If “Agent Carter” teaches us anything, it should be that 85% of bad decisions are made either under the influence of mind-altering creations or due to institutionalized societal inequality. The entire season has reminded us again and again that sexism hurts everyone, and most dudes who perpetuate it don”t even realize they”re doing anything wrong.
Misogyny is not a mustache twirling villain. It”s a behavior even decent people can fall prey to. One that must be unlearned through vigilant, life-long self-examination.
That realization happens for all three leading male Agents in “Snafu.” Peggy Carter is in custody and her co-workers assume the worst, that she is a spy and a traitor and, worst of all, sleeping with Howard Stark. Dooley, Thompson, and Sousa all take turns in the interrogation room, each with their own tactic. That these men think one of their own would fall prey to the same tricks is just another subtle blow to how malleable and weak they believe women are.
Agent Carter tolerates this affront to her character for a respectable length of time, then springs the trap. In a moment of catharsis for any woman watching the show, Peggy shuts down all three men. “You think you know me, but I”ve never been more than each of you created.” There is a wonderful monologue by Amber Heard from “Syrup” that is apropos here.
The only archetype Peggy Carter wasn”t shoved into by her co-workers was the role of mother, though one could argue their expectations of timely lunch and coffee would qualify.
Later in the episode, the men are stunned again when Peggy comes clean about everything from calling in the tip about the boat, to safekeeping the last vial of Captain America”s blood. Dooley, Thompson, and Sousa are incredulous and then humbled on two fronts. At first they can”t believe Peggy managed her own investigation without them noticing. Never mind the fact a RUSSIAN SCIENTIST has been sending Morse code to someone across the street all day in full sight of the office and not a one of them has seen it.
After they come around to the fact Peggy is smart and capable at subterfuge, the second reality slaps them in the face. The men don”t understand why Peggy wouldn”t come to them for help with her mission. She points out they never listen to her, dismiss her opinions, and tossed her off to the side as a glorified secretary. She had no choice to to circumvent their own unexamined prejudices to get shit done.
GIF via Tumblr
On the other side of the coin, Jarvis tries to step into the White Knight™ shoes this week. It does not go as planned. While admirable that he would forge Howard Stark”s confession in an attempt to save Peggy, Jarvis forgets to take one thing into account: Peggy had it under control. The entrance of her “savior” throws a wrench into her plan. While it turns out for the best – the aforementioned confession of everything and well-deserved dressing down of her sexist co-workers – I was happy to see “Agent Carter” show how even well-meaning saviors need to trust the competency of their alleged “damsels.”
In fact, Dr. Ivchenko seems to be the only man in the building who trusts his female partner to do her job. He knows Dottie Underwood capable, deadly, will think on her feet, and will follow the plan. There”s no dithering about whether or not her ovaries will cloud her judgment about killing and/or incapacitating a theater full of patrons.
With only one episode left in the season, I truly hope “Agent Carter” is renewed for another year. Television needs more shows willing to examine the inner lives of women and challenge us to look at how misogyny hasn”t abated, merely been driven underground. A full 22-episode second season would also give the writers room to explore an aspect of the 1940s social hierarchy that”s currently missing: race relations.
Odds & Ends
• Dottie continues to astound in everything she does, from using societal expectations to sneak a deadly(?) gas into a movie theater via baby carriage to parkouring down ten stories of stairs.
• Letting Sousa fight Dottie was such a good choice. Veterans with disabilities are just as capable as their co-workers. A second season would also give “Agent Carter” room to explore Sousa”s reality.
• One of the many things I love about this show is the lack of sociopaths. Even characters you hate – Dooley, Ivchenko – are given humanity that grey them up and make you care about their motivations.
• I need more side-plots with the women who run the telephone company.
• Jarvis and Peggy breaking the interrogation room glass was delightful. They have such good banter timing.
• Wait, wait, wait. When was Peggy Carter hanged?