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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Is the Winter Soldier the heart of Agent Carter’s mystery?

"The Blitzkrieg Button," Agent Carter's fourth episode and mid-way point, may have actually been the beginning of the series' true arc and end game.

After a fairly eventful season premiere, the show has been stuck in a combination of logistical battles and character development. Between episodes two and three, Carter and Jarvis go on a series of fetch-quests and authority ducking missions to track down the "bad babies," dangerous weapons and inventions that Howard Stark says were stolen from him, and learn vague information about a Russian big-bad known as Leviathan. By the start of episode four, Stark is still suspected of treason against the United States for selling dangerous weapons on the black market; the only difference is that these inventions have been recovered.

This brings us to "The Blitzkrieg Button," and kicks off what feels like the first glimpse at the show's most important thread.

Now that Stark's weapons are back, so is he. Popping in on Carter unexpectedly, he explains that he needs her to retrieve a device from SSR that he refers to as the Blitzkrieg Button, which he says will wipe out an entire city's power. Though she is frequently underestimated, Carter's no idiot - she can tell Stark is hiding something and wouldn't have returned for a light switch. After pumping Jarvis for information (more on this in a minute...) she learns there is more to the device than Stark explained, and activates it herself, finding a vial of Captain America's blood inside.

Though Agent Carter has shown us all along that our hero will not find respect in her line of work or era, it's never been clearer than it is here. Agent Thompson tells it to her straight: Carter will never be considered an equal in their office. But outside of the office, she's trusted Stark up to this point to give her more purpose, only to find out that she's been used. Carter lashes out at him for lying, leading to the show's best scene to date. Stark brushes off the lying as a bad habit and claims he's using the blood to research its medicinal value, like vaccines and cures. Carter's response buries him: "I think you are a man out for his own gain no matter who you are charging. You are constantly finding holes to slither your way into in the hope of finding loose change, only to cry when you are bitten by another snake."

And although Stark is unlikely to end up completely in the villain corner, it seems like he's complicit in a much larger issue. Chief Dooley follows a trail of clues to Nuremburg to speak to a Nazi named Mueller who has information on the Russians working for Leviathan. Dooley learns that the "Battle at Finow," where the Russian Leviathan agents supposedly died, never took place - the Nazis only found piles of ripped and mauled bodies, already massacred in some other way. The SSR also learns Stark flew into Finow the day after this alleged battle.

OK, so if you're keeping score - everything important in this episode revolves around one vial of blood. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though it was implied that HYDRA was responsible for turning Bucky Barnes into the Winter Soldier, it's never been explicit. We're still in theory-only territory here, but I'm hedging my bets on all of these events leading up to either the revelation of the Winter Soldier's creation or the beginning of it via Leviathan. It would be a nice tie-in to present-day events, and with the involvement of Captain America writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, it would also make sense. We'll see how that theory pans out over the remaining four episodes.

Some other items to chew on:

- Dottie, Carter's friendly next-door-neighbor, is apparently an agent of some kind. Not a completely shocking turn, but an interesting one. That reminds me of someone else who had a next-door-neighbor who he thought was just a regular gal, but then it turned out she was an agent...
- Carter tries to get information on the Blitzkrieg Button from Jarvis, and notices that he tugs at his ear every time he states a fact that is untrue. Carter chalks this up to a poker tell, but my initial take on this was that Jarvis was intentionally hinting to her.  The tugging was just so... obvious? Then again, Jarvis isn't super smooth.
- Agent Thompson is starting to get a little more personality. Some of Carter's co-workers feel like caricatures, but I think his character might be one of the most realistic. He behaves like a man of the times but also seems to understand and have a bit of empathy for his co-workers, helping them in small and private moments.
- Agent Sousa, on the other hand, is just a little too good to be true. Too good, as in, I feel like he's probably a double agent kind of too good?
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