Agent Carter Review: "Snafu"

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The gloves, bright red lipstick, and boulder hats have come off in this second-to-last episode of Agent Carter. The first half of “Snafu” makes it appear as though we were headed into another mildly disappointing episode and more build-up to a big event, with Peggy and Jarvis still floating around SSR headquarters mostly unharmed. About half way in however, things turn, and they turn quickly. Our latest Agent Carter review looks at one of the most explosive (…sorry) episodes to date.
What is it with shows starting with flashbacks this week? Similar to how Better Call Saul began its episode with a flashback to frame a main character in the right perspective, Agent Carter does the same for Dr. Ivchenko and his magic finger ring when we see him use his talents on a Russian soldier during surgery. This establishes the obvious fact that anyone under Ivchencko’s spell is impervious to the outside world, explaining why the agent he hypnotized last week was so willing to follow the bad doctor’s orders, even to his death, and why Dooley gets manipulated so easily this week.
In general, seeing how Ivchenko’s hypnotizing abilities work from the victim’s point of view is really well done. It’s not a black and white “you’re hypnotized or you’re not” kind of scenario – there’s a grey area. The real world pops in an out of their illusions, and victims know something is wrong but they are so deep in the doctor’s spell that they can’t fight it.
Not quite the action-packed experience I was expecting from the episode, but the first half of this week’s Agent Carter is fun and full of great comedic moments. The agents interrogating Carter and recapping all the (admittedly overwhelming) evidence they have against her does a good establishing just why none of the agents trust her at this point. It’s also hard not to love the way Peggy stands up to their constant battering and essentially throws their threats of violence right back in their faces. Agent Carter knows how to make a strong female character without making her spout rhetoric and constantly kick people in the teeth, and this sequence really shows that.
Perhaps the best thing about “Snafu” – and, let’s be honest, Agent Carter in general – is its ability to inject humor into otherwise incredibly tense situations. The entire episode is just a big ball of stress from the beginning, full of twists and turns and a constantly shifting landscape of trust between Peggy, Jarvis, and the SSR. Even amid all that, Peggy and Jarvis remain delightfully fun together, even in the most dire of situations. The two of them being strapped to the table in the interrogation room, and their odd attempt at escape that wasn’t thought all the way through was genuinely funny. Even outside of that, any time Hayley Atwell and James D’arcy are on screen together it’s instant chemistry. That chemistry is most evident with the scene between the two when Peggy questions Jarvis about Howard Stark’s note. The way they play off of each other so perfectly is not something that two random actors put together could accomplish by any means, and many other shows that try the same attempt at humor fall flat or just have it feel forced.
Agent Carter is a very short series which to this point has never felt rushed, but that changed a bit with last night’s episode. I knew, seeing that Peggy was enemy of the SSR with only three episodes left, that we wouldn’t get to explore more of her on the run or otherwise in bad standing with the agency but it would have really been nice to dig deeper into it. She goes from enemy number one to best friend over the course of one episode, and it all goes by way too quickly. It’s made worse by the fact that Carter is set up as the female character that none of the power hungry males want to listen to, yet they are so quick to trust her again when she claims to have some useful information.
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To the episode’s credit, the fact that Peggy gains their trust by giving up Captain America’s blood is a nice touch, and does at least hint at the fact that Peggy is giving up a lot to get in their good graces. It’s just a shame that the show hasn’t been given enough time to explore more of the exciting storyline of Peggy vs the SSR.
While “Snafu” is one of the most tense, most action packed, funniest, and heck, even one of the best episodes of Agent Carter, it’s not without faults. First and foremost is the ridiculous practice of Dottie writing down the morse code notes she receives from Doctor Ivchenko. It’s bad enough that felt the need to write “kill Peggy Carter” down in the first place, but for Sousa to find them later while scouting the dentist office that she used is laughably convenient. Why bother taking the time to explain how a character learns a secret when you can have him find a piece of paper with the clue written down on it? Oddly enough, Carter herself has a scene where she is interpreting Ivchenko’s message, but she at least writes down the raw morse code – which makes a whole lot more sense.
There were also some other weird little conveniences, such as Ivchenko having Dooley tie Carter and Jarvis to a desk instead of just shooting them. Sure, it made for a great scene in the end, but considering that Ivchenko was sending a message to Dottie to kill Carter earlier why not just kill her then and there? The fact that several agents could have shot and killed Dottie on the spot but spent too much time pointing their guns and staring at her got aggravating quick as well; the same issue the show had last week with how they captured Peggy.
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But the worst thing about this otherwise pretty great episode is Dooley’s ridiculous blinking vest. Agant Carter hasn’t done a whole lot of killing off main characters, and when it finally does, it does so in such a corny way. Despite Dooley’s big, inspirational, and downright depressing speech, it’s hard to take him seriously when it looks like he’s wearing a vest with a design based off of a cheap carnival bumper car ride. There are so many better routes they could have taken to show that he was wearing a vest about to explode instead of goofy blinking tubes of miscellaneous orange goo. A smattering of comic book science mumbo jumob prior to the big moment doesn’t help matters much either.
Even with all the things that finally happened this week, Agent Carter is still leaving quite a bit close to the vest for the finale. What Leviathan is exactly, and what its plan is, remains a mystery for the most part. We see that the weapon stolen from Stark’s stash turns people into a group of rabid Twilight fans, but that’s about it. Plenty of intrigue left to carry over into next week.
Despite a few flaws, it’s not hard to argue that “Snafu” is the episode of Agent Carter we’ve been waiting weeks for, and all the build up was certainly worth it. Even if they are both only alive because of weak plot convenience, Dottie and Ivchenko make a great Russian villain duo together, and an appropriately-sized antagonist for Agent Carter and the rest of SSR to take down in the finale next week. A lot is left up in the air, so it’s hard to tell what is coming for the end of this great series next week, but it is sure to be exciting.

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