she was as a child was a disturbing reminder of how the kids training broke them.

    Child Dottie shared her friends bread then broke her friends neck, on a mere nod from her instructor. Then this made the bread sharing offer with Peggy rather chilling. And … remember on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where Ward has to kill his dog to prove to Garrett he was worthy? Some nice mirroring there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • With the short season, they have done a great job with the MENACE of Dottie. You get her first appearance, where you have the audience going “Don’t trust her!!!” Then the second episode where we are proven right, and Dottie completely takes a guy out – removing a threat to Peggy without Peggy ever knowing. Only the audience! Menacing!

      And then this episode. Dottie has started having meals with Peggy, they’re budding friends, apparently. We don’t need to see how this happened, it’s enough to know it has. And seeing Dottie’s training, we know where she learned how to insert herself in a situation!

      I had not thought of the Ward comparisons – Leviathan and Hydra not so different. In some ways they need to show us some differences, or else, why even have both? However, I fully expect that there’s more to come along this line of thinking!

      And the handcuffing moment was brilliant. That attaching herself to her bed is how she feels comfortable sleeping! Brainwashing, conditioning. These are the things Black Widow overcame – the sorts of secrets she dumped onto the Internet in Winter Soldier, right?

      Like

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