TV Review: Agent Carter (1×07) – “Snafu”
Reprinted from The Young Folks as posted on February 19, 2015
Remember when just last week I said that Agent Carter had its “shit’s going down” episode? Well, the ball just keeps on rolling in the latest installment: “Snafu.” With Peggy captured and the S.S.R. too busy prying her for information on Howard Stark, it’s time for Leviathan to make its deadly move against the good guys. They’ve mostly been lurking in the shadows for some time now mostly through covert work leading to the moment when they can properly strike a blow and make off with Stark’s weapons in the process. Last week revealed that Dr. Ivchenko is secretly plotting with Dottie to tear apart the S.S.R. right under their noses, and in “Snafu” they manage to succeed in more ways than one.
However, before we get to that, lets focus on Peggy’s side of the story, and by extension Jarvis’. As the show has well established, the men around the S.S.R. don’t treat her like an equal and are often oblivious to the fact that she is a perfectly competent agent, even if some like Thompson finally began to take notice later on. Getting caught as a conspirator with Stark certainly doesn’t help her case for respect, though she gets the opportunity to throw it back in their faces in the hour’s best scene. When the guys ask how she was able conduct her private investigation sight unseen, the feminist angle of Peggy’s characterization comes to the forefront in her wonderfully pointed response that she was able to get away with it precisely because she was invisible to them on a daily basis unless she was serving their needs.
It’s a canny way of showing how a woman’s achievements (in the 1940s and even today) are often perceived based on how they also benefit men rather than simply the woman’s needs, and it also shows how Peggy was able to utilize that ignorance to get the upper hand. Hayley Atwell particularly shines in this scene because she’s able to deliver the speech with Peggy’s usual cool conviction while also letting slip some cracks of emotion, which wonderfully shows how her mission is just as personal as it is professional. This is followed through later on when Jarvis comes in with a fake confession from Stark that he wrote and Peggy asks, “Do I have a say in this matter?” Jarvis’ attempt to remedy/delay their situation looks to have actually made it worse off instead of saving them, and Peggy is righteously irked that he may have bungled their chances.
However, a much more pressing and dangerous matter begins brewing when Dr. Ivchenko put his hypnosis charms on Dooley in order to obtain a weapon of some sort. Up to this point in the series, Shea Whigham has consistently been the most underutilized member of the cast, especially for an actor who plumbed complex depths as Eli Thompson on Boardwalk Empire. For an actor of his skill, the role of Chief Dooley has unfortunately often leaned more on caricature than anything else even though he’s gotten some moments in the last couple of weeks. But that changed with “Snafu,” in which arguably its best accomplishment is finally allowing Whigham to bring sympathy and pity to his character.
The first display of this comes towards the beginning when Dooley is on the phone talking about dinner with his wife and children, a scene that carries an air of dread as we see Ivchenko lurking in the background of the shot listening in. When the slippery doctor puts the chief under his spell, Whigham’s expression give hints that he knows that what he’s doing is wrong but he can’t do anything to stop himself, something that’s given greater resonance with the hallucinations he has of seeing his family again. Given the unfortunate end his character meets in this episode, it might as well have been titled “The Life and Death of Roger Dooley.”
By the end of “Snafu” the bad guys have won, with Ivchenko escaping the S.S.R. with a secret weapon and Dooley committing suicide to save everyone else from death by vest bomb. The final sequence with Dottie releasing the chemical weapon on unsuspecting movie theater patrons is creepy but also a bit of déjà vu for those who recently saw Kingsman: The Secret Service with its bonkers church scene. With only one episode left of the season there’s a bunch of threads that will need to be tied up and also some that still need to be answered for, such as the forced importance of Steve Rogers’ blood. Does Dooley’s death mean that Peggy might actually (somehow, I’m not sure how given her current situation) take his position and spearhead the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D.?