Recap: Marvel’s Agent Carter Episode 5, The Iron Ceiling

Russia, 1937. A school – or orphanage – is filled with little girls. They sleep handcuffed to their beds, learn English from Snow White, and are trained to kill. It appears to be some kind of Leviathan brainwashing camp, and Dottie is one of the graduates.

New York, 1946. The SSR is going nuts trying to decipher the code transmitted by the magic typewriter. The cryptographer they brought in assumed it was a German code, but the Turing method doesn’t offer any help. Peggy comes in and recognizes it as Russian code. The code gives coordinates and details for a plan to buy something called a havoc reactor from Howard Stark. So the team is going to Russia.

The team – but not Peggy. Thompson is in charge, and all the usual misogynistic excuses are given: he needs brawn, not brains; the captain doesn’t want to be responsible for getting a dame killed; etc. Of course, Peggy has ground experience over there. The captain wants to have the 107 waiting as a tactical team, but that is a pipe dream. Peggy makes a deal: if she can get the 107 on board, she gets to go. The captain agrees, mainly because he doesn’t think she can get them, but she returns in one minute flat with the good news. Peggy is going to Russia.

Thompson heads up a team with Peggy and a couple of “red shirts.” They air drop onto the Polish side of the border and meet up with the Howling Commandos, led by Dum Dum Dugan. The Commandos welcome Peggy as an equal – she has proven herself to them. The group camps for the night, and Thompson reveals the story behind his war trophy: he was on watch at his camp in Okinawa, but dozed off. When he woke, he found a handful of Japanese soldiers creeping into the camp. He killed them all swiftly, before his team even woke up.

Dugan doesn’t think that Stark is really selling weapons to the Russians, and as much as she hates to admit this, Peggy tends to agree. That probably means this is all a setup. The coordinates lead the team to the Russian brainwashing camp, now empty. The classrooms contain chilling subliminal messages hidden in cartoons; each bed in the dorm is outfitted with shackles. In the dorms, the team finds a young girl, sobbing on the floor. Dugan goes over to make nice, and while he is distracted, talking about his bowler hat, she stabs him with a pocket knife and runs through a metal pet door. Thompson’s first instinct is to throw a grenade in after her, but Peggy reminds him she is only a child.

As the team moves through the compound, they find a couple of men locked in a prison cell. Nikola is a scientist, and Dr. Ivchenko is his psychiatrist. The Leviathans have kept them imprisoned, trying to force Nikola to build a device off of Stark’s schematics. Peggy busts them out of their cell as they hear Leviathan agents moving after them. A big gunfight takes place, during which Nikola has a psychotic break and holds Commandos hostage. Dr. Ivchenko has no choice but to shoot him. The second half of the Commandos blow a hole in the wall so they can evacuate, but Thompson has frozen in fear, hiding behind a corner for most of the firefight. Peggy has to physically get him on his feet to get him out of the place. They all make it back to the vehicles safely. One SSR agent was lost. The Howling Commandos want Peggy to rejoin their team, which she politely declines. She does bring Dr. Ivchenko back to the States to help them defeat the Leviathans.

On the way home, Thompson admits to Peggy that his story about Okinawa was crap. The soldiers were actually there to surrender – white flag and everything – but Thompson doesn’t realize it until it is too late. He buried their white flag so no one would know the truth, but it was eating him up inside. Peggy reassures him. Back home, both Thompson and the captain are complimentary towards Peggy and her work, but Thompson still believes Stark is selling weapons to the Russians. Peggy is one step closer to being “one of the boys” when Thompson invites her to join the boys in after work drinks. Peggy is thrilled.

Also: Dottie steals Peggy’s keys out of her purse and breaks into her apartment. She tosses the place, but the only thing she takes is a single photo of the label on a crate from Stark Labs. There is no doubt that Peggy is a spy, but Dottie seems to see this as a challenge.

Also #2: The captain meets a journalist friend for drinks. He has a little more info on the Finnow massacre. It seems that no one is willing to take credit for the massacre, but Stark was there to help clean up the massacre. While there, he got into a fistfight with General McGuinness. The general retired from the Army a week later. The captain later takes this info to Jarvis and tells him this is not a witch hunt; at this point, he just wants the truth about what happened.

Also #3: Sousa accidentally walks in on Peggy changing into combat gear. (It’s an amusing scene that takes place with the other team members in the men’s locker room.) He notices two small scars on her shoulder, and checks her file: bullet wounds. Then he checks his photos. The blonde has identical scars on her shoulder. Sousa is stunned. Could Peggy be a mole?

One of the things I respect most about Peggy Carter is the way she goes about changing people’s minds about her. No matter how many times she is demeaned, stereotyped, talked down to, or treated like a second-class citizen, she holds her head proud, cracks wise, and shows she is an equal by proving it. She never cries, not even alone (at least not about the misogyny), she doesn’t throw a tantrum or turn evil. She doesn’t even gloat when she kicks ass. I want to be Peggy Carter when I grow up.

I also like the title of this episode, “The Iron Ceiling.” I assume it is a reference to the glass ceiling, which in business circles refers to women executives being able to see the top floor of the building (which represents the top position in a company) but is never allowed to reach it. In Peggy’s case, she can’t even see the top, let alone hope to break through.

You can check out the promo for Episode 6 of “Marvel’s Agent Carter” in the player below. Titled “A Sin to Err,” the episode is officially described as follows:

“Peggy discovers the shocking truth about Leviathan but doesn’t realize that her true enemies are even closer than she imagined. Meanwhile, Souza is close to confirming the truth about Peggy and may just put her in the crosshairs of the SSR, on “Marvel’s Agent Carter,” TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.”

Written by Lindsey Allen and directed by Stephen Williams, “A Sin to Err” is set to air February 10. “Marvel’s Agent Carter” airs Tuesdays at 9 P.M. EST.