I think one of the most interesting parts of this episode is the insight we get into Dr. Fennhoff’s character. We only met him halfway through the season, but by the end of this episode we have a much better grasp on his character and motivations than we had on Dr. Whitehall from the first 10 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2.
The episode picks up right where the last episode left off, with the discovery of the grisly scene at the movie theater. The S.S.R. arrives shortly after the police and discovers that the victims all killed each other. However, they cannot figure out how it happened until Sousa discovers Dottie’s baby carriage overturned and the gas canister nearby. He gets a face-full of the gas and immediately turns on Thompson and Peggy, elbowing Peggy in the nose and pummeling Thompson’s face before the police manage to subdue him. Sousa going crazy didn’t feel entirely necessary, though it did set up the scene with him waking up in a cot at the S.S.R. headquarters, apologizing for hitting Peggy, and telling her that “I still want to kill Thompson, but no more than usual.” That was pretty funny.
Thompson, Sousa, and Peggy brief the remaining S.S.R. agents on the substance used at the movie theater. However, they do not know exactly what “Ivchenko” is planning to do with it or what his target is; he has enough of the gas to throw the entire city into chaos. As if on cue, Jarvis walks into the bullpen with Howard Stark, who announces that he is “Ivchenko’s” target. I have to say that I found the scene with the S.S.R. ordering Howard to raise his hands and Jarvis complying while Howard ignored them to be really funny—almost has funny as Stark trashing the company that designed the security system for both the S.S.R. and the White House! Howard’s primary function in this scene is to offer a ton of exposition about the gas—he calls it “Midnight Oil.” It was originally developed for the U.S. military as a stimulant to keep soldiers awake for days at a time, but it had unforeseen side effects (which of Stark’s inventions didn’t have unforeseen side effects?): it causes hallucinations and psychosis, leading those affected to attack anyone nearby, as well as causing asphyxiation. General McGinnis (the general Stark punched out, as mentioned in “The Iron Ceiling” (1x05)) stole the Midnight Oil from Stark’s lab and dropped it on the Russians to help them take Finow—it didn’t work out. When Stark discovered what he had done, he immediately went to Finow to see the massacre, cancelled his contract with the U.S. military, and began construction on his vault. Because his inventions were used and were the cause of everything that happened, Stark blames himself for all the deaths throughout the series. However, he has a plan to use himself as bait to draw out “Ivchenko”—now known to be Dr. Johann Fennhoff—and Dottie: a well-publicized press conference at which the S.S.R. clears him of all wrongdoing.
The interrogation scene with Dottie beating Howard for not remembering her alias and Fennhoff hypnotizing Howard was fascinating for the insight it gave us into all three characters. Dottie is not quite the cold, hardened operative that Natasha Romanoff is; she doesn’t have the same handle on her emotions as Natasha. Instead, she allows her emotions to help her in her missions, like seducing Howard and then “tenderizing” him for Fennhoff. If I had to make a comparison between her and a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, I think the most appropriate comparison would be May, who buries her emotions until they can do her the most good, at which point she releases them all over her intended target.
Fennhoff finally reveals his motivations while speaking to Howard: he was at the “battle” of Finow with his soldiers, and he survived because he was able to put on a gas mask in time. However, his men were not so lucky; his brother was also there and was also killed by the Midnight Oil. He managed to save a couple men’s lives by performing an emergency laryngotomy to prevent asphyxiation—these men became his operatives Brannis and Demidov—but the rest of the soldiers were all killed. Because he blames Stark for all these deaths, Fennhoff has made it his mission to destroy Howard Stark in the same way that he destroyed an entire Russian Army, by using that same substance to destroy New York City. This is a very different and unique villain motivation, as least as far as MCU villains are concerned. Where a lot of them are intent on either chaos for the sake of chaos or taking over the world or pure greed, Fennhoff’s motivation is revenge on a very personal level. It’s the equivalent of Kingpin in the comics learning Daredevil’s real identity and using that information to make his life a living hell. Fennhoff doesn’t want to destroy America; he wants to destroy Howard Stark—America is just his means for doing that.
|Image Courtesy agentofmarvel.blogspot.com|
Fennhoff manages to escape from the radio room during the fight, but he is cornered in the hangar by Thompson and Sousa. After knocking Thompson out and taking away his gun, Fennhoff then tries to hypnotize Sousa into shooting Thompson by telling him that he could help Sousa gain respect in the office and win Peggy’s affections. The hypnosis seems to be working; Sousa walks closer until he is standing next to Fennhoff, pointing his revolver at Thompson’s head. And then he looks at Fennhoff and pistol-whips him, knocking him out cold. To Thompson’s bemused look, Sousa simply responds by pulling some cotton out of his ears. I really liked this scene not because it embarrassed Thompson (it really didn’t) but because it showed Sousa’s primary asset: his investigative and problem-solving abilities. Where Thompson’s fallback is violence, Sousa is more willing to think his way through a problem. Overall, these two make a good team, one which season 2 needs to explore further, especially with their complicated relationship.
|Image Courtesy www.scifiempire.net|
The conclusion of the season was appropriate for how it wrapped up a few storylines, gave us the payoff for Peggy’s journey, and set a few things up for future stories. Peggy is in a much better place now, with the S.S.R. applauding her for saving New York and solving the case, Sousa asking her out and her hinting at the possibility of a future romance, and her decision to move into one of Howard’s “smaller” residences with Angie as her roommate. However, the two major payoffs come in the form of her acceptance of her own worth (despite Thompson receiving official credit for stopping Leviathan) and decision to let Steve go by symbolically pouring his blood into the Hudson River off a bridge. I was a little disappointed with that decision—I thought the blood would play a role down the line (Isaiah Bradley, anyone?)—but it made a lot of sense for her character as the conclusion to season 1’s emotional arc.
|Image Courtesy www.ew.com|
I really enjoyed this whole season and cannot wait for season 2 to arrive in January. There wasn’t quite as much action as one would expect from something bearing the “Marvel” name, but that was actually good because it showed that Marvel can also create a very character-driven and emotionally-driven TV series. I think a lot of the reason people weren’t happy with Agent Carter season 1 is because they were expecting more action, rather than a character- and emotion-centric period-set espionage series.
What did you think of Agent Carter season 1? What was your favorite part? What do you want to see in season 2? Let me know in the comments!
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