With last week's ending of Dottie kicking butt and the previews promising the Howling Commandos, this week's episode entirely fulfilled its expectations of exploring something new while basking in the familiarity of adventure.
“The Iron Ceiling” begins in Russia, 1937. It shows a young girl, presumably Dottie, in a boarding home with several other young girls handcuffed to their beds. Dottie and her bed neighbor share a piece of bread, smiling at each other in what appears to be a secret friendship in the stone cold room. The girls all go outside, lined in two rows to spar with each other. It shows Dottie sparring with another girl, and when she pins her in a head lock, her instructor gives the signal to snap her neck. Present-day Dottie wakes with a start in New York, 1946.
Although the audience now knows Dottie's abilities, she still is playing aloof at the Diner with Peggy. She asks Peggy's advice on where to go in order to explore New York, when Peggy convinces her to go to Brooklyn, as the “spirit” of New York is in its people (unmentioned in the series so far, Steve Rogers is “just a kid from Brooklyn”). Peggy's purse is knocked over, allowing Dottie to steal Peggy's room key.
Jarvis finds Peggy outside and asks her to rejoin Howard. He tries to tell her that she is unappreciated and disrespected, and will always be, at her current work to try and convince her. Agent Carter insists that it won't always be that way and she will convince all those around her of her worth.
At the SSR, the wireless typewriter has transmitted a message that none of the agents, or their specialist, can work out. Taking a quick look at the text, Peggy realizes it's a code written in Russian. She quickly translates that Leviathan wants a Havoc Reactor and wants to pay $100,000 for it. Thompson and the others are unimpressed and don't believe her until she mentions that the money is to be made out to Howard Stark.
Following the coordinates in the transmission, Chief Dooley begins to plan a team to send to cut off the transaction and catch the men involved. As Peggy volunteers herself, Thompson disregards her request despite her three years' experience in Russia and knowledge of the language, terrain, and people. The Chief listens to Thompson's terrible plan to invade through the Polish border when Peggy comes in presenting a new, “obvious” choice on how to attack. Peggy is given clearance to travel with the team.
Against Thompson's will, again, Peggy decides to use the men's locker room to change into her flight suit rather than putting on all of her gear in a women's bathroom. Thompson tricks Sousa into catching her indecent, which flusters him and Peggy. She turns around as to not expose herself when Sousa notices two marks on her shoulder.
Cool-headed, graceful, and obviously experienced, Peggy jumps out of the plane with the team of SSR agents. Carter, Thompson, Li, and Martinez meet the Howling Commandos on the ground: Happy Sam Sawyer, Dum Dum Dugan, Pinky Pinkerton, and Junior Juniper. The SSR men are mesmerized by the Commandos, stating in awe that they served with Captain America. “Not as long as she did,” commented Dugan, referring to Agent Carter.
Peggy and Dum Dum get to talk about the situation at hand. She explains that although Howard Stark is a “wanker, he's one of us.” Through her stern tone and intense tactics, Dum Dum comments, “You used to be fun.” They reflect in few words about their past, when Dugan relates, “I miss him, too.”
Back at the SSR, we see Sousa looking into the case with the Blonde woman again, whose hair he has colored in. Closely inspecting the photo, he recognizes the same marks on her back as on Peggy's. He remains silent.
Swapping crazy war stories, including that about a Yeti, around the fire, Thompson reveals how he got his Navy Cross. In 1945, six Japanese soldiers walked into his camp and one stood over Thompson's CO. Before the last man in the tent woke up, Thompson shot every one of them dead.
The next morning, the eight set out to sabotage Leviathan's transaction. Thompson orders them to split into four groups of two and tells them all where to go. Sawyer simply asks, “Peggy?” as none of them move into place. She offers her opinion, that it is safer to split into two groups of four and, as it is clear the Commandos will only take orders from her, Thompson complies.
The groups head into the building, which they find out is a boarding school. A projector shows what appears to be a children's movie on it, but when Peggy slows it down, she reveals subliminal messages in the frames saying “instill fear”. They hear a small girl crying in another room and immediately go to her aid. Dugan squats down to comfort her, trying to make her feel comfortable. When he turns his head for a moment, she stabs him in the heart. After a long, painful commercial, Dugan reveals that his vest took most of the blow and he is alright. However, the girl was able to get in another attack before making her getaway, killing Junior Juniper.
In New York, Chief Dooley is looking for more insight on the Battle of Finnau. He learns from a friend and writer more about Howard Stark's involvement in the Battle. After over 200 men were killed in Russia and no one took credit, Stark was involved in the clean-up. For reasons unknown, Stark got into an argument with General McGinnis and punched him, although the General was twice Howard's size. A week later, McGinnis retired and Stark turned down a seven-figure deal with the Army. Dooley is left craving more information.
He finds Jarvis and, although Jarvis is still expecting an apology from his interrogation, talks to him about the Battle. Claiming he knows nothing about it, Dooley gives Jarvis his card and says if he or Howard want to talk to call him since he is only interested in the truth.
Dottie sneaks into Peggy's apartment, noting the string on the deadbolt Peggy uses to make sure her place is not searched. Looking through books, drawers, and even under the mattress, Dottie scans almost every inch of the flat. She finds pictures of Howard's inventions in a drawer and takes them, along with Peggy's secret 102 Sweet Dreams lipstick used early on in the season. Dottie picks up the picture of pre-serum Steve Peggy keeps on her vanity (much to my own panic) but puts it down, unscathed. She then does her own Peggy impression in the vanity mirror before slipping the string back on the deadbolt and slipping out, unnoticed.
The Commandos and Peggy find a scientist and his psychiatrist locked in a jail cell in the boarding house. Dr. Ivchenko reveals that they were held captive and forced to try and create a weapon from a Stark schematic to no avail. Leviathan's soldiers invade the building and begin shooting at the Commandos, the SSR, and their captives. Betraying his rescuers, Nikolai, the scientist, offers to give the Americans to the Soviets in exchange for his life. His plan fails as he is shot just before Dugan blows up a wall to allow everyone to escape.
Thompson is on the ground, frozen. Peggy sharply tells him to snap out of it and helps him get out of the building with the others. Still dodging bullets, Agent Carter and Dugan are the only ones left still holding their ground. Ordering him to get to the vehicle, Dugan shouts, “What would Cap say if I left his best girl behind?”
“He would say, 'Do as Peggy says!'”
He runs to the truck and soon helps Peggy inside. The men joke “Not bad... for a girl,” to which Peggy replies, jokingly, “I hate you all.”
Before they part, Dugan offers for Peggy to join the Commandos. She explains that she doesn't have interest to serve on the front lines, and that New York needs someone to man the wheel. The Commandos also understand that Peggy wants to help clear Howard's name. The SSR allows Dr. Ivchenko to come back to the United States with them, and he agrees eagerly while taking Dum Dum's bourbon. At the SSR, he is very cooperative with anything he is asked.
On the airplane home, Thompson reveals more of his past to Peggy. The men he shot were carrying a white flag; they were coming to surrender. Thompson didn't realize this until they were all dead, so he buried the flag as to not get in trouble. “Every day, it gets harder and harder to live with... I've been trying to tell that story since I got home from war.” Peggy consoles him, showing pride when she says, “You just did.”
A short scene shows Dottie cuffing herself to her bed.
Peggy and Thompson recount their adventure with Chief Dooley, who surprisingly offers Agent Carter his congratulations in a “good job”. Thompson then invites Sousa and Peggy out, as he claims to owe Peggy a bourbon. Peggy happily accepts, but Sousa is left in the office alone with his thoughts about Peggy.
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