Four episodes in, Marvel”s feminist critique of post-war American history masquerading as a superhero action series is still kicking ass and taking names. I can”t remember the last time I”ve shouted in surprised delight so often at my television.
The fact that a show set in 1946 is giving one of the most honest portrayals of the lived experiences of (white, middle class) women hopefully readjusts the bar for what audiences expect from other series. Women never need to be perfect, but they do need to be people.
“The Blitzkrieg Button” hinges entirely on imperfect humans. Specifically Howard Stark and Peggy Carter”s relationship. I”ve always found it a sign of enormous respect that Howard sees Peggy as a person and not a potential conquest. But being a woman who is buddies with a marauding womanizer has blowback: in this case, Howard thinking he can waltz into Peggy”s life, manipulate and bald face lie to her, and STILL think that somehow a charming smile and word from his wingman Jarvis will set things right again.
Nope. Peggy Carter is many things, but a pushover isn't one of them. Her speech on Howard”s entitlement is fantastic.
Speaking of fantastic, can we talk about Dottie Underwood? Suspicions were raised when she was introduced as a ballerina, because we all know a certain Russian redhead who was ALSO once a ballerina. “Agent Carter” wasted no time in confirming that yes, Dottie is a badass assassin with a penchant for fancy guns. Marvel doesn”t dabble in coincidences, so most likely Dottie if from the Red Room Academy – the very same Russian facility that will one day produce Black Widow. But whether she”s the killer from the end of the last episode or just on the run from her former bosses remains a mystery.
Dottie”s effortless takedown of Mr. Mink was the surprise the evening, but subverting audience expectations on who is the REAL danger dovetails nicely with the show”s internal narrative that is literally using sexism as a villain. Peggy is used to the overt sexism at work – regulated to taking lunch orders, derisively called Marge by an Agent Thompson gone mad with power, being told to her face that no man will ever see her as an equal – and insidious, incessant everyday microaggressions perpetuated at home by her landlady. After all, internalized misogyny is the backbone of an apartment complex that stipulates keeping tabs on grown women”s virtue until they tire of working and settle down to get married and have children.
But it”s Howard”s betrayal that stings. Nothing hurts more than when an ally you trusted to treat with respect fails to live up to expectations. Especially when Peggy was hopped up on righteous anger at Thompson”s little revelation about his thoughts on women in the workplace.
Odd & Ends
• Everyone knows “Agent Carter” is killing it when it comes to Peggy, but they”re also doing an excellent job in with Agent Sousa and their portrayal of veterans with disabilities.
• “You don”t get to use my reaction to your lies as the reason for your lies,” needs to be a poster.
• My newest headcanon is that as a child, Tony Stark used Jarvis”s tell to figure out what his Christmas presents were early.
• Marvel needs to release that camera-pen selfie
• As much as Howard Stark is an opportunistic womanizer, I appreciate how the women of Peggy”s building have agency and are unabashedly willing partners. Just because it”s 1946, doesn”t mean ladies didn”t have NEEDS. To that end, I love the open secret of smuggling food out of the dining hall for various reasons.
• If the government has almost run through their supply of Steve Rogers” blood, what exactly have they been doing with it?
• Stan Lee is the “Where”s Waldo” of Marvel.