Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Even More Dependent Upon Captain America, “The Blitzkrieg Button” Pushes Agent Carter

The Good: Some of the secondary characters develop well, Moments of performance
The Bad: Bland plot, Focus on unlikable characters, Fits poorly into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe
The Basics: Howard Stark returns to upstage Agent Carter in “The Blitzkrieg Button.”

Last week, The Flash had a pretty kick-ass return to television with “Revenge Of The Rogues” (reviewed here!) and Agent Carter took a week off for the State Of The Union. Unfortunately for Agent Cater, that put a lot of pressure on Agent Carter to have a “knock-it-out-of-the-park” episode; I started this week excited about The Flash, not Agent Carter. Agent Carter, unfortunately, is the weak link in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point and “The Blitzkrieg Button” is hardly the hit the series needed.

Picking up where “Time And Tide” (reviewed here!) left off, “The Blitzkrieg Button” continues to have the agents of the Strategic Scientific Reserve marginalizing Agent Peggy Carter. The secondary character from Captain America (reviewed here!) continues to be marginalized in her own series: in “The Blitzkrieg Button,” Howard Stark steals the show and the focus from Carter.

Jarvis and Agent Carter negotiate with smugglers to get none other than Howard Stark back into the United States. Peggy Carter smuggles Howard back into her women’s home and Howard charges her with finding out just which of his inventions have been recovered by the SSR (so he can figure out which ones still remain at large). Carter uses a miniaturized pen camera to photograph the SSR lab while Sousa tries to find out who called in the tip that led him to the shipment of Stark’s devices. Sousa brings in a homeless man who he thinks may be able to identify the caller while Stark goes through the pictures Carter took.

Stark identifies one of his inventions as (essentially) an EMP (with the push of a button, the electrical grid would be entirely fried) and he warns Carter that that device is actually active. Stark tasks Carter with replacing the real Blitzkrieg Button with a fake he made. While Carter, Jarvis and Stark are hunted by the Nazi who was betrayed getting Stark back into the country, Carter’s boss visits Nuremburg and a Nazi prisoner there. Carter, meanwhile, realizes that Jarvis is lying for Stark and Carter’s boss learns that the alleged Battle Of Finow was a publicity stunt for a massacre that was perpetrated by someone other than the Nazis. When Carter exchanges the Button for its doppelganger, she figures out that Stark has played her and he is after a vial that the SSR recovered. Carter learns what the vial is and in her anger at Stark, she leaves the scientist vulnerable to an attack!

“The Blitzkrieg Button” wastes its first act with Peggy getting Howard into her women’s home and the references to the prior episode. While I admire serialized television for its sense of consequence and the way events in one episode play into the next, Agent Carter has real problems with developing the pathos for the character so far. As a result, the death of a minor operative in “Time And Tide” has to have some effect on “The Blitzkrieg Button,” but the expected emotional resonance for the viewer never materializes. As a result, Thompson’s taking command of the SSR just makes him seem like a jerk, as opposed to a compelling leader of any sort.

Sousa and Stark steal the show in “The Blitzkrieg Button,” but only Sousa actually pops as a character in the episode. Daniel Sousa has a decent monologue in “The Blitzkrieg Button” that gives him a good amount of backstory outside his cane. He is a veteran and is given a sense of pathos in addition to his determination to find the cause of his fellow-agent’s death. Sousa becomes the human element who is fascinating to watch.

The rest of the episode is almost entirely monopolized by Howard Stark. At this point in the narrative, Howard Stark is not only discredited, he is a fugitive and that makes “The Blitzkrieg Button” an especially hard sell for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (who, frankly, are the only people who would even give a part of a damn about a miniseries based on Agent Carter). One of the fundamental problems with Agent Carter is that Howard Stark is a known quantity in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and so he cannot die, he cannot even remain discredited. The other issue with Agent Carter is more of a conceptual problem with the entire series (and will be covered in my Season One review). So, as charming and apparently underhanded as he appears in “The Blitzkrieg Button,” Stark has to be better than he appears here. The problem in “The Blitzkrieg Button” is that Howard Stark is presented as much more cute and menacing than actually smart and like one who could credibly develop the technologies attributed to him.

The most interesting aspects of “The Blitzkrieg Button” seem to have little to do with the main plot of the episode. Late in the episode, Carter’s would-be assassin is dispatched by yet-another scene-stealer and the lack of follow-through in the episode just makes her appearance seem like a tease. Similarly, the inevitable cameo by Stan Lee pops up in “The Blitzkrieg Button” and that, too, overshadows the main plot of the episode.

While Enver Gjokaj delivers a wonderful couple of monologues as Sousa, “The Blitzkrieg Button” is otherwise short on both compelling performances and decent character moments. Instead, “The Blitzkrieg Button” feels like filler - which is death in a mini-series – between the significant moment of the last episode and the potential consequences of the peripheral characters in this episode. Either way, Agent Carter herself continues to be marginalized and is hardly the most significant or interesting character in her own series!

For other works with Shea Whigham, be sure to check out my reviews of:
American Hustle
Silver Linings Playbook
Pride And Glory

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agent Carter - The Complete First Season, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of Agent Carter here!


For other television and movie reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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